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Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe…

Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe (2015)

by George Friedman

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A book by the world's leading and New York Times Bestselling geopolitical forecaster George Friedman. In this book Mr. Friedman examines the increasing failings of NATO, the EU, and the rising tensions led by a powerful new Russia. By exploring Europe and the Mediterranean's past Mr. Friedman helps uncover our future.
  mcmlsbookbutler | Jan 2, 2017 |
With some books, you have to dwell on the first sentence and the last one. That's why in Library Thing Common Knowledge one can add them to their book .
A hurried reader will only read the preface or jump to the conclusion to get a sense of what its author intended to achieve. With "Flashpoints - The Emerging Crisis in Europe" by George Friedman, I did all of the above.
Can Mr. Friedman as a futurologist connect with the great Matrix of what is happening around the world my vote is a resounding yes.
Take the first sentence of Chapter I: "A European life": "On the night of August 13, 1949, my family climbed into a rubber raft along the Hungarian shore of the Danube."
At this hour of Sept. 8, 2015, many, many, many people, not necessarily Europeans but aspiring perhaps to become it, can claim they are doing just that, climbing on a rubber raft to escape the economy, the war, their neighbors.
This situation has reached an urgency at the borderlands between Christian Europe and Mediterranean Islam which Mr. Friedman who then took to his rubber boat because he and his family were Jewish, knows well.
Read the fist sentence of the Preface: "Between 1914 and 1945 roughly 100 million Europeans died from political causes: war, genocide, purges, planned starvation, and all the rest."

Now jump 15 chapters to the Conclusion and one can understand why this book was written:
The auhor tells us the real reason he wrote this book was to ask himself three questions:

1. How did Europe achieve global domination, politically, militarily, economically, and intellectually?
2. What was the flaw in Europe that caused it to throw away this domination between 1914 and 1945?
3. Is the period of peace that followed 1945 what the future of Europe will look like, or will Europe return to its historical ways? ( )
  Artymedon | Sep 8, 2015 |
I had been intending to read a current political/economic analysis of Europe and its challenges for the future, considering the 2008 financial crisis and its fallout, the possibility of countries opting out of the EU, and the strategic implications of recent Russian intervention in the Ukraine. This is not that book, as I quickly found out, but I decided to see what Friedman had to say.

Friedman, according to the publisher’s blurb on the jacket flap, founded Stratfor, “the world’s leading private intelligence company.” One envisions some sort of trench-coat antics, but in fact, my research determined that Friedman has gathered a group of people to scour publicly available information and then assemble that into a package sold to clients willing to spend $40,000 per year for a subscription. In one Atlantic article, the author said that leading foreign policy analysts think of Friedman as a businessman repackaging "last week’s The Economist articles" for his unsuspecting clients. My research also indicated that in at least a few of Friedman’s previous best-selling books, he made predictions about Japan, the next decade, and the next 100 years. In the case of Japan, “The Coming War with Japan”, he was (reportedly) spectacularly wrong about nearly everything he predicted.

[As an aside: while doing so, I found information regarding a hack of Stratfor’s computers by Anonymous. It seems that they hacked emails, including one that announced Friedman’s resignation. Security experts determined that Stratfor had no firewalls protecting their data. Hmm.]

Although I by now suspected that this belonged to that class of books that contain very little astute analysis but whose authors have an astute pulse on what sells, I plunged in.

Friedman knows that what a lot of readers want to hear about is violence, particularly the possibility of war(s) breaking out, and so this book is extremely light on global economics and globalization, and heavy on the political. As such, he seized on the motif of the haunting past, the premise that Europe has demons that it will never be rid of, and that the “European mind” (which he leaves unexplained) is fragmenting. For him, Europe (yes, apparently everyone) has forgotten the bad and the lessons of history. When it suits him, he makes bald assertions about Europe (in general) or a particular country without a cohesive argument before sprinting to his next conclusion of what is happening or will soon happen. Have you ever noticed that the predictions in these books are always negative?

Sometimes he relates entire paragraphs of historical facts before some baffling statement pops up. Apparently, he discerns that his target audience is a bit ignorant about European history, so a complete Rehash Lite of the last 500 years is in the offing. But, goodness me. So much has to be left out, so Friedman cherrypicks just the stuff that will bolster his assured opinions (in fact, the entire book can be considered a long editorial piece, or the ultimate blog entry of a mind leaping from one “flashpoint” to another, crossing those “borderlands” that have continued to foment so much military mischief in the past).

He starts off, however, with his personal story as the infant son of Hungarian Jews fleeing 1949 Budapest (having luckily survived the Holocaust). It’s an interesting tale that is not without its baffling omissions — suddenly they are somehow able to skirt being caught. I have to admit that I may have seen too many WWII films about betrayal to suppress some unease in this section. Basically, the section helps to add some 20 pages to the book (lessening the drudgery of composing the next 100 pages covering those 500 years that you should remember from history class but were too busy shooting spitballs at Tommy at the time).

On page 28, we get a map of the world labeled “Muslim population”, showing a shaded area that includes most of India. What is the shading supposed to mean? India has a population of over a billion people, but only 13% of that is Muslim. This map appears in a chapter primarily about Christian exploration of the world, so it’s puzzling as to its intent. Am I supposed to feel fear that there are any Muslims at all in my country?

Sometimes I found myself thinking, really? 1912 was a very good year for Europe. No one saw WWI coming. Yow! I bet a lot of historians would reel at those two!

But compounding the problems is the extremely poor editing (or rather, lack thereof) of our author’s egregious factual errors. On page 109, the population of Britain is stated to be 94 million — it doesn’t matter if he’s talking about the 1950’s or today --the number has to somewhere downwards of 60 million, the current estimate. Oops. But wait, I forgot about page 83, and the first sentence of Chapter 5 — he states that Hitler committed suicide on May 5, 1945, not April 30, the actual date. I fact-checked those online in less than thirty seconds. Friedman thanks Rob Bloom in the Acknowledgments for “his close editing.” Well, you can pick who to blame. I knew that those were mistakes immediately, so it just made me think, what else is just blatantly wrong? Why the rush to publish a book so full of errors?

His discussion of Nazism is one example of where he just runs wild with his own beliefs without justification. He equates Nazism with nihilism without building a case for that claim. Also, even as a Jew he seems not to understand that Hitler was able to blame Jews for German woes because of many centuries of anti-Semitism and subsequent blame for calamities such as the bubonic plague in the 1300’s. The causes of both World Wars were the same, he says. Gee, is there anyone who might dispute that? Again, it’s stated without further comment.

Whew! Only 100 pages to go. To be fair, there is some informative stuff here if you haven’t been reading a newspaper or watching your favorite cable news station. But if you are a close follower of European events, then a lot of this you already know. Now he argues that EU is fragmenting (and he implies that this is irreversible — there’s no “unless…”) because they haven’t been able to deal with the 2008 crisis, wars in the Balkans and the Ukraine, etc. Well, the EU was only formed right when the Balkans blew up, and it’s an economic union, not a military one. So he blames them for not using military action, while at the same time acknowledging that NATO is primarily an American affair with token European effort. By the way, where is the map of NATO countries that would have been useful to the reader? I mean, he spends a fair number of page on them...

But one of the most ridiculous (at least, for me) notions is that resentment of Germany (from Greece and unnamed others), and a subsequent hostile public reaction in Germany, might push Germany into an alliance with Russia. Wow! Shades of Hitler and Stalin! Does anyone else find this one absurd? Maybe an action-filled sci-fi could be written around that premise (note to filmmakers: don’t forget the exploding helicopters. I love those). ( )
  nog | Jun 16, 2015 |
This is my first book by George Friedman and I'm very impressed. Friedman rightly doesn't believe there will be a general war in Europe any time soon. However he sees "flashpoints" in ancient "borderlands" of which Friedman gives a catalog. Most borderlands are unlikely to flare up into open conflict, but in some it has such as in the "bloodlands" separating Russia from the European peninsula; or the Caucuses; or the borders of Turkey with the Middle East. Friedman sees 2008 as a pivotal event as it fractured the European Union by putting countries into separate orbits as they try to address their own internal needs, often in conflict with the needs of the whole. There is too much to summarize here but it provides perspective on the countries and regions and how they see the world. The first few chapters are also very good at explaining why the "30 years war" happened (1914-1945). ( )
2 vote Stbalbach | Feb 15, 2015 |
Great read. The social, economic, and political history summed by GF and used to explain where he thinks the problem areas will and won't be in the immediate future of Europe. The book was well written except for a few odd sentences. I learned some things and added to my persrspective and thinking about Europe adding new colors to my palette. Its all I can ever ask of any book. Very Kaplanesque. Almost a rare 5. ( )
  JBreedlove | Feb 15, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 038553633X, Hardcover)

A major new book by New York Times bestselling author and geopolitical forecaster George Friedman (The Next 100 YearsThe Next Decade) with a bold thesis about coming conflict in the world, this provocative work examines the geopolitical flashpoints—particularly in Europe—in which imminent future conflicts are brewing.

George Friedman has forecasted the coming trends (politics, technology, population, and culture) of the next century in The Next 100 Years, and focused his predictions on the coming ten years in The Next Decade. Now, in Flashpoints, Friedman zooms in on the region that has, for five hundred years, been the cultural hotbed of the world—Europe—and examines the most basic and fascinating building block of the region: culture. Analyzing the fault lines that have existed for centuries—and which have led to two world wars and dozens more conflicts—Friedman walks us through the "flashpoints" that are still smoldering beneath the surface and are on course to erupt again. In Flashpoints, George Friedman begins with a fascinating history of the events leading up to the horrific wars that nearly tore apart Western civilization—killing over 100 million people on the "civilized" European continent. Modern-day Europe, and the formation of the European Union, were designed to minimize the built-in geopolitical tensions that led to catastrophic war, but as Friedman shows with a mix of history and cultural analysis, those plans have failed. "Flashpoints" are now simmering as dangerously as in the early twentieth century. Zeroing in on half a dozen locations, borderlands, and cultural dynamics, George Friedman does what few historians can—he explains precisely how certain trends are unstoppable, and what the future holds . . . both in terms of conflict and also opportunity. Flashpoints also explains in riveting detail how events in Europe will affect the rest of the world—from the United States to Russia, from China to Latin America. Continuing in his bestselling tradition, he reveals a geopolitical landscape that is at once a scintillating history lesson and a forecast for the coming years.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:08 -0400)

"Friedman zooms in on the region that has, for five hundred years, been the cultural hotbed of the world--Europe--and examines the most basic and fascinating building block of the region: culture. Analyzing the fault lines that have existed for centuries--and which have led to two world wars and dozens more conflicts--Friedman walks us through the 'flashpoints' that are still smoldering beneath the surface and are on course to erupt again"--… (more)

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