Review: Flash Points: The Emerging Crisis in Europe by George Friedman

George Friedman: Flashpoints : The Emerging Crisis in Europe (Hardcover); 2015 Edition - George Friedman

This book is designed for the reader with no real working background knowledge of Europe. The introduction is a long, drawn out story of how the author's parents and sibling left Europe after World War II and came to America. A good story (heartbreaking at times), but nothing remotely interconnected with the rest of the book. A good editor would have scrapped this chapter to be used later in his memoirs, not for a book about the current and future affairs of Europe.

 

The book is then divided into three parts: short history of the Enlightenment; a short history of the thirty-one years (beginning of World War I through the end of World War II); and the premise for the book, the different potential hot spots ("flash points") within Europe where conflict (political, social, economic, and military) will rise. The first two parts, along with the introduction, make up 50% of the book. To be quite honest, the Enlightenment section needed to be cut as well as the introduction - nothing from that time period really plays into/ influences the third part of the book. The book should have had a section on the thirty-one years and a section on the Cold War  to make a stronger third act.

 

If the reader makes it far enough in the book to hit the third part, hurray! The third section starts at the collapse of the USSR in 1991 and moves through to about early 2010, including the consequences of the 2008 global recession. Now the reader is taken on a journey through the different regions of Europe, with each section it's own chapter - I really liked the set up, for it made for easier reading comprehension and easier to stop reading/pick up reading. There was a lot of food for thought in this section; however, I don't really agree with his overall assessment of Britain (that it would remain a quiet frontier), but then again this was published pre-Brexit vote result.

 

Although Muslims play an important factor in the chapter devoted to the Mediterranean region and the Balkans, this was not a bash all Muslims type of argument. Christians, Jews, and Orthodox people are also talked about in terms of how their religions play into the possible coming conflicts. Again, there isn't any bashing of religions; but there is an argument made for making public culture lean to secular and leaving religion to the private lives of citizens. Ethnic ties and national pride plays a big factor in all these areas. EU and NATO are given a realistic treatment, but it is not a pretty image and possibly one that certain political elites would disagree with.

 

I would recommend reading this book as a primer to the current events going on in Europe, but with caveats - you should have other books from other authors to read to give a more complete picture of Europe and skip the introduction and first section of the book. The author is an American and therefore his view of current Europe is through the lens of an American. He sometimes interprets what the Europeans think and feel in ways that may or may not be projection on his part. 3.5 stars.