[chilefuturo] Fwd: The Next Decade: Where We've Been...

  • From: Carlos Contreras <clubcientifico@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: chilefuturo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 7 Jan 2011 14:36:36 -0300

Un análisis del imperio por un inteligente exponente de su diplomacia.

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* The Next Decade: Where We've Been... And Where We're Going*

*By George Friedman*

This book is about the relation between empire, republic, and the exercise
of power in the next ten years. It is a more personal book than The Next 100
Years because I am addressing my greatest concern, which is that the power
of the United States in the world will undermine the republic. I am not
someone who shuns power. I understand that without power there can be no
republic. But the question I raise is how the United States should behave in
the world while exercising its power, and preserve the republic at the same

I invite readers to consider two themes. The first is the concept of the
unintended empire. I argue that the United States has become an empire not
because it intended to, but because history has worked out that way. The
issue of whether the United States should be an empire is meaningless. It is
an empire.

The second theme, therefore, is about managing the empire, and for me the
most important question behind that is whether the republic can survive. The
United States was founded against British imperialism. It is ironic, and in
many ways appalling, that what the founders gave us now faces this dilemma.
There might have been exits from this fate, but these exits were not likely.
Nations become what they are through the constraints of history, and history
has very little sentimentality when it comes to ideology or preferences. We
are what we are.

It is not clear to me whether the republic can withstand the pressure of the
empire, or whether America can survive a mismanaged empire. Put differently,
can the management of an empire be made compatible with the requirements of
a republic? This is genuinely unclear to me. I know the United States will
be a powerful force in the world during this next decade—and for this next
century, for that matter—but I don’t know what sort of regime it will have.

I passionately favor a republic. Justice may not be what history cares
about, but it is what I care about. I have spent a great deal of time
thinking about the relationship between empire and republic, and the only
conclusion I have reached is that if the republic is to survive, the single
institution that can save it is the presidency. That is an odd thing to say,
given that the presidency is in many ways the most imperial of our
institutions (it is the single institution embodied by a single person). Yet
at the same time it is the most democratic, as the presidency is the only
office for which the people, as a whole, select a single, powerful leader.

In order to understand this office I look at three presidents who defined
American greatness. The first is Abraham Lincoln, who saved the republic.
The second is Franklin Roosevelt, who gave the United States the world’s
oceans. The third is Ronald Reagan, who undermined the Soviet Union and set
the stage for empire. Each of them was a profoundly moral man ... who was
prepared to lie, violate the law, and betray principle in order to achieve
those ends. They embodied the paradox of what I call the Machiavellian
presidency, an institution that, at its best, reconciles duplicity and
righteousness in order to redeem the promise of America. I do not think
being just is a simple thing, nor that power is simply the embodiment of
good intention. The theme of this book, applied to the regions of the world,
is that justice comes from power, and power is only possible from a degree
of ruthlessness most of us can’t abide. The tragedy of political life is the
conflict between the limit of good intentions and the necessity of power. At
times this produces goodness. It did in the case of Lincoln, Roosevelt, and
Reagan, but there is no assurance of this in the future. It requires

Geopolitics describes what happens to nations, but it says little about the
kinds of regimes nations will have. I am convinced that unless we understand
the nature of power, and master the art of ruling, we may not be able to
choose the direction of our regime. Therefore, there is nothing
contradictory in saying that the United States will dominate the next
century yet may still lose the soul of its republic. I hope not, as I have
children and now grandchildren—and I am not convinced that empire is worth
the price of the republic. I am also certain that history does not care what
I, or others, think.

This book, therefore, will look at the issues, opportunities, and inherent
challenges of the next ten years. Surprise alliances will be formed,
unexpected tensions will develop, and economic tides will rise and fall. Not
surprisingly, how the United States (particularly the American president)
approaches these events will guide the health, or deterioration, of the
republic. An interesting decade lies ahead.


*Rebalancing America*

A century is about events. A decade is about people. I wrote The Next 100
Years to explore the impersonal forces that shape history in the long run,
but human beings don’t live in the long run. We live in the much shorter
span in which our lives are shaped not so much by vast historical trends but
by the specific decisions of specific individuals.

This book is about the short run of the next ten years: the specific
realities to be faced, and the specific decisions to be made, and the likely
consequences of those decisions. Most people think that the longer the time
frame, the more unpredictable the future. I take the opposite view.
Individual actions are the hardest thing to predict. In the course of a
century, so many individual decisions are made that no single one of them is
ever critical. Each decision is lost in the torrent of judgments that make
up a century. But in the shorter time frame of a decade, individual
decisions made by individual people, particularly those with political
power, can matter enormously. What I wrote in The Next 100 Years is the
frame for understanding this decade. But it is only the frame.

Forecasting a century is the art of recognizing the impossible, then
eliminating from consideration all the events that, at least logically,
aren’t going to happen. The reason is, as Sherlock Holmes put it, “When you
have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must
be the truth.”

It is always possible that a leader will do something unexpectedly foolish
or brilliant, which is why forecasting is best left to the long run, the
span over which individual decisions don’t carry so much weight. But having
forecast for the long run, you can reel back your scenario and try to see
how it plays out in, say, a decade. What makes this time frame interesting
is that it is sufficiently long for the larger, impersonal forces to be at
play but short enough for the individual decisions of individual leaders to
skew outcomes that otherwise might seem inevitable. A decade is the point at
which history and statesmanship meet, and a span in which policies still

I am not normally someone who gets involved in policy debates—I’m more
interested in what will happen than in what I want to see happen. But within
the span of a decade, events that may not matter in the long run may still
affect us personally and deeply. They also can have real meaning in defining
which path we take into the future. This book is therefore both a forecast
and a discussion of the policies that ought to be followed.

We begin with the United States for the same reason that a study of 1910
would have to begin with Britain. Whatever the future might hold, the global
system today pivots around the United States, just as Britain was the
pivotal point in the years leading up to World War I. In The Next 100 Years,
I wrote about the long-term power of the United States. In this book, I have
to write about American weaknesses, which, I think, are not problems in the
long run; time will take care of most of these. But because you and I don’t
live in the long run, for us these problems are very real. Most are rooted
in structural imbalances that require solutions. Some are problems of
leadership, because, as I said at the outset, a decade is about people.

This discussion of problems and people is particularly urgent at this
moment. In the first decade after the United States became the sole global
power, the world was, compared to other eras, relatively tranquil. In terms
of genuine security issues for the United States, Baghdad and the Balkans
were nuisances, not threats. The United States had no need for strategy in a
world that appeared to have accepted American leadership without complaint.
Ten years later, September 11 brought that illusion crashing to the ground.
The world was more dangerous than we imagined, but the options seemed fewer
as well. The United States, did not craft a global strategy in response.
Instead, it developed a narrowly focused politico-military strategy designed
to defeat terrorism, almost to the exclusion of all else.

Now that decade is coming to an end as well, and the search is under way for
an exit from Iraq, from Afghanistan, and indeed from the world that began
when those hijacked airliners smashed into buildings in New York and
Washington. The impulse of the United States is always to withdraw from the
world, savoring the pleasures of a secure homeland protected by the buffer
of wide oceans on either side. But the homeland is not secure, either from
terrorists or from the ambitions of nation-states that see the United States
as both dangerous and unpredictable.

Under both President Bush and President Obama, the United States has lost
sight of the long-term strategy that served it well for most of the last
century. Instead, recent presidents have gone off on ad hoc adventures. They
have set unattainable goals because they have framed the issues incorrectly,
as if they believed their own rhetoric. As a result, the United States has
overextended its ability to project its power around the world, which has
allowed even minor players to be the tail that wags the dog.

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.
These old-school imperialists didn’t rule by main force. Instead, they
maintained their dominance by setting regional players against each other
and keeping these players in opposition to others who might also instigate
resistance. They maintained the balance of power, using these opposing
forces to cancel each other out while securing the broader interests of the
empire. They also kept their client states bound together by economic
interest and diplomacy, which is not to say the routine courtesies between
nations but the subtle manipulation that causes neighbors and fellow clients
to distrust each other more than they distrust the imperial powers: direct
intervention relying on the empire’s own troops was a distant, last resort.

Adhering to this strategy, the United States intervened in World War I only
when the standoff among European powers was failing, and only when it
appeared that the Germans, with Russia collapsing in the east, might
actually overwhelm the English and French in the west. When the fighting
stopped, the United States helped forge a peace treaty that prevented France
from dominating postwar Europe.

During the early days of World War     II, the United States stayed out of
direct engagement as long as it could, supporting the British in their
efforts to fend off the Germans in the west while encouraging the Soviets to
bleed the Germans in the east. Afterward, the United States devised a
balance-of-power strategy to prevent the Soviet Union from dominating
Western Europe, the Middle East, and ultimately China. Throughout the long
span from the first appearance of the “Iron Curtain” to the end of the Cold
War, this U.S. strategy of distraction and manipulation was rational,
coherent, and effectively devious.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the United States
shifted from a strategy focused on trying to contain major powers to an
unfocused attempt to contain potential regional hegemons when their behavior
offended American sensibilities. In the period from 1991 to 2001, the United
States invaded or intervened in five countries— Kuwait, Somalia, Haiti,
Bosnia, and Yugoslavia, which was an extraordinary tempo of military
operations. At times, American strategy seemed to be driven by humanitarian
concerns, although the goal was not always clear. In what sense, for
example, was the 1994 invasion of Haiti in the national interest?

But the United States had an enormous reservoir of power in the 1990s, which
gave it ample room for maneuver, as well as room for indulging its
ideological whims. When you are overwhelmingly dominant, you don’t have to
operate with a surgeon’s precision. Nor did the United States, when dealing
with potential regional hegemons, have to win, in the sense of defeating an
enemy army and occupying its homeland. From a military point of view, U.S.
incursions during the 1990s were spoiling attacks, the immediate goal being
to plunge an aspiring regional power into chaos, forcing it to deal with
regional and internal threats at a time and place of American choosing
rather than allowing it to develop and confront the United States on the
smaller nation’s own schedule.

After September 11, 2001, a United States newly obsessed with terrorism
became even more disoriented, losing sight of its long-term strategic
principles altogether. As an alternative, it created a new but unattainable
strategic goal, which was the elimination of the terrorist threat. The
principal source of that threat, al Qaeda, had given itself an unlikely but
not inconceivable objective, which was to re-create the Islamic caliphate,
the theocracy that was established by Muhammad in the seventh century and
that persisted in one form or another until the fall of the Ottoman Empire
at the end of World War I. Al Qaeda’s strategy was to overthrow Muslim
governments that it regarded as insufficiently Islamic, which it sought to
do by fomenting popular uprisings in those countries. From al Qaeda’s point
of view, the reason that the Islamic masses remained downtrodden was fear of
their governments, which was in turn based on a sense that the United
States, their governments’ patron, could not be challenged. To free the
masses from their intimidation, al Qaeda felt that it had to demonstrate
that the United States was not as powerful as it appeared—that it was in
fact vulnerable to even a small group of Muslims, provided that those
Muslims were prepared to die.

In response to al Qaeda’s assaults, the United States slammed into the
Islamic world—particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq. The goal was to
demonstrate U.S. capability and reach, but these efforts were once again
spoiling attacks. Their purpose was not to defeat an army and occupy a
territory but merely to disrupt al Qaeda and create chaos in the Muslim
world. But creating chaos is a short-term tactic, not a long-term strategy.
The United States demonstrated that it is possible to destroy terrorist
organizations and mitigate terrorism, but it did not achieve the goal that
it had articulated, which was to eliminate the threat altogether.
Eliminating such a threat would require monitoring the private activities of
more than a billion people spread across the globe. Even attempting such an
effort would require overwhelming resources. And given that succeeding in
such an effort is impossible, it is axiomatic that the United States would
exhaust itself and run out of resources in the process, as has happened.
Just because something like the elimination of terrorism is desirable
doesn’t mean that it is practical, or that the price to be paid is rational.

Recovering from the depletions and distractions of this effort will consume
the United States over the next ten years. The first step—returning to a
policy of maintaining regional balances of power—must begin in the main area
of current U.S. military engagement, a theater stretching from the
Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush. For most of the past half century there
have been three native balances of power here: the Arab-Israeli, the
Indo-Pakistani, and the Iranian-Iraqi. Owing largely to recent U.S. policy,
those balances are unstable or no longer exist. The Israelis are no longer
constrained by their neighbors and are now trying to create a new reality on
the ground. The Pakistanis have been badly weakened by the war in
Afghanistan, and they are no longer an effective counterbalance to India.
And, most important, the Iraqi state has collapsed, leaving the Iranians as
the most powerful military force in the Persian Gulf area.

Restoring balance to that region, and then to U.S. policy more generally,
will require steps during the next decade that will be seen as
controversial, to say the least. As I argue in the chapters that follow, the
United States must quietly distance itself from Israel. It must strengthen
(or at least put an end to weakening) Pakistan. And in the spirit of
Roosevelt’s entente with the USSR during World War II, as well as Nixon’s
entente with China in the 1970s, the United States will be required to make
a distasteful accommodation with Iran, regardless of whether it attacks
Iran’s nuclear facilities. These steps will demand a more subtle exercise of
power than we have seen on the part of recent presidents. The nature of that
subtlety is a second major theme of the decade to come, and one that I will
address further along.

While the Middle East is the starting point for America’s return to balance,
Eurasia as a whole will also require a rearrangement of relationships. For
generations, keeping the technological sophistication of Europe separated
from the natural resources and manpower of Russia has been one of the key
aims of American foreign policy. In the early 1990s, when the United States
stood supreme and Moscow lost control over not only the former Soviet Union
but the Russian state as well, that goal was neglected. Almost immediately
after September 11, 2001, the unbalanced commitment of U.S. forces to the
Mediterranean-Himalayan theater created a window of opportunity for the
Russian security apparatus to regain its influence. Under Putin, the
Russians began to reassert themselves even prior to the war with Georgia,
and they have accelerated the process of their reemergence since. Diverted
and tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has been unable to
hold back Moscow’s return to influence, or even to make credible threats
that would inhibit Russian ambitions. As a result, the United States now
faces a significant regional power with its own divergent agenda, which
includes a play for influence in Europe.

The danger of Russia’s reemergence and westward focus will become more
obvious as we examine the other player in this second region of concern, the
European Union. Once imagined as a supernation on the order of the United
States, the EU began to show its structural weaknesses during the financial
crisis of 2008, which led to the follow-on crisis of southern European
economies (Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece). Once Germany, the EU’s
greatest economic engine, faced the prospect of underwriting the mistakes
and excesses of its EU partners, it began to reexamine its priorities. The
emerging conclusion is that potentially Germany shared a greater community
of interest with Russia than it did with its European neighbors. However
much Germany might benefit from economic alliances in Europe, it remains
dependent on Russia for a large amount of its natural gas. Russia in turn
needs technology, which Germany has in abundance. Similarly, Germany needs
an infusion of manpower that isn’t going to create social stresses by
immigrating to Germany, and one obvious solution is to establish German
factories in Russia. Meanwhile, America’s request for increased German help
in Afghanistan and elsewhere has created friction with the United States and
aligned German interests most closely with Russia.

All of which helps to explain why the United States’ return to balance will
require a significant effort over the next decade to block an accommodation
between Germany and Russia. As we will see, the U.S. approach will include
cultivating a new relationship with Poland, the geographic monkey wrench
that can be thrown into the gears of a German-Russian entente.

China, of course, also demands attention. Even so, the current preoccupation
with Chinese expansion will diminish as that country’s economic miracle
comes of age. China’s economic performance will slow to that of a more
mature economy—and, we might add, a more mature economy with over a billion
people living in abject poverty. The focus of U.S. efforts will shift to the
real power in northeast Asia: Japan, the third largest economy in the world
and the nation with the most significant navy in the region.

As this brief overview already suggests, the next ten years will be
enormously complex, with many moving parts and many unpredictable elements.
The presidents in the decade to come will have to reconcile American
traditions and moral principles with realities that most Americans find it
more comfortable to avoid. This will require the execution of demanding
maneuvers, including allying with enemies, while holding together a public
that believes—and wants to believe—that foreign policy and values simply
coincide. The president will have to pursue virtue as all of our great
presidents have done: with suitable duplicity.

But all the cleverness in the world can’t compensate for profound weakness.
The United States possesses what I call “deep power,” and deep power must be
first and foremost balanced power. This means economic, military, and
political power in appropriate and mutually supporting amounts. It is deep
in a second sense, which is that it rests on a foundation of cultural and
ethical norms that define how that power is to be used and that provides a
framework for individual action. Europe, for example, has economic power,
but it is militarily weak and rests on a very shallow foundation. There is
little consensus in Europe politically, particularly about the framework of
obligations imposed on its members.

Power that is both deeply rooted and well balanced is rare, and I will try
to show that in the next decade, the United States is uniquely situated to
consolidate and exercise both. More important, it will have little choice in
the matter. There is an idea, both on the left and on the right, that the
United States has the option of withdrawing from the complexities of
managing global power. It’s the belief that if the United States ceased to
meddle in the affairs of the world, the world would no longer hate and fear
it, and Americans could enjoy their pleasures without fear of attack. This
belief is nostalgia for a time when the United States pursued its own
interests at home and left the world to follow its own course.

There was indeed a time when Thomas Jefferson could warn against entangling
alliances, but this was not a time when the United States annually produced
25 percent of the wealth of the world. That output alone entangles it in the
affairs of the world. What the United States consumes and produces shapes
lives of people around the world. The economic policies pursued by the
United States shape the economic realities of the world. The U.S. Navy’s
control of the seas guarantees the United States economic access to the
world and gives it the potential power to deny that access to other
countries. Even if the United States wanted to shrink its economy to a less
intrusive size, it is not clear how that would be done, let alone that
Americans would pay the price when the bill was presented.

But this does not mean that the United States is at ease with its power.
Things have moved too far too fast. That is why bringing U.S. policy back
into balance will also require bringing the United States to terms with its
actual place in the world. We have already noted that the fall of the Soviet
Union left the United States without a rival for global dominance. What
needs to be faced squarely now is that whether we like it or not, and
whether it was intentional or not, the United States emerged from the Cold
War not only as the global hegemon but as a global empire.

The reality is that the American people have no desire for an empire. This
is not to say that they don’t want the benefits, both economic and
strategic. It simply means that they don’t want to pay the price.
Economically, Americans want the growth potential of open markets but not
the pains. Politically, they want to have enormous influence but not the
resentment of the world. Militarily, they want to be protected from dangers
but not to bear the burdens of a long-term strategy.

Empires are rarely planned or premeditated, and those that have been, such
as Napoleon’s and Hitler’s, tend not to last. Those that endure grow
organically, and their imperial status often goes unnoticed until it has
become overwhelming. This was the case both for Rome and for Britain, yet
they succeeded because once they achieved imperial status, they not only
owned up to it, they learned to manage it.

Unlike the Roman or British Empire, the American structure of dominance is
informal, but that makes it no less real. The United States controls the
oceans, and its economy accounts for more than a quarter of everything
produced in the world. If Americans adopt the iPod or a new food fad,
factories and farms in China and Latin America reorganize to serve the new
mandate. This is how the European powers governed China in the nineteenth
century—never formally, but by shaping and exploiting it to the degree that
the distinction between formal and informal hardly mattered.

A fact that the American people have trouble assimilating is that the size
and power of the American empire is inherently disruptive and intrusive,
which means that the United States can rarely take a step without
threatening some nation or benefiting another. While such power confers
enormous economic advantages, it naturally engenders hostility. The United
States is a commercial republic, which means that it lives on trade. Its
tremendous prosperity derives from its own assets and virtues, but it cannot
maintain this prosperity and be isolated from the world. Therefore, if the
United States intends to retain its size, wealth, and power, the only option
is to learn how to manage its disruptive influence maturely.

Until the empire is recognized for what it is, it is difficult to have a
coherent public discussion of its usefulness, its painfulness, and, above
all, its inevitability. Unrivaled power is dangerous enough, but unrivaled
power that is oblivious is like a rampaging elephant.

I will argue, then, that the next decade must be one in which the United
States moves from willful ignorance of reality to its acceptance, however
reluctant. With that acceptance will come the beginning of a more
sophisticated foreign policy. There will be no proclamation of empire, only
more effective management based on the underlying truth of the situation.

John F. Mauldin

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