The Next Decade | George Friedman

Summary of: The Next Decade: Empire and Republic in a Changing World
By: George Friedman


In ‘The Next Decade: Empire and Republic in a Changing World’, George Friedman explores the challenges faced by the United States as it continues to dominate the global landscape. This book delves deep into the role of the US president in protecting the nation’s interests, balancing power, and managing alliances. It also takes a closer look at the economic, political, and military dynamics in pivotal regions such as the Middle East, Russia, and Europe, while predicting future changes and how the United States should adapt and navigate the new world order.

The Challenge of Empire

The United States faces the challenge of maintaining a republic while wielding immense power as a major superpower. This unique status creates dangers, such as the September 11 attacks, and places significant responsibility on the country’s president. To protect American interests, the president must adopt an unsentimental approach, abandoning old alliances if necessary, and identifying and managing dangerous enemies. This may involve forming coalitions with leaders who have questionable ethics, as demonstrated by Roosevelt’s alliance with Stalin during World War II.

Economic Crises: A Drive for Political Change

The financial crisis of 2008 and the 9/11 terrorist attack shaped the future. Historical examples reveal that public confidence is vital to alleviate economic crises. The government must shift power from the financial to the political elite. Economic downturns lead to political changes with a rise in economic nationalism.

The financial crisis of 2008 and the 9/11 terrorist attack were two significant events that will shape the future. Past economic crises provide insightful experiences into how such events can be managed. The market for municipal bonds almost collapsed in the 70s, and international aid was needed for third-world countries during the same period. In the 80s, savings-and-loan institutions caused a real estate economic disaster. Historical examples reveal that public confidence is essential to alleviate economic crises. A president must convince the public of a plan, shifting the boundary between private and public, between market and state.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency demonstrated that the most effective remedy is not economic policy but a public perception of the president’s plan. FDR shifted power from the financial elite to the political elite, mollifying the public’s widespread sentiment that elites failed society. This kind of sentiment led to the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany. The most significant consequence of the 2008 crisis will be political, not economic. The coming years will see a rise of economic nationalism: the growth of the state will result in reduced market autonomy and put geopolitics firmly in the hands of politicians. Economic downturns lead to political changes, and the power will shift from the financial to the political elite.

The Perennial War

The book raises the question of why the US has been perpetually at war in the 21st century and how it can change this. Before 9/11, the US balanced power in the Middle East to maintain the status quo, using rivalries between local players to prevent domination of the region. However, President George W. Bush made a mistake by declaring a war on terror following 9/11, which was disproportional to the threat terrorism posed to the US. This led to the US being trapped in an impossible situation, where it cannot withdraw troops from Iraq without leaving Iran unchallenged in the region. To deal with this situation properly, the US must completely rethink its policy in the Middle East.

The Power Dynamic After the US Invasion of Iraq

The US invasion of Iraq shifted the balance of power between Iran and Iraq. With the US military’s withdrawal from Iraq, Iran’s formidable presence in the region has become even more secure. Iran’s population and religious affiliation give it significant influence, outweighing any Sunni country in the area. Despite several failed attempts to destabilize Iran’s government, the United States remains wary of the nation. An attack on Iran would only make the country more dangerous, as it could respond by blocking the Strait of Hormuz, resulting in soaring oil prices and a severe blow to the global economy. Given these factors, an eventual truce between the United States and Iran seems inevitable.

Turkey’s Rising Dominance in the Middle East

The United States sees Turkey as a potential regional power to balance the dominance of Iran in the Middle East. With a population of 70 million and a strong economy and army, Turkey is well-positioned to increase its influence in the region and reduce its dependency on Russian energy. The Arab world supports Turkey’s ambitions as an alliance with Turkey is the best way to counter Iran’s growing power and protect Sunni interests. In the long run, Turkey’s economic dynamism, military strength, and US backing will help it rise to power and stabilize the region.

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