Monday, January 2, 2023

Looking Ahead: World War VI

In 1985, Canadian historian Gwynne Dyer posited that world wars happen about every 50 years, like clockwork, and that despite whatever the participants might claim, the root cause of a world war is always the imbalance between the relative political and economic powers of the nations involved.

Further, he went on to define the five world wars that had occurred thus far in modern history as: 

I. The Thirty Years’ War

II. The War of the Spanish Succession

III. The Seven Years’ War

IV. The Revolutionary & Napoleonic Wars

V. The Great War, parts 1 and 2.

Then he jumped the shark, and came to the cautiously optimistic conclusion that while we were overdue for one, another world war could not happen in the foreseeable future as there were four highly unlikely conditions that needed to be met before such a war could become even remotely possible. These conditions were:

  1. The reunification of Germany.

  2. The decline of the Soviet Union, to the point where it could no longer maintain control of its empire.

  3. The repudiation by the Japanese of Article 9 of their 1947 constitution, followed by rearmament.

  4. And—Dyer considered this one to be an extreme long-shot—the emergence of China as a great economic power.

You may take a moment now to go refill your coffee cup and shudder, and while doing so, you might want to take a look at the rhetoric about Article 9 coming out of Japan lately. Then, when you're done with that, let's consider the question from the fiction writer's perspective.

One of the things that has always bothered me about science fiction is the implicit assumption that the future will grow in a simple and linear fashion from the present. Typically this results in a fictional future world in which either: a.) Western (read: American) liberal democratic civilization has ascended, values intact, straight to the stars, or b.) after some sort of brief interregnum, (i.e., Star Trek’s “Mad Wars”), the entire world is rebooted in a western liberal democratic mold and everything proceeds nicely from there, or else c.) we’re all blown back to the stone age and have to start over again with rocks, sharp sticks, and the wreckage left behind by Western liberal democratic civilization.


But according to a 2005 article in The Economist, (yes, we subscribe to that, too), their projections for the year 2040 indicated that the world’s dominant economies would be China, India, and Brazil, in that order, with the EU and NAFTA duking it out for the coveted position of Distant Fourth Place, and that is a prediction that seems to be staying right on track. Can you even imagine what it will be like to live in such a world?

Thus this week’s assignment. If Dyer’s theory is correct, right about the time the Economist’s projections hit home, we should be ramping up for World War VI. Who will be the major powers in the Great War of 2045? Who will be allies? Where will the major fighting take place? What will be the unimportant backwaters? And what will life look like after the war?

Now put your imagination in gear, and go!




Nota bene: Thanks again for Guy Stewart for digging through twenty years of columns to find content to fill this site while I was out of action. As I was searching the archives this morning for the exact wording of Dyer’s prediction I found this column from October 9, 2006, and realized that with only a few very minor changes I could run it today. If anything it’s even more disturbing now than it was when first written 17 years ago. Therefore, since it is also better than what I’d been planning to write this morning, here you go.

Perhaps the most significant change from the original is that owing to a simple counting mistake, the column was first published as “World War V.” You couldn’t call something World War V now. Everyone would assume it was about vampires.


Anonymous said...

Peter Zeihan predicts that China will collapse this decade, that the EU is already a basket case, and that soon only North America, France, and Nigeria will thrive. Read his books and watch his YouTube videos.