Friday, May 20, 2011

The Next Decade by George Friedman

Friedman is a global strategist. He thinks recent Presidents have lost sight of the strategy that served the U.S. well for most of the last century. “The overriding necessity for American policy in the decade to come is a return to the balanced, global strategy that the United States learned from the example of ancient Rome and from the Britain of a hundred years ago.” (3) Rather than using force, regional players were set against each other. A balance of powers was maintained.
The U.S. became disoriented after 9/11, losing sight of its long-term strategic principles. Attempting to win a war on terror would require overwhelming resources.
Recovering from this distraction will consume the U.S. for the next decade. The U.S. must return to a policy of maintaining regional balances of power. Recent U.S. policy in the Middle East has upset the balance that had been there for half a century. The Israelis are no longer constrained by their neighbors, Pakistan has been greatly weakened and is no longer a counter balance to India. The collapse of the Iraqi state leaves the Iranians as the most powerful military force in the area.
Friedman says decisions to restore balance will be controversial. He suggests the U.S. must distance itself from Israel and must strengthen Pakistan. Some distasteful accommodations must be made toward Iran.
The Russians have begun to reassert themselves while Americans were distracted. He U.S. must block relationships between Germany and Russia while cultivating a relationship with Poland. China's economic performance will slow and the U.S. should shift its interest to Japan, the real economic power.
The U.S. has become an empire, Friedman says. The President must formulate policies “that will allow us to properly manage the world we find ourselves in charge of.” (21) Alliances may need to be created with countries that had previously been regarded as strategic and moral threats.
Friedman predicts “the emergence of a very different sort of Europe in the next decade...” (143) Europe was left exhausted after the World Wars. A federation of countries tried to restore European influence, dwarfed by the U.S. and U.S.S.R. during the Cold War. “The EU remains an elective relationship, created for the convenience of its members, and if it becomes inconvenient, nations can leave.” (151) There are still unresolved issues after the 2008 financial crisis. The EU will not disappear but it will not be “a major player on the world stage.” (154) The next decade will see Germany allied more closely with France and Russia while Britain will move closer to the U.S.
Chinese economy will face harsh tests in the next ten years while Japan will begin to recover from its failures. India will not be a significant player in the next decade. Bringing Cuba back under American influence is a rational policy for the long term. Bolivia is the only South American country with the potential to rival the U.S.
Regarding Mexico, the U.S. should appear to do everything to stop illegal immigration and drugs while making sure such efforts fail. The relationship with Canada will remain stable. Africa should be left alone, allowing countries to sort themselves out.
Whew, Friedman says much about the future of U.S. policy. It will be interesting to see how accurate he was as the years pass.

This is definitely a book worth reading. I may not agree with Friedman all the time but his historical information and reasons for his suggested policies were very insightful. The next time the President makes a policy statement regarding Iran, for example, I will understand a great deal more about the reasons behind it than I did previously.

Doubleday, 243 pages.

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