‘War' is a concept always used, but rarely appreciated. Even the term can be confusing. Some wars are long, some wars are short, some are small, some are large, and all have their own meanings, their own causes, their own times, their own technologies, their own starts, their own battles, their own stories, their own ends, their own heroes and their own villains. They are united by destruction, death, and a sundering of humanity itself. None produce good.
War is not a simple business. Wars are hard to understand; the bigger the war, the more complex the event. The biggest of wars are never understood at all, least of all by those who start them. In order to examine a war it is first necessary to examine the people in it. It is one of the greatest paradoxes of all that the largest impacts on our lives are made by those most removed from them, and the Pacific War was no exception.
In 2019, a small event in small-town Nevada involving a state politician, a handgun, and a prostitute was the turning point for the election of the President of the United States. The world turned on a seedy bar (as it has done many times, and will do many times again); the expectations of the world were smeared by a scandal and a death, and a minority party that had never been imagined to gain more than a redneck following found, with a little help from here and there, a torrent of votes coming towards it that it could barely handle. Nationalism became entrenched, internationalism was shirked and forgotten, and humanity lost hope of a society that avoided the mistakes of the past, all because of a misunderstanding over a drink.
In early 2023, the world watched in horror as the full power of technology built by those who think little of its effects as other than calculations reshaped, quite literally, the Middle East. The nationalist government across the Atlantic saw little benefit in helping an old ally, and genocide was redefined once again as a result. It was claimed as a religious war, though as usual religion was little more than a magnifying glass for more mundane and thoroughly terrestrial reasons. The end result was a shattered alliance, a broken promise, and a conclusion bloodier than had been seen for almost eighty years.
Shattered alliances were nothing new, of course. But when it seemed tacit agreements no longer meant anything at all, states began to see their relations differently. Suddenly, the only way to security was a document signed, sealed and delivered, and international relations changed irrevocably. Some fortified old alliances while others searched around, found (or at least thought they found) more differences than commonalities with their friends and more commonalities than differences with their enemies, and changed the order of the world.
The Commonwealth of Independent States
The Central Asian Commonwealth of Independent States, fearful of the power that had been unleashed on their southern borders, welded together almost faster than agreements could be signed. But their traditional sphere had grown; concerted efforts of all kinds - political, industrial, cultural, legal or illegal - saw black gold tie together two nations as the twin outposts of the CIS flag overseas. To the South Iran, a proud and progressive regional power ascendant after keeping away from the war that had eliminated all its enemies, and in truth alienated from other options only by rhetoric, formed a natural extension of the CIS' borders after its long cooperation with Russia. Along with Venezuela, intertwined with the largest Russian companies in a way that reached right to the top, Russia's reach turned from a force focused on regional domination to a global power projection machine in barely five years.
The mostly anti-American nations began once amassing armies to standards that rivalled those of the Cold War, with of the wealth required ironically obtained from the oil-thirsty United States. Complex manufacturing systems across the Russian nation and across its borders were reawakened, and by the late 2020s Cheylabinsk had regained its old Second World War nickname of ‘Tankograd', its production lines pumping out vehicle after vehicle for the massive CIS war machine. The minor nations of the CIS struggled feebly against the growing Russian dominance, but in the end necessities both practical and political saw their forces absorbed, for the most part, into the Russian army, with the governments soon little more than puppet states. Only Iran and Venezuela, separated from their ‘colleagues' by both distance and leverage, retained their own militaries.
The Midway Pact
The United States, knowing that before military conquest came diplomatic conquest, signed the Midway Pact with its old ‘allies' - in reality little more than vassals - off its western coast. Japan, wracked by some of the greatest and bloodiest political turmoil in history, was torn between pledging all to a nation that had abandoned another of its oldest friends in time of need, or attempting to cross the divide westward. In the end, though, the South China Sea proved too deep to bridge, and the political landscape of the Pacific solidified into a uniform colour on a map.
However, though they were being increasingly distanced from an independent Europe that grew closer together - and further away from the United States as a result - seemingly with every passing day, the United States did not give up its quest for allies elsewhere. South America had become the focus of a growing arms race, with Venezuela drawing on its oil profits and CIS membership to procure all the latest Russian technology while its neighbours fell slowly but surely behind. Brazil was the focus of intense political wrangling, with immense land and resources to offer to the alliance that could offer it the most, but Russia, hamstrung by Venezuelan posturing, fell behind in the race. In a rare display of cooperation the US arms giants ensured that no-one could offer more to Brazil's growing but not yet mature military-industrial complex than they, and the Brazilian president signed the Midway Pact with much fanfare and American acclamation in early 2034.
The Dragon Alliance
Lastly, the politics of fear played their role in the East. The Middle Kingdom faced off with potential enemies in every direction. To the west India was flexing its muscles and matching its strength with its equally populous neighbour in the way of any neighbouring great powers, though it could not yet provide the guarantee of security to other nations that forms the keystone of any alliance; to the north Russia's influence spread and set hard across almost forty percent of the Earth's surface once again; and to the east, a nationalistic government pursued its own interests in an increasingly expansionary manner.
Its first action in response was to consolidate its power at home. Though decades of booming economic growth had left its people most of the way through the transition from a rural economy to an industrialised one, the land had been pillaged and the environment poisoned as a result. China needed new resources to pull through the last leg - if it failed, the result would be total collapse. North Korea, long an international pariah, offered the first solution with its low industrialisation, retarded by decades of sanctions, bullying and tin-pot leadership; huge tracts of barely-developed farmland opened up (or were forcibly cleared), supplying essential food to the billion hungry mouths in China's thronging cities. North Korea's response to this sudden flood of support was unquestioning loyalty, and within a few years the borders between the two nations had almost ceased to exist.
But China also needed more than just food. Its military, now the largest in the world, could only be sustained by a continued inflow of raw materials, and with few remaining at home China turned to the People's Liberation Army Navy to bring them an overseas empire almost in the manner of centuries past. A combination of diplomatic offensives, lucrative acquisitions by the most powerful economy in the world, and missile cruisers brought small nations around by the dozen. It found its resources in South Africa, and soon trade convoys filled with diamonds, uranium and steel travelling between twin columns of PLAN white fed the cranes of Shanghai and the assembly lines of NORINCO, the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation, and many other industrial giants. This combination of resources, manpower, and fear was soon institutionalised as the Dragon Alliance.
The Pacific War
The alliances bickered, the rich got richer if they'd invested in Lockheed or Gazprom, the poor got poorer, and tensions seethed and bubbled like a pot of boiling oil in all areas of the globe. As the 2030s passed, brush wars leapt up on all continents, mostly at the hands of those in offices far from the states in which the occurred, and borders in South-East Asia, Europe, Africa and South America were redrawn almost faster than maps could be printed. The world was full of potential flashpoints needing but a spark to set them all off at once.
While most of South-East Asia had long since bowed to the bountiful trade and vast armies to their North, The Republic of South Korea persisted with its democracy as a stubborn hold-out. Yet here too storm clouds of fanaticism and terrorism heralded the opening of a new age; the mysterious, faceless Chinese Independence Activists (a name that it took the genius of a young child to connect to its true meaning a year later) claimed responsibility for vicious attacks on Seoul and military port facilities across the eastern seaboard. The sweeping crackdowns and unprecedented ‘national security' initiatives that followed drove right-wing hardliner Li Woo-Sung into power. Under her leadership, she proclaimed, no longer would South Korea sit with its back to the sea, barely daring to look over their northern border for fear of what they might find; they would forge their names into the Midway Pact with blood and prove their strength to all comers against their ‘brothers and sisters with pistols pointed at our hearts'.
In the hours before the dawn of the fourteenth of August 2039, guns thought stilled by the decades-long efforts of diplomats and heads of state barked again, a barrage of the latest American cluster shells driving a column of fire through the DMZ as Republic troops followed in their wake. Five South Korean armoured divisions sped through the 38th parallel, crushing all organised resistance by a North Korean military that was still impoverished under aid agreements conceded by China in return for a removal of American support for Taiwan. All the DPRK had left was its artillery, and over the next two days fifteen thousand artillery tubes wreaked unprecedented devastation on Seoul and its surroundings, killing countless civilians. But the reply was short lived; counter-battery fire and accurate intelligence soon brought even this resistance to heel. With most of its forces trapped and destroyed at the border, Pyongyang was caught off guard, unsupplied and undermanned, and fell just after nightfall the following day.
Some in the Midway Pact were astonished by the developments, while others only pretended to be. But America, knowing that if it abandoned its allies again it would finally lose the trust, and, more importantly, forward basing and trade opportunities of foreign lands, had little choice. By the end of the week two Marine Expeditionary Units had seized the launch facilities of Musudan-ri and USAF drone bombers had turned the Yongbyon reactor complex into a smoking ruin. Other Pact forces followed swiftly in their wake, nibbling away at smaller objectives while QB-4s rained JDAMs and Paveways on anything that moved, and most things that didn't.
Beijing was in uproar. Not since the Falklands had a government been taken so completely by surprise - the rhetoric was expected, but the armoured divisions were not. With the DPRK all but overwhelmed, Politburo meetings that ran for almost two consecutive days hammered out a plan of action that was seen as the only chance for China to avoid a war that, while they were far from certain of losing, would have at best dire consequences for the economy at home. Dragon Alliance forces went to red alert across the nation, but held their stations and tended to the flood of refugees coming across the border instead of crossing into territory swarming with drones, U.S. Marines and rampaging South Korean tanks.
Woo-sung was almost as ecstatic as the CIA. With the Dragon Alliance holding their position, it seemed as if they had gambled and won not only the land of North Korea for the South but also a diplomatic and propaganda victory for the United States that would catapult them back to world dominance. China, however, was simply biding its time. Within a week of Pyongyang's capture a mammoth PLAN fleet joined with South African freighters that had quickly replaced their bulk ore with artillery and helicopters in the first real show of strength from a Chinese ally. They steamed for the Spratly Islands in a show of force to which the United States had no choice but to respond.
The Spratly Islands had been regions fought over diplomatically for almost a century, but following the discovery of enormous oil reserves in the early 2010s, they gained new importance for all concerned. China, the most desperate for the black gold the area offered to keep the machines of the People's Liberation Army well-oiled, had built up a considerable presence including two large airstrips and over a dozen rigs. They soon found themselves outstripped, however, by an unprecedented wave of military construction ostensibly under the control of the Philippines a matter of months after the Midway Pact was signed. Claiming the entire chain as territory of the Pact, the United States moved an entire fleet into the area and started to establish long-term bases. China watched with consternation as American rigs started spring up alongside their own, pumping the oil back home to replace previously reliable sources in the Middle East devastated permanently a decade earlier.
Virtually the major player not to have a stake in the Spratly Islands was the CIS, but Russia was concerned enough about the attractiveness of Vladivostok as a replacement for the North Korean ports China had lost and the vital aircraft factories of Komsomolsk only a few hundred kilometres to its north. They also looked on with worry at Japanese vessels gathering near Sapporo; though Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands were of little strategic importance to CIS itself, they were isolated and controlled a vital reinforcement route to the Midway Pact if China staged a successful breakout from Dalian and into the East China Sea. Japan had also long laid claim to the islands in the past, which did little to comfort the CIS general staff.
For just over a week, it seemed as if the Politburo's plan had worked. With eight hundred thousand tons of heavily-armed warships sitting astride the oil pipelines that were the United States' jugular, the forces in North Korea wavered and halted their advances. A battered DPRK used the time to take a deep breath, gather its forces and covertly fortify, taking more than one leaf out of the book of the Viet Cong in the process.