The Senior Army will today be flying to the Middle East to monitor the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority as they embark on the latest US-EU brokered peace deal.
Sergeant James Blackwell of the United Nations Joint Tactical Peace Keeping Force is the youngest man in his position in 20 years, he’s 63. Most of his squad treat him with good-natured affection. “It’s hard to take the young whippersnapper seriously, but he’s good at his job,” says Corporal Wally Stokes, 83.
In 2053 the European Union announced that it was unable to support peacekeeping efforts around the world since they were unwilling to risk their increasingly small number of young people.
With more than 70% of the EU’s population over the age of 60 and their economy entirely reliant on the productive 15% of young people of working age they could do no other.
Then, in 2055, a brave political lightweight at the European Union declared that he would limit recruitment to the armed forces only to those over the age of 60.
That man was Philippe Letacier, then 59. The following year he registered as a reservist on his birthday.
Advanced technologies will help the ‘Senior Service’ as it embarks on its most hazardous task to date.
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ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
What exactly will we do to adapt to a world filled with over-sixties who insist on being retired? How important will productive youngsters become when an increasingly smaller part of the population has to support everyone else?
1948 – 2003: UN Peacekeepers
The United Nations was created in the aftermath of World War II and the aim was to ”save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (words of the Charter). The first UN peacekeeping operation takes place where military observers are sent to supervise the truce in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The first armed UN peacekeeping force is sent to keep the peace during the Suez Crisis. From 1957 to 2003 there were 55 UN peacekeeping operations. In August of 2003, 37 000 total UN peacekeepers were in 13 peacekeeping missions, from 89 countries. Total UN peacekeeping expenses peaked between 1994 and 1995; at the end of 1995 the total cost was just over US$ 3.5 billion. Total UN peacekeeping costs for 2000, including operations funded from the UN regular budget as well as the peacekeeping budget, were on the order of US$ 2.2 billion.
Peacekeeping has also been viewed as a threat to the participating militaries. It has been worried that many peacekeeping operations will erode the combat ability of troops and make it harder for them to fight a real war. Peacekeeping has also been found to be extremely stressful, and there are higher rates of mental problems, suicide, and substance abuse among former peacekeepers than the general population. UN peacekeepers have also suffered a high level of deaths from violence against them.
1990s: Land Warrior Project
The US begins researching network-centric warfare. One key component of their future vision is network-enabled infantry. The Land Warrior project takes wearable computing to its logical conclusion, linking together components such as a radio system, a rifle-mounted video camera and thermal sight, and GPS (enhanced by a dead-reckoning module that tracks the soldier’s movement, increasing robustness and accuracy). The total support system weighs 45 kg.
In early 1995, USMC LtGen Anthony Zinni was charged with protecting the final withdrawal of UN forces from Somalia and explored the prospects of using non-lethal weapons (NLW). LtGen Zinni asked for quick response to field a NLW capability. The US Marine Corps and the US Army teamed to provide available NLW technology for use in and around Mogadishu. Although the NLW effects were marginal, LtGen Zinni’s aggressive support added credibility to the NLW effort. NLW prove popular in peacekeeping initiatives.
2004: European Population Falls
The European Union population is 380 million and, despite net immigration of 1 million people, fell by 0.8% from 2003.
Enlistment in the military is restricted to people with a high school diploma — a 99.2 percent rate for the Air Force as opposed to about 90 percent for the other services. Age standards also differ; the Air Force maximum enlistment age is 28 and the other services’ age ceiling is 35.
DARPA Challenge to build an autonomously acting vehicle that will complete a defined obstacle course fails. Automated robotic lawnmowers enter service at major golf courses.
2010 – 2025: Baby Boomers retire
The Baby Boomers retire triggers a massive drop in production followed by significant efficiency gains as new technology is released to assist the remaining workers. Europe’s working population plummets by 18%.
Recognising their shrinking role in world events, the EU agrees to combine Britain’s and France’s Security Council seats at the UN to a single EU seat. The extra seat is taken up by India. America’s population eases past that of the EU.
Peacekeeping operations supplemented by autonomously acting robots. These are not artificial intelligences but are able to act to support soldiers in the field and to carry out initial military operations. This dramatically reduces the risk and requirements of the regular services allowing them to become more specialised.
2035: Pension Riots
Each worker in the EU supports one retiree – 50% of their total income is paid in tax. Riots in Berlin, Paris and other major EU cities as workers confront retirees over benefits. Mass emigration results in further tightening of pensions benefits. After much debate, retirement age is raised to 75 by an EU directive.
New types of power technology: micro-turbines and light-weight fuel cells enter service. Mechanically assisted body-armour mimics insect skeleton-to-power ratios for infantry.
2050: World Population Peaks
World population hits 9 billion, the highest it will ever get, and starts to decline. Senior Army concept introduced in 2054.
2074: The Senior Army dropped into war zone
The Senior Army is dropped into the conflict in Israel to assist with the latest Arab-Israeli peace initiative.
Modern technology has come to the service of the Senior Army. Light body armour has electronic assistance to speed up reflexes. Most of the heavy work is done by drones or autonomously acting robotic vehicles. However, eventually, real peacekeepers are required to actually get out there and do the work.
After 20 years of this, however, the question is: does it work?
“Well, we had problems at the beginning,” says General Daniel Scaramanga, overseer of the Senior Service Division. “Many of the recruits didn’t cope with the fitness program and we had to modify it to take account of older people’s joints. But we have discovered that older people are far better at peacekeeping than youngsters. They have more patience and are willing to listen. Plus, developing countries have a cultural respect for older people.”