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The Next Hundred Years

New - 20 March 2009

 

In his book,The Next 100 Years; A Forecast for the 21st Century, the author, George Friedman does an admirable job of painting in broad strokes the fundamentals of geopolitics for the next century. [1] In many respects, Mr. Friedman's book might well be required reading for anyone claiming knowledge of current or world events. While it may be true that most if not all of us may not be around to see all of the predicted events -- the wars, the conflicts, the rise and fall of nations and regional powers -- this fact does not in any way lessen the potential impact of the book. If nothing else, Mr. Friedman's book, his analysis and predictions, puts much of our current conflicts in historical (past and future) perspective. For example, the current United States--Islamic struggle may well, according to Mr. Friedman, be viewed in the future as having no more significant than the Spanish American War of 1898. [And if you didn't know there was one, try to recall the battleship Maine and the charge of the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill.]

[Mr. Friedman's qualifications to make such claims, incidentally, are best summarized at Stratfor.com.]

One of the more fascinating aspects of Mr. Friedman's book is the potential for discussion, analysis, and of course, argument. This in fact is the primary reason to devote a webpage to the book... i.e., generate thought and discussion. Consider just for the moment the issues raised by the front flap of the book:

"The U.S.-jihadist war will conclude -- replace by a second full-blown cold war with Russia.

"China will undergo a major extended internal crisis, and Mexico will emerge as an important world power.

"A new global war will unfold toward the middle of the century between the United States and an unexpected coalition from Eastern Europe, Eurasia, and the Far East; but armies will be much smaller, and wars will be less deadly.

"Technology will focus on space -- both for major military uses and for a dramatic new energy resource that will have radical environmental implications.

"The United States will experience a golden age in the second half of the century."

Frankly, the dust jacket simply does not do justice to the book. It's much better. And in some respects, much more outrageous and stunning in its intellectual impact.

We should be quick to point out, however, that Halexandria.org does not sell products and services (and thus the purchase of Mr. Friedman's book will have to be done by other means... the ones the avid reader typically uses when they actually purchase reading material!). Meanwhile, Halexandria does spend a lot of time thinking, analyzing, and discussing a host of similar (and wholly dissimilar) topics. The Next 100 Years... is in fact prime fodder for such discussions, and has been included herein for analysis, and via the Halexandria Forums for discussion. For these purposes, the various suggested threads of discussion are separately identified below and in the Forums.

These threads include:

I) Demographics,

II) Sea Power (and the United States' naval supremacy),

III) China,

IV) Russia,

V) Japan, Turkey and Poland,

VI) Mexico,

VII) Geopolitical Axioms,

VIII) Culture, and

IX) America's Jubilee Cycle.

 

Demographics

Among many other things, The Next 100 Years... includes in its discussion (and in considerably more detail) the following:

1) "The entire global system has been built since 1750 on the expectation of continually expanding populations." However, "the single most important fact of the twenty-first century [will be] the end of the population explosion. By 2050, advanced industrialized countries will be losing population at a dramatic rate." Additionally, the ratio of workers to retirees will be significantly decreasing. The combination of these two factors will result in severe labor shortages in most if not all of the so-called industrialized countries.

2) The ramifications of the end of the population explosion and the resulting demographics will result in immigration into industrialized countries changing from prevention to encouragement. The wall between the United States and Mexico will likely be nullified long before its finished, and will probably be torn down in the fashion of the Berlin Wall.

3) Massively declining populations in the world (including notable increases in the average age of the population) -- especially in Europe, Russia, and the Far East -- will have major impacts. Europe, for example, may see its current population decline from 728 million people to between 557 and 653 million by 2050 (with the prediction of less than 600 million more likely). "The United States will be short of workers no later than 2020 and accelerating through the decade, and will need immigrants to feel the gap." "The crisis will come to a head", probably "in the presidential election of either 2028 or 2032."

4) "Birthrates are plunging. The question is why." On the one hand, there is a decline in infant mortality, and secondly, an increase in life expectancies. However, with the sophistication of technology advances, "the economic value of children declined." "Ten children in eighteenth-century France might have been a godsend. Ten children in late-nineteenth-century France might have been a burden. Ten children in late-twentieth century France would be a catastrophe." "The decline in economic necessity removes a powerful stabilizing force in marriage." Curiously, "The United States has a vested interest in the destruction of traditional social values."

5) "Genetic science will continue to extend life expectancy, and will eradicate or bring under control a series of genetic diseases. This will lead to increasing social instability. The radical shifts that have wracked Europe and the United States, transforming the role of women and the structure of the family, will become a worldwide phenomenon. Deep tensions -- between supporters of traditional values and new social realities -- will become intense throughout the second-tier countries, and all major religions will be wracked by them. Catholicism, Confucianism, and Islam will all be arrayed with traditional understandings of family, sexuality, and the relations between generations. But the traditional values are going to collapse in Europe and the United States, and they will then collapse throughout most of the rest of the world."

The idea of an "end of the population explosion" is not a slam dunk in terms of convincing a lot of people that were raised on Paul R. Ehrlich's prognostications of immiment doom due to The Population Bomb, that there are not in fact already too many humans on the planet, and that worse yet, things are not getting worse at an ever increasing rate. Exponential increases in population does in fact sell a lot more doomsday extracts.

Reality, and statistics of reality, however, must be occasionally reviewed with an open mind. Because of this, the reality of greatly reduced birth rates does strongly suggest that things are indeed getting worse, but at a slower rate. Instead of the world going to hell next month... we're more likely going to be able to postpone population armageddon until next year. And if in fact we are rapidly moving toward a time when there will be fewer people on the planet one year than there were the previous year... this does not mean necessarily that we will no longer be overpopulated.

On the one hand, one can make an excellent argument that the world is currently very seriously over-populated... at least it is from the perspective of the average member of the human race (as well as all the other species of life -- endangered or otherwise -- who are in competition with humans and who are for the most part are losing the battle*). In fact, most of the world's problems -- poverty, conflict, racism, lack of space, and so forth and so on -- are aggravated by too many people now... and in fact overpopulation pretty much assures us that no solutions to any of these problems are likely or even possible.

[*Cockroaches are one notable exception.]

On the other hand, from the perspective of people, groups, governments, and corporations looking for cheap and expendable labor... the only over-population problem is the increasing or existing numbers of non or marginal workers -- i.e., those that can not contribute to the wealth of the employers and their associates... or to put it another way, those who will not be working for the powers that be. This includes a LOT of untrained indigenous people, elderly people who are longer physically able to put in the hours to justify their space on the planet (or there consumption habits: eating and so forth), and any children or other dependents who are unlikely to constitute the future labor force. In essence, anyone who currently does not, and in the future can and/or will not contribute... are from the viewpoint of the powers that be: expendable (and in fact should be expended as soon as possible).

From the perspective of geopolitics, the key to power among nations consists of a large enough population and a big enough economy to support a strong military... the latter which can then be used to ensure a bigger economay and a thriving population. Just as slaves in the past were a sign of wealth and power, so today are the economic slaves and worker bees that power the machines of industry. Part of the cleverness of the current United States economy is that it has a huge number of people doing service related jobs... in effect, non essential work whose main purpose is to keep millions of people employed and content -- until such time as they are needed as manpower for a war or major industrial expansion effort (the latter which almost always occurs in the midst of the former). There's just nothing like a war to expand industry, and in fact war is almost an essential ingredient. Consequently, most service related workers are a bit like petroleum reserves... buried underground for later use should be need arise.

Note: Having a large population is not in and of itself the key to geopolitical power. It may be a necessary, but is not a sufficient condition. Coinciding with a large population is the critical factor of a comparable economy. Geopolitical power still rests largely on having a powerful military, which in turn must be supported by an economy of comparable size... which in turn requires the population to man both.

Finally, the fifth prediction above sounds, curiously, like very good news... except of course for the orthodox traditionalists, whose view of change is pretty much cast in stone. In effect, the grand strategy of the United States -- that includes prevention of coalitions of nations to oppose its proclivities -- would also include making efforts to destroy religions, traditions, and ideologies that might bring diverse people together in a common cause (ostensibly against the United States). "The Great Satan" does in fact do better when all of these same religions, traditions, and ideologies are at odds with one another.

When it comes to Survival of the Fittest -- geopolitically speaking -- there are no internationally sanctioned rules that cannot be ignored, nor or there any tools that cannot be imployed. For example:

 

Sea Power

The Next 100 Years... makes much of the critical geopolitical importance of Sea Power. Ground Pounders and Junior Airmen might argue to the contrary, but they, I believe, would be wholly wrong. In all respects, the adage "Who controls the seas, controls the world" has long been (for oh say a couple of thousand years) fundamentally correct, and sea power continues to be the strongest geopolitical factor in the world today. Part of the reason is that the key to economic strength is in international trade, and the seas are far and away the easiest, most economical means of shipping raw materials and products. Control of international trade is in turn controlling by sea power. Sea power also has the convenient aspect of allowing a world power to move its power around the globe.

1) The Next 100 Years notes in particular the tremendous advantage of any large, economically vibrant, sufficiently populated nation with year-round shipping ports on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This geographical asset allows ready, difficult to blockade access to international trade. The obvious nation with such access is the United States. But there is more. "The total size of the economy is even more important for international power. Poverty is a problem, but the size of the economy determines what percentage of your resources you can devote to military and related matters." I.e., a huge military must be supported by a huge economy.

2) The history of the world in the next century will be in essence the future history of the United States, and that in fact the United States will be the "global power astride the world." It will involve "secondary powers forming coalitions to try and contain the United States", while the United States will be "acting preemptively to prevent an effection coalition from forming."

3) The United States will not and does not need to win wars, but only to disrupt other coalitions of countries from becoming a potential rival. [A good example is that in disrupting "the Islamic world and setting it against itself -- so that an Islamic empire could not emerge" -- the United States has already accomplished its goal in accordance with its grand strategy as pertains to the Middle East for the next ten to twenty years.]

4) There is the continuing decline of Europe, in particular Atlantic Europe (Ireland, United Kingdom, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Spain, and Portugal), that has taken Europe into a "decadent" stage and with minimal future effect on the global stage.

Note that Mexico and several Central American Countries do not have access to the Atlantic Ocean, and could theoretically be bottled up in the Gulf of Mexico and/or the Caribbean. Furthermore, the economies of these other countries are not sufficient to currently pose a threat. Only Mexico has the population and the real potential for becoming economically powerful. Meanwhile, Canada doesn't have the population... and if I had my druthers, I'd be looking to invite the provinces of Canada to join the union. All of course with the exception of French Quebec... who can't even make peace with their fellow Canadians.

Sea power provides the United States (or any other nation) with the power to ensure a profitable and viable international trade (of resources, manufactured products, and thus its economy), while at the same time denying the same economic and military benefits to its enemies... or merely those of its allies currently in the dog house with the sea power nation. Accordingly, item 2) above follows directly from item 1). Furthermore, item 3) derives directly from item 2).

Item 4) on the other hand, is due to the Atlantic European nations losing control of the seas to the United States during World War II... where incidentally the Eurasian continents were devastated, while at the same time, the United States had its economy, citizenry, and military energized. The reason that England, Spain, Portugal, France, and the Netherlands were so successful in the 19th century was due to their power on the seas. Not quite control, but enough to prevent any other nation from controlling the seas.

True worldwide sea power has been realized for the first time in history by the United States. This was due in large part to World War II when all its potential rivals were deccimated, and additionally, when the U. S. acquired leases on ports and bases throughout the world. Ever heard of Diego Garcia? It's in the Indian Ocean, is a key location for supporting sea power and controlling shipping lands, and is currently under the power of the United Kingdom... and based upon a 1971 agreement is effectively controlled by the United States Navy. Thus, the control of the seas is extended to its logical conclusion.

One point worth noting in sea power is that while the United States controls the seas, other nations can always challenge the United States for control in selected regions. Even pirates (from Indonesia to Somalia... to the shores of Tripoli) can be something of a pain. They may have no chance of ever replacing the United States in controlling the seas, but challenges can always be made. For the most part, however, no other nation is really spending that much money on naval power; it's just not worth it. And it takes decades to man, train, and develop a really substantial navy. And even when the United Kingdom went to war with Argentina over control of the Falkland Islands in 1982, the British fleet made its way south to engage the newly minted enemy... effectively with permission from the United States. The facts that Argentina's light cruiser ARA General Belgrano (formerly the USS Phoenix, a survivor of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor), and the British Type 42 destroyer HMS Sheffield were both sunk during this war makes it clear that others can host a naval service that tries to enforce its will upon others... but only if the U. S. is willing to allow such geopolitical skirmishes. And of course, whenever two opposing navies go at it, sinking each other's ships and aircraft, so much the better for the United States. Neither the Belgrano nor the Sheffield will ever challenge the United States.

 

China

There is the perception that China's spectacular rise in industrial strength, and its ownership of a large portion of United States' assets (currently about a trillion dollars or so) makes it a power with which to contend in the future. And yet, The Next 100 Years... makes an excellent case for:

1) the decline of China in the next ten years, due to instability and foreign incursions. There is in fact expected to be a shattering of the nation's stability because of the massive economic disparity between the coastal haves and the interior have nots. Furthermore, located in a "box canyon" trade-wise (or sea power wise), China's current "economic dynamism does not translate into long-term success." China is in fact extremely vulnerable because of its dependence upon raw materials being imported and finished products being exported... inevitably by sea.

2) Furthermore, "China is Japan on steroids." "And if and when [China's growth] slacks off, for example, because of a recession in the United States, the entire structure could crumble very fast." "China is held together by money, not ideology." "Loyalty in China is either bought or coerced. Without available money, only coercion remains."

3) The Chinese government will attempt "to limit disintegration by increasing nationalism and the natural companion of nationalism, xenophobia." "A very real future of China in 2020 is its old nightmare -- a country divided among competing regional leaders, foreign powers taking advantage of the situation to create regions where they can define economic rules to their advantage, and a central government trying to hold it all together but failing."

The current debt of the United States to China and Japan (about 1.5 trillion in U. S. treasury bonds alone) should not be construed necessarily as the ability of the bondholders to radically influence the debtor. An old adage in banking circles is that if you borrow money from the bank, the bank owns you. But if you borrow enough money (i.e., enough such that the bank's collapse would deccimate the bondholders), then you own the bank. Thus, the United States, the debtor... owns the "banks" of China and Japan. Sorry about that fellows... but where in the world would you invest otherwise? Farmland in Tibet?

The current Great Recession of 2008/9 will likely to result in fewer products being purchased worldwide, including those products "Made in China" (and/or "Made in Japan"). When one considers those nations most impacted by the collapsing economies... most of whom are not exactly on the United States' list of most favorite things... one has to wonder if the current recession in the United States does not have its own silver lining in terms of the nation's grand strategy. Take for example, the case of Russian resources;

 

Russia

The Next 100 Years'... prediction of a second cold war has got to send chills up most everyone's spine [forgive the pun... but it was irresistable].

The fascinating part is that Russia really has no choice. Its geopolitical necessity is to accumulate bumper states between Mother Russia and the rest of the Big Bad World. This is not to suggest paranoia... because for the most part, they really are out to get them. It's not like the country has never been invaded before (or taken actions calculated to initiate an invasion) -- just think Napoleon and Hitler in comparatively recent times. And while Russia has beaten back many such efforts, the fact remains that their phyrric victories have cost millions of Russian lives. The Battle of Stalingrad alone is considered to have resulted in a combined total of more than 1.5 million dead.

Accordingly, The Next 100 Years... assumes that:

1) during the next five years, there will be the reabsorption by Russia into its Soviet style sphere of influence: Belarus and the Ukraine, and separately Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan). This will be followed by the incorporation of the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) in the time frame from 2015 to 2020. The Russian Imperative in this regard is that: "During the Cold War, the distance from St. Petersburg to NATO's front line was more than a thousand miles. Today the distance is about seventy miles." Furthermore, Russia "saw Germany go from being a cripple in 1932 to being at the gates of Moscow in 1941." Finally, it must be noted that: "The traditional path to invade Russia is a three-hundred-mile gap between the northern Carpathians [Mountains] and the Baltic Sea." However... "By 2015-2020, [Russia] will have a military that will pose a challenge to any power trying to project force into the region, even the United States."

2) There will also be, from Russia's viewpoint the need for a buffer between Russia and its more southern neighbors... primarily Turkey, but also Iran. This would require incorporating Chechnya (indispensable), Georgia (desirable), and Azerbaijan (convenient). "Unless the Chechen rebellion completely disappears, the Russians will have to move south [into Georgia], then isolate the rebellion and nail down their position in the mountains." This will result in a confrontation with the United States. August 2008 was quite possibly a tentative probe to test the waters. However, an invasion of Georgia might also force Turkey into resisting and thereby assisting the United States. (This geopolitics is far more complicated than chess, Risk, and Monopoly combined.)

3) Russia will fail in the world technological development sweepstakes (just as they had already tried it during Cold War I -- CWI -- and failed). This will be due in part to its ambitious and focused promotion of its military at all other costs. The nation's hydrocarbon riches will actually hurt it, allowing for military spending, but not for developing new technologies. The line in the second Cold War, CWII, will be in the Carpathian Mountain (instead of Germany... Glückliche tage sind hier wieder!). With Russia's smaller and declining population, it will be unable to completely control the Caucasus. Ultimately, "the country's military will collapse once more shortly after 2020."

4) The rise of Russia -- including a large well equiped military by 2020 (and thereby drawing heavily on the Russian economy) -- will initiate the second cold war between the United States and Russia, but one far milder and one that will result in the collapse of Russia sometime later in the 2020s. "Rich and weak is a bad position for nations to be in. If Russia is to be rich in natural resources and export them to Europe, it must be in a position to protect what it has and to shape the international environment in which it lives." "Russia's future actions will appear to be aggressive but will actually be defensive." Russia is "facing a massive demographic crisis" -- one which will limit both workers and soldiers.

 

Japan, Turkey, Poland

The decline of Russia during the period from 2020 to 2040 will result in major incursions being made in mid-century by (from the east) Japan, (from the south) Turkey and (from the west) a "Polish Bloc" composed of Poland, and perhaps Slovakia, Hungary, and/or Romania.

1) Japan will be attempting to consolidate its power over the northwest Pacific, including China and eastern (Pacific) Siberian Russia -- and thereby its own sea power in its immediate neighborhood becoming a challenge to control of the seas by the United States.

2) Turkey will be attempting to gain widespread influence comparable to the Ottoman Empire, but likely avoiding Iran (as too much trouble) and Israel (with whom it has good relations). Besides moving its influence into Egypt, Libya, and Saudi Arabia, Turkey will likely move militarily into the Balkans of southeast Europe. In the Balkans, it would likely face a Polish attempted expansion to the Mediterranean Sea (see item 4 below). Most notably Turkey will also be moving north through the Caucasus (through Armenia, Georgia, et al) into southern Russia, and "as deeply as they need to in order to guarantee their national security in that direction."

3) "The Islamic world is incapable of uniting voluntarily. It is, however, capable of being dominated by a Muslim Power." The U.S. will help Turkey against Russia (similar to helping Afghanistan against the Russians... and very likely, again creating a monster in the process). "The Turks will block Iranian ambitions in the region." "Historically, the Turks have taken a flexible approach to religion, using it as a tool as much as a system of belief." "Geographically speaking, there is only one essential goal for any power in this region: control of the eastern Mediterranean and Black Seas." "Italy will feel extremely insecure."

4) Poland will lead Eastern Europe (the "Polish Bloc", including possibly the Baltic states, Hungary, and Romania) into Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine, as well as heading south to link up with Croatia and create a Mediterranean Sea access shipping port -- and thus alleviate being bottled up in the Baltic Sea (equivalent to Russia being bottled up in the Black and Baltic Seas). "By around 2045 the Polish Bloc will have secured Rijeka, absorbing both Slovenia and Croatia."

5) In the period 2040 to 2055, the United States will be a conflict with the expansion policies of Japan and Turkey, but will temporarily side with Poland and the Polish Bloc in its expansion (as part of its response to Turkey's expansion). Critical to this mid-century conflict (which will include the war in the traditional sense) will be the United States' use of space warfare based on orbiting command and missile centers -- as well as the use of Solar Powered Satellite Systems (which will collect solar energy in orbit and beam it back to earth using microwave technology). [See below for many of the Geopolitical Axioms that are applicable here.]

6) "In every sense of the term, the fifteen years after the war [2055-2070] will be an economic and technological golden age for the United States."

Sigh. There's just nothing like a war to set up for a golden age... e.g. the 1940s leading to the 1950s. And isn't it amazing how "national security" and "buffers zones to prevent invasion by other countries" can so easily lead to pre-emptive warfare by nations? Someone just might invade us from that direction, so let's invade our neighbors before that happens. It's fundamentally important to always keep the battles in someone else's back yard... which allows one to use one's own backyard to prosecute the war.

Obviously, the further one goes into the future, the greater the difficulty of making accurate predictions. The Next 100 Years... is clearly cognizant of this fact. For example, who in 1900 would have predicted, a mere fifty years later, blitzkriegs of heavy armor and the collapse of nations such as Poland and France in a matter of days. Similarly, I strongly suspect, The Next 100 Years... tends to underestimate the scientific and technological improvements of the immediate future, if not the next fifty years. There is certainly the honest attempt to consider such NASA approved innovations as solar space power systems. For example, with respect to space-based solar power:

"a single kilometer-wide band of geosynchronous earth orbit experiences enough solar flux in one year to nearly equal the amount of energy contained within all known recoverable conventional oil resources on earth today."

Nevertheless, any attempts to predict the future of technological innovations are fraught with difficulty. Mr. Friedman ignores, for example, the potential of Zero-Point-Energy, Connective Physics, and a whole raft of possibilities that have not even thus far generated a consensus identification tag.

Furthermore, any rational use of the logic in making predictions is also based on certain assumptions. In The Next 100 Years... these include such gems as: 1) Control of Space will aid in the Control of the Seas, 2) challenges in space will not necessarily result in the solar space power systems being the first targets of opportunity, 3) the best route to invade, for example, Russia from the west is via Poland, the Baltic states, and Belarus, and 4) the historical tradition of economics will continue to be heavily dependent upon labor.

My perspective is that the first assumption is probably correct... even if with respect to assumption number two, the control of space may be nip and tuck for some time yet (and may not be an accomplished fact by mid-Century). Still... the control of the seas by the United States can and probably will continue essentially unabated... provided of course that control of space is not imposed by anyone other than the United States. Or as The Next 100 Years... relates:

"In the twenty-frst century, control of the sea will be less dependent upon oceangoing fleets than on space-based systems that can see enemy ships and target them. Therefore, whoever controls space will control the sea."

Assumption three, on the other hand, is in my mind even weaker. Modern armies may be using propulsion and transportation systems to move battle forces into position that make the distinction between flat land, marsh land, and mountain land almost irrelevant. In a manner of speaking, technology may... ready... level the playing field. This is not to give too much credence to Air Power, but in the process of going from projectile style mass bombardment to precision destruction of targets, the role of ground troops will become one based upon increasing rapid and quick mobility... and thus very likely a whole lot less mud, mountains, and rivers with which to contend.

Note, for example, the observation (primarily from The Next 100 Years...):

"A ballistic weapon [bullets, artillery shells, and bombs] is simply one that, once fired or released, can't change it course. That makes these weapons inherently inaccurate. A bullet fired from a rifle, or a bomb released by a bombardier, depends on the hand-eye coordination of a soldier or airman trying to concentrate while others try to kill him. In World War II, the probability of any one projectile hitting its target was startingly low. When accuracy is low, the only solution is to saturate the battlefield with bullets and shells and bombs."

With the advent of precision guided weaponry (in the late 1960s and 1970s), there was no longer any need to devastate whole cities, countries, and populations. (Unfortunately, this does not mean that some forces might prefer or enjoy devastating others.)

Finally, robotics may create much less need for massive armies, massive economies to support massive armies, and masses in general. Soldiers, workers, cannon fodder, and economic slaves may instead be replaced with much more highly trained, far less expendable soldiers and/or workers -- if only because of the education and financial investment in them -- and thus not as likely to be used as just so much grist for the mill. We may not need large populations as much (even if growing food and so forth may be somewhat labor intensive... at least until they develop the robotics for that.).

Nevertheless, the logic employed in The Next 100 Years... is excellent... once the assumptions are proven and/or established. It's just that some assumptions tend to fail in the longer term. Sorry, George.

There may be other assumptions that the clever reader may want to discuss. Feel free to do so.

 

Mexico

One of the basic premises of The Next 100 Years... is the prediction that in the last twenty years of the century (2080-2100) there will be serious conflict with Mexico. This will be due in large part to the number of Mexican Americans in the southwest (i.e., that part of the United States originally belonging to Mexico -- before Texas Independence, the Mexican-American War and the Gadsden Purchase). These Mexican derived populations will become dominant in the region, and more importantly with their loyalties to Mexico greater than to the United States. This premise might suggest some interesting possibilities.

For example, if the United States were to cordially invite the Canadian provinces to join the union (and the make over was appearing to be successful), why not extend a similar invitation to Mexico? There might be a need for some intensive language training, and the process would probably be one involving one or more decades (and/or generations?)... but the appeal of a United States of North America could become enormous. A lot of problems could be solved (and a lot of solvable problems could also be created), but in terms of geopolitics and ultimately the control of the world... this plan has some intriguing possibilities. The curious part is that is might even happen almost without effort... with the southwestern United States becoming the lead facillitator. Fait accompli can be an irresitable force.

 

Geopolitical Axioms

Particularly important and worthy of discussion are several possible truisms (axioms) proposed by Mr. Friedman in The Next 100 Years...:

1) "Wars - when your county isn't destroyed -- stimulate economic growth." "A cold war is the best of all wars, as it stimulates your country dramatically, but doesn't destroy it."

2) "Reasonable people are incapable of anticipating the future."

An alternative description is that there are seldom good reasons for what happens; just excuses.

3) "Geopolitics... does not take the individual leader [of any nation] very seriously."

This might imply that George Bush did not do nearly as much damage as imagined, or that President Obama will not accomplish all that much repair.

4) "Loyalty to a tribe, a city, or a nation is natural to people. In our time, national identity matters a great deal."

This is clearly another assumption, but one that the Internet just might challenge. Loyalty, after all is based upon what you know about others. As has been noted, "community is everyone knowing some dirt on everyone else"... Or... "You'll always be my friend, you know too much."

5) "Americans constitute about 4 percent of the world's population but produce about 26 percent of all goods and services." "About 26 percent of the world's economic activity takes place in the United States." "The American economy is so huge that it is larger than the economies of the next four countries combined: Japan, Germany, China, and the United Kingdom."

That's because the United States began Starbucks, Barbie dolls, and Jazz.

6) "The United States produced 8.3 million barrels of oil every day in 2006..."[compared "with 9.7 million for Russia and 10.7 million for Saudia Arabia]." In natural gas production in 2006, Russia was in first place with 22.4 trillion cubic feet and the United States was second with 18.7 trillion cubic feet."

7) "The United States is only at the beginning of its power. The twenty-first century will be the American Century."

Think, as The Next 100 Years... suggests, that the United States is still in its teenage years, and that the next 100 years will be that of a young (idealistic?) adult.

8) Historically, "the most interesting features of the Cold War, in fact, were all the wars that didn't happen."

Irony is not always appreciated for its geopolitical connections.

9) "Invented by the victors of World War I, Yugoslavia was like a cage for some of the most vicious rivalries in Europe." "This is not a forgive-and-forget region."

10) "In the case of the United States, perhaps more than for other countries, grand strategy is about war, and the interaction between war and economic life. The United States is, historically, a warlike country." [Teenager?] "The United States has been at war for about 10 percent of its existence." "During the twentieth century, the United States was at war 15 percent of the time. In the second half of the twentieth century, it was at war 22 percent of the time. And since the beginning of the twenty-first century in 2001, the United States has been constantly at war." "U. S. strategic goals, and U. S. grand strategy, originate in fear."

Apparently, the word about "speaking softly and carrying a big stick" has gotten around.

11) The United States can be said to have five geopolitical goals:

a) "The complete domination of North America by the United States Army."

b) "The elimination of any threat to the United States by any power in the Western Hemisphere."

c) "Complete control of the maritime approaches to the United States by the Navy in order to preclude any possibility of invasion."

d) "Complete domination of the world's oceans to further secure U. S. physical safety and guarantee control over the international trading system."

e) "The prevention of any other nation from challenging U. S. global naval power."

12) "The United States has global interests and involves itself in a large number of global skirmishes. No one involvement is crucial [to the United States]. For the countries that are the object of American interest, however, any intervention is a transformative event."

Pay no attention to the big Gorilla behind the curtain.

13) "There are no permanent solutions to geopolitical problems."

14) "Two forces are emerging that will moot global warming. First, the end of the population explosion will, over the decades, reduce the increases in demand for just about everything. Second, the increase in the cost of both finding and using hydrocarbons will increase the hunger for alternatives. The obvious alternative is solar energy."

This assumption is one of the weaker ones, I suspect. Global Warming can continue essentially unabated, with or without a population explosion... or in fact anything that humans might do. This could be a cosmic cycle, for example.

There is also the recent report from the University of Wisconsin [2] about a possibly temporary flattening of the increase in temperatures since 2001. The conclusion of the report, however, is that some natural cycle may be holding the warming in check, but when that cycle ends, the warming and temperature increases could be "explosive".

As for the "obvious alternative", let' not, at least forget about wind. There are also a whole lot of other alternatives. [In some respects the next twenty to thirty years could be enormously exciting in terms of health, energy, water, and the price of tea in China. ]

15) "Free will is beyond forecasting. But what is most interesting about humans is how unfree they are."

 

Culture

Of particular interest is The Next 100 Years... division of Culture into three states:

1) "Barbarians believe that the customs of their village are the laws of nature and that anyone who doesn't live the way they live is beneath contempt and requiring redemption or destruction." "Europe was barbaric in the sixteenth century, as the self-certainty of Christianity fueled the first conquests."

2) "Decadents cynically believe that nothing is better than anything else. If they hold anyone in contempt, it is those who believe in anything. Nothing is worth fighting for."

3) "Civilized people are able to balance two contradictory thoughts in their minds. They believe that there are truths and that their cultures approximate those truths. At the same time, they hold open in their mind the possibility that they are in error." "Civilized people fight selectively but effectively."

Obviously, we're living in an age that is fully stocked with all of the above. And of course, there is likely to be a whole lot of fighting between all if not most of the participants in the first and third states... including obviously a lot of intra-barbarian fighting. Curiously, the potential peacemakers may also include in large measure some of the Decadents. It's a very perplexing world.

 

America's Jubilee Cycle

Then there is The Next 100 Years'... observation of America's jubilee, 50-year cycle (one that "usually begins with a defining presidency and ends in a failed one"). "The crises are defined by the struggle between a declining dominant class linked to an established economic model and the emergence of a new class and a new economic model. Each faction represents a radically different way of viewing the world and a different definition of what it means to be a good citizen, and reflects the changing ways of making a living."

1) George Washington Cycle, ending in 1829 with the failed presidency of John Quincy Adams ("Founders give way to Pioneers"). "Andrew Jackson's predecessors had favored a stable currency to protect investors. Jackson championed cheap money to protect debtors, the people who voted for him." [1776 to 1829; 53 years]

2) Andrew Jackson Cycle, ending in 1877 with the failed presidency of Ulysses S. Grant ("Pioneers give way to Small-town America") "Rutherford B. Hayes -- or more precisely his secretary of the treasury, John Sherman -- championed money backed by gold, which limited inflation, raised interest rates, and made investment more attractive." [48 years]

3) Rutherford B. Hayes Cycle, ending in 1933 with the failed presidency of Herbert Hoover ("Small Towns give way to Industrial Cities") Franklin D Roosevelt, FDR, "championed the industrial urban workers at the expense of the declining small towns and their values." [There was also a huge influx of immigrants, and... on yeah... the Great Depression.] [56 years... suggesting that the Crash of 1929 was a few months too late to prevent Herbert Hoover's election.*]

4) FDR Cycle, ending in 1981 with the failed presidency of Jimmy Carter ("Industrial Cites give way to Service Suburbs") Ronald Reagan maintained "consumption while simultaneously increasing the amount of investment capital." "...reducing taxes in order to stimulate investment." "...which favored the suburban professional and entrepreneurial classes." ["Trickle down economics"] [48 years]

5) Ronald Reagan Cycle, predicted to end in 2028 or 2032 with the failed presidency of _____? ("Service Suburbs give way to a Permanent Migrant Class") "The solution of the last cycle's crisis will engender the problem of the next." "There are three storms on the horizon. The first is demographic [Baby Boomers retiring]." "The second storm is energy," and "...the end of the hydrocarbon economy. Finally, productivity growth from the last generation of innovations is peaking." "Underlying the crisis of 2030 is the fact that labor will no longer be the reliable component it has been up to that point." "American political culture, ever since 1932, has been terrified of a labor surplus -- of unemployment." "Rapid and dramatic increases in the workforce through immigration will be the real solution. The breakthrough will be the realization that the historical view of labor scarcity does not work any longer." "Retirees will favor the immigration solution for obvious reasons." "Imported labor will be of two classes. One will consist of those able to support the aging population, such as physicians and housekeepers. The other will be those who can develop technologies that increase productivity in order to address the labor shortage over the longer term. Therefore, professionals in the physical sciences, engineering, and health care, along with manual laborers of various sorts, will be the primary kinds of workers that are recruited." "The 2040s should see a surge in economic development similar to those of the 1950s or 1990s [or 1890s]. And this period will set the stage for the crisis of 2080."

It might be tempting to suggest that the rapid acceleration of virtually everything in the last thirty years or so will result in a new cycle begining with the obviously failed presidency of George W. Bush, and with the hope of an ascendant Barack Obama presidency. This idea must be seen as probably more political spin than anything else. The very nature of a cycle that ignores the impact of various presidents (and instead is the cause of such presidencies coming into power) is unlikely to be shortchanged. The fact remains that we are still far more worried about unemployment than we are of worker shortages.

Of course... there is the curious fact that certain presidencies occurred about three-fifths of the way through any given cycle. For example:

1) James Madison (1809), 33 years into the George Washington Cycle,

2) Abraham Lincoln (1861), 32 years into the Andrew Jackson Cycle,

3) William Howard Taft (1909), 32 years into the Rutherford B. Hayes Cycle,

4) John F. Kenney (1961), 28 years into the FDR Cycle (32 years from the 1929 crash),

5) Barack Obama (2009), 28 years into the Ronald Reagan Cycle.

Ignoring political spin, it would appear that everything's pretty much on schedule.

 

Summary

This lengthy but incomplete summation of George Friedman's The Next 100 Years... hardly does it justice. The entirety of the book must in fact be considered to be essential reading material. Equally essential is the need for a lot of discussion and consideration of the ideas propounded therein. [Just don't ask me for a copy, because I have only one and it's been lent to a friend!]

Obviously, Mr. Friedman's predictions will find room for error, including the possibility of his missing revolutionary new concepts, technologies, and long-term changes in social behavior and the manner in which diverse cultures interact (as possibly illustrated by the rather unique Internet). There is also the example alluded to above, which asks the question: what in the next sixty or seventy years is to prevent the United States combining with (adding to the union) the provinces of Canada (with the possible exception of French Quebec... and for obvious reasons)... and THEN, joining with Mexico (and ultimately Central America) as well? In some respects this recognizes the decidedly friendly relations with Canada (where millions of American retirees go each year to buy their prescription drugs at world reduced prices), as well as the current occupation [pardon the pun] of the southwestern United States by individuals with a greater loyalty to Mexico than their nominal hosts. In fact, if the United States were to establish a truly laudatory national health care system (with a program for prescription drugs that would prevent wholesale theft by the pharmaceutical industey), the appeal of being part of the United States might be extremely enticing for all those "other" Americans. Meanwhile, the language barrier could be -- except for the French one -- addressed and corrected over the next one or two generations.

Another bone of contention with the predictions of The Next 100 Years... might be the development of new forms of energy and/or propulsion. This was mentioned above in that Mr. Friedman uses as a prime but unstated assumption that the traditional means of invading another country is via the land route... and indirectly that "air power" cannot be relied upon to constitute an adequate invasion. However, if as was Mr. Friedman's argument that the United States never has to win a war... i.e., if a 'grand strategy' invasion is less taking control of an area or nation, and instead, simply fouling that area or nation's ability to attack the United States, then an advanced air/space power might not need any strong presence on the ground. It might even argue strongly against it. Accordingly, any significant scientific breakthroughs in energy and/or propulsion... such as that described in Connective Physics... could allow the country with the superior technology to bring the impact of its weaponry to virtually any spot on earth. Distances may not vanish entirely, but having to transit 500 miles along the ground to apply one's power could be a relic of the past... while sending a precision weapon at hypersonic speeds over large distances could become the new modus operandi.

The Jubilee cycles discussed above might appear to be in the process of being short-circuited by the possible cultural sea change [pardon the pun], beginning in the fall of 2008 (and continuing into the foreseeable future). However, while the economic meltdown caused by banks and mortgage companies in 2008 might be comparable to 1929 (that was preceded by one four-year presidency the next cycle), it is unlikely that President Obama will get to use his name on the next cycle. To a very large degree, his advisors are from the old school of Republican/Democrat chronyism, and thus a radical departure from the past is probably not in the cards. The "32 year" turning point theory, on the other hand might be slightly more on track. Economically, the world is in fact undergoing some incredible happenings in terms of taking money from monied sources and completely rerouting it. One might also note in this regard Lindsey Williams' take on this issue (you will have to scroll down see his message at the Great Awakening). When coupled with the Geopolitics of the next hundred years.. it becomes all the more intriguing.

This is particularly evident in the collapse of oil, gas, and mineral prices in the last year, where oll and gas are now selling for roughly 1/4 of their previous prices, and such precious metals as Rhodium have fallen in price (over a period of a week or so) from $10,000 an ounce to $1,000 an ounce. With this and similar collapse in prices, how is this hurting exactly who? Russia (where the collapse in prices of oil, gas, and Rhodium are especially devastating)? Venezuela? The Middle East? And are any of those places currently on good terms with the United States or NATO Europe? No? Gee, whatever could that imply?

Just maybe... just possibly... CWII is already in progress. August 2008 in Georgia might have been the kick off event. As might have been heard in the circles of power: 'Kick around my friends with the golden fleece and let's see how much hard currency you can buy with rhodium at one tenth its former price!'

 

________________

[1] George Friedman, The Next 100 Years; A Forecast for the 21st Century, Doubleday, New York, 2009.

[2] "Global Warming: Has it stopped?", The Week, March 20, 2009.

 

 

Hierarchy

Forward to:

American Foreign Policy         New Energy Ramifications         Global Warming

Cycles

New:

The Milgram Effect

Freedom of Religion        Holy War        The Rules of Holy War

Racism and Culturalism         Multiculturalism         Perils of Immigration

An American Third Party         A Third Party That Knows How to Party

 

               

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