This year’s SOFIC (Special Operations Forces Industry Conference) provided me the rare opportunity to interview an author in person. I sat down with one of the co-authors of Ghost Fleet, P.W. Singer. He was invited to speak at the conference on topics related to his fictional book such as cyber warfare and futuristic capabilities. It seems odd that a fiction writer would get invited to speak with some of the most elite units and their military leadership, but if you read his book you will understand why.
Singer states, like most kids in his generation, he grew up reading Tom Clancy books. His book has been compared to one book in particular, “Red Storm Rising”, due to the way it was written. It doesn’t follow a simple set of characters but leap-frogs around to include a larger cast of characters that are all connected in some way. Singer said that the book includes almost everyone who would be involved in the fight against a national threat, from space command to a combat platoon. This is why the book is so attractive to so many different branches of the military and government.
The one thing that he didn’t like about Tom Clancy is that everything always works out as it was intended to…the weapons never malfunctioned and the good guys always win. In Ghost Fleet, he made sure that the story reflects reality.
Different Kind of Fictional Novel:
Ghost Fleet, is a fictional novel but it is not like a typical fictional novel. Both writers challenged themselves to find real life scenarios and capabilities and referenced them in the book. If you check out his book, you will see around 400 end notes of just that– real world events. This also helps to protect Singer as he has worked as a civilian in Washington D.C. since the Bosnian war. Working in a think tank has allowed him access to sensitive information but by citing the events from open sources, he avoids the perception of revealing national secrets.
An Unexpected Reaction to his Book:
Singer said that one of the most unexpected reactions to his books comes from the Chinese and Russians. He has been approached several times by obvious Chinese spies that will ask questions at his speaking engagements. Additionally the Russians and the Chinese have very different ways of interpreting of his book. Here is an example of the difference between the two: Chinese- “Why do you think we want to go to war with you in the next five years?” and Russian- “US states that they would not survive a cyber war with China and Russia.”
Why so Many Military Leaders are Drawn to his Fictional Book:
Both authors started with the premise that we have been fighting a counterinsurgency for over a decade and have somewhat become predictable. During our counterinsurgency fight, we have opened ourselves up to broadcasting our vulnerabilities to the world. Our enemies know that we are predictable and we operate consistently in very specific ways. We adhere to self-limitations and over-reliance on technology. Capable enemies, both non-state actors and state actors, can take advantage of these vulnerabilities. In Ghost Fleet, the authors explore this notion that WWIII would be the result of state actors, such as China, taking advantage of our technical vulnerabilities and predictabilities by making the traditional fog of war a digital fog of war. What would be some of the work-arounds that they would be capable of? What would happen if our satellites were taken out? What would a space war look like? What about countries sabotaging military exports in order to tip the balance in their favor? Singer compares the aftermath of a space war and cyber war to how we operated in WWII. We would no longer have instantaneous command and control; no longer know where the enemy or friendly forces were on the battlefield. We would lose our intelligence edge over our enemies. Our military would have to be retrained to operate without technology. Ultimately, could the absence of technology cause America to no longer be number one in the world order?
Ghost Fleet challenges military leaders to think the unthinkable. It challenges them to think through what could go wrong with our technology and how it could be exploited. It is not surprising why this fictional book has made many senior leaders’ professional reading lists. Here are some of his “fans”: Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Scott Miller, Chief Naval Operations, Marine Corps Commandant, Chief of Staff of the Army, Army TRADOC –LTG HR McMaster, Army Cyber Command , USCG Commandant, Head of Pacific Command, and Head of Space Command.
“Ghost Fleet: A New World Order” is now available in paperback on Amazon.