STRATFOR head George Friedman recently gave a fascinating talk on the next 100 years of geopolitics to the Public Affairs program at the Carnegie Council. You can watch it here. Some interesting points here:
The great powers in 50 to 100 years will include Japan, Poland, and Turkey. His analysis starts from his assumption that the United States will continue to be the dominant power in the international system for many reasons, including access to two large oceans, a powerful navy, enormous wealth, experience dealing with immigration, and a lack of rivals. Poland will benefit from the fact that it faces Russia. Like the U.S. relationship with South Korea, the United States will make sure that Poland succeeds, through technology transfer for example, so that it can balance Russia.
As for Japan, well, it has the second largest economy, a powerful navy, and an army larger than Britain's--all of this with a constitution that doesn't allow these things. Imagine what may happen when Japan modifies its constitution, Friedman says. (Friedman's analysis goes against recent bleak economic news in Japan.) As for China, Friedman "is not impressed." It is basically a poor country that is divided and lacks a social safety net. When people become unemployed in rich countries, they worry about welfare, when they lose their jobs in China, they worry about real poverty.
Meanwhile, Turkey will become ever more important in managing conflict in the Middle East. The key to Friedman's analyses is that it is important to throw away conventional wisdom, for example that Russia, India, and China will dominate the future.
On Joe Nye's concept of "soft power," Friedman has an interesting take: He says soft power is when you can exert power but choose not to. In his view, it is not "attraction" as Nye puts it. Friedman's version came to him from growing up in the Bronx where "you can get more with a smile and a gun than with a smile alone."