Sunday, April 19, 2009

Assigned Reading

Vice Admiral William Douglas Crowder, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information, Plans and Strategy (N3/N5) gave the luncheon address on Friday at a Japanese-funded Washington conference on an/the US-Japan maritime alliance. He quoted heavily from a new book by George Friedman,  The Next Hundred Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century.  

Next time, the Admiral might want to read the book before he makes it the focus of a speech.

It is, however, easy to see why the Admiral's speechwriter wanted to use quotes from the book. Dr. Friedman contends that it is through the dominance of the seas that the US will maintain its security and prominence. Naval power and naval alliances will secure the peace for the next century.

This is indeed a confirming message to a conference about forging an alliance of "like-minded" maritime nations, especially with Japan.  And Friedman is a well-known purveyor of open source intelligence, consultant to the Pentagon, and prognosticator. His book was on a best-seller list.

The speechwriter, however, might have been wise to read deeper into the Friedman book*. If so, he would have found out why the US is destined to rule the seas. 

Friedman predicts that by 2050 the US and Poland will go to war against Japan and Turkey. Japan, instead of accepting immigrants, will turn to expansion for growth and labor. Once again Japan will take advantage of China disintegrating. Japan will retake China's coastal regions for labor and resources. Turkey apparently will benefit from a similar implosion of the politics and economy in Russia.

Fearing that the US will check its expansion, Japan will initiate on Thanksgiving Day a surprise attack that cripples US Space Forces (we will have 3 manned Battle Stars by then).  Their Turkish allies will invade Poland, the other power, to take parts of Russia and are barely held back by the Poles. The Turks then persuade the Germans to invade Poland from the west but are startled when Britain enters the war by attacking Germany. The US-Polish-British team, through sea and space power, wins. The US establishes itself as the dominant world power and peace breaks out.  I am sure I missed a lot, for I understand that Mexico becomes a world power, and we go to war with them again.

I cannot properly recall the scenario, but the US going to war with Japan over resources and sea lanes is similar to Dr. Friedman's first popular book, The Coming War With Japan (1991). 

So I sat through the speech, cursing myself for not getting more of those good cookies from the buffet (The Willard has nice desserts) and wondering what exactly was the message that the Admiral was trying to convey.

Admiral Crowder began his speech with how lucky he was that his father was one of the few survivors of the sinking of the USS Evans during the battle of Okinawa. The story of the USS Evans enduring Kamikaze attacks is legendary in the US Navy. He pointed to his Japanese counterpart in the audience and said that he too was there because his father survived the sinking of his ship, but instead by US planes. But now, the US and Japan are "partners and friends."

That is, until the next war.

*Now my friend at Japan Without the Sugar is going to give me hell for this, but I have not actually read Mr. Friedman's new book (nor do I have the time to waste). I have only read the reviews and his first book on Japan. So like Mr. Sato of the Japan Times, I am winging this. But in Washington there is a time-honored tradition of not reading books, except for the dust jackets and depending on the comments of the one or two people who actually do read. Most important, you need to first check the index of any new book to see if you are mentioned. If not, the book is definitely not worth much more of your time.


  1. I got a good chuckle out of the predictions in that book. Scholars should know they should leave the future to future scholars since they are most likely to be wrong in their predictions.

    Were you able to see our good friend from Yamaguchi? Tobias Harris says he might be jockeying for a comeback, which doesn't surprise me. For our sake, I hope he gets too tired again on the way back.

  2. Oh yes I did and will report on the "comeback kid" in my next post. I got distracted today by sales at Neimans and Saks... You need priorities.

  3. There was a good book doing the rounds a few years back called something like "How to talk about books you haven't read" or something, but I haven't read it either. But it was very good.

    Jeez, a war involving Japan in a surprise attack and Britain fights the Bosch to defend Poland's honour, and the good guys emerge victorious with the Yanks on top. Wherever could he have got an idea like that from?

  4. I read the first book by Dr. Friedman when it came out, but I could not get through the whole thing as it seemed a huge even then.

    I recall one of the reasons that Japan would be more or less forced into a war was that Japanese banks did not have enough reserves and that in '92 World Bank (?) regulations were to change, damaging Japan. There was more to it, but it seems that his predictions were just a bit off.

    I guess 2050 is a bit safer as he won't be around to hear about it if he is wrong.

    (I think in order to get to Mr. Sato's level, you'd have to criticize a book over-and-over for about decade without reading it.)


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