Friedman’s Next 100 Years
Io9 has a useful review of George Friedman’s The Next 100 Years.
We’re in for the return of Cold War politics, the rise of new dominant powers, and a full-blown space war, according to a new book. What are the chances his dire predictions will come true?
In the details, the chances are virtually nil, of course. But this book should be judged more on the broad outlines than on the scenario particulars.
Suspiciously, it is the same future that Friedman always sees: 19th-century style realpolitik, with great powers contending violently for position. That is hardly inevitable, as ideological, economic, and military factors that enabled that environment are no longer in place. Great powers have not fought each other directly for over 50 years, a gap that cannot be found in previous centuries. Indeed, a variety of factors could tip the world toward full-blown peace in coming decades.
As for the details:
Conflict will arise between the United States, which, in his view, will remain the most powerful nation on the planet, and these new players. Friedman singles out three countries, in particular, that will become the next major powers during the 21st century: Turkey, Japan and Poland, with other nations, such as Mexico, becoming far more powerful in their respective regions.
Friedman’s casual dismissal of China, India, and Brazil should raise some eyebrows. He plausibly explains why Russia might falter, but seems to drop the others either to be deliberately contrarian, or out of deep faith in the determinative power of geography.
It is geography which seems to anoint Turkey, Japan, and Poland. Turkey bears watching, as this blog has noted. As for Poland and Japan, they suffer from the same demographic malady as Russia. Poland is embedded in the pacifying embrace of Europe, and is expected to lose two million people by 2030. Japan cannot be counted out, but is also shrinking already.
How will countries fight at mid-century?
Warfare will be characterized by air forces, robotic forces and enhanced soldiers, and will rely in electrical power grids and other resources as soldiers fight across new battlefields in Europe and Asia. Space will be a vital element, as it allows for communications and the ability to watch a battlefield from a better birds eye view.
That is not a bad forecast for conflict, though other paths are possible. Some would point to nanotechnologies and biotech weapons.
As for the overall book, as Io9 suggests, it is a better introduction to “realist” thinking than an actual guide to coming developments.
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