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.