I thoroughly enjoyed this book (though enjoyed may be the wrong word in the circumstances). It is co-authored by two former Army officers who have gone on to study and work in strategic analysis in places like the FCO, RUSI, and defence academies and to engage in fieldwork in conflict resolution in some of the world’s trouble-spots. The authors have been assisted by a team of experts drawn from various fields of security around the world. The result is a collaborative effort and is a collection of essays describing plausible scenarios which could occur in the next few years.
- Paul Cornish and Kingsley Donaldson
It is explicitly based on the concept used by General Sir John Hackett in his widely influential book of 1978 ‘The Third World War, August 1985’ which berated, through the medium of fiction, an unprepared UK Government about the need to be prepared. Like Hackett’s book it continually emphasises it is not predicting the future but rather setting out some worse-case analysis of possibilities.
The model used is to set the scene by describing the existing situation and analysing trends. These are then developed by espousing what might happen and how Government and society are not necessarily aware of the dangers or are badly prepared and coordinated to deal with them. What is immediately apparent is the complexity and multi-level threats to our security in contrast to Hackett’s time set in the Cold War where the greatest single threat was considered to be war in Central Europe with the Soviet Union.
Chapters cover topics which will be familiar to members of Arrse and the book can be described as a collection of the very best threads in the serious part of the site with 90% of the content removed and then all the good material being condensed into a single volume. There’s a chapter on a resurgent Russia engaging in hybrid warfare in all manner of ways. A second chapter looks at generic environmental threats such as mass migration, climate change, shortages of food and water and health security. This is followed by a series of further scenarios located in SE Asia (China versus US), S Asia (India v Pakistan), the Middle East ( a resurgent Caliphate in Egypt) and the UK (BREXIT leads to Scottish independence, N Ireland remains in the UK but the Good Friday Agreement collapses and jihadists exploit the opportunities).
In the final chapter a most unfortunate series of events leads to impending doom as mass immigration in the Mediterranean, IS in Europe, Russia in the Baltic States and China in the South China Sea all play a role in upsetting the peace.
The message in this book is not new, but it is timely, as was Hackett’s in the late 1970s. The dictum ‘Si vis pacem, para bellum’ (If you want peace, prepare for war’) is some 17 centuries old. The recommendations include an ability to see and analyse complex threats, to be sufficiently prepared and coordinated at a national and international level and to learn to be versatile and adaptable. The book serves as a most important reminder that, even at times of austerity, it is unwise to be tempted to take a ‘strategic holiday’.