It occurs to me that what Strat4 is doing here is forecasting. Extrapolating from historic bases of power to predict the emergence of future hegemons. But wouldn't it be possible to achieve a more data-driven, empirical analysis? Might make a sweet Kaggle crowd prediction problem ;)
Stratfor is flattering the sensibilities of the military industrial complex that pays its bills.
> The greatest threat to the United States is its own tendency to retreat from international events.
Stratfor would embroil the US in more foreign wars, because the best thing that happened to US foreign policy in the last 15 years was Iraq...
These are the same people pushing for a Syrian intervention now. Peace time doesn't make anyone money, doesn't get any one promoted...
Their reading of China is laughable. While has China has debt issues, it is not analogous to Japan. With 1.3 billion people, it is more than an order of magnitude larger, for one thing.
China is actively colonizing the waters off the coasts of Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as expanding its space program. It is a rising, regional power attempting to revise the international order, much like Germany in the late 19th century. The US will need to strike a new balance of power with them. That rarely happens without war, sadly.
The fetishism of Russia plays to the fears of the Kremlinologists in the old guard. But Russia has a declining population, a declining GDP, and a second-rate military. Hard to imagine them as a challenger on anything more than a regional basis. This is not the Cold War anymore.
Did you notice there is not one mention of climate-driven migrations and disasters, which will hit the US and others with increasing violence? The Arab Spring and Syria were at least partially prompted by a drought-caused disastrous wheat harvest. Stratfor's failure to make valuable predictions about the future has a lot to do with its poor analysis of the present (even in 2011 when this was written.)
Lastly, because this is HN, I'll just say that these arm-chair analyses do not take into account the mutually reinforcing, exponential technological changes that will remake the world as we know it. The costs of solar energy are approaching zero; the capacities of narrow AI are increasingly superhuman; our ability to edit new life forms in to being, old diseases out of it, and generally augment ourselves, will make make these linear, ceteris paribus forecasts seem quaint.
Like any analysis, though, it should be read as interesting postulation based on known facts, rather than a complete explanatory model in itself.
I fail to see how cheap solar or new life forms would provide more arable land. Sure, we can invent - I don't know - an edible nutritious city kudzu that grows everywhere and provides nutrition for everyone but until that happens I think the american farmlands do provide a considerable asset like the article stated.
I see no obvious reason why at least a partial singularity nirvana could not come to being but until it does - no one really has a clue what it would look like and analyses like these must stick to understood reality and politics.
Calling events inevitable in hindsight has zero value. Predicting the inevitability of a future event, and then seeing that prediction confirmed, has immense value. Stratfor's predictions, however, are much weaker than their analysis of the past.
I am not saying these things wont happen. But we are not there yet. How soon? It took a few hundreds of years of tweaking for steam engines to actually make an economic difference. It took a hundred years for the offspring of babbages difference engine to become the instruments of the cultural and economic transformation they are today.
Today, we are locked to dirt. In five years, most food is dirt based. Probably still a decade or two from now.
Most analysts predicitions turn out to be pretty bad - but it's their 'editorial view' of current events that I find most educating if done well.
The tyranny of distance and logistics might be hard for people making Internet services to imagine.
As I see it, war in the Ukrane is mostly due to Kremlins need to destabilize all slavic regions that are in danger of becoming well to do modern democracies - they need a buffer zone of emergencies to maintain an internal stability of their kleptocratic political system.
There is only one party in the world that would benefit from this type of destruction and chaos in Europe (and all over the middle east). And it is not Russia.
> war in the Ukrane is mostly due to Kremlins need to destabilize all slavic regions that are in danger of becoming well to do modern democracies
The destabilization in Ukraine happened the moment when its democratically twice-elected government was overthrown in a violent coup. Consider that millions of people have already fled from Eastern Ukraine, into Russia, and almost zero into the western regions, to get an idea of what the real situation is on the ground.
'Soviet power... is neither schematic nor adventunstic. It does not work by fixed plans. It does not take unnecessary risks. Impervious to logic of reason, and it is highly sensitive to logic of force.'
If there is a better author to read about understanding russia I would be glad to recieve any references.
Sir Humphrey: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for
at least the last five hundred years: to create a disunited Europe. In
that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the
Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans,
and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule,
you see. Why should we change now, when it's worked so well?
Hacker: That's all ancient history, surely?
Sir Humphrey: Yes, and current policy. We 'had' to break the whole thing
[the EEC] up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the
outside, but that wouldn't work. Now that we're inside we can make a
complete pig's breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against
the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against
the Dutch. The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it's just like old times.
Hacker: But surely we're all committed to the European ideal?
Sir Humphrey: [chuckles] Really, Minister.
Hacker: If not, why are we pushing for an increase in the membership?
Sir Humphrey: Well, for the same reason. It's just like the United Nations,
in fact; the more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up, the
more futile and impotent it becomes.
Hacker: What appalling cynicism.
Sir Humphrey: Yes... We call it diplomacy, Minister.
This is a new notion for me. This would imply there was a single cultural entity that would encompass all of europe and a single economic system that encompasses the geographic area for this period. What would they be called?
I am sorry I brought current affairs to the discussion - it's a bit offtopic for HN and I was about to delete my first response until I found replies and felt it would be more rude at this point to remove it than not.
Discussing europe circa 19th century is ok I suppose.
Summarizing such a complex situation without sugarcoating or incoherency is no small task, and this article does it exceedingly well.
I don't read topos very well, but it looks like most of the coast on that map is greenish and plainish.
Significant portions of the Oregon coast look like this:
The Willamette Valley is a plain, but no one would consider it coastal.
What a disturbing view of the world.
Imperial China repeatedly followed the same policy of trying to keep the outlying nomadic peoples fractured and prevented from uniting under a single leader. The results for the Chinese state were not good when Turkish, Mongol, or Manchu leaders were able to unite the disparate clans under a single banner, to give another example.
The track is littered with bodies in the wake of imperialists. That's the reality of realpolitik: institutions of power crushing as many people as they need to in order to persist.
The Roman Empire delivered peace and prosperity to most of the Mediterranean basin for hundreds of years. The British Empire had a similar track record for a much larger area.
So now I'm rooting for the American Empire and the Pax Americana. I would most certainly rather be living in the West (or Westernized parts of Asia), under the aegis of the US military, instead of some third world shithole that does not enjoy security treaties with the Americans.
For the people /within that empire/. As the NSA and general US foreign policy have made abundantly clear, the US does not consider anyone outside of their national borders "part of the empire".
Your last paragraph sums it up nicely. Is "enjoying security treaties with the US" really a prerequisite for a prosperous life? Since no treaty with the US is purely military in nature, that sounds a lot like racketeering.
I'm not sure that treaties with the US is a prerequisite for prosperity. On the other hand, I can't think of any rich country that is not good friends with the US?
I argue essentially nobody wants to fight wars, everybody just wants to have a reasonable good life. In the past we fought wars because we had kings and dictators that could force their people to fight wars for them for whatever dumb reasons they pleased and without incurring high personal costs.
But in a democracy, why would people send themselves to the battlefield? There are just no good reasons to fight wars. The most rational one is probably for resources, but simply trading them is increasingly often the more economic solution. What else? Religion, ideology, status? Why should I care? You want an Islamic state or a Communist society? Go ahead, try it, I don't care as long as you let me continue doing my thing in my country.
Sure, there are still people around that feel the need to impose their religious and ideological believes onto others but that is a declining group. Or do you seriously believe China would go to war because they want to spread their political or religious views?
Nope, for the "citizens" of the empire. Almost everybody else suffers, inside or outside.
And don't expect the meaning of "citizen" to agree with the one we are used to (although, the next meaning should be clear enough by now).
Doesn't make it less true though. Reaison d'Etat and Realpolitik are at the base of anything we hold dear in the modern world. Otherwise we would have had Hapsburg theocracy in Europe and the modern world would have been impossible.
It was Richelieu going against his god, to service his country and Disraeli and Bismark that made the modern world possible.
> So Russia occupying Crimea is just politics...
The politics of it is this -
When the government of Ukraine was violently overthrown, and an un-elected regime was brought in that did not represent a significant portion of the people of Ukraine, Crimea had every right to join Russia - as it had been part of Russia for the majority of the last 200 years, Russians were the largest part of its population, and a turnout of 80%+ at the polls voted 90%+ yes.
> just drawing borders in a way favorable to you?
Why is it that people who do not live in Crimea want to decide the fates of the the people who do live in Crimea?
Humans long have tried to develop theories that predict the behavior of nations and its outcomes. It's perhaps the most important question to ask, with the survival, prosperity, and freedom of billions at stake. But it's a very difficult model to build, based on billions of human decisions and many other factors, including geography.
One well-established theory (though I don't know how popular among experts currently) is that geography, including climate, ultimately is a powerful factor determining the fate of nations. For example, a nation without arable land inevitably will have a small population and everything that follows from that: A small economy, a weak military, etc. Some real-world examples: Probably the biggest factor in Britain's survival in WWII was that they had a body of water between them and the German army; if they had switched geographies with the French, the results would have been much different. The U.S.'s WWII success and eventual post-war primacy was mostly because oceans separated the country from its enemies, providing an unmolested homeland, economy and manufacturing of war goods. The geography of Ukraine is easily traversed by large armies, leading to Russia being invaded through Ukraine many times over history (Napoleon and the Nazis come to mind); that is a big reason they want to control Ukraine. Russia's lack of access to the Mediterranean and Atlantic has greatly limited their naval power and thus their influence in Europe; that's why they care so much about Crimea and Syria, where they have naval bases with access to the Mediterranean. China's land borders are the Himalayas, other mountains and deserts, and poor areas such as Central Asia and Siberia; thus their trade is highly dependent on sea routes, resulting in their current actions to control the South China Sea. Overall, the regions of influence China tries to claim now is the same as when the Qing dynasty was ascendant in the 17th and 18th centuries - everything else changes, but geography stays the same.
Wrote one historian: If time is the locomotion of history, place could be the gradient against which it is pitted. Dynamic, the one hurtles forward; inert, the other holds it back.
How these issues play out is another matter. China could resolve it's South China Sea concerns via multilateral agreements, or through military aggression. Also, there are other theories, including realism and constructivism.
 John Keay, in India: A History. Keay is not a credentialed academic historian but has written respected surveys of history; I don't know how well his theory ultimately holds water, but it's the best expression of the issue I've seen.
I think another take-away is that we should be transporting more goods by rail and water. The decline of our railways has helped the oil companies but has resulted in a huge number of truck-car deaths at the same time it's increased transportation costs. We should move more towards using trucking only for local deliveries.