Image: The Ratification of the Treaty of Münster, 15 May 1648 (1648) by Gerard ter Borch
Remarks on the book by its author It is impossible to formulate the answers to the complex strategic uncertainties we now face unless we first ask the appropriate questions. This is what I have attempted to do in my new book, UnCivilization: Urban Geopolitics in a Time of Chaos:1 to frame questions. And to postulate paths to the answers.
When, for example, will the modern world abandon its obsessive - and self-destructive - preoccupation with the tactical threat of terrorism, and begin to focus on the greater strategic context? How do we deal with the fragility of our now-profound dependence on energy, and the attendant long logistical lines to supply it, for every function of civilization, progress, and survival?
How and when will the lights of the great urban spread of mankind begin to flicker and falter? Will they shine brightly into the night in new places, or be sustained still in the cities which we have burnished with our familiarity? What follows when the ships and their cargoes of oil and goods come with less frequency? What happens when the surge in population peaks and suddenly goes into rapid decline? What happens to the balanced nation-state when the preponderance of the world's population lives in cities?
Will all or some of this happen soon? Will it happen at all? And what will be the result of all of this?
Is transformational change already upon us? Have we, in the midst of our striving for greater "democracy", emerged into a situation where - in most of our modern societies - the greater populations are subjects to their governments, rather than the intended goal that governments should be subject to the people? Is this part of the sclerosis of accumulated laws and entitlements?
Change for the most part occurs inexorably over the seemingly gentle sea of history; grinding, like the mills of God, slowly, but exceeding fine. What makes change tolerable - and strategic affairs manageable - is that this evolution usually appears to occur imperceptibly and with the calmness of moss growing on old logs. Sudden change causes disorientation and panic, both to individuals and societies.
The period into which we are now embarking will involve much sudden change. The familiarity of old routines, established forms, and familiar hierarchies will, in many respects, disappear. It is, indeed, already happening. And it has happened before. It is how societies, cultures, and civilizations emerge or evaporate. Individuals and societies can, however, adapt to new realities, both good and bad. In the process, they often forget the paths and triggers which led to the dramatic watersheds thrust upon them. Most people, and most societies, do not have a conscious view of their past or their future; they merely react. They are swept in a storm of reaction, and have no control over it, no understanding of it. They are the last leaves of autumn swept by blustering air, whose movement was dictated by the pull of a distant moon, the heat of a distant sun. Like the leaves, they question not the cause of their present situation, even if they bemoan their fate.
I wrote this new book, UnCivilization, to gain a measure of our present shape, as a human society, and to understand whence the gale has its origins, and whither it will dispatch us.
The book refers to "UnCivilization" because I contend that modern civilization - that state in which the entire world finds itself, not just the West - is at a transformative moment in its life-cycle. I say that the entire world is now "Western civilization" because this was the real outcome of World War II: we created a United Nations of new-model, pseudo-Westphalian and urban dominated states. Arguably, this life cycle of modern civilization had its origins in the first great globalization of Genghis Khan, who eliminated many of the borders of Eurasia; borders or fiefdoms which had grown up around clan, tribal, and ethnic groups. …
Gregory Copley, an Australian, born in Perth, Western Australia, has served as an adviser on strategic issues to a number of governments and leaders. He is Editor-in-Chief of Defense & Foreign Affairs publications, and Director of Intelligence at the Global Information System (GIS), an on-line, encrypted-access, global intelligence service which provides strategic current intelligence to governments. He is President of the International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA), based near Washington, DC. He has authored or co-authored more than 30 books, and several thousand articles, papers, and lectures on strategic issues, history, and other topics. He has written two books of poetry. His recent books include The Art of Victory, and Energy 2.0. He has owned shipyards, developed airlines, and owned other heavy engineering, and design companies. As a journalist, he has covered many wars, reporting his analysis from all sides of the conflicts. Gregory has received a number of orders and decorations from governments, including, in 2007, being made a Member of the Order of Australia for his contributions to the international community in the field of strategic analysis. In 2010 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. He is an avid yachtsman, flyer, and racing car enthusiast.