I’ve recently finished reading “The Next 100 Years” by George Friedman. This is another geopolitics-for-the-masses book, after Prisoners Of Geography, and I actually read them back to back. It was perhaps too much and some themes repeated themselves. But I guess it’s good for better remembering these things. Nevertheless, this was an interesting read.
The centerpiece is the assertion that the 21st century is the American Century, and that we are just at the beginning of the age of American dominance. This is an interesting thought, because I had always assumed that the 20th century was that, and the new one will be a little bit less one-sided, with China, India and the EU playing at equal levels with the US. But the author does make a number good points - the very high-level of military technology in the US and it’s domination of the world’s oceans, as well as viewing everything up to the 50s, 60s and a bit of the 70s as still an European period, even though as a decline.
Secondary is the wars and challenges to American power which will happen next. Some unlikely heroes are here - namely Poland and Turkey, with some help from Japan. Interestingly, countries such as Russia and China are sidelined. So far in the 21st century (and we’re at 18% of it), this hasn’t really happened, with China being an increasing global player, rather than an insular one. A reversion to authorianism in both countries is a correct prediction.
One very striking passage occurs at the start of the book. It looks at the 20th century in 20 year spans and highlights the dramatic changes in each increment. And how the outcome was anything but what a sane person would expect at the start of the interval. And this is a key thing the author returns to throughout the book. Whenever he’s making an assertion, such as the fact that the chaos in the Middle East and America’s struggles there are a secondary affair, he’s sure to point out that stranger things have happened in history when looking at more than what’s happening locally and we shouldn’t be too fond of whatever theory we’re currently using. So the fact that Poland might be a big power in 40 years time and dominate Europe along side Turkey isn’t that far fetched.
There’s a bunch of things which didn’t sit right with me though. One would be an almost complete dismissal of South America and Africa from the world stage. Which seems not to be in the spirit of expecting the unexpected. The other would be a downplaying of the massive technological changes which will occur. Sure, smartphones haven’t changed the nature of politics, but they have changed the local rules enough for the game to be played in a different fashion. Ditto, things like mass automation and the potential resulting mass unemployment problems can throw a wrench into many plans and will certainly shape this century much as industrialization did in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Anyway, the book is a short read and it’s worth a chance.