When you see a book titled The Next Decade, it’s hard not to be drawn to it. Such a title appeals to that human desire to know the future, and as the title implies, that’s what this book is about.
But while sounding somewhat prophetic, it’s not – it is “forecasting”, or more specifically “geopolitical” or “strategic forecasting” which is the subject of this book. Dr George Friedman – a geopolitical analyst, International Relations expert and Chairman of the think tank Stratfor.
This book discusses what will take place over the next decade throughout various regions of the world. It is a commentary on economics, resource-related conflict, terrorism, historical tensions, power struggles, and armed conflict – which are usually tied together within various geographical or regional theatres. It’s an attempt to predict, through a series of highly-educated guesses:
- who will attack who,
- who will form alliances,
- who needs what resources,
- who is reliant on who
- and who has the most power.
The “who” mostly being countries, while giving some treatment to “non-state actors” such as terrorists.
This book is highly America-centric. It views issues through the lens of American geopolitical concern and primarily deals with what the USA will have to do to maintain its military and political ascendancy as a globally far reaching “unintended empire”.
Further to this, Friedman puts a blatant Machiavellian spin on it and advises that American foreign policy must employ cunning economic and military tactics: who to side with, who not to, regional balances of power, which regions to invest in, which ones to stay out of (for example, the USA should strengthen Poland so as to create a buffer between Europe and Russia). Additionally, the USA should continue to engage Australia and ensure a stronger partnership so as to counter-balance Asian and South East Asian regional influence.
Interestingly, Dr Friedman suggests the White House should also get friendlier with Iran – because they are the primary regional power in the Middle East.
What Friedman really understands is also what makes this book so compelling:
- that world politics is still essentially about “who gets what, when and how”
- that natural resources empower countries. Europe has to pander to Russia as it is reliant on Russian oil and gas.
- Geographic conditions can undermine regional economic and political domination – the small and volatile 300 mile gap between Kazakhstan and Ukraine is the channel through which Russian oil and political influence flows through to the Caucasus. If this gap is compromised, Russia’s influence in the region will be too. Should America fuel such a compromise?
This is a good introduction to strategic geopolitics for anyone not really familiar with international relations and global politics, and it indirectly teaches you how to think like an analyst. It also provides a good read for those familiar with the subjects of war, history, economics, international relations, and resource-related conflict. It’s a timely read, especially as Europe is contending with a seriously unstable Africa and North Africa, Middle East and Eastern Europe – all right on its doorstep(s).
I was going to say that “the times they are a changing”, but actually, they are not, the fundamentals of geopolitics haven’t really changed. The book probably sounds like a yawn created for political/war geeks, but it may provide compelling reading for all sorts of people. Have a read. It’s enlightening.