Heidi's Reviews > The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century

The Next 100 Years by George Friedman
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Aug 27, 2009

did not like it
bookshelves: non-fiction, read2009
Read in June, 2009

I chose to read this book because someone asked people's opinion on an email list. I couldn't buy into it enough to finish it.

First, we are asked to accept geopolitical analysis, then we are asked to accept that George Friedman's analysis using geopolitics is accurate, and that his angle is the only one that counts.

Well I don't buy it. Most of the time he picks and chooses what specific world events to highlight to 'prove' his geopolitical forecast. I kept thinking of other events he ignored. I also kept thinking of a vastly different interpretation of those events. What it comes down to is, it's all his opinion, and since he picks and chooses what history we should look at to prove his points, his forecasts are built on sticks and cards.

Especially dubious are the premises that countries will act in their best, what, Machiavellian? interests, even when one person is essentially making those decisions. So George Bush Jr. acted the way he did because it was the next step for our country to take. Right.

You have to buy Reaganomics, you have to buy that this crash of 2008 was just a blip, and we still have prosperity for a real crash 20 some years from now, and nowhere does he take into account peak oil having anything to do with future economic woes...at least as far as I got.

An example. He says, "...these alliances and maneuvers are not difficult to predict. As I have said, they follow well-established patterns that have been ingrained in history for many centuries. What I am doing is seeing how traditional patterns play themselves out in the context of the twenty-first century." ...this after countless arguments that could conclude just the opposite of what he posited as givens.

He actually thinks Japan will rise again as a military power. Right. This would completely ignore the anti-war effect that the carpet-bombings of Tokyo and the atom bombs had on the country. I think the country has discovered what prosperity can be had by choosing not to have to build a military-industrial complex.

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03/25/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Danielle Yeah, he addresses the energy crisis in the epilogue. He basically says population decline coupled with alternative energy that will be developed will negate it as an issue in the far future.


message 2: by Michael (last edited Aug 22, 2014 07:30AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Michael Herrman I haven't made it far into the book, but I ran into problems with his suggestion that national leaders have 'no choices' in the decisions they make, at least in his portrayal of politicians as managers whose very limited choices are cut out for them. This suggests that that US policy makers had little choice but to invade Iraq to forestall the rise of a Caliphate that was never going to materialize to begin with.

How anyone can pretend to look even twenty years into the future in a world with nuclear weaponry is beyond me, but I'll keep reading.

-Update, 2 years after the above post: It seems that invading Iraq helped to birth that fledgling Caliphate. So much for comparing policymakers to chess Grandmasters.


message 3: by Max (new) - rated it 5 stars

Max Z > He actually thinks Japan will rise again as a military power. Right. This would completely ignore the anti-war effect that the carpet-bombings of Tokyo and the atom bombs had on the country.

2014 - "In July Japan's cabinet approved plans to redraft the country's constitution to allow the armed forces to fight overseas in support of friendly countries."

"Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe has increased his country's defence budget for the second year in a row, and Japan's defence spending is now ranked seventh in the world."

Anti-war effects are not permanent.


message 4: by Linden (new) - added it

Linden Gould I would add that George Friedman's analytical capabilities are well honed. Subscribe to Stratfor to get an idea. I've been reading him for some time now. As it relates to the criticism about the narrowness of choices among leaders, I understand the author is examining global dynamics with an eye on mathematically evidenced evolutions mostly dealing with demographics and energy consumption. These variables are not malleable by political wishes and will set in motion highly believable actions among narrowing choices in a short field of options. He likens his approach to what a master chess player knows. That in spite of a large number of first moves, a master will know that there are only a few that will succeed and that most moves are known by a master until that last creative move which brings victory. We can see evidence of this now with ISIS. Obama's end game in Iraq was ISIS's beginning of their end game. While Obama made his move of announcing when he'd withdraw, in spite of clear criticism from strategists, ISIS did what was already predicted, sat on the sidelines and then became active when the game board was to their advantage. Obama did not have a wide choice of moves. He made one with predictable results and now we have Americans being kidnapped and beheaded by a very dangerous but well funded and well organized group. The author's grasp of how nations behave is rooted in a sophisticated understanding of history and how nations did (and will) react when faced with few choices of survival or domination. To help with a buy in of such an endeavor, the author gives a brief 100 year historical timeline in 20 year increments and paints an astonishing picture of how the geopolitical landscape is subject amazing changes. He cautions the cynic to avoid the trap of a belief in the permanency of the current, such as the one commentator who downplays the prediction of the rise of japan with an offhanded question about their history of a nuclear attack. If you apply that logic, someone in 1919 would have scoffed at the idea of a Germany within a few years having conquered nearly all of Europe. This is a well thought out book, by a highly sophisticated, and well learned scholar.


David Smith Seems like a lot of folks can't see the forest for the trees.


message 6: by Jan (new) - added it

Jan Bielecki He states numerous times that specific leaders may act differently, and in George Bush Jr's case erratically, but that the overall policy of the US as a nation after 9/11 would always be to act disruptively towards jihadis. Al Gore or John Kerry may have acted more level-headed, but would also have prevented Al-Qaeda from gaining foothold, and shown US strength, even if by diplomacy only (as if).

He specifically addresses the fact that different leaders may have different objectives and ideologies, but that in the grand scheme of things they would not be in positions to lead unless they could make basic assumptions about their options. And countries are never just lead by one enigmatic leader, there will always be a military, advisors, economic interests and even the most oppressive regimes factor in popular opinion. Otherwise why would there be propaganda in the first place?

The further into the future it goes, the more thing's he's likely to get wrong, I don't see why that puts so many commenters off, that's a given. I've got halfway, to 2030, and he already had some details off. Ukraine most certainly has not joined Russia. But Russia and NATO are definitely preparing/building up defence along the Baltic as we speak.


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