The 21st century has started with a number of wars and international conflicts, from 9/11 to Syria. The hope that the end of the Cold War might usher in an era of peace has given way to a more fearful assessment: the world has become more volatile again and many observers, including the Pope, warn of a new global war. Is the current violent period perhaps only the prelude to more conflicts – and more complex conflicts? The speed at which new wars have arisen in recent years makes it necessary to ask what could be next. And for that it is important to divert from a linear pathway of thinking and start to debate conflict scenarios beyond radical islamism and power plays between East and West. In our book “11 Looming Wars” we do exactly that: we explore the most important new risk factors which could cause future wars – risk factors that deserve much more public attention in order to start trying to avert these conflicts. These include climate change, food shortages, information technologies, demographic shifts, the political polarization in the US, and overfishing and competition for other maritime resources.
Our book offers eleven such cases in a unique combination of hard, well-researched evidence presented in non-fiction style, and fictional scenarios that describe in vivid language how future conflicts could play out. We have co-written this book with combined deep expertise: Andreas Rinke is chief political correspondent for Thomson Reuters news agency in Berlin and has covered German and international security and foreign policy for many years. Christian Schwägerl is a freelance journalist and former staff correspondent for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and DER SPIEGEL with 25 years of experience in environment, climate, technology, science and health reporting. Together we have produced a groundbreaking analysis of the biggest threats mankind faces.
One of our scenarios from the 2012 hardback edition – a refugee crisis along a European Wall – has already become some kind of reality. To the readers of the German edition the refugees crisis was not a surprise. We have received praise from many media outlets and from top political players, including Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister. We were invited to present the book numerous times in the German Foreign Office. In November 2015 an updated and revised paperback edition has come out which describes in detail how in only three years since the first publication, the world has moved closer to our scenarios at great speed.
Here’s a summary of our book:
I. The Underestimated Dangers
1. New Forms of War
2. An Open Future
3. The Stress Factors of Tomorrow
4. Scenarios between Trivialization and Fear-mongering
5. Solutions instead of Apocalypse
II. Eleven Scenarios of the Future
1. Global Warming — War over climate control
Scenario: China builds a storage system for water from the smelting Himalayan glaciers to save this precious resource for a hotter future instead of letting it flow into the ocean. But India fears it will loose control of the Brahmaputra river and be faced with a total diversion of its water by China through a tunnel system. An all-out war is narrowly averted by the Chinese proposal that the two Asian giants should better team up to bring temperatures down with the help of geo-engineering technology. Shortly after, Asian nations start to negotiate an attempt to cool Earth’s atmosphere…
Sample translation form scenario: “The atmosphere in the office of the U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary is chilly. “Our European allies have informed us about your plans”, the politician tells the group of visitors from China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, “and our conclusion is that your plan amounts to a severe violation of international law.” The Asian officials have come to Washington to convince the US it should join the “Global Cooling Project”, a collaborative attempt to stop run-away global climate change and water rivalries in the Himalayan area by injecting millions of tons of aerosols into the atmosphere. But the US is strongly opposed to the Asian push for climate engineering because the government fears too much cooling for its own country and doesn’t want to put power over the atmosphere into the hands of the international community. “We appreciate that climate change is destabilizing your region, but that does not justify an outside intervention into the living conditions of 400 million American citizen”, the Defense Secretary says. When he realized that his visitors are determined to move ahead with their project he choses a more blunt language: “We would see it as an act of war if your alliance took the risk to catapult the northern latitudes back into an Ice Age.”
2. Demographics – Pancho Villa’s Revenge
Scenario: Millions of Hispanics form a protest march in San Diego in favor of a stronger recognition of the city’s Mexican origins. The demonstration is part of a secessionist movement which wants the US’s Southwest become a part of Mexico again. In California and in other southwestern states, Spanish speakers are now in the majority. And while the U.S. economy is faltering, the Mexican drug cartels on the other side of the border have poured their billions of dollars of profits into infrastructure and education, thus creating a stabile society. Because the American dream of continuous development and the idea of the “melting pot” now longer functions, the idea of a Greater Mexico has suddenly become attractive. The U.S. president is confronted with the decision whether he should put national interests over the right of state self-determination…
3. Raw Materials – Australia, the Land of Booty
Scenario: A gigantic Australian freighter carrying minerals is on its way to Europe, accompanied by an Australian naval ship. A sudden attack from space neutralizes the naval ship, and the freighter is captured. Behind this attack is China, which is claiming a monopoly on Australia’s mineral resources. The government in Beijing wants to satisfy China’s growing desire for raw materials in order to sustain economic growth and avert social unrest…
4. Pandemics – a post-antibiotic world
Scenario: In a British hospital, a dangerous bacterium is found that is resistant to all known antibiotics. It quickly spreads around the world, killing millions of people. The international community is able to cooperate even under these tough circumstances. But when Israel with its strong biotechnology industry discovers a new antibiotic in a secretive program, the situation changes: As it its impossible to produce billions of doses at once, the question arises who will get the new drug first.
5. Information Technology – Battle of the Sov Coms
Scenario: Lifeflow, the largest IT company in the Western world, is up in arms. The company was about to get the contract for the entire communication system of the U.S. government. But a hacker has broken into the most strongly protected data fortress and has transferred billions of dollars in military funds into private accounts. An unknown force wants to stop LifeFlow becoming a “sovereign company”…
6. Overfishing – The Protein War in the North Atlantic
Scenario: Because of an imminent collapse of the world’s fish resources, the United Nations has taken stringent measures. Huge marine protected areas are surveilled by UN green helmet forces. But as the fish populations recover, a new alliance of fishing nations forms to take advantage of the ecological recovery. Iceland, under the protection of Russia and Japan, expands its national economic zone and claims fishing rights in UN reserves. The European Union answers with the creation of mine fields around the protected areas. Is it possible to avoid an escalation?
7. Migration – The NEU (Northern European Union) Wall
Scenario: The European Union has split up into a Northern and a Southern Union after both had drifted away from each other both politically and economically for many years. This creates a huge new problem: the Northern European Union has created a Wall in order to control the influx of Southerners and of refugees from Africa and Asia who try to escape from rampant climate problems, civil wars and food shortage. When a huge crowd of refugees gathers at the Wall, trying to force its way into the NEU zone, one colonel is faced with a stark choice…
8. Food demand – Wheat as a Weapon
Scenario: China has turned Sudan into its wheat-production colony, solidifying its dominant role in Africa. But when a new, dangerous fungus is found in on field, it soon becomes clear that this threatens the entire wheat crops – not just in Africa, but worldwide. The United States offers an effective fungicide. But the remedy has a downside: it will damage the soil for years to come. China struggles with the decision to sacrifice Sudan in order to save the world from the spread of the fungus. The situation changes when the Chinese intelligence service finds evidence that the United States are not as benevolent as it seems…
9. The Deep Sea – who owns Rare Earth Metals?
Scenario: The dredgers of a German consortium harvesting manganese nodules deep in the Pacific have suddenly come to a halt. When engineers examine the damage, they find evidence of industrial sabotage. The attack rings the alarm bells back in Berlin, where politicians have carefully worked towards an internationally agreed exploitation of deep sea resources in the Pacific. Now the fragile nature of the agreement becomes obvious: with demand for Rare Earths metals exploding due to an expansion of renewable energy sources it seems that at least one nation tries to monopolize the wealth hidden deep in the dark.
10. Space – Dominance from Above
Scenario: China has launched its most advanced satellite able to intercept and analyze communication data from around the globe. This is strongly against the interests of the US that fears a new level of industrial and political espionage. With growing dependency on satellites, GPS and space-based surveillance, orbit turns into a new battlefield. Disguised as a program to remove space junk, the US attempts to stop China’s expansion high above.
11. Neurotechnology – The Battlefield of the Brain
Scenario: Following an economic collapse, Americans turn to cheap drugs from Latin America to forget about their problems. The US government is determined to escalate its war on drugs but it faces a huge problem: Fewer and fewer elite soldiers are available for covert operations, because many of them return from their deployments with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), rendering them unable to fight. The government tries to solve this problem once and for all by developing a “memory drug” that is able to erase the worst memories from combat…
III. A Robust Civilization
1. The Power of Cooperation
2. The Power of Renewal
3. The Power of Long-Term Thinking