Sustaining the lamp of freedom: 100 years from now
On the eve of World War I, the British Foreign Minister, Sir Edward Gray, famously said, “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” In Dr. George Friedman’s latest book, The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, Friedman confirms that the Old Europe’s dream of empire can longer sustain combustion. The good news is that Dr. Friedman predicts that the lamp of American power (although it will eventually be lit by space-based solar power) will gleam brighter and brighter across the next 100 years.
Meanwhile, the 28-year-old economic lamp lit so brightly during the Reagan Era is, for the moment, a flickering flame. Yet Dr. Friedman feels that America’s geographic location – central to both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans – portends 100 years of world power. Provided, of course that we maintain the world’s most powerful navy – a navy able to ensure freedom of the seas for all nations wanting to engage in peaceful trade.
In the short term, the Obama Plan to cut the U.S. Navy by ten-percent, to double the deficit (setting the stage for massive inflation), to tax small businesses and even retirement income, to increase the power of labor unions, to put more people on the dole, and to make America more like feeble France, steers America’s ship of state on a different course than that foreseen by Dr. Friedman.
In the long term, however, for reasons having mostly to do with geography rather than political experiments with socialism, the ruler of the North American Continent will continue to be the world’s foremost power. As Dr. Friedman points out, the Old Europe was dominant when the bulk of world trade was across the North Atlantic. But now, the trade that flows back and forth across the Pacific is 50-percent greater than the Atlantic trade at its peak.
Departing from Dr. Friedman for the moment, it should be noted that like most maritime nations our coast lines are more densely populated than our interior. A county-by-county map showing those counties that voted for Barack H. Obama and those counties that voted for John McCain reveals that Obama was the favorite on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts while McCain was favored across our interior.
It is this observer’s view that the wars of the future will be fought over potable water, not oil. Should Dr. Friedman’s vision of abundant space-based solar energy prove workable and ubiquitous, any town in fly-over county that is located along a major water way or is sitting on top of a huge water aquifer or is blessed with abundant snowfall might become the super metropolis of the future -- the winner of the economic Super Bowl. Energy plus potable water equals economic success. By becoming an economic success, the people of America’s vast interior might find their way back to political power.
Back to Dr. Friedman who foresees a relatively brief, second Cold War with Russia -- with the same negative results for Russia. Unless the Islamic jihadists can find a major Muslim nation-state to be their sponsor, Friedman feels our military will continue to win the War on Terror. Eventually, the Islamic jihadists will fade away.
That said, the Islamists will never back off from their “keep them barefoot and pregnant” customs with regard to women. We cannot change that; however, our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and our hounding of al-Qaeda have knocked the Crescent of Islam off balance and set some of the Arabs and Persians to fighting among themselves.
Dr. Friedman predicts that by the end of the 21st Century new powers such as Japan, Poland and Turkey will rise up; however, the United States will continue to be the world’s top economic power. While it might not look that way today, Dr. Friedman feels that our combination of geography, naval power, computer skills and demographics will serve America well and far into the future.
In 1971, William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today, was named a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval War College. Dr. Hamilton is a former assistant professor of political science and history at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
©2009. William Hamilton.