Writing Back

Image: Dept. of Defense

Will Butler, 14, believes that his generation should have a voice in preparing for, and trying to avoid, future wars. One of the strongest approaches, which he explained in an essay for the Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare project, is to revive the tradition of pen pals between American children and children in war zones. The following letters are an example of what one such future exchange during the mid-21st Century might look like.


August 20, 2053


My name is Will Butler, I am 14 years old and I live in America. I know you may think that America is an evil country as you may have been taught, but I can assure you that we are all but malevolent. We spend millions of dollars and supplies every day to help countries in need and many volunteers in our country risk their lives every day at war to defeat terrorists groups such as ISIS. You probably don’t have access to the videos, but ISIS has burned people alive, cut off heads and tortured many innocent people. If they get control of your village, do not listen to anything they tell you because no matter how nice they seem, their end goal probably includes no freedom and millions of dead innocents. They do not actually care for you even if they give you food and water.

I can’t imagine how hard it may be for you over there while it seems as if we are just sitting back watching, but I at least understand how lucky and spoiled I am. No matter what our enemies say, they would kill you in an instant if you don’t do what they say. If an enemy does reach your doorstep, America and our allies will do our best to fight them back as soon as possible, and one day, you will be a free man and will be able to live a peaceful life and do what you want, say what you want, and maybe even travel to America.





December 2, 2053

Hello Will Jr.,

When our parents first started communicating through letters many years ago, I bet they never would have imagined the impact it would have on my country, your country, and even the entire world.

I am sure that this style of old-fashioned communication was a factor in the slow but steady fall of ISIS and in countering the influence here of others such as Iran and China.

With more people like my father and me informed by these letters, less people joined the terrorist group, weakening ISIS without them even realizing it. As you may know, Libya is still trying to capture my country of Tunisia, but thanks to your country and our allies, we are still holding them off strongly and even building an army of our own with you help. In a neighboring village a few kilometers away, a boy named Amar says that he has started this program as well with a kid named Josh Kert from America. Do you know a Josh Kert by chance?

Anyway, my friend said that he has actually learned a lot since he began this pen pal program and sees many other countries with a new and more informed perspective than before.

Believe it or not, a small Libyan terrorist group invaded his village not too long ago and they actually took over the area for a couple weeks and forced classes into his school. They secluded the parents from their kids and tried to teach all of these false things, and Amar knew better partly due to Josh’s letters. Not too long after their village was captured, some friendly U.S. soldiers liberated them. I believe we both like these letters because of the traditions they represent and because the Internet can’t be trusted with all of the lies, death and destruction it has brought. On top of that, we don’t have to worry about our pen pal program getting hacked. The war is almost over thanks to your country and other allies of ours. Please write back soon!

Best regards,