It’s a question I’m asked more and more, and not just by people who are looking to cut to the end of Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War. A war has to have a winner; this is the assumption. There are certainly losers, many who have no power over their own fate, which is part of the horror of the kind of major state conflict we envision. But it’s not that simple. This was at the core of a question very ably asked during our podcast with the Economist’s books and arts editor and briefings editor.
To explore this, and it is an individual answer, you have to put yourself in the shoes of a Directorate admiral or one of the business leaders who has aligned with the military to steer China on a path with internal prosperity and stability and external influence and control. How would a war secure both goals?
For the U.S. leadership reeling from a setback of cataclysmic proportions, victory is defined by the degree of military success but also for how quickly the world can, if it can at all, return to a prewar position of global influence. Can defeat lead to greater strength?