Just Read – The Next 100 Years – George Friedman

Finished reading this book almost a month ago, but due to paucity of time almost forgot to write about this book.

This book is a look into the next 100 years by George Friedman (no relation to Thomas Friedman of the New York Times).  George Friedman is the chief executive of STRATFOR, a private global intelligence firm he founded in 1996. He has spent more than 20 years teaching political science and has commented extensively on security and defense issues.

Though its difficult to accurately predict what can happen next year, Friedman lets his thoughts into the next 100 years based on the situations and issues that have shaped the past 100-200 years.  Based on this he comes to the conclusion that in the next 100 years, the major powers of the world would be (hold your breath) USA, Japan, Poland and Turkey.

He goes on to describe that by the end of the current decade (2020), China would have disintegrated and Tibet liberated with active participation by India and China will either go back to its closed doors policy or become a non-entity.  Yes, China has to keep up its blistering growth or else there could be serious trouble among its population which has no other outlet to express its disenchantment against the communist government.  But to think that the communist government hasnt thought about it and doesnt have a plan B is difficult to imagine.

The author asserts that the United States power is so extraordinarily overwhelming that it will dominate the coming century, brushing aside Islamic terrorist threats now, overcoming a resurgent Russia in the 2010s and 20s and eventually gaining influence over space-based missile systems that Friedman names battle stars. Friedman is the founder of Stratfor, an independent geopolitical forecasting company, and his authoritative-sounding predictions are based on such factors as natural resources and population cycles. While these concrete measures lend his short-term forecasts credence, the later years of Friedmans 100-year cycle will provoke some serious eyebrow raising. The armed border clashes between Mexico and the United States in the 2080s seem relatively plausible, but the space war pitting Japan and Turkey against the United States and allies, prognosticated to begin precisely on Thanksgiving Day 2050, reads as fantastic (and terrifying) science fiction. Whether all of the visions in Friedmans crystal ball actually materialize, they certainly make for engrossing entertainment.

source: Amazon

There are a lot of issues on which i dont agree with the author of the book.  Other than a few instances, Friedman makes no mention of India in the whole book.  He says that India would be a regional power with no impact on the global affairs.  I cant understand how he manages to just discard a country that could have 1.5 billion people by 2050, the world’s top 5 standing army, one of the best airforce and naval power, not to mention an economy of at least $ 20 trillion by 2050 (conservative estimates).

I tried making a small comparison chart of the countries that are supposed to be significant players (according to Friedman) in the next 100 years versus India.  A cursory glance at the figures and its easy to see why the book is way off on its prediction.

* Data belongs to year 2009
** All figures are in US dollars
*** GDP & per capita is PPP
**** Data sourced from CIA website

But he goes on and on about Turkey and Poland being significant leaders in Europe who will militarily crush the rest of Europe.  There is hardly any mention of France or Britain.  Germany according to Friedman would be on the decline.  Agreed on that, but to dismiss the German power with regards to Turkey and Poland is simply too far fetched.

He also speaks a lot about Mexico which could be the top 10 economies by 2050, but no mention of India which could be the top 3 economy by 2050.  The author looks too enamoured by USA and believes that they will maintain status quo into the next 100 odd years.  Of course, no one believes that US will just lie down and die, but to imagine that the disastrous economic policies pursued by USA would have no impact into the future is a bit too far fetched to believe.  As for Japan, its negative population growth combined with its insignificant economic growth for the past 20 odd years have dented its abilities both on the economic as well as military front.  As a country that doesnt encourage any form of immigration, Japan will be in deep trouble as it has to cope with a rapidly graying population.  If it opens its doors to immigration, its will have to face a lot of social tensions.

The book is a good read, if you are into fantasies and would love to have a good laugh.  Surely not a book to be taken seriously.

The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century
Author – George Friedman
Pages – 272
Publisher – Doubleday