Op-ed: How will future wars evolve and be fought? – The Coronado News

Originally published by George Galdorisi for The Coronado News

Humans are a curious species.

We want to know things, especially about how the future will unfold. When we are young, this might include what school we will attend, if we will marry, and what profession we will embark upon.

When we are older, if we have children, we want to know how things will turn out for them. Later in life, as we complete our professional careers, we wonder what is in store for the rest of our lives.

While these are worthy issues to think about, if things turn out differently than we think they will
it is just a different fork in the road – and one that we will almost certainly survive.

However, this is decidedly not the case for the U.S. military. Understanding how warfare will evolve in years hence is crucial to our military winning or losing the next war. Our military leaders must look far into the future to set in motion the doctrine and weapons procurement to ensure that we prevail in future conflicts.

“Useful Fiction”

Fortunately, there is a new, cutting-edge, practice that the U.S. military is leveraging to ensure that we are more-ready for future conflicts than our adversaries. It is called “Useful Fiction” or FICINT (Fictional Intelligence).

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its second year and shows no signs of abating, many are asking: “Who could have predicted that Vladimir Putin would invade an Eastern European neighbor?” Some of us writing Useful Fiction did foresee this event.

In 2019, when I started writing “Fire and Ice” (my most recent novel), the high concept was this: What if there was considerable unrest in Russia due to economic conditions, and what if Vladimir Putin did what so many autocratic leaders do and tried to shift the public’s attention from their not-so-great-circumstances to an outside threat?

And what if he decided to invade one of those perceived outside threats and also hold the rest of Europe hostage to Russia’s energy?

And what if he used cyber-attacks against the West, especially the United States, and also committed acts of terrorism and genocide?

“Fire and Ice” told that fictional story, was published in early 2021, and has garnered positive reviews.

“For years, forward-thinking writers in the Useful Fiction genre have examined future warfare through novels.”


That said, I am not alone in writing in this genre, but have several Useful Fiction fellow travellers. For years, forward-thinking writers in the Useful Fiction genre have examined future warfare through novels, but in years past, U.S. officials responsible for the security and prosperity of America have disregarded these works.

As more and more writers have examined future warfare through works of fiction, this new genre of military-themed literature has emerged and thrived. Useful Fiction is generally understood to be imagining future warfare scenarios based on the realities of high-end combat and real-world intelligence—not fantasy.

Embracing new genre

No longer disregarding fictional accounts of future warfare, the U.S. national security community has embraced this new genre as a useful instrument to intuit how tomorrow’s wars will be fought.

A number of U.S. military commands and think tanks, including The U.S Army Training and Doctrine Command, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, the U.S. Naval War College, the Atlantic Council, the Center for International Maritime Security, the U.S. Naval Institute, and others, now sponsor fiction-writing contests to tease out good ideas from Useful Fiction writers.

As one small indication of the momentum that Useful Fiction has gained, I recently spoke at a Useful Fiction event at the U.S. Air Force Academy organized by futurists Peter Singer and August Cole (authors of “Ghost Fleet” and “Burn In”).

It was attended by hundreds of Academy cadets, as well as scores of officers from various commands, including the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Sea of change

There has been a sea of change in the way the U.S. national security community (especially the U.S. military) is now embracing these types of books. Several recent Useful Fiction novels, including “Fire and Ice,” which has proven especially prescient in light of today’s war in Ukraine, are helping the U.S. plan for tomorrow’s wars.

To dig a bit deeper into this topic, part of why there is such a demand for this new genre of Useful Fiction within the U.S. national security establishment is the power of narrative. Here’s how Michael Lewis, author of “Moneyball,” put it in his best-selling book, “The Undoing Project:” “No one ever made a decision based on a number; they need a story.”

Fire and Ice by George Galdorisi

My goal in writing “Fire and Ice” was not just to write an entertaining and believable military thriller, but to stress the importance of challenging our assumptions as they relate to national security. The book is available in our Coronado Public Library, and I’ll leave it to those of you who read it to decide whether I’ve accomplished those two goals.

Finally, Coronado has a vibrant writing community of beginning, emerging and established writers. For some hints and best-practices to take your writing to the next level, you can access this information on my website: https://georgegaldorisi.com/. Go to Blog at the top of the page and pull down “Writing Tips.”

George Galdorisi is Director of Strategic Assessments and Technical Futures for the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific. Prior to joining NIWC Pacific, he completed a 30-year career as a naval aviator, culminating in fourteen years of consecutive service as executive officer, commanding officer, commodore, and chief of staff. He is a 40-year Coronado resident and enjoys writing, especially speculative fiction about the future of warfare. He is the author of 15 books, including four consecutive New York Times bestsellers.