George Friedman, geopolitical forecaster and founder of the Austin, Texas based private intelligence firm, STRATFOR Global Intelligence (click here for website), delivers a fascinating list of future political, military, and economic scenarios in his new book, The Next 100 years: A Forecast for the 21st Century.
Friedman claims the current Islamic assault on the West is failing, and will cease to be a factor on the international scene within the decade. Russia will take another run at becoming a superpower, which will fail by 2020, and leave the country even more diminished than it is today. When standards of living in China level off or reverse in the 2020’s, chronic resource shortages could cause the Middle Kingdom to implode and break up. China is far more fragile than we realize.
Japan may deal with stagnant economic and population growth the same way it did during the 1930’s by invading China as early as 2030. Japan may also take a bite out of indefensible Siberia when it remilitarizes. Poland, a unified Korea, and Turkey will develop into regional military and economic powers in their own right.
Friedman then describes a theoretical war by a coalition of Turkey and Japan against the US in 2050, resulting in an American victory, which leads to a new US golden age in the second half of the century. Scramjet engines make possible the development of unmanned hypersonic aircraft, which can launch a precision attack any place on the planet in 30 minutes. Warfare will move into space and be fought from “battle stars,” which will also become major energy sources for earth. Friedman kind of lost me when he predicted that the next Pearl Harbor could come from Japan, but not via the sea going aircraft carriers of old, but from caves on the moon.
The big challenge towards the end of the 21st century will be the emergence of a Hispanic nation in the Southwest, which is culturally isolating itself by not integrating with the rest of the country. This could lead to the secession of several states, or a new war with Mexico, which by then, will develop into a major power in its own right. I think to avoid a second Civil War and offload some huge state deficits, Washington just might say “¡Adios!”
You can argue that someone making many of these predictions is loony. But if you had anticipated in 1970 that China would become America’s largest trading partner, the Soviet Union would collapse, Eastern Europe would join NATO, the US would enter a second Vietnam War in Afghanistan, and oil would hit $150 a barrel, you would have been considered equally nutty. I know because I was one of those people. It does seem that long-term forecasters have terrible track records.
All in all, the book is a great armchair exercise in global real politics, and an entertaining contemplation of the impossible. More than once, I heard myself thinking “He’s got to be kidding.” To get preferential pricing from Amazon on this thought provoking tome, please click here.