Book Review: 7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores the Changing Face of War in the 21st Century by Andrew F. Krepinevich

In line with my present interest in current affairs because I find world events so interesting right now what with ISIS in Syria and Libya, Russians in Ukraine, Afghanistan continuing to be a failed war, Nigeria falling apart, America’s seeming inability to restrain spending, and the Eurozone falling into infighting about sovereign debt and austerity, I picked up this book because I thought it might have some interesting insights. In that, 7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores the Changing Face of War in the 21st Century by Andrew F. Krepinevich does not disappoint. The book does not presume to predict the future but it does examine seven possible and plausible scenarios that pose a threat to the US, and in some cases, the world at large.

The book itself is 318 pages of text with an introduction, seven topical chapters, and a conclusion with acknowledgements and index. The book is cited throughout but all footnotes after the fall of 2008 are used to enhance the narrative and do not reference actual publications. There are also five maps at the beginning of the book to help the reader better understand the geography of events described within the book. Published in 2008, the book retains its relevance today and its relevance had perhaps even been advanced by subsequent events.

The meat of the book and the main point are the seven numbered chapters that each describe a plausible scenario of an event or events that could plausibly confront the USA in the next two decades. They are not predictions, they are meant to illustrate potential challenges faced by the USA and highlight the ways in which America is and is not ready to confront these challenges or similar events. The seven scenarios are:

1. The collapse of the Pakistani state
2. Terrorist nuclear strike on American cities
3. Global pandemic
4. Coordinated Arab attack on Israel
5. Chines bid for regional Asian hegemony by challenging us naval supremacy in the South China Sea and Pacific littoral
6. Global economic warfare on shipping and banking
7. Iraqi collapse following a precipitous American withdrawal from the country

All of the scenarios are interesting in the extreme. The book is actually kind of scary because all scenarios could happen and it could even be argued that the evens in Iraq and Syria since the summer of 2014 represent a version of the seventh scenario becoming reality. It is arguable that Iraq either has failed or is in the process of failing as a state due to the American withdrawal and the sectarian policies of the Iraqi government. It is certain that Iranian influence in Iraq has done nothing but grow since the American withdrawal, it is also certain that American policy makers have no clear idea of how to reverse that growth in influence.

The other scenarios presented in the book are also plausible as they represent the logical outcome of trends around the world in the preceding decades. There is not guarantee that any of them will come to pass but they could. It is known that terrorist groups seek to acquire nuclear weapons and no doubt that they would be used if acquired. It is also known that the global economy is fragile if key sectors such as shipping and finance are disrupted. The danger of pandemic was brought home by the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the ease with which infected people moved about the planet using modern modes of transport.

None of these scenarios are fated, but they bring up issues that policy makers and legislators should be concerned with when conducting crisis planning. This is not a book meant to scare people, it is meant to cause people both inside and outside of government think rationally and logically about potential events that could harm the people of the United States and wider world and think about ways those risk can be mitigated. This book represents risk management planning writ large. For that reason alone, it worth reading as the events depicted are realistic and should prompt reflection by all of us.

This is an excellent book and the style in which it is written brings the reality of potential events home. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to realistically assess potential future crises while avoiding membership in the tinfoil hat brigade. Krepinevich has done an outstanding job with this book.