Predicting the Future

Stolen from a note written to GW Bush by one of his advisors, 2001.

Thoughts for the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review

by Lin Wells for G.W. Bush

  • If you had been a policy maker in the world’s greatest power in 1900, you would have been a Brit, looking warily at your age-old enemy, France.
  • By 1910, you would be allied with France, and your enemy would be Germany.
  • By 1920, World War I would have been fought and won, and you’d be engaged in a naval arms race with your erstwhile allies, the US and Japan.
  • By 1930, naval arms limitation treaties were in effect, the Great Depression was underway, and the defence planning standard said, “no war for ten years”.
  • Nine years later, World War II had begun.
  • By 1950, Britain no longer was the world’s greatest power, the Atomic Age had dawned, and a ‘police action’ was underway in Korea.
  • Ten years later, the political focus was on the “missile gap”, the strategic paradigm was shifting from massive retaliation to flexible response, and few people had heard of Vietnam.
  • By 1970, the peak of our involvement in Vietnam had come and gone, we were beginning detente with the Soviets, and we were annointing the Shah as our protege in the Gulf region.
  • By 1980, the Soviets were in Afghanistan, Iran was in the throes of revolution, there was talk of our “hollow forces” and a “window of vulnerability”, and the US was the greatest creditor nation the world had ever known, and almost no one had heard of the internet.
  • Ten years later, Warsaw was the capital of a NATO nation, asymmetric threats transcended geography, and the parallel revolutions of information, biotechnology, robotics, nanotechnology and high density energy sources foreshadowed changes almost beyond forecasting.
  • All of which is to say, that I’m not sure what 2010 will look like, but I’m sure it will be very little like we expect, so we should plan accordingly.