contributor perspectives

Dec 31, 2014 | 09:00 GMT

6 mins read

The First Violinist Departs, Three Tenors Arrive

Contributor Perspectives offer insight, analysis and commentary from Stratfor’s Board of Contributors and guest contributors who are distinguished leaders in their fields of expertise.

By David Judson

As arbitrary and even random as the Gregorian calendar by which we celebrate the new year is, Jan. 1 is always a good time to take stock of things. There is nothing intrinsically special about the turning of a calendar's page from one year to the next, but what has become over the centuries a near-global agreement to renew the countdown of life is still a moment to reflect and reconcile life's transitions. Or at least to take one's best shot at it. I do so today on behalf of Stratfor.

I would like to discuss a time of great transition for the company that many thoughtful readers are already aware of: The orchestra of thinkers we call Stratfor is losing its first violinist, Robert D. Kaplan. Robert has been with us since March 2012, leading us and challenging us in his role as the company's chief geopolitical analyst. He will now be returning to the realm of policy, joining the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) in Washington, D.C.; his new home will be at CNAS, a nonprofit think tank with a fine reputation, robust public relations, a bipartisan board and centrist politics, is dedicated to studying defense policy with a particular focus on Asia and the Indo-Pacific.

Stratfor is indeed a large intellectual orchestra. About 120 of us live in Texas and around the world. More than anyone, Robert has provided us with what musicians call "concert pitch," the note around which we all bring our tones and voices into harmonic balance. We will miss our maestro's wisdom, wit and keen counsel on wine. But we also know that he will continue to be our colleague from afar, on what will remain a mutual intellectual journey for all analysts, writers, researchers and artists here at Stratfor. Robert carried out his mission to challenge us without intellectual compromise or concession. Though he will continue to do so informally, he will no longer be leading from the front lines of the world's first and largest private geopolitical intelligence team. We will miss Robert, but we wish him well.

Without exception, all of us at Stratfor are united by the written word. So on this one day of the year, I hope you will allow me the indulgence of a paragraph from the Scottish novelist Andrew O'Hagan. (I was born in a small California town and grew up atop the beach in another, so his writing speaks to me.)

When you grow up by the sea, you spend a good deal of time looking at the horizon. You wonder what on Earth the waves might bring — and where the sea might deposit you — until one day you know you have lived between two places, the scene of arrival and the point of departure.

Which brings me to the other half of Stratfor's current transition. Planning in the wake of Robert's departure is not a simple matter; he cannot be replaced. So in 2015, a diverse set of authors will assume Robert's role. We will lead with three whom I have playfully referred to in staff meetings as "the three tenors." We will still, of course, adjust our pitch and tone to their concert pitch, but they will be playing in different octaves, adding texture to our analyses while broadening our tonal range and rhythmic coherence.

There is little in the lives of our new trio that suggests commonality other than the fact that they are all uncommonly elegant thinkers. Dr. James "Jay" Ogilvy left a post as a professor of philosophy at Yale to join SRI International, which was formerly the Stanford Research Institute but became independent from the university a few years before Jay arrived as the director of research in 1979. Jay went on to publish nine books and co-found the Global Business Network in 1987, and he continues to hang his hat from time to time at San Francisco's Presidio Graduate School, where until recently he was the dean and chief academic officer. His books include Many Dimensional Man, Creating Better Futures and, my favorite, Living Without a Goal. His first Stratfor column will appear here Jan. 7.

Dr. Luc De Keyser is a Belgian who was born in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo and currently lives in Denderleeuw and Antwerp. He serves as the chief medical information officer at Xperthis, the largest provider of hospital information systems solutions in Belgium. A medical doctor who earned his M.D. credentials from the University of Louvain, Luc completed his clinical clerkships, including a rotation in cardiac surgery, at Stanford's School of Medicine in 1976. He then returned to California in 1979 to study for a Ph.D. in medical information science at the University of California at San Francisco. After a stint as the chief clinical information systems officer in Europe for Digital Equipment Corp., Luc branched off in many directions, from pioneering work in multicenter clinical trials to pursuing a score of science-driven pursuits in medical ontologies, paleonutrition and other aspects of medicine that are beyond my understanding. Of direct interest, though, are his dissections of human conflict at different levels of social aggregation, using as a scalpel the unique behaviors that evolution wired into the Homo sapiens that we are today. His first Stratfor column will be published here Jan. 14.

And last but certainly not least, Dr. Ian Morris is the Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and History at Stanford University. He has published 10 scholarly books and has directed excavations in Greece and Italy. His bestsellers include War! What Is It Good For? and Why the West Rules — For Now. Ian is British and received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University, but lest you think him a dainty English don, I believe he would not be offended if I mention that his grandfather was a member of the Communist Party. That my own father was a card carrier — at least until, like Ian's grandfather, he began to rethink his decision after the German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 — is meaningful to me in a private way upon which I will not dwell; suffice it to say that communist parentage is trying on progeny. Ian's first Stratfor column will appear here on Jan. 21.

Alas, the word count at the top of my screen suggests that I'm getting a little carried away. We don't impose word count limitations on Stratfor contributors, but civil discourse is served by concision. I will close by saying that while we at this firm are deeply influenced by Immanuel Kant and reference Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in our methodology, we impose no dogmas or ideologies and work solely to examine the many dimensions of "geo" in our ongoing study of geopolitics. All we ask of Jay, Luc and Ian, along with the others who will be joining them, is that they set the octave. On behalf of my colleagues at Stratfor, I promise both our authors and our readers that we will do our best to furnish the accord. We will, in fact, give it our best shot.

Happy New Year's.

David D. Judson previously served as Stratfor’s editor-in-chief where he oversaw both the global network of the company’s information gathering area specialists as well as the publishing team in Austin that works with analysts to craft Stratfor’s work into written, video and graphic form.

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