War in the Twenty-First Century

"T he only thing I know about war are two things," President Dwight Eisenhower said in a 1955 news conference, in his typical jumbled syntax and with his usual wisdom. "The most changeable factor in war is human nature in its day-by-day manifestation; but the only unchanging factor in war is human nature. And the next thing is that every war is going to astonish you in the way it occurred, and in the way it is carried out." He added that anyone who thought differently was "merely exhibiting his ignorance of war." To display mine, I'm going to do some speculating about what war in the twenty-first century is likely to look like.

War is a political act, so the political situation will determine who fights whom, and how. Francis Fukuyama's provocative "The End of History" thesis dominates today's debate over the political/economic structure of the future. In brief, he argues that the collapse of imperialism, fascism, and Communism means an end to war, because there is no longer any serious challenge to liberal democracy and the marketplace economy. Not everyone has achieved such a system, but everyone is striving for it.

Leaving aside such obvious objections as "what about the Chinese?" and the current situation in the Persian Gulf, the end of the Cold War -- made official in Paris in November 1990, when the members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact signed a solemn pledge to act as friends and partners in the future -- appears to prove the validity of Fukuyama's thesis.

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