Strategic Forecasting

What is Strategic Forecasting?

Strategic Forecasting is a tool used by organisations to develop and support strategies for the future. More Strategic forecasting on a national and international level is performed by independent organisations such as Stratfor, and by governments themselves.

Strategic forecasts for nations, such as Germany, are based upon models. The more accurately the model reflects the reality of the country, presumably the better the forecast. Here is an example of a rudimentary model for Germany, attempting to explain why Germany is dependent upon exports:

The task of strategic intelligence is to build a model that takes into account the wide range of constraints that limit the choices of a leader, identifying the imperatives that he must pursue if he is to survive as a leader and if his country is to be safe. The obvious constraint and imperative is geography. Germany’s location on the Northern European Plain and its ability to produce efficiently and dominate markets to the east and southeast create an imperative to export and to maintain political domination in its markets. This has been true since the unification of Germany in 1871. At the same time, given its location and lack of natural barriers, it is an inherently insecure country. It must maintain its export markets while politically or militarily securing its physical safety. This simplistic model allows us to predict a number of things regardless of who is chancellor. First, to avoid domestic disruption, Germany will export regardless of circumstances. Second, Berlin will shape the political environment to facilitate this. Third, it will try to avoid military confrontation. Fourth, in extreme circumstances, it must initiate conflict rather than wait for its enemies to do so.

This model, which I provide only for the sake of understanding the concepts I’ve laid out, begins with the internal political constraints on a German leader. It follows to the only effective solution: exports. It then shifts to other concerns triggered intermittently by German success. Chancellor Angela Merkel must maintain exports or face unemployment and political opposition. Germany must export in part to the European Union, so it has shaped the European Union to facilitate this trade. Simultaneously, it must protect its national security by posing no strategic threat to anyone. Other options, such as cutting exports, allowing the European Union to function under other rules or moving Germany from the North European Plain are not available to her. Therefore, certain policies are imposed upon her.

The model involves imperatives that must be fulfilled, constraints that shape the solutions and decision-makers who respect these terms, with the variables extended into multiple domains and interacting with similar models for other countries. To manage this, the broad outlines of behavior can only be modeled, and the data that is used cannot be excessively granular; otherwise, it would overwhelm the analyst and obscure the point, which is to understand the broad patterns that are emerging. Without the existence of a prior model that controls the selection and flow of intelligence, the system collapses under the weight of random information. It is important to bear in mind that no attempt is made to engage in a psychological model of the decision-maker. This is not only because such a model is impossible to create but also because the psychology of power and powerful leaders tends to make them more similar than different. A psychology of power in general is more useful than a psychology of the individuals. There are two keys to strategic forecasting. First, focus on the community, nation and state rather than individuals. Second, do not confuse the subjective intent of the individual leader with the outcome. _Strategic Intelligence in Moscow

Friedman’s model and explanation cover only the bare bones of one approach to strategic forecasting. But it provides an introduction.

To add to the model, Germany enjoys only limited sunshine, and limited growing seasons. If Germans are to eat adequate quantities of a wide variety of foods, they must have export income to pay for food imports.

So if Germany is critically dependent upon export income, why is its energy policy — Energiewende — dedicated to eliminating reliable and affordable electric power? Without affordable and reliable electric power, Germany’s industry will pack up and move overseas. The end result is the loss of jobs, loss of export income, and loss of homegrown industrial innovation and clout.

So far as I know, Stratfor has not done a detailed analysis of Germany’s Energiewende — a disaster in the making for the German economy and the German people. And yet, a nation’s access to abundant, affordable, and reliable energy is one of its most important strategic assets. What’s up with that?

Even strategic forecasters can have rather large blind spots, preventing them from seeing what is in front of their proboscis. And no matter how much effort they put into making their models comprehensive, blind spots will remain — sometimes immense blind spots.

Predicting anything can be a challenge, but especially predicting something in the future. Forecasting the future fate of nations — and the interaction of nations — can be a particularly complex job.

And yet, if one is to choose his location and make provisions for the future, he must be able to anticipate likely events and trends into the future. Skill at doing so can determine success or failure.

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12 Responses to Strategic Forecasting

  1. jabowery says:

    Friedman’s financial security determinism of nation state leadership is predictable from his presumably Jewish ethnicity. Another deterministic basis for strategic forecasting of nation states is national security. National security posits there is something underlying the nation state that overrides financial concerns: The Nation. Clearly, particularly in the case of Germany, the notion of the “Nation” is the 800lb gorilla in the room no one talks about. Indeed the very concept of “The Nation” is overlaid with the most egregious conceptual fog imaginable as is evidenced by Lemkin’s definition of “genocide” in terms of that which attacks the “nation” and the subsequent zeitgeist within which maintenance of national identity, aka “nationalism”, has been made synonymous with “genocide”. Such “double bind” psychology is essential to breaking down psychological integrity and is a central feature of abusive parental conduct toward children — and may, itself, be seen as a form of genocide in Lemkin’s definition when applied toward mass psychology, as it has been during the last half of the 20th century. Having said that, I’ll simply point out that so long as the notion of the “nation state” is relevant, the notion of “national security” retains the notion of the “nation” and we may, without fear of being accused of being “Nazis”, hence of advocating “genocide”, discuss “national security” as a legitimate concern.

    So what is “national security”?

    It is the security of the “nation”.

    What is the “nation”?

    It is a people united by consanguinity and congeniality.

    To the cultural determinist, consanguinity is, at best, irrelevant and at worst a reason to destroy “nations”, ie: engage in preemptive genocide via, say, immigration, as has been done among European derived nations for about as long as the notion of the “nation” has been subject to the psychosis-inducing double bind mass psychology. Indeed, even the inconvenience of maintaining culture has been discarded in the name of “multiculturalism” so as to facilitate more rapid immigration in this preemptive genocide.

    However, to the humane man, consanguinity and congeniality are as natural and essential to human society as breathing. When under threat, as they clearly are due to immigration in European derived countries, there is a powerful undercurrent of feeling that can be tapped by national leaders in defense of what is seen as an extended family.

    Friedman and the general Jewish attitude toward nations other than Israel, is that these feelings are, at best, impractical throwbacks to a romantic era which might be characterized as 19th century, which are as destructive as they are doomed by the march of progress.

    However, a more rational appraisal of the situation is that the march of progress includes more than just ever increasing efficiency of the global economy — it also includes technological progress that can be applied to securing national existence against the onslaughts of preemptive genocide — primarily via technologically enabling autarky. In its extreme form, autarky enables the individual to become independent of society via, say, compact and portable code fusion devices that drive micromachine-shops (3d printers, mini-refineries, etc) that an individual could be trained, by the age of 18, to fabricate from country rock and other indigenous resources. However, long before such individual autarky obtains, it is reasonable to posit the application of technology to the provision of the needs of the nation — not the every want of the young woman whose womb is prone to “drain” from the nation if not fulfilled. The womb drain problem can be counter-balanced by a indoctrination in the value of the nation hence of children born at an early age to young couples enabled to do so securely by the political economy and technological infrastructure of the nation.

    Viewed in this light “Energiewende” might be viewed as a suboptimal attempt at national security.

    • alfin2101 says:

      I think you meant to write “cold fusion” rather than “code fusion.”

      We can agree that advanced technologies that scale to the individual and family levels are likely to create renewed evolutionary changes socially and biologically.

      I try not to swim in conspiratorial waters that lack the density to support one’s weight. 😉

      • jabowery says:

        While it may be true that “Energiewende” is a conspiracy, given Germany’s individualistic cultural heritage where single combat to the death was still practiced in the military in recent history, one is hard pressed to dismiss the possibility that among less individualistic cultures — cultures that have been involved in group selective pressures entailed by civilization for far longer — there has been no selective pressure for emergent order that would advantage the group. Indeed, I am quite bemused by the apparent preponderance of people who are quite willing to discuss emergent order in virtually all aspects of our world except when certain topics are broached by certain people — in which case those people are instantaneously imputed to be hypothesizing not an emergent phenomenon but a conspiracy. It almost seems like an emergent order of some kind to me.

        • alfin2101 says:

          Most emergent phenomena go unobserved and unremarked. Probably the most important ones are never noticed.

          Human minds tend to latch onto frivolous and inconsequential pseudo-trends such as climate apocalypse or peak oil armageddon. Ephemeral pseudo-trends are made up of accidentally coincidental events which may be of a highly salient — even attention-grabbing — nature.

          Humans easily fall into obsessive beliefs and behaviours when caught in the thrall of a pseudo-trend.

          If Russian leaders threaten to use nuclear weapons unless they are allowed to violate the national sovereignty of other nations, that is grounds for concern — particularly in the light of an ongoing war and illegal annexation. Examining the realities behind such threats and belligerent behaviours suggests a legitimate concern.

          Other threats may be more subtle. But the more subtle and obscure a “threat,” the more likely it is to be a pseudo-trend.

          It comes down to the best use of one’s time. Obsessions over pseudo-trends such as climate apocalypse and peak oil armageddon represent immense wastes of human resources. Clearly it is more important to work to solve whatever reality exists at the core of the obsession, rather than to rant and rave over the “threat” that is imagined.

          The payoff is in distinguishing “trend” from “pseudo-trend.” Such distinctions can lead to significant advantages in anticipating future events.

          There is virtually no meaningful payoff from alerting the public about “emergent pseudo-trends” unless one is selling newsletters, books, and speaking engagements — or engaging in stock manipulation or trying to foment violence and instability.

          Always ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do to help solve “the problem” myself? ” Because you can be sure the public is only going to misunderstand what you are trying to say, and make a hash of any useful ideas you may have.

  2. etienne says:

    In my opinion what we need in all western countries is solid degrowth of the industrial/consumer economy and some ambitious projects to reinspire a faustian spirit. The consumer economy is a cancer in our midst. More “economic growth” = more immigrants and lower indiginous birthrates and demoralized men playing Super Mario. Continuing this way will be our spiritual and physical death. Even this stupid Energiewende with windmills is better than anything other western countries have like more cheap credit schemes to produce and sell more Ipods and stuff packaged by minimum wage earning immigrants.

    Talking about national security. Vienna has about 25 salafist (hyper radical sunni muslim) kindergarten/day care centers, that’s more than most cities in the middle east. London definitely has more radical muslim preachers than Cairo. All establishment elites do is to enforce tolerance of the indiginous people and tell them to work and consume, economic growth and tolerance will fix it all they say. But will thex continue to do it?

    These models have never ever worked, even intuition will likely work better.

    Friedman of Stratfor talks about Turkey becoming a huge global player. He doesn’t even take the demographic explosion of Kurds (who hold enormous generational grudges against Turks and especially the Turkish state), the spread of radical Islam plus the spread of radical liberalism (yes both in Turkey!) and the fact that highly educated Turks usually leave Turkey into account.

    What if too many large players have bought leveraged hedges against high oil prices a drop of the oil price to 30 dollars could take down entire corporations in the US. What if addtionally the entire new shale oil/gas industry goes bust? Maybe not only Putin will suffer if the oil price crashes. Nobody talks about this.

    We don’t know.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Everyone is talking about the downside of low oil prices to marginal producers, such as US shale and Canadian oil sands. Most of those people lacked the foresight to predict the North American hydrocarbon revolution in the first place, so take their ideas with a grain of salt.

      Russian production is much harder to shut down and re-start, for the most part, than most of the N. American plays. Not least of all because of the frigid and remote conditions.

  3. GoneWithTheWind says:

    You cannot do an honest analysis of any of the alternative energy systems because the truth will destroy them. In Germany just as in the U.S. the alternative energy lobby works hard to keep the facts out of the decision process. The German people were Grubered about solar and wind power just as Americans are.

    • Hell_Is_Like_Newark says:

      I am shocked at how many people take utter nonsense about Green Power spewed from the places like ‘Think Progress’ as fact. Even as electrical rates skyrocket, they still believe that solar and wind is economic, not questioning that just maybe, what they have been told is not the truth. Everything is excepted as dogma like some dark age serf kneeling as some priest blathers on.

      Critical thinking does not exist for a sizable portion of our population and we will all be damned because of it.

      • alfin2101 says:

        I would prefer not to be damned by the stupidity of the masses. Thus the ideas behind the Dangerous Child, and Resilient and Dangerous communities. Any ideas from readers that might help us escape mass damnation would also be welcomed. 😉

        In wartime, sometimes it is better to scuttle the boat rather than to allow it to founder and create a navigation or security hazard. Rather than outright scuttling, I am suggesting a disciplined slow-motion transformation into more defensible structures and patterns than the modern nation-state.

        There are right ways and wrong ways of changing an existing order. But no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, so it is more likely that we will be forced to muddle through.

  4. astrodominant says:

    I have subscribed to Stratfor for a few years. They have interesting perspectives but they also have glaring gaps in how they perceive the world. Still worth reading to get other viewpoints.

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