One of my recent submissions was to an anthology seeking stories about the future of warfare. My piece wasn’t selected, but I received a rare bit of detailed feedback which allowed me to revise the story and make it stronger.
Rejections are always disappointing, of course, but even with the gracious advice from the advance reader, it stung a bit more. Mostly because in their critique, the reader noted they couldn’t see how the story commented on the future of warfare.
The point I’d failed to get across? There is none. As in no future for warfare as we’ve known it for centuries.
War culminated as an art in the twentieth century when it was decided arsenals would include weapons capable of irradiating the entire planet. Any “win” means the entire human race loses.
Since then, we’ve thankfully avoided any full-fledged war in the traditional sense.
We’ve had insurgencies. We’ve had terrorist actions (both group-sponsored and state-sponsored). Or we simply have cases of nations using their vast military might to intimidate and crush individuals through seizing territory, economic resources, or, when that isn’t enough, committing genocide.
But war between nation states is no longer possible. Nor should it be. So what remains?
Many “advanced” countries cling to their extinction event arsenals claiming such forces are the only guarantee of freedom. That attitude is even written directly into the United States constitution. From an antiquated notion of local militias used by far flung colonies to protect against an empire, that ideal has been twisted into the notion that to simply wield weapons is somehow to become free.
To spread this freedom, as a nation we regularly project our military might and occupy countries who, ostensibly, can’t be free enough by themselves. On those pretexts, we have committed ludicrous amounts of public wealth to the continued expansion of our armed forces.
A bludgeoning tool of democracy for when people simply refuse to accept freedom. Do we see the problem?
True, we have used such force to tear down authoritarian regimes (though rarely successfully build them back up), stop war crimes, hunt down those responsible for heinous acts, or even to dissuade piracy. But so often, the root causes of those scenarios seem to stem from a world trapped under the specter of being vaporized by a domineering military force. A force of “freedom”. One that often only guarantees the prosperity of those behind the military might.
Piracy off the African coast can be traced to exploitation of the African economy by Western powers. Gold, diamonds, chocolate, rare metals – the massive continent has become our source for the raw materials of this freedom we value so dearly, all extracted under slavish conditions. And we wonder why their people resort to piracy.
Terrorism too often seems to be undertaken by the terrified. A method of last resort to have their cause recognized. This isn’t to say those causes serve a common good – most do not – but if the answer to one group subjugating another through fear or force is to simply use more force, one has to wonder what lessons are learned.
(If the decades long occupation of Afghanistan is any indication, then we know the answer to that question is “not much.” Americans went on shopping while people died on the streets of Afghanistan. A war we later forced on the people of Iraq for dubious reasons.)
Truthfully, we don’t even need armies to inflict our “freedom” on others.
The reckless, profit-driven deployment of a technology designed to manipulate human psychology en mass, social media, has facilitated at least one genocide. Platforms presumably developed for innocent, social engagement were allowed to fester into sprawling global threats subject to no oversight but their own.
The army in this case? People motivated by fear-mongering, propaganda, and misinformation deployed by a “blameless” corporation for which rising share prices are the ultimate good.
The corporate landscape for warfare is even more confusing than most. From the “War on Drugs” where millions were jailed and given heavy prison sentences, or cartel leaders hunted down and extradited to face justice, we’ve recently decided that it’s okay to pursue such endeavors as long as the shareholders are content. Engaging in warfare on the American poor for decades, building up a body count of half a million people, the most the Sackler family will face is a reduction of their lavish lifestyle. Mega yachts to regular yachts. Half of their 11 billion dollar fortune taken away. No jail time. No criminal record. They’ll retire with enough wealth to fund their vampiric family for generations.
Yes, warfare as we’ve understood it is done for. The biggest challenge we now face is dismantling these entrenched behemoths so that true, individual freedom and democracy can take place.
I’ve written about this before, but humankind stands on the verge of not just a technological revolution but an evolution of human society. Changes are coming that will advance every human endeavor, each of them allowing us to realize greater autonomy from the traditional structures of governance and the greedy claws of the corporate elite.
But we’ve armed those traditional behemoths to the teeth and empowered them to completely brutalize lesser opponents. On the battlefield and in the courtroom, you can be certain they’ll fight to maintain the status quo.
As renewable sources make energy needs an individual, not a corporate concern, do you think the massive power companies will simply shutter their plants? When banking becomes as simple as two people exchanging a few bits between their phones and tablets, the transaction recorded only by an openly verifiable public ledger, do you think the financial world will just close their teller windows? That the Fed will shrug and walk away from the dollar? What of medical advances set to revolutionize healthcare, creating genetically profiled individual plans intent on maintaining health and not treating illness? Will big pharma settle for the lack of society-wide systemic diseases to prop up their bloated fortunes? And when the blockchain revolution simplifies and replaces the intentionally byzantine healthcare billing and insurance industry so gouging patients is no longer possible, what then?
Already we’ve seen how far the fossil fuel industry has been willing to go to maintain energy dominance. For decades, to protect their interests they’ve gleefully dragged the entire planet to the brink of complete disaster -just as any modern army would do- through disinformation campaigns and the silencing of scientific research.
Pharmaceutical epidemics built on addiction. Inventing predatory ways to transfer wealth then accepting financial bail outs that threaten the solvency of entire nations. There is no end to the means by with which these forces will try to maintain control.
Just last week, a small-time cryptocurrency podcast host who ran a Bitcoin vending machine in Keene, New Hampshire woke up to a federal raid. In the pre-dawn hours, heavily armed officers including two armored personnel carriers surrounded his home, smashed in windows, and deployed drones into his house all because he had the nerve to challenge the financial system status quo.
Over five years, this cryptocurrency activist processed approximately ten million dollars, some of which is claimed to have been used for money laundering and wire fraud. For that, the army was mobilized, the battle commenced.
Meanwhile, the Sacklers killed hundreds of millions of people. Profited billions on the sale of drugs. Hell, Ross William Ulbricht sits in a jail cell for creating a free marketplace that incidentally facilitated the sale of drugs. But creating a massive distribution and manufacture system for those products and duping the public into ruinous addiction? No crime at all, it seems.
The senators and CEOs murder freely, fleece the public of trillions upon trillions, and the worst they face? A public tongue lashing from the establishment who’s dipping into the same well.
There is certainly a war going on. Our individual liberty is under siege. And it’s happening right at the point in human history when we can most fully realize democracy’s full potential.
(A note for my fellow Americans – this is NOT a partisan issue.)
Voting rights are under attack as one side of the establishment struggles to remain relevant. New avenues of financial freedom are being cut off because they both defy and do not require governmental controls. Water collection has become subject to local ordinances as has the growing of your own food. Many states have enacted limits on renewable energy collection and more will follow as the renewable revolution rides a wave of technological upheaval.
None of these regulations exist to protect you, they exist to protect the behemoths. The former giants of the battlefield who have no place in a coming age of individual freedom.
In my story (which if not published elsewhere will be posted here), the “war” centers around how to disarm the holdout regimes who cling to the belief that freedom is “protected” through domination and subjugation. Whether it be military might or economic tyranny, both are existential threats to civilization. Empowerment of individuals will be the only way forward. Anything else is an illusion of freedom that will ultimately stifle humanity’s true potential.
War has no future. Armed conflict is the final tool of Empires and Nations. Anachronisms in an age of empowered people. Our future lies with you.