Some of us love predictions. People tap a variety of sources to get to know about their future. Some seek the help of Tarot card readers. Some go to the Astrologers who interpret the horoscopes. Some look at your palm and reveal the past and predict the future. There are a few who approach numerologists. In southern India people rush to see the ‘naadi palm leaves’ where everything about them is written. Some are eager to find about the prospects of their business, some would like to know the problems of a property purchase. There are many who want to know about a perfect match. One can see many road side experts who predict your future with the help of the parrots! There are even ‘online love calculators’ that predict whether your lover would ditch you and if yes when! So, everyone is in search of the answers about the future. At least here, the science and medicine have failed miserably!
Just like one is eager to know about one’s future, some of us might be interested in knowing about the future of the world! May be that prompted me to pick up this book from the airport vendor: ‘The next hundred years: A forecast for the 21st century’ written by George Friedman (published in 2009). About the author a few words: He is the founder of STARTFOR, a leading private intelligence and forecasting company located in Texas. He is considered as a leading expert in geo-political intelligence. He is the author of many books. He was an academician for over 20 years before joining the business sector.
Now, about the book: The book is about his predictions about the world in the 21st century! The attempt was to explain where, how and why future wars will erupt and they will be fought. He also wrote extensively which nations will gain and lose economic and political power.
Many wrote books predicting the future of the world. There are many non-fictions and movies that ‘predicted’ new technology and lifestyle. George Orwell created a disturbing picture of the future in his novel ‘1984’ published in 1949. ‘Future Shock’ by Alvin Toffler (1970) warned of a society that would suffer from what he called the ‘Information overload’ that would result in isolation, depression, and impermanence and transiency in relationships. Friedman’s work was more direct. It focused exclusively on predicting the future.
George Friedman never claims he had a crystal ball. His task was to try to see the order underneath the disorder of history. His attempt was to ‘anticipate what events, trends, and technology that order will bring forth’.
According to him the inherent power coupled with its geographic position makes the United States the pivotal actor of the 21st century. He said, there will be coalitions trying to contain and control the United States. And the United States will act preemptively to prevent an effective coalition from forming. The twenty-first century will see even more war than the twentieth century, but less catastrophic. He predicted that Russia, though try to reassert power, will collapse.
Friedman did not consider China as a threat either. He said China is inherently unstable. Its political economic environment is marred with inefficiency and corruption. He expects three countries to become powerful and assertive over the next few decades. They are Japan, Turkey and Poland. He considered Turkey as a stable platform in the midst of chaos. He said that Germany is declined and Poland would emerge as an important player to face the Russians. The relationships among United States, Japan, Turkey and Poland will greatly affect the 21st century which ultimately would lead to the next global war.
He predicted that, by 2050 advanced industrial countries will be losing population at a dramatic rate. There will be a shrinking population even in underdeveloped countries. United States will depend on Mexicans to migrate there for labor. By 2080, the author expects a serious confrontation between US and an increasingly powerful and assertive Mexico. (One can’t imagine that now!)
Basing his arguments on his ‘geopolitical forecasting’, he has stated that ‘it is possible to think about large numbers of human beings, linked together through natural human bonds, constrained by geography, acting in certain ways’. He says in the book that the twenty-first century will be extraordinary and it will see a new global power astride the world. ‘European Age has ended and the North American Age has begun’! He argues that United States is only at the beginning of its power and the 21st century will be the American century.
Freidman has predicted that China does not represent a geopolitical fault line and it will have far greater internal problems and therefore little time for foreign policy adventures. His prediction about Russia is stronger. He said its military will collapse shortly after 2020. By 2040 the relationship between US and China will grow closer as a defense against the emergence of Japan.
What about India? The author says that India will help Tibet break free! He wrote about the 2040s:
“ The United States will have had a long relationship with India, dating back to the US-jihadist war of the early twenty-first century. While India, internally divided, will not have managed to become a global economic power, it will be a regional power of some importance. India will be disturbed by the entry of the Muslim Turks into the Arabian Sea, and will fear further Turkish expansion into the Indian Ocean itself. India’s interests will align with those of the Americans, and so the United States will find itself in the same position in the Indian Ocean as in the Pacific."
Then, George Friedman continues to write about the preparation for war, the world war, the golden decade of 2060s, US-Mexico relationships etc. Describing them in detail would amount to injustice to the author as every writer wants his book to be bought and read by people rather than leaking the contents and predictions to everyone around freely!
So let me stop my review here. But a few points as conclusion:
It is very difficult to believe what he says especially about the emergence of countries like Mexico and its potential to become a challenge for the US. There is no mention of the status of many other emerging countries that will play a crucial role in the new world order in 21st century, apart from Japan, Turkey and Poland. The power and influence of countries like India have been underestimated: May be as he said, ‘common sense almost always betray us’.
He, though an advocate of geopolitical forecasting, has caught in the web of rigidity established for centuries by the notion of ‘pure’ economists that actors (players) are rational beings and every individual is driven by self-interest. He has equated the nations in the same way. I feel that there cannot be any basis for a theoretical assumption that leaders, leadership strategies, and leadership goals are based on scientific, logical and rational decisions by the actors in society and politics. By giving a view that ‘geopolitics is about broad impersonal forces that constrain nations and compel them to act in certain ways’, the author also fell into the trap of ‘invisible hand’ phenomenon of the rational economists.
In spite of all its limitations, the book is an interesting read for not only political scientists and specialists in international relations, but also for anyone who is eager to know about the future of the world. Just like someone goes to a new astrologer after realizing much later that the earlier one gave incorrect predictions, we can keep exploring every prediction, prophecy and claim about the future. It is good fun. Those who are blessed to see the entire 21st century can verify the predictions themselves. Most of us won’t be alive to witness the fulfilment of these predictions! But at least we can visualize a world where we may not going to be there!
You can order the book HERE
Views are personal © Sibichen K Mathew