George Friedman’s Thoughts: Thinking About This Moment

My job is to write, and my goal in writing is to put things in perspective. The world has been to me an endlessly shifting kaleidoscope of nations, all moving in different directions that can be predicted by understanding the forces that shape their actions. I take pleasure in seeing the order behind the chaos. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but I have lived in a world of many colors, shapes and tempos. For the past month, a vast fog has made that world difficult to see. The coronavirus pandemic has rendered normal global events irrelevant. Something deadly is stalking the world, and it respects neither power nor money. Governments are obsessed with protecting us, or at least with appearing to protect us, but there is no protection except for what we provide ourselves. An infection cannot be destroyed yet. It will run whatever course it runs. Our bodies may or may not rally to overcome it. Our will has nothing to do with what happens. Therefore, the only action we can take is to not allow the virus to enter our bodies, and the way it can enter our bodies is not through the air, or through food, […]

The Coronavirus Closes Borders

FREE
The border between the United States and Canada has been closed. I don’t recall that ever happening before; I’m not sure what it is...

The Calculated Risk of the Coronavirus

We live in a world filled with risks, some large and some small. When we step off the sidewalk to cross the street as the light turns green, there is a risk the car to our left will suddenly accelerate and kill us. We see it stopped there, we evaluate our desire to cross the street, and we decide the threat is too small to delay us. Overwhelmingly we are right. On rare occasions, someone gets hit and dies. We do not respond to the risk by refusing to cross streets when cars are on the road. The cost of eliminating all risk is too high, and the probability of the risk materializing is too small. It’s a calculated risk, when the risk of doing something or not doing something is understood. Sometimes the calculation takes months. Sometimes it takes seconds. But it is always there, and you are always analyzing it and making decisions accordingly, rightly or wrongly. Risk and reward are at the center of human life. And to be sure, humans are not averse to risk. Many cultivate risk as a gourmand chooses from a menu. There is a pleasure in choosing to confront a risk and […]

Modeling the US Reaction to the Coronavirus

FREE
The United States is under enormous pressure. The nature of the particular pressure is unique, though pressure on the United States from various forces...

George Friedman’s Thoughts: Whatever Happened to Brexit?

The planet has reached an extraordinary moment of unity. The overriding focus is on the coronavirus and the radical restructuring of our lives and societies. There is a weird sense of sharing. This is not a “Kumbaya” moment in any sense. The moment is not giving us a sense of how we are all human and a desire to be together. Quite the contrary, it is a moment of fear and loathing of each other. The fear is that being near someone will lead to our death. The loathing is a sense that the world has become unclean. I am fortunate. My wife and I live in a large house, by ordinary measures, on a bit over five acres of land. We have always been recluses of a sort, basking in our aloneness when on breaks from traveling around the United States and to many countries overseas. Geopolitical Futures was designed to support this aloneness. The company has no office, and everyone works from home, in constant communication made possible by things like Zoom and Slack. For us this moment is no burden. It is the life we chose, but even we must occasionally leave and see friends and strangers. […]

Quarantine and the Supply Chain

FREE
The global medical community appears to have devised a strategy for mitigating the coronavirus that depends largely on quarantine, or limiting contact among the...

George Friedman’s Thoughts: Compromising on Corona

Battling the coronavirus is essential. But the battle has costs, which are invariably measured against the gain. “No matter what the cost” – the approach many countries appear to be taking – is a principle that can be disastrous, particularly when the cost is so high that it cannot be borne socially. With the coronavirus, like all new and lethal diseases, alarm shapes the responses. As the cost starts to emerge, there is an inevitable recalibration. We are approaching that point of recalibration. First the risk. The coronavirus seems as difficult to contain as other coronaviruses like the common cold. Some people do not know they have been infected, and many who never fall ill carry the disease. Everyone is suspect. The only safe course is complete social isolation. That is of course impossible. Jobs must be worked, children must go to school, food must be bought and consumed, and so on. Humans are inherently social animals, and the perpetual threat of infection undermines a fundamental human imperative: to be with other people. Coronaviruses are persistent; they appear, disappear, reappear, mutate. There will be no clear moment at which the virus is eradicated, no moment at which the dread of […]

Oil Prices

FREE
Since before World War I and throughout the 1970s, the people who controlled oil had a lever for controlling others. Since the 1980s, the...

George Friedman’s Thoughts: The Next President Will Be Over 70

Perhaps the most important thing that has emerged in the presidential election campaign over the past few weeks is that the next president of the United States will be in his 70s. Several of the remaining candidates would finish their first term in their 80s. The first five U.S. presidents ranged in age from 57 to 61 when they took office. Until 2016, no president was ever elected in his 70s – Donald Trump had turned 70 in mid-June of that year. But in the 2020 election, every viable candidate is in his 70s. In the Bible, it is said that we are granted by God lives that are “threescore years and ten.” It did not mean that we couldn’t live longer or die younger. It meant that, on the whole, the time after the age of 70 was a gift in which we should prepare for our death. None of the candidates seems to be bearing their mortality at the top of their mind. Nor, more important, is the public regarding age as a liability. The fact that all current candidates are over that age has meaning. I say this not only because I have passed 70 but because […]

Thoughts on the Coronavirus

FREE
I have presented geopolitics to be like economics, a science that predicts and summarizes the impersonal forces that drive a system so vast as...

George Friedman’s Thoughts: The Origin and Future of a Book

My new book has finally been published. Of all the books I have written, this one took the longest. I conceived the principles around which it would be built – the idea of cycles guiding the United States – in a bar in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, sometime in the winter of 1975. I know it was winter because it was cold. I was drinking with two friends from the U.S. Army War College, also known as Carlisle Barracks. It was the base from which George Washington reviewed the troops moving west to crush the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. The rebellion was about the authority of the federal government and the Constitution, and it was at the beginning of our first cycle, when institutions and society were in danger of collapsing, and the republic in danger of failing as it was born. This wasn’t the subject of our despair that night. Richard Nixon had gone, Gerald Ford was a non-entity, Vietnam had been lost, and the U.S. military was held in contempt by many. There was a Soviet exercise underway (just another exercise that armies have) and we elevated it to a world historical event. The Soviets knew we were weak […]

The Canadian Geopolitical Dynamic

FREE
Canada is being wracked by what appears to be a moderately important internal crisis over First Nations’ objections to the construction of a natural...