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on 20 March 2017
Excellent read, very thought provoking!
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on 14 July 2015
The one good thing about this book is that it is mentally stimulating. I have made more marginal annotations on it than any book I’ve ever read. However, the vast majority of my comments are highly critical.

Rather than demolish the book brick by brick I will briefly examine the general principles on which Friedman operates.

Firstly he takes a deterministic and impersonal view of history in which individuals don’t matter. Marx said the same but he was wrong too. Consider for example if we’d had the appeaser Lord Halifax as PM in 1940 instead of Churchill.

He likens history and politics to a game of chess in which all possible moves are narrowly constrained. This is a false analogy because chess pieces just go where the players put them- unlike people.

He assumes (like mainstream economists) that leaders are rational actors, motivated only by (mainly short term) self interest, and that leaders and their countries can be treated as interchangeable, as in “Iran does this and Israel does that.” And like mainstream economics this is all nonsense. People’s motivation is mostly irrational, and is based on very imperfect knowledge. On the other hand people- even national leaders- are not always entirely selfish. The selfish option for Britain in 1940 would have been appeasing Hitler and remaining neutral. The upper classes and the royals largely favoured this but the country as a whole did not. Also, not all national leaders act even for the short term apparent benefit of their nation- many work only for the interests of one class, region, religion, tribe or even simply for their own family.

He totally neglects the role of religious belief and national identity in collective motivation- except, oddly, in the case of Mexicans!

Finally, like Oswald Spengler he asserts that nations are “barbaric” in youth, civilised in their prime, and decadent in old age. He classes America as a young barbaric nation and Europe as old and decadent. So here we have more determinism but of a different type. It’s an attractive idea but how does he explain reversion to barbarism as in the Third Reich?

Aside from these flawed general principles there is a good deal of wishful thinking, which probably accounts for it selling so well in America. In particular Friedman has convinced himself that both China and Russia are doomed to fairly imminent collapse. In China’s case this will result from imbalance between the more developed coastal regions and the poorer interior. But this imbalance applies even more so to the USA, where regional economic differences are exacerbated by religious and ethnic divisions! As a centrally directed authoritarian state, China is much better able to make the necessary adjustments than the USA where President and Congress are frequently at odds.

Due to his neglect to consider religious and racial identity, he assumes for instance that China’s coastal areas will happily accept Japanese domination, forgetting their hatred of Japan dating back to World War Two. Yet elsewhere he asserts that Yugoslavia could never have worked due to Croat/Serb animosity dating from the same period!

He also asserts that (as of 2009) political Islamism is on its way out already. Well I hope no one paid him for that prediction because two years later we had the so-called Arab Spring which soon became the Islamist Spring, and shows no sign of abating as of July 2015.

His subsequent forecasts are predicated on his fantasy of Chinese and Russian collapse, with Poland, Japan, and Turkey coming to rival the USA, culminating in a Third World War in the early 2050s. His account of World War Three is strangely unimaginative- the future as seen from the 1960s, with hypersonic bombers and battle satellites, but no cyber-warfare, genetic weapons, psychotronic weapons, or induction of earthquakes and extreme weather. For that matter he scarcely mentions global warming- “something will come up” seems to be his answer to that problem. There is also no mention of terrorism AKA asymmetrical warfare.

Despite Friedman being Jewish, he scarcely mentions Israel- an odd omission, which I suspect is mainly about painting that very troublesome country as merely reacting to events rather than manipulating them through it’s extremely disproportionate influence in American politics.

The most interesting thing about this book is that the author actually makes his living from this type of forecasting, working for major American companies. In view of this I can well see why he calls America a “barbaric” society, since “barbarians” are generally seen as very credulous.
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on 6 March 2016
Good book, easy to read. Friedman lacks a bit of the rigour of many scholars, but an entertaining read and some good predictions which I agree with.
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on 9 August 2011
I felt like writing this review after seeing all of the negative reviews this book gets. It really is worth reminding everyone that no-one can truly know the future, but George Friedman makes a really good attempt. Nothing ever rises in a straight line and it is very very easy to knock the USA simply because it is the world's dominant super power of the moment in the same way Great Britain was 100 years ago. Sure, right now it's facing some serious problems but on a 100 year view, I have no doubt this will only look like a blip. If anyone reads the history of the Roman Empire, it had it's ups and downs, numerous crises, in-fighting and presidential assasinations, yet somehow it persisted for over 500 years. Given that the US has only been an economic force for 150 years or so, I really have to agree it probably has a long way left to go on the world stage - I also like the way he concludes his theories as I can easily see the Mexicans as the "barbarians at the gates" someday in the distant future....I can also definitely see Turkey also emerging. I don't expect everything he says to come true so soon, especially some of the technologies he talks about, but the overriding theories are very enjoyable to read.
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on 30 January 2011
The Next 100 Years : A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman is a book of 3 parts. Great, fantastical, and good. George takes us on a journey of macro socio, politico, eco, and geo (and a mix of all 4) and by tracing back through history and cycles within it, has forecast what he believes to be the power struggles over the next century.

It is fascinating stuff initially, where he defines fault lines in terms of tension points around the globe and which countries will strive to make political, economic, social or geographical moves and against whom as the balance of power within continents shift and moves. It's certainly interesting stuff and as he acknowledges, he presents this in the full knowledge that he won't be around to see whether he was right or wrong (but he will I'm sure have made a good living from doing it) and so you can't really challenge his assumptions (or forecasts) too greatly.

Where the book gets a bit fantastical is around 2050 when we have the description of a world war, controlled by space centers, and troops in robotic "Iron Man" type costumes being fed electricity from Solar beams that have been microwave blasted down from solar panels on the moon. The realities of the first main section of the book seem light years away at this point (and who am I again to really challenge these assumptions?) but it does come back down to Earth again as we conclude the century with Mexico and the US in a power struggle for the control of North America.

I have read reviews of this book that suggest that it is too central to America as the power base in the world, but as a non-American, I feel that this is probably justified as the start-point for the book is where we are today and you can't really debate the influence America has on the world, whether you like it nor not.

I enjoyed the majority of the book. The 2050 war and the whole space thing began feeling like reading some science fiction novel and that was at extreme odds to the very well structured and explained first and third section forecasts, but nonetheless this was an interesting and enjoyable read.
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No one can forecast what the weather will be next week in most parts of the world, why would anyone think that forecasting what nations will do in detail over 70 years is possible? George Friedman doesn't think it's possible either, but the exercise presents the opportunity to identify sources of potential future conflicts and alliances on the geopolitical stage. Thinking about those issues is well worth considering. An ounce of prevention may just help avoid tons of regret in some cases.

George Friedman believes that considerations of potential military defense and offense, access to needed raw materials and markets, demographics, political strengths and weaknesses, technology, and national economic interests can be combined to imagine how future leaders will see their situations and how well they will be able to handle old and new challenges vis-à-vis their neighbors and competitors. From those sources, he identifies factors that will probably be important which include:

1. Increasing importance of having access to shipping via the oceans due to ever-expanding global trade.

2. Continued U.S. dominance of the oceans.

3. Political and social weaknesses in China and Russia that will cause those nations to weaken and fragment.

4. Decline in population size in developed countries requiring pro-immigration strategies to stay competitive.

5. Emergence of space-based warfare and energy generation to shift the basis of national competition.

6. Robotics replacing less-skilled workers throughout the world creating a wave of unemployment.

7. Aggressive geographical expansions of influence by nations which are bounded by weak countries.

8. A continued dominance by the United States except in controlling the regions in the country that are filled with Mexican-Americans.

As a result, he projects an end to armed conflicts between Muslims and Americans on religious grounds; a new cold war with Russia; fragmentation of China's economic power and military strength; the rise of regional power in nations like Turkey, Japan, and Poland; a space-based war aimed at the United States by Japan and Turkey; the rise of space-based energy as the economic underpinning of prosperity; and a civil crisis in the Southwestern U.S.

Who knows if these things will happen? They could.

I felt that the main weakness in his argument was failing to consider the possible development of a strong regional block involving both North and South America over the next 20 years. Such a block would have tremendous access to technology, resources, positive demographics, and be easier to keep secure than trying to project power around the world. With such a strong base, many of the issues that concern Mr. Friedman about U.S. interests would be considerably less pressing. If the U.S. were not as aggressive in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, some of the conflicts described in this book would be less likely to occur.

I was also surprised to see that the book doesn't make much of Africa as a source of future geopolitical challenges. With rapid population growth expected in a large population and lots of valuable resources at stake, you can certainly build a case that competition for African resources can lead to a lot of geopolitical instability.

Historians are fond of saying that history repeats itself. You can see an example in Germany being involved in playing a major role in the early stages of the first and second world wars. Mr. Friedman takes the repetition concept and applies it by assuming that Japan will repeat a Pearl-Harbor-like sneak attack on the United States. I think he could just as easily argue that Germany will start another European war, but he doesn't think the demographics favor that.

Ultimately, this book assumes that nations won't get any better at resolving their problems peacefully in ways to produce more social and economic benefits for everyone. I hope that assumption is mistaken.
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on 5 June 2011
George Friedman is in the happy position that there will no one reading now who will be alive to point out any flaws in his predictions in 100 years time. However, this kind of prediction is a brave call and unless supported by sound reasoning is open for challenges ranging from polite disagreement to carping acrimony. Happily, Friedman's book is well reasoned and his predictions, which range from the near to the distant future, are all sustained by well-founded argument. While it is unlikely that anyone engaged in this degree of prediction could be totally accurate, George Friedman's book at least identifies possible trends across a range if disciplines over progressive periods of time.
'The Next 100' is a good book, soundly argued, interesting and a must read for anyone wanting to be an interesting conversationalist at any dinner party or if trying to impress a lady with some intellectual underpinnings. A book you will remember for some time.
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on 30 March 2010
It's not unsurprising that this book was a bestseller in the United States. This book postulates the shape of the 21st century and just what might happen. In 13 chapters, the author presents his opinion that this is the age of America. The war on terrorism: a counterfuge to stop the emergence of an Islamic superpower. The growth of China: a myth that will all fall apart very soon due to the inherent divisions and instability of the country. A United States of Europe: another myth- instead Poland will become a strong regional power whilst Germany fragments. Turkey: a potential powerhouse that will try to and fail to take over Europe and be severely punished as a result.

The thoughts of Friedman are probably wrong. Certainly they present a rosy view of the future for Americans- and who doesn't want to believe it. Yet for all its shortcomings, this book is no modern Nostradamus. Instead the text is easy to read and very entertaining and even if his predictions are far from accurate they at least will give the reader food for thought.
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on 12 October 2015
First half of the book was really useful - a thorough analysis of the key factors influencing different regions of the world and the discussion on possible conflicts. However the second half of the book was more akin to science fiction - the author imagines in detail the kind of wars the world will enter into in the 2040s, 2060s, 2080s and the corresponding effects to the world. The author is clearly qualified to make these king of predictions, however as he correctly demonstrates in the beginning of the book, no-one has been able to predict the world in that detail in the past. And this makes the first half of the book even more useful since the analysis of underlying powers and limitations enables to understand the current world much better as well as neglect those future scenarios that are close to impossible.
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on 27 September 2013
A fairly interesting read for the first few chapters but unfortunately it then becomes little more than a piece of US banner waving until it finally spins completely out of control into a mockery of a sham. We have only a short time on this earth, don't waste it on this hogwash.
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