Scanning Retrospective, No. 18

Foresight Snippets – No. 18

[Originally published] November 2001

  • Scenarios for the New War
  • The Ultimate High Ground
  • Waging Peace

Scenarios for the New War

Scenarios are a way to create narrative views of how plausible alternative futures may unfold. They force us to consider the different ways in which different “drivers of change” could interact over an extended period of time. One of the world’s prime exponents of the scenario methodology is Art Kleiner, a professor at New York University. Working with students and faculty, Kleiner’s group identified 25 possible scenarios for how the “New War” on terrorism might play out over the next few years, up to 2005. Of these, five are considered notable for their critical implications right now:

    • An Empire Stretched Too Thin: US caught in a never-ending quagmire.
    • International McCarthyism: US wins, and becomes a social-control-oriented corporate state.
    • Black Market World: War leads to fragmentation, “gated nations,” a war between rich and poor nations, and increased reliance on underground economies.
    • Gloom and Boom: Pakistan goes radical-Islamic, leading to nuclear attacks and Chernobyls everywhere.
    • Blooming World: The only optimistic future of the five, in which the war’s imperatives change the culture for the better.

I encourage you to have a look at the more complete descriptions (and other scenarios) at the Art Kleiner web page report below. One of the above scenarios has nuclear weapons being used. If you think this is far-fetched, then consider that tactical nuclear weapons might already have been deployed in or around Afghanistan before the end of September 2001, as was reported by World Net Daily.

Sources: Art Kleiner’s New York University web page report
World Net Daily

The Ultimate High Ground

In military history, it has often been an objective of military leaders to “take the high ground” in order to gain some form of strategic advantage over the enemy. In a global(ising) world this notion of a “high ground” from which to look down upon the territory you wish to control can only be fulfilled by the space above the Earth. We have already seen how activities undertaken on Earth have been applied to space — e.g. exploration; scientific surveying; attempts at commercial exploitation, etc. The militarisation of space represents a logical (but obviously not rational) extension of this process. To date it has been fairly passive, mostly confined to surveillance, but this passiveness is not likely to continue for too much longer. Increasingly active forms of militarisation are being planned for deployment into Earth orbit. Popular entertainment culture is full of examples where space is used for miltary purposes; a recent one is the film Space Cowboys which featured a mission to an orbiting “communications” satellite which actually housed multiple nuclear warheads. Another idea was depicted in the 1985 film Real Genius which showed hyper-smart university whiz-kids unwittingly developing a space-based laser weapon which could vaporise a human target from orbit. These films may be just pieces of popular entertainment, but as “toy” scenarios they deal with space-based weapon systems which are squarely in the realm of the plausible (even if the movie plots are not), and thus bear some careful thinking about.

Sources: How Space Wars Will Work

Waging Peace

With the current “war on terrorism” being waged, and with at least two nuclear powers either involved in or situated near the primary theatre of conflict, it is timely to ask whether it might be possible to wage peace in the 21st Century with the same zeal as war has been waged in the past. Military technology has evolved to such a degree that we have had, since the middle of last century, the ability to make ourselves extinct as a species. On a bad day, it does seem that our conflict-resolution techniques have not evolved much beyond the calling of names and the throwing of sticks and stones. When our weapons actually were just sticks and stones, it made little difference to those not involved in the conflict, which thereby remained localised, contained, and had little impact on others or on the future. Of course, now, our nuclear-age sticks and stones would leave huge craters and slag-heaps uninhabitable for tens of thousands of years. So, clearly, if we wish to have a future that we would want to live in, we need to find ways to ensure it, by “waging peace” at the global level. The need for conflict resolution and foresight at the global level is so very obviously necessary…

Sources: The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
On-line book “End the Nuclear Threat” by David Krieger

Foresight Snippets are interesting, intriguing or weird things we find during our strategic scanning which may or may not have direct obvious relevance to Swinburne, but which do provide signals about what the future might be like. Brought to you by the Foresight & Planning Unit.

An archive of the Foresight Snippets and a list of Frequently Asked Questions are available at [deleted].

Copyright © 2001 FPU and Swinburne University of Technology.
Feedback is welcome. Send feedback to [deleted].

NOTE: In all the posts in this series, the original source URLs are left exactly as they were when published 20-odd years ago. This means they will almost certainly be dead links (or good ol’ 404 errors). I do not have the patience or inclination to follow-up or find any archived or re-located versions of those web pages (because, well, life is too short). But, if it really bugs you, I invite you to see if you can find archived or relocated versions of those dead-link pages. And if you do, let me know, and I’ll update these posts with due credit to your detective work.

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