What Will the World Look Like in 2035?

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Photo Credit: Army.mil

2035 doesn’t seem like an awfully distant point in the future – and it isn’t. However, the pace of change continues to accelerate and we are making significant advances in virtual reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, genetics, and other potentially disruptive fields. How will advancements in these areas combine with each other, with a changing global power dynamic, and with environmental changes to transform the world we live in? Who benefits? Who loses? And what are the unintended consequences of it all?

The Atlantic Council’s The Art of the Future Project engages artists, writers, futurists, and others on these topics and seeks to aggregate and distill their creative thinking into material which can inform and guide the politicians, analysts, and decision-makers who will have a hand in how wildly disruptive advancements or challenges are managed.

Two things really set this project apart. First, it is amazingly open to different perspectives. There is no group-think or aversion to new ideas here. A lot of initiatives will claim the same openness but bureaucracy or bias will creep in and eventually dull the product. It is, unfortunately, more common than not. The project’s openness to outside participation is also encouraging. Literally anyone can submit a creative work for review. This is an outstanding opportunity for non-traditional but visionary thinkers to sidestep bureaucratic obstacles or traditional silos and have their work presented to people who are in position to act on it.

The group is currently seeking new submissions via one of their featured challenges. Winners will receive a $500 honorarium. While the monetary award is nice I suspect most Blogs of War readers will find the opportunity to be part of the conversation even more rewarding. Click through for submission details and (fast approaching) deadlines and good luck.

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A Look at Transnational Crime from a National Security Perspective

Andrew Trabulsi, entrepreneur, consultant, and co-editor of Warlords, Inc.: Black Markets, Broken States, and the Rise of the Warlord Entrepreneur, joined me on Covert Contact (episode 42) to discuss the growing impact of transnational crime and how it intersects with destabilizing forces ranging from empowered individuals, to terrorist organizations, to rogue governments.

The key question at the heart of this discussion is our response. How can large bureaucratic organizations, such as the U.S. intelligence community, position themselves to counter incredibly nimble (and increasingly empowered) actors who are unconstrained by law or ethics? We just scratch the surface here but this episode will be followed by several more focused discussions with Andrew as we search for answers. You can listen to the episode here.

This episode is part of a longer discussion that will span two episodes. The second will be released as episode 44 sometime in mid-April. Subscribe to Covert Contact on iTunes (or elsewhere) to have episodes delivered directly to your device as soon as they are released.

 

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Podcast: What Did Russia Gain in Syria?

Regular Blogs of War and Covert Contact contributor William Tucker joins me after a long break to discuss Russia’s intervention in Syria. Why are they there, what were their true motives, what have they gained, and where does this action fit in the context of Russia’s long-standing adversarial position with NATO and the West? We also look at Russia’s conflict with Turkey, structural weaknesses influencing their behavior, and prospects for improving their relationship with the West along the way. You can download or stream the episode from CovertContact.com and subscribe on iTunes (or the podcast platform of your choice).

Podcast production has been challenging lately but I am working to up the tempo. Two more episodes featuring Andrew Trabulsi have been recorded and are in the editing phase and additional guests are in the pipeline. As always, I’m interested in your feedback, topic suggestions, and making new contacts. Get in touch via encrypted email, the contact form, or Twitter.

 

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Marie von Clausewitz: A Biography of a Wider Experience

I have just completed a book review of Vanya Eftimova Bellinger’s biography of Marie von Clausewitz, which you can check out on H-War very soon. For a variety of reasons, I was keen to write this review. First, it was a work of military history by a woman and about a woman. Given how infrequently that happens, it was important to me to interact with the work intellectually and professionally. Second, although not officially a Clausewitzian, my thesis focused on strategic culture and I have worked in academic strategy at regular intervals both in the civilian and military schoolhouses. But the most compelling issue to me was the unshakeable identification with Marie. As I have written elsewhere I was for a long time a military spouse. And so I felt strongly that I would have something particular to offer to the discussion of this biography.

Prior to reading, what I had understood about the book and Marie’s life from advanced notice and Bellinger’s article in the Journal of Military History (which I am happy to note has been selected for the Society for Military History’s Moncado Prize), was that she was a key part of Carl’s work and a keen intellect in her own right. Constrained by the context of her time and culture, she had applied her strength to supporting and sustaining and expanding her husband’s career. As the book makes abundantly clear, she did this with vigour and success. For Marie, this path was her only choice. For me, it was driven by the exigencies of military service in the 1990’s and post 9/11 context. There was simply too much moving around to make my career a priority. Continuing my academic pursuits fit best in this format, but at many points even this was constrained by the demands of Marine Corps service. And I will note that at those moments I perversely relished the irony that conflict was an obstacle to my work as a military historian.

What I did not expect was quite how much the book would affect me. Reading the letters, her views, the life they shared, I came to realise that I knew Marie. There were portions of this work that I felt personally, that I understood because it had been my life as well. In times of barracks separation and wartime contingency, her experience was little different from mine. I too travelled to the camps and lived in the garrison outposts. We spent as much time apart as together. I wrote, if not letters, endless emails. As a historian of his endeavours, we discussed his work. And if not by social convention but by the reality of contemporary service, I also understood something of what it meant for her to subordinate her ambition to the martial life of another. I suspect that many military wives could read this book and feel the same.

Understanding this, as military historians and military personnel read this book, I feel compelled to counsel them not to look beyond Marie to Carl and the strategic lessons. In fact, forget Carl. There is more than enough already written about the man and his work. There is precious little, by contrast, on the military wife. Take this opportunity to consider Marie’s life, to understand that experience and what it reflects about the uncounted, often unheard masses of spouses who form a critical bulwark of defence. While much lip service is paid to the family, a real reckoning of their sacrifices, burdens, and efforts does not exist. Marie’s life may seem unique for having been married to one of the great figures of military history and for her contribution to his work. But in many respects she could be any wife of a military officer in the Western tradition of the last several centuries.

The history of the military wife is long – and poignantly coming to an end as the new era of the more broadly conceived military spouse emerges. As more women and openly gay men serve, husbands will begin to fill the ranks. It will be interesting to see how this fundamental change alters the landscape of military service in society. In many respects their experience will vary little from their feminine forebears, though I daresay it will be understood differently by men, as spousal subordination has traditionally been a gendered phenomenon. Fascinating times ahead, indeed, and I look forward to the day the biography of Mr. General Jane Doe is published.


Jill S. Russell is a military historian whose interests lie in contemporary security affairs. She has recently submitted her doctoral dissertation on logistics, subsistence and American strategic culture. She has worked as a defence consultant and in the American professional military education system. You can find her writing at Kings of War, Strife Blog, and CCLKOW, and on Twitter at @jsargentr.

 

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