The new thriller 2034: A Novel of the Next World War tells a fictional and futuristic, yet eerily plausible, story of how the United States could find itself in a third world war. The story takes place in the over a decade from now, and the global conflict described is the result of a series of strategic mistakes and lack of foresight by the United States, as well as tensions with our adversaries reaching a breaking point.

The novel is written by former military officers Elliot Ackerman and James Stavridis. It tells an unnerving and fascinating tale of a future that all Americans should fear, which is a scenario where the United States finds itself as a weakened power in a world war against our most dangerous and undemocratic adversaries.

The book serves as a cautionary tale to our leaders and national security officials, while also speaking to a modern truth about arrogance and our lack of strategic foresight. It makes a crucial criticism of the United States that our most devastating national security crises in modern history, namely the 9/11 attacks and the coronavirus pandemic, could have been mitigated by better prior consideration of the threats we faced.

A Chinese admiral in the book claims that Americans have a moral certitude and blithe optimism that undermined them at this moment as they struggled to find a solution to a problem they did not understand. In the story, the United States is in a world war against a Chinese state, aligned with Russia and Iran, whose cyber tactics and artificial intelligence abilities far outpace those of the United States. The Belt Road Initiative, a current infrastructure development strategy for China to invest in more than 70 countries and international groups, has become a robust global initiative that has bolstered its alliance with an aggressive and emboldened Iran.

Further, the United States has a politically independent president whose administration fails to see around corners and makes a series of tactical mistakes. This results in a few maritime conflicts leading to full blown world war. From the view of the Chinese defense officials, leaders of the United States are responsible for the downfall of the country. The deregulation that had resulted in so much innovation and economic strength was now a weakness, says one of the a Chinese defense officials. The Americans have proven incapable of organizing a centralized cyber defense.

I have written about the threat of the axis between China and Russia. Together with their highly advanced abilities to manipulate data, penetrate highly secure networks, and even infiltrate our election systems, China and Russia are the top cyber warfare players in the world. The United States intelligence community maintains that the two countries pose the greatest espionage and cyber attack threats to national security. It is a judgment that by now is regarded crystal clear.

The novel is an enjoyable and swiftly paced but important read. Although it is a fictional work, it is by no means utopian. It details a frighteningly believable path to a world war. As Ackerman told Jewish insider in a recent interview, the book serves as a cautionary tale for how the United States could sleepwalk to war.

On an individual note, I am partial to this novel for a few reasons. One is the personal connection. Ackerman and Stavridis are friends of mine and, far more important, they each have extraordinary and accomplished resumes. Ackerman is a best selling author and has written a number of accredited novels. He is also a former Marine who served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart.

Stavridis is a retired four star United States naval officer who led the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in global operations as supreme allied commander from 2009 to 2013. He was responsible for Syria, Libya, the Balkans, and Afghanistan, as well as counter piracy and cyber security. He also served as head of United States Southern Command, and has earned more than 50 medals in his military career.

Finally, their novel is a real world dramatization of what I have written over the last eight years, including The End of Democracy? Russia and China on the Rise and America in Retreat and How a Loss of Legitimacy and Broken Trust Are Endangering Our Future. To be sure, I am proud to associate myself with this brilliant book by two remarkable Americans who also happen to be heroes.

Douglas Schoen is a political consultant who has served as adviser to Bill Clinton and to the campaign of Michael Bloomberg. His new book is The End of Democracy? Russia and China on the Rise and America in Retreat.