Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Primer on Future Crisis Points

I picked up this book because I am living in Europe for another 18 months and wanted a bit of forewarning or basic knowledge of what I could expect to see in European politics and economics prior to my leaving. Since my second tour of living in England, I have seen the Scottish Independence referendum, the Brexit vote, numerous terrorist incidents, austerity measures, and the rise of hard right-wing parties gaining more political clout and votes across Europe.

Book Review
Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe
George Friedman
Penguin Random House, 2015
Read December 2016
3.5/5 stars

The book is broken down into three sections: the Enlightenment Era and the beginnings of modern science; the thirty-one years from the start of World War I to the end of World War II; and a regional look at the current political and economic climate of today's Europe. I hope the reader likes a lot of European history, because 2/3rds of the book is just that, with an additional introduction that tells the story of how Friedman's family escaped Europe and came to America. Honestly, I wished I had skipped the introduction and first section of the book - it had nothing to do with the rest of the book. Section two's history focus related and influenced what you will read in the third section, so please start there. Section two's history lesson is very basic, but puts all readers (regardless of their depth in World War II and modern European history) on the same page and ready for the third section's content.

I like how the third section was organized and I found the multiple maps of the region very useful; my geography skills get weaker the farther east I go into Europe. Germany and Russia are the dominant players within a lot of the third section's content. Luckily, I found no Muslim bashing; when the conflicts arise between the Muslim and Christian world views, there was a balance to the writing and a depth of knowledge given. Friedman is definitely in the camp of viewing the EU and NATO as too weak to be of anything effective or significant. I found my knowledge growing of little talked about regions such as the Balkans and Baltic states as I read their respective chapters.

I was disappointed in the chapter on Britain - there wasn't much talk of the upcoming (as of the date published, Brexit was just in the beginnings of the campaign stages) EU referendum, the Scottish Independence referendum vote was swept under the rug, and there was no talk about the growing popularity of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) or the rise in both Islamphobia and anti-Semitism (the UK editions of the newspaper The Guardian has a few articles on the latter you should check out). There was also very little to no talk of the backlash to the austerity measures the Tories have enacted. The crisis point here may be internal, but no less flammable, as the riots and demonstrations have shown.

Overall, a good primer for Americans to learning more about European politics and economics today and what to look for in the near future. But it would also help to read newspaper and magazine articles from specific countries as well to keep your knowledge accurate and up to date.

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