It was Thomas Jefferson who said, "Every generation needs a new revolution." The remark has a particular resonance for me today. For a new generation at Stratfor is contending with not one but two new revolutions, both of which are shaping and reshaping the company as I write. At stake is not rebellion, mutiny or Marxist class struggle. But the changes underway at Stratfor, as well as in the nature and form of the global system that is "geopolitics," are of sweeping scope and magnitude. So though "revolution" may seem like a strong word, it is precise.
The first revolution, the one taking place within Stratfor, is now on full view and is a subject about which I and others here will have much to say in the coming months. You are reading this column on a radically different web portal, Stratfor Worldview, as we are getting radically better at what we have always done. This month we unveiled a new publishing architecture that takes readers deeper into the predictive methodology we use to forecast the world's future. Readers will now see firsthand the rigor undergirding our assertions in what we call a "living forecast." Our analyses will be effectively aligned with our forecasting logic — each annual and quarterly forecast our thematic "book," each supporting analysis a "chapter" on the unfolding themes. We've expanded our suite of external contributors, created forums for better interaction with readers and engaged with new partners worldwide. And a score of other innovations are on our minds or on our drawing boards.
That said, our methodology, insulated from individual bias or sentiment, remains our bedrock. Our core mission of producing nonpartisan, unvarnished analyses remains unchanged. So, too, do the stewards of that mission: Reva Goujon, who heads our team of analysts; Rodger Baker, who guides both our East Asia coverage and our forecasting process; and Fred Burton, who leads security, are among the company's veterans and hold decades of collective experience. They will assure continuity between our past and future.
But expanding our vision and ambition is a dynamic cast of newcomers. Our CEO, Dave Sikora, joined us early last year along with a new chief financial officer, Paul Baker. The architect of our new, months-in-the-making website design is Ken Maranian, our chief product officer, who has also been with us for a year now. Vice presidents for marketing and sales have joined our team since the start of 2017 as well, and a managing director for Europe, who joined just weeks ago, is building our international strategy from Amsterdam. Meanwhile, a new chief of global research whose team has feet on the ground from Bogata to Berlin to Beirut — plus half a dozen cities between and beyond — began working with Stratfor on April 1. Not to mention more than 20 members of our analysis, publishing, IT and security teams, including those running Stratfor's Threat Lens portal, who have come here within the past 18 months.
So if, as Jefferson suggests, this new generation at the helm of Stratfor deserves its own revolution, our internal one is well underway. But as we grow and evolve as a company, so too are the dynamics of geopolitics itself changing before our eyes — just as we said they would in recent years, no more effectively so than in our 2015 Decade Forecast
Looking Back to See Ahead
The study of the world's future — what we do for a living here — is, of course, always a study of its past. In January, in one of our first analyses to begin sorting out the order of things following a volatile U.S. presidential election, Rodger Baker effectively updated Jefferson's counsel on generational change and revolution. "The study of history offers no manual of instructions that can be applied automatically; history teaches by analogy, shedding light on the likely consequences of comparable situations," Baker quoted former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. "But each generation must determine for itself which circumstances are in fact comparable."
Which is precisely what Stratfor's new generation is doing analytically. Because an election in the United States — the hegemon of the global system — always echoes far beyond America's shores. In the case of President Donald Trump's election, however, the implications are such that we are working fast and focused to square our geopolitical assumptions against the disruption of transitory headlines, the assaults on attention spans by the Twittersphere, and the drama of Tomahawks in Syria, missile tests in North Korea, protests in Venezuela and paradigm-busting votes in Turkey, France, the United Kingdom, Iran, Germany and elsewhere.
History: The One True Tyrant
We constantly remind ourselves that amid the noise and fury created by the world's tyrants, the one true tyrant is in fact history itself. Our disciplined study of the deeper forces animating the global system is thus intellectually akin to a sea anchor, stabilizing a vessel in heavy seas. Our forecasting methodology, and its relationship to all that we do, is what steadies us against the slipstreams, backdrafts and crosscurrents of the mainstream media. This is what you, our readers, demand of us.
At this, we are doing better than ever, particularly in North America itself, which for the foreseeable future is the center of the world system. Since the company's founding more than two decades ago, the study of the deep animators of U.S. political culture and geopolitical power has always been core to Stratfor analyses: The mythology of American exceptionalism forged by the trials of western migration; the coherence of national identity emerging from the Civil War; the sheer economic power wrought by a unique river system that enables global transport with an efficiency other nations could only dream of.
We do not forecast elections, and we didn't do so in the case of Trump. But we did share with our readers early on that chaotic times were ahead at both the center and periphery of the global order. In our study of the crisis of the American middle class, or in our work on shifting trade patterns, emerging blocs and Washington's weariness — both political and economic — of the jihadist wars in the Middle East, it is clear that the tectonic plates of U.S. politics are shifting again, dramatically so. It is something we will endeavor to understand, and because it is emergent, we eschew the quick and glib explanations that so abound.
The constraints that U.S. institutions have placed on each of Trump's predecessors are still at play today, and our forecast that the newest administration in Washington would have to contend with them as well is proving out. We have seen this vividly in recent days as a campaign won on global disengagement struggles against the imperatives demanding a globally activist American presidency. Once again, the tyranny of history is calling the shots.
"It will be a disorderly world, with a changing of the guard in many regions," we wrote two years ago of the chaotic decade to come. "The one constant will be the continued and maturing power of the United States — a power that will be much less visible and that will be utilized far less in the next decade."
We are very much on course. And it is no small credit to the remarkable team at Stratfor that our gaze into the future has been undeterred by the distractions and challenges of the profound transformation in our publishing model that you are now experiencing. So where are we now?
We won't be joining our mainstream media colleagues in the debates on health care, revisions of EPA regulations or Trump's vision for charter schools. Important? Yes. But they are not in our wheelhouse.
We are watching Washington anew as the tide of free trade deals over the past two decades begins to recede. We are having long internal discussions on how U.S. immigration policy may affect a technology sector that is, in itself, a major driver of geopolitical change. The future of NATO, the trajectory of talks on Iran's nuclear program, and the state of arms control negotiations are suddenly refracted in a new geopolitical light. And populist rhetoric, even resurgent nationalism, in North America is an outsized force worldwide that we know will influence similar movements in Europe, India, China, Brazil, the Philippines and elsewhere.
Tensions as Old as the Republic Itself
We're not interested in "red states" versus "blue states" simplicity. But we are keenly aware that America's deep divisions today cannot be separated from the historical tensions that have animated America since its founding. Those impulses, from Jefferson's call to "avoid entangling alliances" to the competing cultural strain of internationalism tracing back to Alexander Hamilton, are alive today. And they are largely rooted in the geographic forces that have shaped America's ethos, made it a magnet for immigration and fated it to a global leadership role that many past and present would have preferred to eschew.
So with renewed energy we take to our task of looking fully at the global system with new eyes, new tools and in a new and volatile era that is still unfolding. Through it all, the unchanging dimension is our commitment to analytical rigor that begins with the map and proceeds through empirical reality in place of rhetoric or fad.
Welcome to our revolutionary times. Please let me know how you think we're doing.