Things are not as they were. That’s an old truth, always overshadowed by the fact that our experience and learning come from the past and are the main tools with which we understand the world. We always tend to look at the world through the glasses of yesterday, trying to understand it with the books we have read and the mistakes we have made.
Nothing else is possible. We can’t learn from things we haven’t experienced or from books that have not been written. We have to make do with what we have. Untold stories from the future are not easy to listen to when you can’t avoid the clear voices from the past. The phrase that generals plan to win the last war is a little unfair, because we are all tempted to use the past as a model with which to understand the present.
In times when political, technological, military and economic changes tend to integrate and overlap with each other more and more, change is even more difficult to foresee and understand. Things in our time tend to be less and less as they were, when we look upon the world.
Not very long time ago the world was clearly and brutally divided between East and West, between planned economies and market economies, open societies and closed borders, superpowers balancing not only each other in terms of terror but also the rest of the world. It was easy and transparent to see what democracy was compared to dictatorships, and what defined dictatorships compared to free societies.
At the side of the confrontation between the West and the East, the First and the Second World, we had what was called the Third World, being beyond hope, power and prosperity. Now the Third World, just as the First and the Second did, has emerged into the same world.
Warfare was warfare. Now we still have more or less all the old conventional threats, but we have less in the way of balancing powers and less of transparency in what is going on. And what is more to that; warfare doesn’t need to be the conventional military conflict we previously understood and defined it as.
We have many new threats, coming from the fact that everyone today can make use of free societies, even those who deny their own citizens freedom, alongside all the threats coming from rapidly-developing economic powers and new leadership in the battle of technological development.
Disinformation, hacking, espionage, attacks on the net, corruption, real/fake media, political pressure, economic blackmail, political threats and military manifestations are all utilized in order to win geopolitical dominance. In the grey zone where all this can be used against adversaries or enemies without them having any idea where the threat originates (i.e. nobody knows it is you, or at least cannot prove it is you), we need to understand what is going on in our times as they are. We must be able to defend freedom. That is the whole purpose of this anthology.
Our editor is Oscar Jonsson, a leading security expert and security studies scholar. The contributions are based on pre- 8 sentations originally made at the conference Transatlantic Leadership Forum in Stockholm in November 2019. We are extremely thankful for all the contributions. They make us aware that things are not as they were, something we must understand when planning how to defend freedom, today and in the future. Because that obligation is still how things are.