Fiction and Future Wars

afw-war-stories-from-the-future-book-cover

Late last year, the Atlantic Council published an anthology of short fiction and graphic art it curated during the first year of its Art of Future Warfare Project. Entitled War Stories from the Future, the collection makes good on the project’s ambition “to advance thinking [about] the future of warfare [by] cultivating a community of interest in works and ideas arising from the intersection of creativity and expectations about how emerging antagonists, disruptive technologies, and novel warfighting concepts may animate tomorrow’s conflicts.”

Writing in a forward to the anthology, Gen. (ret.) Martin Dempsey, recently retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, commends the book’s ten stories for their “power to develop the professional imagination.”

On no topic do these war stories more powerfully engage the imagination than human-machine collaboration, which Deputy Secretary Bob Work calls “the big idea” now animating the Defense Department’s pursuit of a third offset strategy to mitigate deterioration in conventional deterrence. “We will go after human-machine collaboration,” Work said, “by allowing the machine to help humans make better decisions faster.” What Work described as the “building blocks” of this collaboration—learning machines, automated systems, machine-assisted human operations, human-machine combat teaming, and autonomous weapons—are the very wonders and worries of War Stories from the Future.

As one would expect, the book depicts an array of cool machines and futuristic capabilities. A renegade pilot wears haptic gloves to command a spaceplane from the ground station of her college dormitory. The Internet of Things goes awry in the violent crash of autonomous streetcars in Seoul and the fatal hacking of a certain president’s pacemaker in Moscow. Tattoos stream data, robotic EMTs rescue the wounded and 3-D printers fabricate an airborne arsenal literally on the fly.

And women play decisive roles. Commanding palm-sized drones from a cubicle 5,000 mi. away, Karin renders real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to two female lieutenants defending a desert city against insurgents. Claire coordinates police interventions on Britons who exhibit a genetic tendency toward radicalization. A small, dark-haired woman holding an ambiguous shopping bag stands defiantly (or threateningly or perhaps plaintively) before a monstrous armored vehicle in the middle of a sunbaked highway.

Still, the compilation’s deeper insights arise from its ruminations about the complex relationship between humans and the machines of future war. While robotics and autonomy spare human flesh in these stories, the remote operations they enable also turn soldiering into a profession of physical isolation and spiritual alienation. Big-data computations drive action by helping humans make good, speedy decisions faster, but the great drama in these stories still turns on the heroic, tragic, and comic consequences of human choices.

The novelist Frederick Pohl, author of The Space Merchants, once wrote, “A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam.” So, too, in War Stories from the Future: It is the messy, odd coupling of “human-machine combat teaming,” not their elegant symbiosis, that will do the most to inspire professional imagination about the third offset strategy.

More here on the Atlantic Council’s War Stories from the Future:

http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/publications/books/war-stories-from-the-future

Arrows in the Night

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Ahmad Chalabi died late last year. Most people don’t recognize his name. Until three years ago, neither did I. That was before I wrote a review of the book Arrow’s in the Night for the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. If there is one book that helps explain why, in 2016, the United States in still mired in the Mideast, it has my vote. Here is part of what I wrote:

Only a handful of people, those in the top policymaking positions in the United States’ government in the years – and even decades – prior to OIF, understand why the United States ultimately went to war to depose Saddam Hussein. Until now.

Arrows of the Night takes the reader on a half-century journey beginning with Chalabi’s exile from Iraq in 1958, to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, to Chalabi’s work in post-Saddam Iraq. This journey is both complex and compelling as the primary subject, Ahmad Chalabi, has a larger-than-life resume of triumphs and scandal including a degree in mathematics from MIT, a doctorate from the University of Chicago, work as a university professor and a wildly-successful banker, a conviction for embezzling, and work as a CIA operative.

Throughout this journey, in all his occupations and avocations, Ahmad Chalabi maintained a singular focus – and as Bonin describes – an obsession, to overthrow Saddam’s Ba-athist regime and return to his Iraqi homeland in a blaze of glory. This was his strategy, and everything else was tactics. While the United States ultimately might have gone to war in Iraq again under the George W. Bush administration to finish what his father’s administration had not, without Ahmad Chalabi, the last half–century relationship between the United States and Iraq – and indeed the entire Middle East – would likely have been vastly different had this complex and complicated man never been exiled from Iraq, or had he merely lived quietly in exile.

This, in a nutshell, describes Ahmad Chalabi’s journey, which began in 1958 when his wealthy Shiite family was exiled from Iraq after a revolution that ultimately put Saddam Hussein in power. It describes how the young Chalabi devoted his life to restoring his family to prominence. His first coup attempt was in 1963 at age nineteen, while on a school break from MIT. His next was aided by Iranian intelligence. But as the years passed and Saddam stayed in power, Chalabi came to realize that he needed the United States to help him rid Iraq of Saddam. Only the world’s superpower could make this happen.

More on Ahmad Chalabi’s journey in this New York Times article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/world/middleeast/ahmad-chalabi-iraq-dead.html?_r=0

And in this New York Times Op-ed here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/05/opinion/why-america-invented-ahmad-chalabi.html

Advance Praise for Into the Fire

into-the-fire

Just a few months ago, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire was released for the first time as a trade paperback publication. The first book in the series, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes received high praise from all the traditional book reviews. Into the Fire continues in the same tradition. Here is what Publisher’s Weekly had to say about Into the Fire:

Couch and Galdorisi’s stirring sequel to 2014’s Out of the Ashes pits Cmdr. Kate Bigelow, captain of the USS Milwaukee, and her crew against North Korean naval and special forces units intent on seizing the ship, which has been conducting training exercises in the sea off South Korea. The North Koreans have found vast undersea energy deposits in international waters and have made a secret deal to sell them to the Chinese. Taking the ship hostage will give them leverage against the U.S., which will surely oppose this deal. Bigelow proves to be a formidable foe, managing to outrun and outgun her North Korean adversaries. She runs the Milwaukee aground on the small island of Kujido, sets up a defensive base, and settles in to wait for friendly forces to come to the rescue. Tasked with that mission is Chase Williams, director of the secret Op-Center, who with other elements of the U.S. military attempt to pull off a daring, skin-of-the-teeth operation. A terrorist attack on the United Nations provides an exciting coda.

Stay tuned to this website for more on Tom Clancy’s Op-Center

Advance Praise for Out of the Ashes

out-of-the-ashes

When Dick Couch and I were offered the opportunity to “re-boot” the Tom Clancy Op-Center series we wanted to pick the spot where we knew there would be churn when the book was published – and for some time afterwards. The Middle East was our consensus choice.

As one indicator of how this region – and this book – has remained topical and relevant, earlier this year, St. Martin’s press re-released Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes as a mass market paperback. The trade paperback was on the USA Today and Publisher’s weekly best-seller lists and continues to sell briskly. The mass-market paperback, released some months ago, was on the New York Times best-seller list.

As we suggest – this churn will last a long time. And these maps help tell the story of why the Mideast continues to churn: http://www.vox.com/a/maps-explain-the-middle-east

And read the praise for Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes in this review from Publisher’s Weekly:

Fans of the original Op-Center series created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik that ended with Jeff Rovin’s War of Eagles (2005) will welcome this solid continuation from Couch (SEAL Team One) and Galdorisi (Coronado Conspiracy). The original Op-Center, “an information clearinghouse with SWAT capabilities,” fell under the budget ax and was disbanded, but after a horrific series of bombings at four NFL stadiums, U.S. president Wyatt Midkiff decides to dust off the Op-Center file and bring the group back to life. Chase Williams, a retired four-star Navy admiral, agrees to head the new center and hunt down the terrorists responsible for the devastating attack. The trail takes the men and women of the revitalized agency into the Middle East, where they find a new plot aimed at the American homeland. This thriller procedural packs plenty of pulse-raising action. The open ending promises more to come

Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire Review

Into-the-Fire-cover-detail

Defense Media Network hosts all of Faircount Media Group’s defense, homeland security and military medicine content. Defense Media Network aggregates all of Faircount Media Group’s publications in one easy web site. For uniformed military, civilian and industry people interested in defense, it is typically the first site bookmarked and it is typically the first place they go for news and analysis.

When a book triggers the reporters and analysts at Faircount Media Group they post a review of it online. Here is the review of Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire, Defense Media Network posted:

http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/book-review-tom-clancys-op-center-into-the-fire/

Advance Praise for Into the Fire

publishers-weekly

Just two months ago, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire was released for the first time as a trade paperback publication. The first book in the series, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes received high praise from all the traditional book reviews. Into the Fire continues in the same tradition. Here is what Publisher’s Weekly had to say about Into the Fire:

Couch and Galdorisi’s stirring sequel to 2014’s Out of the Ashes pits Cmdr. Kate Bigelow, captain of the USS Milwaukee, and her crew against North Korean naval and special forces units intent on seizing the ship, which has been conducting training exercises in the sea off South Korea. The North Koreans have found vast undersea energy deposits in international waters and have made a secret deal to sell them to the Chinese. Taking the ship hostage will give them leverage against the U.S., which will surely oppose this deal. Bigelow proves to be a formidable foe, managing to outrun and outgun her North Korean adversaries. She runs the Milwaukee aground on the small island of Kujido, sets up a defensive base, and settles in to wait for friendly forces to come to the rescue. Tasked with that mission is Chase Williams, director of the secret Op-Center, who with other elements of the U.S. military attempt to pull off a daring, skin-of-the-teeth operation. A terrorist attack on the United Nations provides an exciting coda.

Stay tuned to this website for more on Tom Clancy’s Op-Center

 

Advance Praise for Out of the Ashes

publishers-weekly

When Dick Couch and I were offered the opportunity to “re-boot” the Tom Clancy Op-Center series we wanted to pick the spot where we knew there would be churn when the book was published – and for some time afterwards. The Middle East was our consensus choice.

As one indicator of how this region – and this book – has remained topical and relevant, on May 5, St. Martin’s press re-released Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes as a mass market paperback. The trade paperback was on the USA Today and Publisher’s weekly best-seller lists and continues to sell briskly.

 

As we suggest – this churn will last a long time. And these maps help tell the story of why the Mideast continues to churn:

http://www.vox.com/a/maps-explain-the-middle-east

And read the praise for Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes in this review from Publisher’s Weekly:

Fans of the original Op-Center series created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik that ended with Jeff Rovin’s War of Eagles (2005) will welcome this solid continuation from Couch (SEAL Team One) and Galdorisi (Coronado Conspiracy). The original Op-Center, “an information clearinghouse with SWAT capabilities,” fell under the budget ax and was disbanded, but after a horrific series of bombings at four NFL stadiums, U.S. president Wyatt Midkiff decides to dust off the Op-Center file and bring the group back to life. Chase Williams, a retired four-star Navy admiral, agrees to head the new center and hunt down the terrorists responsible for the devastating attack. The trail takes the men and women of the revitalized agency into the Middle East, where they find a new plot aimed at the American homeland. This thriller procedural packs plenty of pulse-raising action. The open ending promises more to come

Deep Dive Into the Fire

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Earlier this week we shared the dedication for Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes. That dedication has stood the test of time in the short time the series has been rebooted. Here is our Author’s Introduction to Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire:

The setting for Into the Fire is Northeast Asia, the center of enormous strife today and the cauldron where the next superpower confrontation could well take place. The issues causing discord in this region go back several millennia and it is unlikely they will resolve themselves in the next few years. Today’s fiction may, in every sense of the word, be tomorrow’s headlines. At the center of this story is North Korea. As Adam Johnson noted in the Reader’s Guide for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Orphan Master’s Son, “It is illegal for a citizen of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] to interact with a foreigner.” In a nutshell, this helps understand why North Korea is the most isolated nation in the world and why that nation’s decision-making is often completely unfathomable. Little wonder The Wall Street Journal called Johnson’s book, “The single best work of fiction published in 2012.”

 Juxtapose this against the widely-heralded United States “Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific Region,” and you have the compelling ingredients for conflict—you don’t have to manufacture them. What North Korea does will continue to bedevil the United States—and the West for that matter—for the foreseeable future. The Hermit Kingdom remains the world’s most mysterious place. As a Center for Naval Analyses Study noted, “The Kim-Jong-un regime has not completely revealed itself to the outside world.” Not to put too fine a point on it, North Korea would likely qualify as one of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s, “Unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

 North Korea is not new to the Tom Clancy Op-Center series. The first book of the original series, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center, was set in North Korea. The plot line for that book, published in 1995, had renegade South Korean soldiers setting off a bomb in Seoul during a festival and make it look like it was done by North Korea. Without putting too fine a point on it, the plot points of Tom Clancy’s Op-Center were skillfully manufactured two decades ago and the reader did not have to suspend disbelief to that great an extent. Now, with today’s confluence of similar geopolitical imperatives in Northeast Asia—with tensions between and among China, North Korea, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and other nations in the region flaring frequently—Into the Fire readers will have no need to suspend disbelief. What is happening in North Korea today could become the world’s worst nightmare tomorrow.

Into the Fire is tomorrow’s headlines today!

Reboot!

outoftheashes

When Dick Couch and I were offered the opportunity to “re-boot” the Tom Clancy Op-Center series we wanted to pick the spot where we knew there would be churn when the book was published – and for some time afterwards. The Middle East was our consensus choice. As we put it in Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes:

The Muslim East and the Christian West have been at war for over a millennium. They are at war today, and that is not likely to change in the near future. As Samuel Huffington would put it, the cultures will continue to clash. In the past, the war has been invasive, as during the time of the Crusades. The Muslims have also been the invaders as the Moors moved north and west into Europe. Regional empires rose and fell through the Middle Ages, and while the Renaissance brought some improvements into the Western world, plagues and corrupt monarchies did more to the detriment of both East and West than they were able to do to each other. 

 In time, as a century of war engulfed Europe and as those same nations embarked on aggressive colonialism, the East-West struggle was pushed into the background. But it was not extinguished. The rise of nationalism and weapons technology in the nineteenth century gave rise to the modern-day great powers in the West. Yet the East seemed locked in antiquity and internal struggle. The twentieth century and the thirst for oil were to change all that. 

 The seeds of modern East-West conflict were sown in the nations created by the West as Western nations took it on themselves to draw national boundaries in the Middle East after the First World War. After the Second World War, Pan-Arab nationalism, the establishment of the state of Israel, the Suez crisis, the Lebanese civil war, and the Iranian revolution all kept tensions high between East and West. Then came 9/11. While it was still a Muslim-Christian, East-West issue, the primacy of oil and oil reserves remained a catalyst that never let tensions get too far below the surface.

 The events of September 11, 2001, and the invasions that were to follow, redefined and codified this long-running conflict. It was now a global fight, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Yemen to North Africa and into Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and beyond. It was global, nasty, and ongoing. Nine-eleven was pivotal and defining. For the first time in a long time, the East struck at the West, and it was a telling blow. 

 Surveys taken just after 9/11 showed that some 15 percent of the world’s over 1.5 billion Muslims supported the attack. It was about time we struck back against those arrogant infidels, they said. A significant percentage felt no sympathy for the Americans killed in the attack. Nearly all applauded the daring and audacity of the attackers. And many Arab youth wanted to be like those who had so boldly struck at the West. 

 But as the world’s foremost authority on the region, Bernard Lewis, put it, the outcome of the struggle in the Middle East is still far from clear.  For this reason, we chose the Greater Levant as the epicenter of our story of Op-Center’s reemergence.

As we suggest – this churn will last a long time. Out of the Ashes is tomorrow’s headlines today!

Advance Praise for Into the Fire

publishers-weekly

Just a week ago, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire is released for the first time as a trade paperback publication. The first book in the series, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes received high praise from all the traditional book reviews. Into the Fire continues in the same tradition. Here is what Publisher’s Weekly had to say about Into the Fire:

Couch and Galdorisi’s stirring sequel to 2014’s Out of the Ashes pits Cmdr. Kate Bigelow, captain of the USS Milwaukee, and her crew against North Korean naval and special forces units intent on seizing the ship, which has been conducting training exercises in the sea off South Korea. The North Koreans have found vast undersea energy deposits in international waters and have made a secret deal to sell them to the Chinese. Taking the ship hostage will give them leverage against the U.S., which will surely oppose this deal. Bigelow proves to be a formidable foe, managing to outrun and outgun her North Korean adversaries. She runs the Milwaukee aground on the small island of Kujido, sets up a defensive base, and settles in to wait for friendly forces to come to the rescue. Tasked with that mission is Chase Williams, director of the secret Op-Center, who with other elements of the U.S. military attempt to pull off a daring, skin-of-the-teeth operation. A terrorist attack on the United Nations provides an exciting coda.

Stay tuned to this website for more on Tom Clancy’s Op-Center