The founder and chairman of Geopolitical Futures, which specializes in geopolitical forecasting, prognosticates a bumpy ride for the nation, both socially and economically, for the next decade before emerging into a calmer future. Examining "cycles" through which the United States has developed, upheaved, matured, and solidified in the past, Friedman examines our present moment through the lens of the past.
Like other works of prognostication, this one depends heavily on a forced reading of history, often expressed in oracular truisms. Are we really to believe that the second 'socioeconomic cycle' ran right through the Civil War and its immediate aftermath despite the fact that roughly a third of the economy, namely the South, was utterly destroyed more than a decade before it ended? Then there are the banalities ... If you take away Mr. Friedman’s dodgy idea of recurrent 50- and 80-year cycles, and ignore the ever more speculative prophecies near the end, the book contains real insights.
The Storm Before the Calm...is a provocative attempt to connect past, present, and future, that, in my judgment, shines a spotlight on the flaws of futurology. Mr. Friedman’s examination of American history, the foundation of his theory, is a mix of conventional wisdom and vague, simplistic and dubious claims ... The underlying assumption of The Storm Before the Calm—that the onset and outcome of cycles are inevitable because the 'deep structure' and its development 'control actors and events'—should also be met with skepticism ... And Mr. Friedman’s book is awash in faux precision ... Kinda’ makes my head spin.
To me these cycles, lasting as short as Friedman specifies, might as well not be accounted for at all. He does not make the case they are distinct and recognizable to anyone but him ... Friedman spends a chapter explaining how the USA is an empire in denial, a reluctant empire, an immature empire, and not a particularly competent empire, using too little or too much force, largely dependent on Russian involvement for its efforts. Nothing could be further from the truth ... He also forces things to fit his theory ... Finally, this theory is only valid in the USA, it seems. It is special for Americans alone. Which doesn’t help its standing as a theory.