George Friedman's "The Next Decade" could alternately be described as Machiavelli 101 or a crash course in realpolitik.
Friedman's central thrust is this: America is an accidental empire - like it or hate it, the world must deal with it - and it is thus in the United States' best interest to maintain the "balance of power" at all costs.
The balance of power is predicated on status quo. When you are at the top of the heap (as America is in Friedman's view), any major shifts threaten to destabilize the top dog's position. As the British and Roman empires did before it, the American empire must anticipate and prevent such shifts, blocking up-and-comers from excessive power accumulation.
As Friedman sees it, a century is about events but a decade is about people. The main actor over the next ten years will be the POTUS, or President of the United States. In his role as shaper of strategy and manager of expectations, the POTUS must act as a classic "prince" in the Machiavelli mold.
This role also involves double-dealing with the populace, in terms of appearing to meet unreasonable demands (such as overwhelming focus on the war on terrorism) while actually focusing on more critical things (behind-the-scenes issues too nuanced or complicated to explain).
To safeguard America's interests, Friedman endorses what one might call an enlightened amorality - doing what is necessary for the sake of the greater good. Friedman argues for a middle ground between the idealists and the realists, pointing out unworkable flaws at both extremes. The idealists are ill-equipped to function in the real world, while the realists find themselves lost without a guiding moral compass.Read more ›