26 September 2023

Big Wars: Why do they happen and when will the next one be?

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By John Storey, Hybrid Publishers, $39.99.

The title asks a sizeable question on the front cover of what is an extraordinarily interesting tome on military history.

Lawyer and historian John Storey explores these (and more) questions by looking at the evolution of military technology and tactics over the long history of warfare. He says there’s a very real chance there will be another big war by the middle of this century, and even goes as far as to predict a date: 6 August 2045.

To explain why, we need to first understand why World War II was the biggest and most destructive war in history and why there has not been a big one since. According to Storey, the reasons for why the Second World War was so big is what led him to two further conclusions.

“The first is that in many respects we have been lucky that the big wars we had in the twentieth century were not even bigger and worse than they were. The second is that the circumstances that brought about the biggest war of all are likely, based on current trends, to return by mid-century.”

For two centuries wars have grown ever larger, with the use of more terrible weapons and rising casualties, and the cataclysmic global events of 1939-45. Then, quite suddenly, large international wars have all but disappeared.

Further inquiries are explored, through more than 500 pages, by looking at the evolution of military technology and tactics over the long history of warfare. From ancient bronze spears and chariots to World War II tanks and warplanes, from the nuclear weapons of the Cold War to the drones and robotics of the future, the changes in our methods of waging war have had, and will continue to have, a major impact on their size and destructiveness.

Storey makes an eye-opening conclusion, based on past trends and the weapons in the pipeline for the future: there is a much higher risk of there being much bigger wars in the coming decades.

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