The Future Faces of War: Population and National Security

The Future Faces of War: Population and National Security

The Future Faces of War: Population and National Security

The Future Faces of War: Population and National Security


opulation size, structure, distribution, and composition affect security in numerous ways, including national power, civil conflict, and development. The Future Faces of War offers a comprehensive overview of how demographic trends can function as components, indicators, and multipliers of a state's national security. Each chapter focuses on a particular demographic trend and describes its national security implications in three realms - military, regime, and structural. Illustrating the mechanisms by which demography and security are connected, the book pushes the conversation forward by challenging common conceptions about demographic trends and national security. Key for policymakers and general readers alike, it goes on to suggest ways trends can provide opportunities for building partnerships and strengthening states. Focusing on multiple scenarios and the theoretical links between population and security, the insights gathered here will remain relevant for years to come.


Without people there would be no power and no politics.

Sprout and Sprout (1945, p. 29)

Demographers often say that population change is like a glacier; it moves slowly, but has a big impact. For decision makers faced with immediate concerns, such as avoiding a terrorist attack in a major city or stemming the flow of illegal drugs, turning attention to the challenges and opportunities of age structure or urbanization can seem peripheral, because these changes take place over decades and are more often underlying causes of insecurity than immediate ones. From a practical standpoint, the positive or negative consequences of population issues may not come to fruition until long after policy makers have vacated their positions. However, far from peripheral, population issues of fertility, mortality, and migration are central to all facets of national security, whether it is the ability of the state to defend itself from external threats, avoid collapse, or provide for the individual needs of its citizens. Demographic trends mean that the 21st century will undoubtedly include interstate wars, civil conflict, and millions of deaths from poverty and disease, but policy plays a large role in determining who will be the future faces of war.

Statesmen from Thucydides to Kissinger have warned about the grave implications of population trends during their time. As historical writings show, the challenges of the present always seem daunting, but a combination of forces, including globalization and technology, have created an environment of increasing complexity that arguably makes today’s challenges to states greater than ever before. Not only is the security environment more complex today—with a larger number of empowered actors, more advanced technology, higher demand to react quickly, and more lethal weapons—but the . . .

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