I don't follow politics very closely. I usually have a basic idea of what's going down in the world, but I'm not the guy at the party who's dying to discuss the latest happenings on the hill. However, this week's book is a geopolitical gem. If an author can get me interested in global policy and the history of politics, he's definitely doing something right.
The Next 100 Years is exactly what you think it is: a book about the next 100 years on Earth. George Friedman is a political scientist and founder of the private intelligence agency Stratfor, so he pretty much spends every waking moment analyzing geopolitical events. Using his extensive knowledge of foreign policy, historical trends, and the goals each country has to meet in order to maintain their national identity, Friedman predicts what the next 100 years on Earth will probably be like. He goes into detail on why there will be a second, smaller Cold War (Russia loses again), how Japan, Turkey, and Poland will rise to be global powers, how man will set up permanent research stations on the moon, and the causes that will lead up to Mexico challenging the United States for dominant control of North America.
Now, most of these predictions sound ridiculous, and Friedman admits this freely. He also admits that he's not a psychic, and can't really predict the future. What he can do, however, is analyze the data available and compare it to similar historical situations. Friedman has an incredible understanding of how the United States works and what its goals are for the coming decades. He discusses how the U.S. doesn't really need to win wars, but instead merely keep certain areas of the world unstable, preventing another nation from getting too powerful. He also talks a lot about things like how no one in 1919 would have thought that Germany would be a great power again by 1939, but that certain geopolitical clues from the time could have suggested it. What might seem illogical in one generation might become the norm the very next generation, and the only way to really predict where the world is going is by analyzing the data.
There are a lot of things in the book that I think seem a bit silly, like the idea that moon colonization and orbital battle stations will be fact by the year 2050. I don't think the idea of space becoming an important part of war is silly, just the thought that the situation in space will have advanced enough in the next forty years that humans will be running a fully functional research facility on the moon. Maybe one will be under construction, but these things take time. Some things that don't seem so silly, however, are his ideas on how the U.S. handles potentially threatening situations. Friedman talks a lot about America's desire to keep any one nation from gaining too much influence over Eurasia and the Islamic world. Given the history of the last century, it's not so difficult to imagine that the American government claims victory simply when a region is destabilized, as opposed to a traditional military victory. For the United States, what seems like a defeat or an embarrassing situation is often in fact exactly the outcome that the government was looking for in the first place. It's all very complicated geopolitical stuff, but George Friedman presents his ideas in a way that's easy for readers to understand and free of domestic political agenda. He speaks of America as a united people, and doesn't focus on party policies. He points out how historical trends tend to cycle through regardless of what party is in power. It's a great book, easily relatable no matter what amount of prior knowledge you have of the geopolitical world. Definitely check this one out if you can.
The Next 100 Years
by George Friedman
This one doesn't really have a story, exactly, but by the time he starts talking about the middle of the 21st century, it begins to feel like science fiction. That actually makes it more fun to read, since you can kinda look at it as a big "What If?" book if you don't take his ideas seriously.
This book doesn't have a ton of personality, but it's easy to read and enjoyable. To me, that counts for a lot in what's essentially a "history of the future" book. If all political books were this fun to read, the average American would have a much better grasp on the political world.
Even if none of this ever happens, it's still an interesting book. Friedman offers fresh perspective on the geopolitical realities of today and shows how global situations can escalate, seemingly without cause. The guy knows his stuff, it's a very interesting book.
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