Friedman totally misses the point by contradicting his own opening statements about "identifying long-term underlying trends". He bases the whole book on misguided assumptions and geo-politics. Alvin Toffler pointed out 20 years ago that geo-politics is on the way out...
The real "long-term underlying trends" are not about "dominating sea-trade"! And they are not about waging wars. Friedman thinks that "unconventional wars" are about shooting it out in spaceships. That is "Flash Gordon thinking", not forecasting...
Unconventional wars are actually about guerilla warfare, terrorism, inciting civil unrest, hacking computers. Looking into the next 100 years, the real questions are about how will countries try to exert influence over one another? How will economic disputes be resolved? Will missile threats be replaced by cyber-threats? Or by an attack on a country's currency? What about biological threats, like spreading H1N1 virus?
Friedman assumes that history will repeat itself in the same way. Big mistake. History sometimes repeats itself (not as often as people are led to think), but always in a different shape or form. Japan will not go to war against the US. Poland will not spark another war in Europe. Turkey will not try to re-enact the Otoman Empire. These are all ridiculous forecasts based on 19th Century assumptions.
A forecast of the next 100 years should challenge us to think about what kind of political issues will be relevant. For instance:
1. Will we move from a "bi-polar" world (20th Century US capitalism versus Russian communism) towards a truly multi-lateral world in which five blocks will have almost equal economic power, without clear dominance of one over the others? (US, Europe, China, India, South America?).
2. How will the US adapt to a world in which its share of world GDP will be 15% or less, the equivalent of other blocks?
3. How will education change, from the present mass-production format which was modeled on 19th century production plants, to formats based on universal access through the internet? How will that impact the way we think and act?
4. How will the decrease in religious participation influence ideologies and politics?
5. What about the increase in immigration and race-mixing? How will a mixed-race US and a mixed-race Europe interact with each other and with China?
6. If water will be "the new oil", how will that affect the role of water-rich countries like Canada, Russia and Brazil? Will water-deprived countries (like the Arab states in the Middle East) move from being overly wealthy to becoming totally poor?
7. Nation-states were created in the late 19th century and are decreasing in importance (see the fragmentation of the USSR and the consolidation of Europe into one economic entity). Will the US disappear into North America, while the UK, France & Germany disappear into Europe?
8. Will we have a single world currency, replacing the out-dated US dollar, British pound, and Euro?
It turns out that Friedman does not address any of these issues, but limits his "vision" to looking to the rear-view mirror. It is important to understand history in order to look towards the future, but Friedman does not understand history: he merely recites and repeats it, rather than interpreting and re-creating it.
The book is a fine example of how NOT to do a forecasting exercise: it is both narrow-minded and short-sighted. A big disappointment.