By Clark Barrett
Best Defense Future of
War essay entrant
mankind proceeds into the 21st century, four factors will drive modern states
back toward a form of warfare resembling total war.
four factors are:
cultural impacts of globalization,
continuation of the information age,
populations' involvement in war, or lack of participation.
these four factors will also, counter-intuitively, require a more moral form of
warfare. Theory on the ways of war is the realm of both scholar and warrior; it
is important that they study and understand the changing nature of war.
In reference to globalization, the interdependencies created
by the global trade market, will make it increasingly difficult for the United
States to engage in war with current and potential trade partners. The
geopolitical concerns of Mackinder, Ratzel, and Haushofer have all but
dissolved as the world moves closer to a one-world community and one market.
Modern trade, travel, and communications allow near-instant interaction and
interdependency. Thomas Friedman argues that "the world is flat" and
uses the example of the dizzying number of 45 suppliers required to fabricate
one Dell laptop computer. Global corporations that straddle multiple countries
are likely to temper hostilities and force interstate cooperation.
Globalization thus will prevent the small, limited wars of the recent past.
There will have to be a true casus belli, a high hurdle to leap, for any
nation to enter into a war; therefore, however, those wars will most likely be
total in nature. The Clauswitzian trinity demands a rational logic.
"Subject to reason alone," small affronts might be overlooked, but
great affronts, if they are to be answered at all, may be answered with total
In conjunction with globalization, the continuing rise of the
information age will impact nations and prevent the breakout of interstate
wars, and it may propagate internal wars within dictatorships. The Arab Spring
of 2011 and the impact of technology -- specifically Google and Facebook --
demonstrate the political mass effect of the Internet and social media.
Arguably, these tools were both the impetus and information suppliers
required for the put-upon people of North Africa to rise up against their
Such interconnectivity threatens dictatorships, but
established nations are much less likely to go to war with neighbors as a
result. Many reasons for past conflicts are disappearing; miscommunications are
corrected in moments instead of months and information is shared. Information
is power, and shared information, as exemplified by the One Laptop per Child
program, allows the world's less fortunate to capitalize on global knowledge
and improve their condition. These programs aim to set the conditions for
mutual success and reduce the competition for scarce resources and resulting
war within and among developing nations.
The third reason for the decline of warfare, and especially of
limited war, is financial. Beyond the globalization and trade concerns, war has
simply grown too expensive, especially for the United States. In the future,
only the most severe reasons for war will justify the expense. Limited wars
will not justify the expenditure, and thus will not be waged.
Finally, there is the matter of popular involvement. Very few
people per capita serve in the U.S. military. Indeed, many decry an increasing
disconnect between the military and the people they serve. Bernard Brodie notes
that American support for prolonged, limited wars is fleeting, and why should
it not be? When nothing is asked of the polis, nothing should be
If ever there were a justification for modern total war,
September 11, 2001, supplied it. More so than Pearl Harbor, a military target,
the al Qaeda attacks and the ensuing Global War on Terror likely deserved a
total response. Unfortunately, nothing was asked of the American populace.
There was no call for conservation, no call for a war tax, and no call for
conscription. Instead, at the request of the government, Americans went to the
Thus the nation must better select the wars it fights, by
selecting only those wars it must fight. Total wars demand utilization
of all the resources of the nation, and so are the ultimate disincentive to
entering into conflicts. In the future, modern states, like the United States,
will avoid secondary efforts such as limited wars. When nation-states engage in
total wars, the state ensures the engagement of the populace by demanding
something of them.
These four factors will drive states toward the re-employment
of total wars. Interestingly enough, the same factors will also force those
total wars to be implemented with an increased focus on the moral aspects of
war. Total wars occur for clearer causes and reasons; usually the fate of the
nation is in question. Future wars will have to be clearly delineated from a
'just war' perspective -- jus ad bellum. In addition, the incentives for
waging just wars justly will increase, because with globalization and the
proliferation of inexpensive information technologies, armies can no longer
hide malfeasance during wartime. This is the critical aspect of jus in bello
-- justice in war -- or "how to fight" with honor. Take the
example of the Abu Ghraib abuses, where the immoral, illegal actions of a few
had strategic implications, undermining U.S. activities in Iraq. The further examples
of torture in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan emboldened the enemy, besmirched
the national character, and acted as a recruitment tool for the opposition.
Furthermore, immoral activity is not supported by the
nation's population or global allies. Popular and financial support diminishes
with each atrocity that makes the news. The history of the last 10 years shows
that wars fought immorally do not work.
In conclusion, war will continue to remain a viable means for
global actors to see that their interests are fulfilled. Military forces will
remain the primary warfighters, but their constituents within the state will be
more participative members of both the process of declaring war and resourcing
that war. Wars will conclude when the reasons for their entry are met or the
warring parties have exhausted the goodwill or resources of the populace.
Limited wars will rarely be pursued because they will not present a casus
belli which justifies superseding the binding effects of globalization and
information technology. Nor will a limited war present a viable purchase from
the standpoint of financial and population involvement. These four factors will
limit the number and type of engagements states will pursue in the future.
All wars will become less frequent. Total wars, though
justified by true casus belli, will be less frequent but more severe.
The supervising eyes of the global community, facilitated by information
technology, will require that even though the wars will be total in nature,
they will also need to be moral in execution.
Cark Barrett is a
colonel in Army National Guard and in civilian life labors for a big defense
contractor. This represents his own views, which are not necessarily those of
the Army National Guard nor the defense contractor.