16 Race & Class 51(3)
include titles such as Pandora’s Boxes: the mind of jihad (June 2007), Why they Won’t Know What Hit Them: are Arabs thinking about the consequences of another 9/11 (July 2006), Europe 2025: mounting security challenges amidst declining competitiveness (September 2008), Role of High Power Microwave Weapons in Future Intercontinental War (July 2007) and even German Liberals and the Integration of Muslim Minorities in Germany (December 2006).6
These titles are an indication of the new concerns of contemporary military futurism. The new military futurists also differ from their predecessors in their generally grim perspective on the future. In Rethinking the Unthinkable (1963), Herman Kahn attempted to demonstrate that a nuclear war might not be survivable and therefore ‘thinkable’. This scenario was intended to be positive – albeit from a hawkish foreign policy perspective – but contemporary military futurism is often extremely pessimistic in its depictions of the twenty-first century ‘security environment’. Such pessimism is partly a reflection of the prevailing mood in the US national security establishment. Ever since the end of the cold war, US security analysts have argued that the US was vulnerable to attack by elusive and unpredictable enemies that were potentially more dangerous than the former Soviet Union.
Such predictions appeared to be confirmed by the catastrophic events of September 11. On the one hand, the 9/11 attacks were ‘predictable’, in the sense that an attack of some kind had been expected. At the same time, the attacks constituted what futurologists call ‘wild cards’, ‘discontinuities’ or ‘surprising events with huge consequences’, which force a new set of expectations about what the future might contain. Some US security analysts have since added the Iraq insurgency to the category of ‘strategic shocks’ and attributed the failure to predict it to the same ‘failure of imagination’ that helped make the 9/11 attacks possible. The result is a new willingness amongst the US national security establishment to consider further ‘strategic shocks’ by ‘imagining the unimaginable’ – a tendency which has generated imaginative scenarios that sometimes owe more to apocalyptic Hollywood movies, manga comics and science fiction than they do to sober analysis.
Faced with a future that seems fraught with unpleasant surprises, the Pentagon has embarked on some outlandish and even bizarre attempts to try to reduce the element of uncertainty and unpredictability. One ongoing project aims to recruit social scientists to compile a computerised database of cultural, religious and political beliefs in every country in the world that will supposedly enable the military to predict which countries are most likely to succumb to unrest, insurgency or terrorism. In 2002, the Pentagon’s cutting edge Defense and Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) came close to introducing a ‘terrorism futures market’ based on the financial futures market, which invited bets on when and where terrorist events were likely to occur in order to predict them beforehand. This scheme was abandoned when it was pointed out that some organisations might deliberately carry out attacks in order to profit from them. In 2007, DARPA awarded Lockheed Martin a contract to develop an ‘Integrated Crises Early Warning System’ (ICEWS) that its designers claimed