Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Next 100 Years: A forecast or geopolitical fantasy ?

As with many books I have very mixed feelings after reading George's Friedman "The Next 100 Years". When it comes to reading experience, the book is just excellent. It is a true page turner and gives to the reader the great satisfaction of reading.

In short: the book analyses the global geopolitical trends of XXI century and tries to predict the events of nascent centennial period of time. The analysis of the current situation is breathtaking - it is one of the first analysis that describes the real trends behind such events like Iraq war, seemingly stupid errors of American administration and explains how such acts work on a deeper strategic level. The basic conclusion of this part of the book is that the American global dominance is of unprecedented scale, not known in history of civilization. What is more, we are not in the period of a dusk of "American day" but - rather - at its dawn.

All the events , including those that seemingly put US into some inferiority, work in the opposite direction. For example, even though the American-Jihad war, started by the events of 9/11 does not look as successful, it has in fact caused the great disruption in Islamic countries, essentially blocking any major power to arise.

There are many such excellent conclusions and inferences ...

But, as you continue to read it, the book becomes more and more a sort of fantasy than a well grounded forecast. For example, the conclusion that by the mid of XXI century the most important powers of the world will be: US, Japan, Turkey and ... Poland - made my sides split with laughter. On the surface, I should be proud (and I truly am) of the author estimation of my own country great potential - but, I think he simply forgets or ignores the large geopolitical change that just started to shape the Euro-Asia - the dawn of European Union, in which Poland has already its place, and to which Turkey aspires. The author, with typical ignorance, thinks of EU as of failed project, and it fails because it does not follow American example.

This is, in my opinion, one of the great faults in George's reasoning. The truth is different, EU is a project that breaks the traditional nation-state paradigm, and, as such, escapes the classical geopolitical trends. Of course, EU may fail. It errs. It joins the new active generation, hard working young people in many countries with somehow decadent societies of "Old Europe".

But in this weakness lies also its power - and it is highly unlikely that we may see a "Polish block" rising in power and challenging Germany, France, UK - also in military sense.

Turkey maybe more problematic, as seen from 2009 perspective, but its efforts to join EU will finally make this country a powerful, yet, peaceful part of the region.

Whatever we say, the thinking in XXI century in terms of almost tribal, nation-state struggle, seems to be anachronic and quite strange...

Having this in mind, I found this part of "The Next 100 years" as highly unrealistic.

When the author finally comes to the mid-XXI century war, and describes it with details worth good sci-fi novel, I came to conclusion, that the real value of the author prophecies are of the same sort as of any, maybe good, science-fiction author....

I also think that the author expresses some other strange opinions worth to oppose. For example, when he describes role of the computer in modern civilization it does so with complete ignorance to the true meaning of digital technology, Internet and new media. The only two aspects he notices is the reductionism of the digital world (because it reduces everything to bits) and the emanation of American philosophical pragmatism...

He seems not to understand what software is all about and how computer and Internet enhanced the human communication, collaboration and hope for better future - on a global scale...

Finally and despite my criticism - I recommend to read this book. It is deeply moving and fascinating. But don't believe in its prophetic power :-)

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