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Strategic and geopolitic perspectives


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Forecasting is a difficult and perilous exercise. Great perspectives on world trends in the JOE (Joint Operating Environment) 2010 report.




Some interesting extracts...


"Strategic Estimates in the Twentieth Century


1900 - If you are a strategic analyst for the world’s leading power, you are British, looking warily at Britain’s age old enemy, France.


1910 - You are now allied with France, and the enemy is now Germany.


1920 - Britain and its allies have won World War I, but now the British find themselves engaged in a naval race with its former allies, the United States and Japan.


1930 - For the British, naval limitation treaties are in place, the Great Depression has started, and defense planning for the next five years assumes a “ten year” rule – no war in ten years. British planners posited the main threats to the Empire as the Soviet Union and Japan, while Germany and Italy are either friendly or no threat.


1936 - A British planner now posits three great threats: Italy, Japan, and the worst, a resurgent Germany,while little help can be expected from the United States.


1940 - The collapse of France in June leaves Britain alone in a seemingly hopeless war with Germany and Italy, with a Japanese threat looming in the Pacific. The United States has only recently begun to scramble to rearm its military forces.


1950 - The United States is now the world’s greatest power, the atomic age has dawned, and a “police action” begins in June in Korea that will kill over 36,500 Americans, 58,000 South Koreans, nearly 3,000 Allied soldiers, 215,000 North Koreans, 400,000 Chinese, and 2,000,000 Korean civilians before a cease-fire brings an end to the fighting in 1953. The main opponent in the conflict is China, America’s ally in the war against Japan.


1960 - Politicians in the United States are focusing on a missile gap that does not genuinely exist; massive retaliation will soon give way to flexible response, while a small insurgency in South Vietnam hardly draws American attention.


1970 - The United States is beginning to withdraw from Vietnam, its military forces in shambles. The Soviet Union has just crushed incipient rebellion in the Warsaw Pact. Détente between the Soviets and Americans has begun, while the Chinese are waiting in the wings to create an informal alliance with the United States.


1980 - The Soviets have just invaded Afghanistan, while a theocratic revolution in Iran has overthrown the Shah’s regime. “Desert One” – an attempt to free American hostages in Iran – ends in a humiliating failure, another indication of what pundits were calling “the hollow force.” America is the greatest creditor nation the world had ever seen.


1990 - The Soviet Union collapses. The supposedly hollow force shreds the vaunted Iraqi Army in less than 100 hours. The United States has become the world’s greatest debtor nation. Very few outside of the Department of Defense and the academic community use the Internet.


2000 - Warsaw is the capital of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nation. Terrorism is emerging as America’s greatest threat. Biotechnology, robotics, nanotechnology, HD energy, etc. are advancing so fast they are beyond forecasting.


2010 - Take the above and plan accordingly! What will be the disruptions of the next 25 years?"




"The Fragility of History – and the Future...


The patterns and course of the past appear relatively straightforward and obvious to those living in the present, but only because some paths were not taken or the events that might have happened, did not. Nothing makes this clearer than the fates of three individuals in the first thirty plus years of the twentieth century. Adolf Hitler enlisted in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment (the “List” Regiment) in early August 1914; two months later he and 35,000 ill-trained recruits were thrown against the veteran soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force. In one day of fighting the List Regiment lost one third of its men. When the Battle of Langemark was over, the Germans had suffered approximately 80% casualties. Hitler was unscratched. Seventeen years later, when Winston Churchill was visiting New York, he stepped off the curb without looking in the right direction and was seriously injured. Two years later in February 1933,

Franklin Roosevelt was the target of an assassination attempt, but the bullet aimed for him hit and killed the mayor of Chicago. Can any one doubt that, had any one of these three individuals been killed, the history of the twentieth century would have followed a fundamentally different course?"


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