Friday, March 27, 2009

The Next 100 Years

The Next 100 Years, by George Friedman
$17.13 in the Hansisgreat Gift Shop
ISBN: 9780385517058
The twenty-first century has begun in war, terrorism, economic recession, and widespread concerns that the American ascendancy may be coming to an end. All of us seem to be at a crossroads, so it's only natural to want to look ahead and predict what's in the future. The author of this fascinating and well researched book is an expert on that very subject: he's the founder of the leading private intelligence and forecasting company.
Geopolitics is the study of international relations for the purpose of forecasting what's down the road. Friedman considers the economic and political situations along a number of "fault lines", to predict who will rise to prominence in the century ahead, what will become causes of conflict, and how the wars of the future will be fought.
It's amazing how well he summarizes the conditions of countries I know almost nothing about. There's s stunning chapter on the Balkans, the most unstable part of Europe and freqent flashpoint during the wars of the past. With dozens of distinct cultures, caught between powerful western Europe, the former Soviet bloc, and the Islamic nations, understanding this unstable region is crucial to predicting the politics of the future.
Also important is the Pacific, controlled by the US Navy (larger than every other navy in the world combined), but also crucial for Japan and China as trade routes. In fact, the Pacific has hosted the opening scene of war before, when Japan bombed a US military base at Pearl Harbor during World War II. As the US falls further into debt to China and Japan, these powerful countries will begin to resent its dominance of Pacific sea trade.
This is all leading to what Friedman calls the crisis of 2040. Escalating tension will eventually lead to war unlike any fought on Earth before. Soldiers will live in space, on battle stars which resemble something out of a science fiction novel, and ground troops will become less important on the military stage.
Obviously, I can't summarize all of Friedman's predicitions in this short blog post: there are too many countries involved and a hundred years of change and growth. Additionally, as he admits himself, all of his predictions won't come true. He's not a Magic 8 Ball, after all.
Still, most of the book seemed convincing and well thought out. I also learned a lot about the political map in our own time, which makes the book worth reading by itself. Poland, Mexico, and Turkey rank very high on the list of superpowers of the 21st century, so if you aren't too familiar with them now, it might be a good time to read up.
It's a little strange to read predicitons about a future I won't live to experience. At times, I found them alarming and unfamiliar, but overall they were strangely reassuring. When the new world order comes, I'll be ready for it. Will you?

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