Discussing The Next ‘Great War’

Chinese special operations forces. Image: CCTV.com

The battlefields of the past decade of counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are a blend of old and new. Warhorses were considered long gone and then reappeared in 2001 Afghanistan ridden by American soldiers. Drones and long-range weapons systems are used to thwart handmade bombs capable of destroying armored vehicles that would have dominated the trenches and killing fields of World War One – the “Great War.”

Looking ahead from America’s drawn out campaign against insurgents and terrorists, what might the outbreak of a 21st Century “Great War” look like? That was the most recent question that the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security asked as a part of their Art of Future Warfare project’s first creative challenge.

The breadth of entries in the project’s “Great War” short story competition used fictional news accounts to explore the outbreak of the next global conflict. Set with the task of imagining what the start of such a war might look like, writers from a variety of backgrounds weighed in with realistic but imaginative visions. With concepts ranging from weaponized Wi-Fi to swarming drones, these writers revealed scenarios set free from the constraints that often bind conventionally derived forecasts or predictions. See a summary of the “Great War” contest entries at War On The Rocks.

The “Great War” concept is important again because America’s military may be forced to confront powerful nations such as China and Russia whose militaries are training to use leap-ahead technologies and tactics to get an advantage over better funded or more numerous U.S. forces. But what wartime military and commercial technologies prove decisive when used by America, or its adversaries, remains to be seen.

A century ago, at the outbreak of the first “Great War,” brutal clashes gripped battlefields across Europe. At the cutting edge of the technology of the day, tanks, planes, and poison gas looked set to become the cornerstones of future warfare. However, just over a century since the end of that brutal conflict, we need only look back to see how much warfare has changed. Then, as now, we find ourselves in the middle of a technological revolution where the future of warfare is at an inflection point.

On March 17, the Art of Future Warfare project will host an event at the Atlantic Council to discuss how art and the creative process can shed light on the outbreak of a global conflict. With a panel that includes Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.), the Dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and former Supreme Allied Commander Europe; Ryan Evans, Editor-in-Chief at War On The Rocks; Nikolas Katsimpras, a former Hellenic Navy officer and adjunct lecturer at Columbia University who won the “Great War” short story contest; and Siobhan Gorman, former intelligence reporter with The Wall Street Journal and a Director at Brunswick Group, the event will explore these crucial questions.

Join the panel at 3:30 pm on March 17 as they discuss the role of art and creative interpretation in exploring the future of warfare: See the full event announcement.