Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Re-visiting the Future of War
In 2015, Castalia House re-issued Jerry Pournelle's series "There Will Be War." I rejoiced! For a long time, it had only been possible to obtain volumes in the series by judicious searching of the very best used book stores, and by 'very best' I mean the one down the street that has what I want to read. At one point, I owned this series in paperback, and re-read it many times. HOWEVER! Evidently, it is not possible to own a nice collection of military sci-fi, AND have literate sons: they take your stuff. But somewhere, at rest on any of the voluminous bookshelves owned by Patterson boys, the tattered originals rest.
I was a young father and a relatively recent vet when these books came out, and the world was a scary place then. The idea of Soviet subs lingering off the coast was given vivid imagery in 'The Hunt for Red October,' and we absolutely KNEW the madmen in the Kremlin would go to any length at all to preserve their positions. Do you remember that the Soviets shot down an unarmed civilian aircraft, Korean Air Lines 007? At the time, we all KNEW Ivan was crazy. In the face of THAT terror, the radicalized Islam that had produced the fiasco in Iran for 444 days seemed less significant.
Was it a lack of foresight? Should we have aligned ourselves with the Soviets, and produced the CoDominium in reality, in order to stamp out the current greatest threat to world peace?
I don't think so. We had a different enemy then, and a different war. Under the leadership of Ronald Reagan, America raised the stakes again and again, until it became impossible for the pitiful Soviet economy to sustain the technological war, and they folded. It was a remarkable achievement. Reading 'There Will Be War, Volume I' has brought back a snapshot of those times when we thought the bombs might fall, and were seeking space-based solutions.
Our enemy then was a formal nation-state, supporting conventional forces as well as nuclear weapons on intercontinental ballistic missiles. Today our enemy uses small arms, rental trucks, and hijacked airliners to bring about terror. Threats to national integrity mean nothing, when the enemy has no single national identity.
A MOAB might get the job done, though.
PS: This blog post only addresses some of the political changes between the time of the original publication of the series and the current re-release. The fiction is magnificent, and if it isn't timeless, it comes close. I reviewed the book here.