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Herb Meyer spoke to one of my CEO groups this month. This is the third time in seven years that my members have invited Herb in to speak. His topic “What In The World Is Going On?” brings together his experience as a special assistant to the CIA under the Reagan administration and the events taking place in the world today, specifically terrorism and a declining population among many of the world’s cultures.


Foremost on everyone’s mind was the rise of ISIS or ISIL, the newest terrorist group in the Middle East whose intentions are to create an Islamic State or caliphate. Currently active in Syria and Iraq this Sunni insurgent group’s intention is to bring all Muslim inhabited regions in the world under its control using fear and deadly force.

While Herb did not specifically say what he thought should be done about this group he indicated that the U.S. does need to get involved and use its military force to help stop ISIS’ advance.

He did have an opinion of what the U.S. should have done that would have prevented ISIS from gaining a foothold in the region. Using a lesson from World War II he said that after the Allies had conquered Germany and Japan the U.S. occupied both countries with its military, thus preventing any further uprising. Now look at each country he said. Both have become strong economically and are respected nations.

This is what we should have done in Iraq once we had invaded and deposed Saddam Hussein. Because we pulled out of the country once we had accomplished our objective a stable government was never established and so it was easy for a rebel group to gain power.

World Poverty

Herb also had interesting things to say about poverty around the world. He said that each year more and more people are crossing the line out of poverty, some 50-100 million people each year. This is resulting in an emerging middle class, which he says is the biggest under reported news story in the world. As the world becomes more middle class the chance of war is less because people like us don’t go to war with people like us.

A Declining Population

He had interesting statistics regarding the population growth or decline in the world’s cultures. In order for a culture to sustain itself its birth rate, what demographers call the “replacement rate”, must average 2.1 births per woman. In most cultures around the world this figure is lower, including the United States, which is 1.9. However, the U.S. population overall is growing due to immigration, especially the Hispanic community whose average birth rate is 3.2.

A recent article in The Washington Times by Cheryl Wetzstein confirms these numbers. Other countries are experiencing the same trend. France (2.0) leads the Western Europe countries while Germany, Spain, Portugal and Italy are averaging only 1.4 or less. Japan (1.4), China (1.7) and Russia (1.6) are not doing much better.

She says researches attribute these declining numbers to the reduction in teen birth rates. Also women are choosing to have their first child later in life thus reducing the possibility of having a second.  Herb says in Europe only one in seven couples get married.

A consequence of this trend is that there will be fewer workers to support the retiring class. What changes need to be made in the United States to plan for this? Not an easy answer.

On the other hand the birth rate of Muslims is 10%. But the alarming trend in this statistic is that they are choosing for the most part not to integrate themselves into society but remaining separate.

Consider Reading This

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Our mind thinks in two ways: fast (intuitive and emotional) and slow (deliberate and logical). Kahneman shows us where we can trust our intuitions and where we cannot, leading us to the benefits of slow thinking.