Biography of George ("Stratfor") Friedman & Wife

Michael Pollak mpollak at
Sun Sep 19 05:11:12 PDT 1999

The full document is at It's the transcript of an interview George and Meredith gave on the C-SPAN program "Booknotes" in 1991 on their then-new book, _The Coming War with Japan_. Beside having some now funny ideas about Japan (bold speculation was always their long suit, I see), it also says more about their previous careers and biographies than I've seen anywhere else. Hungarian refugee, huh. In another life he'd have been Andrew Arato. Anyway, the first part is below:


Author: George Friedman and Meredith LeBard

Title: The Coming War With Japan

Air date: June 9, 1991

BRIAN LAMB: George Friedman, co-author of "The Coming War with Japan,"

what's it all about?

GEORGE FRIEDMAN: Well, as the title says pretty bluntly, the idea that

the United States and Japan are going to have a conflict; that in the

same way that the Soviet-American conflict dominated the last two

generations, the U.S.-Japanese conflict is going to dominate at least

the next one.

LAMB: Meredith LeBard, do you really believe this?

MEREDITH LEBARD: I certainly do, especially after spending all the

time we spent researching and writing the book.

LAMB: When did you start?

LEBARD: We starting thinking and talking about this topic in 1989, and

we did some research in 1989 also. Events were happening so quickly

that we realized if we were really going to spend the time writing

this book, we would have to both give up our teaching schedules for at

least one semester, and so we did. George took a sabbatical and I

taught part-time so I gave that up for a semester, and we took the

semester and a summer and wrote non-stop, 12, 14, 16 hours a day.

LAMB: When you say "the coming war," is it a shooting war?

FRIEDMAN: Yes. I mean, the shape of that shooting war -- whether it's

going to be an all-out battle for the Pacific as the first

U.S.-Japanese war was or a surrogate Cold War where we back different

sides in various clashes, that's very difficult to predict -- but

certainly an overwhelming political conflict between two major powers

for domination of the Pacific Basin. Our basic argument is that you do

not have trade wars that are confined to trade wars. The economic

conflicts the U.S. and Japan are having now are the preface to some

much deeper conflicts -- conflicts that have been present for the past

century in the Pacific Basin.

LAMB: When did you first really think something like this would be


FRIEDMAN: When I realized that the Soviet Union had really collapsed

as an international force, that the Cold War was really over and where

everybody was really celebrating the coming of a wonderful age where

the coalition that had defeated the Soviet Union -- the United States,

NATO, Japan -- was going to live together happily and in harmony. I'm

a political scientist, and the study of political science is the study

of conflict. So as we went over the consequences of the end of the

Cold War, I began to look for the signs of the new conflict and what

would the new conflict look like. What I realized was that in history

there had been a lot of victorious coalitions, a lot of coalitions

that had fought a wonderful war -- the one against Germany is an

example -- and that in victory couldn't hold together because all of

the conflicts within the coalition had been suppressed. I looked at

the war with the Soviet Union -- the Cold War was, in a way, a war, an

intense struggle between the two powers -- and I realized the United

States had put together this wonderful coalition and now the question

was, could the coalition hold together? Would this victorious

coalition go the way of, say, the 1945 coalition over in Nazi Germany?

Then I started to think about the underlying issues between the United

States and Japan, and that led me to the kind of conclusions I came


LAMB: How did you divide up the work?

LEBARD: We both researched and we spent the long days in the library

together collecting material. When it came to the actual writing,

George would do the first draft, expressing the ideas that he wanted

to incorporate, and I would take that and craft that into the chapter.

LAMB: Where do you live?

LEBARD: Harrisburg, Pennsylvannia

LAMB: Why do you live there?

LEBARD: I don't know. We just ended up there. I came from Australia,

originally, and that's where I did my university work there. I've

lived in Harrisburg since 1978. Possibly we'll be moving out of the

area very shortly to be closer to more research libraries. We found

that the ones that we used the most were in the Washington-Baltimore


LAMB: Are you attached to a university?

LEBARD: I teach at a community college -- Harrisburg Area Community


LAMB: How about you, George Friedman? Where are you from?

FRIEDMAN: I was born originally in Hungary and I came to the United

States in the early 1950s. Grew up in New York, went to the New York

City school system, City College of New York, Cornell University for

my Ph.D., and came to Harrisburg because I accepted a post in 1974 at

Dickinson College teaching political science. My original interest was

political philosophy. Most of my early work was on Marxism, and I've

written a book on a group called the Frankfurt School, which is a

group of 20th-century Marxists. But I became increasingly interested

in the problem of international conflict and moved away and became

interested in the U.S.-Soviet balance from a military perspective.

When that collapsed, that brought me to this.

It's important to note that Meredith's contribution to the book, aside

from a lot of excellent ideas and a lot of help, was that she made

this readable. I'm a political scientist and political scientists are

morally obligated to be incomprehensible to anyone but other political

scientists. If I had my choice this book would be called "Dynamics of

Political Instability in the Pacific Basin" and would be read by 13

colleagues. Meredith's contribution was to make this a book that could

be read by what we call the learned public, which is who we wanted to


LAMB: How did you two get together?

LEBARD: We were friends before we started working on this book. We had

talked about the possibility of doing something like this together,

and when he came up with the idea of this particular topic and this

particular subject in this particular point in history and asked me to

work with him on it, I was very happy to.

LAMB: Did you change your views at all as you went through the


LEBARD: Growing up in Australia, I had the impression that Australia

was a country that was trying to decide if it was part of Asia or not.

Definitely it was no longer part of the British Empire. I think since

World War II Australians felt much closer to the United States. Our

identity was more with them. As far as Asia goes, they increasingly

were getting involved in trade and business with Asia.

LAMB: Why did you come to the United States?

LEBARD: I married an American. Actually, I wanted to come here more

than he did at the time. I was adventuresome and wanted to travel,

although he would have been happy staying in Australia at the time. We

came here and he set up a dental practice in the United States.

LAMB: And why did you come to the United States?

FRIEDMAN: Essentially because the Communists had taken over Hungary,

and my parents, who had been concentration camp survivors were also

persona non grata to the Communists, so by 1949 it was time to leave

Hungary. They went to Austria and lived in a displaced person camp

with me for several years. Finally, we got visas to the United States.

Ours is a very classic story of refugees making a new life in America.

LAMB: Dickinson College -- what's it like?

FRIEDMAN: Dickinson College is your classic, small, liberal arts

college. I couldn't have written this book without Dickinson College

because one of its virtues is that you're not confined as you are in a

university to one narrow sub- field. In a university there is a

feeling that what you did your Ph.D. on when you were 23, 24 years old

should be the dominant theme of your life for the next 40, 50 years

and it's somehow improper -- lack of manners -- to go beyond the

field. Dickinson College encourages -- urges -- its faculty to be

interdisciplinary in a genuine sense of the term so where your

interest leads you is where you ought to go. So, for example, this

semester I am able to teach a course on U.S.-Japanese relations, which

would be very difficult to do at a large research university -- to

switch your fields from political philosophy. It's a small school. It,

I guess, is one of your better schools as liberal arts colleges go.

LAMB: Who was Dickinson?

FRIEDMAN: John Dickinson, of course, was one of the signers of the

Declaration of Independence and he was governor of Delaware, and I

believe also governor of Pennsylvania at one point -- one of the few

men who held both posts. He was a very important figure, a very

conservative figure during the constitutional debates that went on,

and the college was named after him. It was founded in 1773 and is one

of the few colonial colleges in the country. I don't believe Dickinson

had very much to do with the college but Benjamin Rush, a close friend

of his, did and was a founder.

LAMB: How would you define your own personal political ideology?

LEBARD: Fairly conservative. I definitely would agree with points that

we've raised in this book. Some people have considered that it's a

book written by conservatives. We don't like to think it is. We like

to think that it's a book written by people why are objectively

analyzing the situation -- relations between two countries at this

point in history.

FRIEDMAN: Up until 1989 I would have considered myself a classic

conservative, my primary concern being the Soviet Union and

anti-communism. In a way, that's become irrelevant. I mean, being

concerned about the Soviet Union in 1991 is very different than in

1989. This book is partly the result of a conservative trying to make

sense of a world where the Soviet Union is no longer a major threat.

One of the things, I think, as a conservative I believe is there's a

constancy in the human condition. There isn't dramatic changes,

millennial changes, where everything is solved and we live happily in

peace, and the book kind of represents the search for the unpleasant

in history.

But more than that, it's a question of what is going to be the role of

the United States in a world where anti-communism is no longer a moral

compass and where, in fact, international politics are no longer

guided by the overwhelming moral considerations that the U.S.-Soviet

or the U.S.-German -- Nazi -- confrontation represented. You know, for

a very long time now all of our international relations have revolved

around very important moral issues and the nature of liberal democracy

and its relation to other sorts of regimes. Here we have a conflict

between two liberal democracies, what I call two altogether decent

nations. But what is the world going to look like when ideology is no

longer the predominant issue? That is one of the themes that I look

at. So, it's conservative -- the deep sense -- but it's kind of a

conservative-lost after the end of the Cold War.

[continued at]

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