March 7, 2014

 I recently finished rereading The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy. In light of the current events in Ukraine and Crimea (when did we drop “The”?), it makes a powerful case for those who believe that history repeats itself.

Professor Kennedy seems to be spot on when calling our attention to “Muslim fundamentalism”, and America’s “number one” position among world powers which he said puts it in the position of global overreach – where the sum totals of our global interests and obligations is far larger than our power to defend them all at once (Ukraine again). However, a closer look at this book, finished in 1986, show the danger of going on the record with any prophecy (or as we less honestly call it in intelligence, a prediction, projection, assessment, early warning, or scenario). For example, he completely dismissed the possibility of what was then starting the economic collapse of the Soviet Union.

These differences illustrate how difficult it is to predict the future. As he frankly said “Unforeseen happenings, sheer accidents, the halting of a trend, can ruin the most plausible of forecasts; if they do not, then the forecaster is merely lucky.” Or, as Yogi Berra, the great Yankee baseball player put it, “The future ain’t what it used to be.

One Comment on “Predictions”

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