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War and Peace
The History of Tomorrow’s Wars

Predictions about the next big war have historically missed their marks—often by miles. But that doesn’t mean such forecasts are futile.

Published on: December 8, 2017
Michael Fitzsimmons is Visiting Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
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  • FriendlyGoat

    The history of the next big war is supposed to be that humans learned how to avoid big war. They were supposed to do that by recognizing that the weapons now in existence don’t permit winners left standing.

    • Curious Mayhem

      Mainly, they’ve learned to avoid the last big war. But that’s easy, isn’t it?

      The idea that Western publics are ready for a major war is preposterous. The only thing more preposterous is that Russia, with its collapsing population and an economy completely dependent on oil and gas exports, is also prepared.

      The next “major” wars will be fought in ways that we already see: small elite, professional units; cyber means; complimented perhaps (but not replaced) by robots. The Internet will emerge a very different thing than its origins in the openness of academic research. The next Geneva Convention will be about limiting offensive robots in warfare.

      • FriendlyGoat

        You may be right. Changes have a way of interjecting themselves unexpectedly. In some ways, bad outcomes escaped or avoided are accidental matters. Ditto bad outcomes endured.

      • Дмитрий Cоколов

        I do not know what kind of weapon will be waged by the third world war, but the fourth world war – with sticks and stones. © Albert Einstein

  • Angel Martin

    One prediction about the next war that I am sure will stand: the West will regret outsourcing its manufacturing capability to China.

  • Western society is ready for a big war. The only thing that keeps them is Russia’s nuclear weapons. Now it remains to convince everyone to die in the name of Western values.

    Западное общество готово к большой войне. Единственное что их удерживает это ядерное оружие России. Теперь осталось убедить всех умереть во имя западных ценностей.

    • Angel Martin

      “Western society is ready for a big war. ”

      I don’t think so. In case of war I am going to defect. I want to be on the winning team.

      • Tom

        I suspect that your defection would have the exact opposite effect from your desired outcome.
        Have you ever been to Russia? Their capacity to sustain a war effort is lousy.

        • Angel Martin

          Every military disaster in history starts with overconfidence and underestimating the enemy.

          • Tom

            Yes, that’s so.
            Which is why my point still stands, because you’re underestimating the people you regard as your real enemies.

          • Angel Martin

            I don’t underestimate Putin.

          • Tom

            No, you’re underestimating Western liberals.

      • Do not be naive. No one will ask you. Handle the weapon you need to be able to from childhood – in the US it is known firsthand. And about Russian schoolboys it is possible to tell and another:

        7-13, 2017 in Sofia was the first European Olympiad in Informatics for Juniors – European Junior Olympiad in Informatics (eJOI). The Russian national team won first place, receiving three gold and one silver medals. 84 schoolchildren from 22 countries took part in the competition.

        According to the 2016 survey, Russia scored 581 points on the international scale, returning to the first place in the ranking of all participating countries and once again confirming its status as a leader in primary school education.

        On November 12, the annual World Robot Olympiad Olympiad ended. Russians took a third of all medals. In the Olympiad in 2017, 392 teams from 53 countries of the world participated. World Olympiad in Robotics.

        At the same time – Source – U.S. Department of Education, National Institute of Literacy. 14% of the US population is illiterate, that is, 32 million people can not read.

        Не будьте наивны. Вас никто не будет спрашивать. Обращаться с оружием нужно уметь с детства – в США это знают не понаслышке. А про русских школьников можно сказать и другое:

        7-13 сентября 2017 года в Софии прошла первая Европейская олимпиада по информатике для юниоров — European Junior Olympiad in Informatics (eJOI). Сборная команда России завоевала первое место, получив три золотые и одну серебряную медали. В состязании приняли участие 84 школьника из 22 стран мира.

        По данным исследования 2016 года, Россия набрала 581 балл по международной шкале, вернувшись на первое место в рейтинге всех стран-участниц и в очередной раз подтвердив свой статус лидера в области начального школьного образования.

        12 ноября завершилась ежегодная Всемирная олимпиада роботов World Robot Olympiad. Россияне взяли треть всех медалей. В олимпиаде в 2017 году участвовало 392 команды из 53 стран мира. Всемирная олимпиада по робототехнике.

        В то же время – Источник — U.S. Department of Education, National Institute of Literacy. 14% населения США безграмотные, то есть 32 миллиона человек не умеет читать.

    • Washingtons vassal states are not allowed to formulate their own foreign policies – the Neocon madness has taken over.

      Russian nuclear capabilities ensures the stalemate – the Western public at large would do well to hold their war criminals accountable or the madness will continue.

      Nuclear war or not, the imaginary threat also ensures that both sides will be diverting taxpayers funds to their military industrial complexes.

      • Unfortunately this is the case.

        К сожалению это так.

  • D4x

    Samuel Eliot Morison is giving Michael Fitzsimmons a virtual head smack for writing: “Even Pearl Harbor, after all, was only a tactical success for Japan, and ultimately precipitated its catastrophic defeat.” ??? So many WhatIfs. What if Admiral Halsey’s Enterprise had not got caught in a storm and had returned from Wake to Pearl Harbor on schedule? What if Halsey had played it safe with better credentials, and passed on Spruance for Midway, which was the actual battle that “ultimately precipitated [Japan’s] catastrophic defeat.” Does the USN still have admirals with the aggression, and judgment, of a Halsey and Spruance?

    My other favorite Fitzsimmonism: “In general he finds unfolding history to have consistently wrong-footed political scientists. The end of the Cold War in particular confronted international relations theorists with a major problem,” Yes. It. Did. and still does. Which is why I am signing off to read how the young Tsar Peter fares against the Tatar Khanate of Crimea, still raiding Slavic villages for slaves in the 1690’s…
    When forecasting a world with such long histories, study more history, rely on fewer quantitative models.

    • David Goldenburger

      What Ifs are fun, I was in high school history once too.

      When writing books and conducting academic research, we tend to place our focus on facts and truth in the search of more truths, which is the whole idea. Focusing on what ifs, i.e. things that did not actually happen, tends to place ones research on rather shaky ground for understandable reasons. You are conflating two things that do not belong together. One is for fun, the other is for serious inquiry, so maybe just take it easy on the writer a bit…

      • D4x

        My high school did not teach history. Get a room with Michael Fitzsimmons to pat his back for “Even Pearl Harbor, after all, was only a tactical success for Japan, and ultimately precipitated its catastrophic defeat.”

  • Joey Junger

    Good article, and thank you for this review. There was a military historian (last name Bloch, I forget his first name) who pointed out that the Great War would be long and bloody, and he was ridiculed by the people who pointed out that since automatic weapons fired so fast and consumed so many resources, there would either be a quick victory or we would be without the materials to make everything from bicycles to lunch pails as every scrap would go toward the war enterprise. Bloch, with his monograph/short book, turned out to be correct, and the Spandaus and Vickers kept firing at each other from trenches until it got to the point where women’s dresses were made out of paper and church bells were being ripped down from belfries to be melted for bullets. Human ingenuity is a great and terrible thing. And the people whose predictions get laughed off the stage sometimes end up being the most prescient (look at Ann Coulter predicting Trump’s win on “Real Time”).

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