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7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century

7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century by Andrew F. Krepinevich. Bantam Dell, 2009, 334 pp.

Andrew Krepinevich’s 7 Deadly Scenarios looks into possible futures of the United States. As he painstakingly points out in the introduction and conclusion, the book does not predict the future but offers “a sobering picture of the difficult challenges the United States . . . may confront in the not-too-distant future” (p. 285; emphasis added). Readers should keep this caveat in mind since some of the notional events have not occurred in accordance with the author’s timeline—a fact that might otherwise tend to diminish the validity of the scenarios.

The seven scenarios are “The Collapse of Pakistan,” “War Comes to America,” “Pandemic,” “Armageddon: The Assault on Israel,” “China’s ‘Assassin’s Mace,’ ” “Just Not-on-Time: The War on the Global Economy,” and “Who Lost Iraq?” Each follows a logical progression of events that leads the United States and the world to the brink of war or social collapse. Themes common to the scenarios include the changing role of the US military and of the United States in general. Specifically, challenges of the twenty-first century will demand more flexibility from the US military, which will only rarely fight wars for which it has prepared and trained. Similarly, Asian and Middle Eastern countries will increasingly test the United States’ customary position at the center of the global balance of power. Trends of the last 10 years lend justification to these themes.

Well qualified to write on this subject, Krepinevich is president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a distinguished visiting professor at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy. A West Point graduate who served 21 years as an Army officer, he earned MPA and PhD degrees from Harvard University and lectures at Ivy League schools and military colleges around the world. Krepinevich has made good use of both his academic credentials and military experience in writing this outstanding, sobering study.

By resisting the temptation to predict the future, the author has produced a unique, readable, and realistic book that avoids the speculative pitfalls of related efforts. Though similar to a Tom Clancy novel, 7 Deadly Scenarios is more firmly grounded in reality insofar as any of its scenarios could actually take place. For example, in “China’s ‘Assassin’s Mace,’ ” Krepinevich speaks about China’s growing antiaccess/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities and how that country might use them to challenge the United States. In a speech to senior cadets at the US Air Force Academy last year, former secretary of defense Robert Gates talked about the United States’ plan to address A2/AD. Moreover, a simple Google search of the AirSea Battle concept reveals both the authenticity of this threat and US efforts to negate it.

Even this impressive study has a few shortcomings, such as the lack of discussion of the instability in North Korea. Surely the tension between nuclear-armed neighbors that has lasted 61 years merits some attention. Furthermore, Krepinevich’s use of invented news articles, journals, or books of the future adds little to the book, unlike his effective use of historical events to explain why he thinks something will happen a certain way. For example, in “Armageddon: The Assault on Israel,” the author’s incorporation of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 adds a great deal to the validity of his arguments. Similarly, the discussion about the need for strategy or the resistance to change in the military, based on examples from World War II, is much stronger because of the historical accuracy of the facts presented. These few flaws, however, do not detract from 7 Deadly Scenarios, whose warnings of things that “might be” have much relevance to all branches of the service.


2nd Lt James W. Anderson, USAF

US Air Force Academy, Colorado

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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