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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful Geopolitical Scenarios Developed 70 Years into the Future, 10 Mar. 2009
This review is from: The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century (Hardcover)
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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Donald Mitchell
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