Thursday, August 13, 2009

In the long run don't short SAM


Why the US will rule the next 100 years

Posted: 1:37 am
February 1, 2009
NYPOST via FT Alphaville

Buck up, Americans. Things may look bleak now, but George Friedman, founder of Strategic Forecasting, Inc., a private intelligence agency sometimes called the "Shadow CIA," sees great things ahead.

In his new book, "The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century," Friedman predicts decades of American dominance. "The United States is economically, militarily, and politically the most powerful country in the world, and there is no real challenger to that threat."

Though he wrote the bulk of the book before the economic downturn, Friedman hasn't changed his views. "First, this is not the most extreme crisis we've seen," he explains. "In the 1970s, high interest rates hurt the housing market and unemployment was over 10%. Second, other countries are hurting even more than us. I don't see this as a break point."

So what should we worry about? "The Next 100 Years" is fascinating because of its dismissal of the conventional wisdom. Radical Islam is a blip, Friedman believes, and the Middle East is too rife with internal disagreements to ever be a major power. Asymmetrical warfare (smuggling around suitcase-size nukes, for instance) scarcely gets a mention. Even classic boogeymen such as Russia and China aren't real threats. Instead, we should focus our attention on countries like Turkey and Japan.

The history of the 21st century will be of two opposing struggles, Friedman writes. "One will be secondary powers forming coalitions to try to contain and control the United States. The second will be the United States acting preemptively to prevent an effective coalition from forming."


China is overextended - too much bad debt, too high unemployment, a huge country divided by regional differences. Coupled with a history of isolationism, Friedman believes that internal problems will keep China from becoming a global player; "it will be defending itself against encroachment rather than projecting its own power." Russia is a similar story. Though it will want to push buffer zones in places like Georgia and Ukraine, it will face pressure from all sides, and a dwindling population. Its military will collapse by 2020, and more of its territory will fragment.


Demographics are America's biggest weakness, Friedman believes. By 2030, the population will be so weighted toward the elderly that the economy will slow to a crawl. The only solution: Throwing open the borders. "It is hard to imagine now, in 2009, but by 2030 advanced countries will be competing for immigrants," he writes.


Turkey and Japan will become regional powerhouses as Russia and China decline. Turkey's sphere of influence will extend throughout the Muslim world (shades of the old Ottoman Empire) and Japan will be taking in a Chinese immigrant labor force and exerting itself in Eastern Russia.

Meanwhile, the US will have developed three space-based weapons platforms, which Friedman fancifully calls "Battle Stars," in geosynchronous orbit around the planet. The US may not use these systems to attack anyone or expand its territory, but other nations will still feel threatened. By 2050, Friedman sees Japan pulling a Pearl Harbor-esque strike against the Battle Stars (from a secret rocket launcher on the moon). A "world war" will ensue, in the sense that nations will align themselves with either the Japan-Turkey block or the US-Britain-Poland-China alliance. But casualties will be low, as the ground wars of the past give way to technological assaults and targeted attacks.


Though other nations (perhaps Germany) will be tempted to join the Japanese and Turks, if only to decrease the influence of the world's single superpower, in the end the United States will prevail. As in World War II, however, the defeated nations will not be dismantled, simply kept in check and demilitarized. Friedman sees the 2060s and '70s as a golden age of prosperity, as space exploration, energy development and demographics fuel the economy and no real military threat exists for the US.


In the end, the greatest challenge to America will not be external but internal. Mexican immigration will be necessary to keep our economy pumping, but it will essentially erase the border, and turn the Southwest into a Spanish-speaking subset of the US similar to Quebec. It will cause stress on American culture, as well as relations with the Mexican government. As Friedman concludes, North America will be the center of gravity for the international system, but who will control North America? For that, we must wait for the 22nd century predictions.

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