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The Future of War is peppered with references to fiction, ranging from the 19th century The Battle of Dorking through to contemporary works such as Ghost Fleet. In one delightfully uncommon introduction to a chapter Freedman gives a brief outline of the plot to the original trilogy of Star Wars. Our understanding of what the future of war may hold has largely been the domain of novelists.

In This Article

However these supposed visionaries are fundamentally guided by the anxieties, opportunities and technologies of their times. Hence, in the aftermath of the lightning-fast Franco-Prussian War, authors raised alarm bells of the susceptibility of their respective countries to a surprise attack. Similarly the Cold War birthed narratives of failsafes gone wrong and the peculiar logic of peace through mutual annihilation.

Today, the focus of writers and policymakers alike has shifted to the possibilities of instantaneous global connection and the growing dangers of an attack on our most vulnerable infrastructure through cyberspace. However, while science fiction works may not have exactly been prescient, the majority have not necessarily been intended as forecasts of events to come. Attrition and trench warfare — not the decisive first strikes of The Battle of Dorking and its kin — characterized the military campaigns of World War I.

The Cold War did not end in a fiery cataclysm born from misunderstanding as Dr. Strangelove and its contemporaries warned. Rather, speculative fiction has always depicted narratives deeply rooted in and drawing from agitations of the present. At times authors will be ahead of their time, but more often than not their worlds are more a mirror for their own societies than a crystal ball to the future.

Freedman simultaneously arrays the narratives of fiction against the works of prominent thinkers and historical analysis. He proceeds through the history of modern warfare quickly, highlighting nuclear weapons as the turning point away from great power conflict. But the book truly shines in its analysis of how we think about war today. In particular, he highlights the role of data collection has played in helping construct modern theories of war, both a blessing and a curse.

Although present-day researchers have a greater well of information to draw upon, the difficulties of appropriately classifying war and the casualties associated with it run the constant risk of improper inferences being drawn. The result can be seen now. Decent work without knowledge of the Russian language is simply not there.

All local industry died as unnecessary. And now many people in Brussels are wondering if this market is worth the money. In this regard, the question arises, how ready are the soldiers of the 2nd Dragoon to burn in the flames of tactical nuclear strikes I think there will be three, according to the number of battalion defense areas if the efforts of politicians to knock out money for" the only barrier from Russian aggression " get out of control? I like your comment the most.

It is closest to my own assessment. Another consideration absent here is with our forces in such proximity, how would Russia or the U. There are some good insights here, but others are inexperianced junior officers playing general. It's just too bad our guns couldn't elevate high enough to mass fires on the storks. With regard to the ease of degrading or destroying an IADS, it depends on which conflict one refers to. Operation Allied Force Kosovo, and the air war in Vietnam provide some contrary examples. The difference was that the Serb operators were much better-trained and employed the disciplined Russian tactics to a fuller extent.

While not impossible to take down, modern IADS do constitute a credible means of deterrence because of the uncertainty inherent in the cost required to penetrate them. I agree in essence with Jim Greer. The things that make getting your preparation for the next war "correct" almost impossible include the inevitable gap between your preparation and the myriad realities of the complexity of the practice of war. Given the global responsibilities of the US, given the advantages of autocratic states in their immediate neighborhood, and given the eventual peace dividend which we have not seen yet since victory in the Cold War, the operative challenge is to prepare enough of the intellectual backbone of educated officers, and an expansible economy and weapons industry, and, hardest of all, national will to defeat the autocratic states in their neigborhoods.

Couching the challenges we face in the next several decades in nearly entirely theoretical terms, and glossing over the practical issues which can only be solved by the professional officer corps, gives this analysis something of the flavor of a bit too much fancy terminology, and insufficient cataloging of the challenges of practice. As an old timer who lived through the Cold War and the era of Active Defense, I would like to offer the following commentary on this well written and researched piece.


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It is representative of the intellectual thinking that Dr. I do, however, concur with Dr. Jim Greer correctly points out the examples of the success of current doctrine. The authors ignore those examples at their peril. Greer does, however, overlook the fact that Active Defense and previous doctrines did play a role in the eventual fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War; a fact I think should not be dismissed out of hand.

Doing so ignores the fact that the world after WWII weathered a myriad of serious crises Korea, Vietnam, Suez, Cuba, proxy wars in Africa, and the Arab-Israeli conflicts to name a few without resorting to the use of nuclear weapons. While I agree that nuclear proliferation does muddy the waters, I refuse to accept the inevitability of the use of nuclear weapons.

That being said, I do support their construct that any future doctrine must give more attention to counter-nuclear defense-something I see as lacking in current doctrine. Schifferle touches upon the most critical factor I believe is missing from the original argument—the role of national will. The absence of national will, however defined, is fatal to the success of any military endeavor in the long run. Additionally, I would posit that the lack of a real base of national support for any policy surrounding the current Iraqi situation has hampered the efforts of Bush 43, Obama, and Trump administrations to achieve any actual resolution.

Future doctrine must be adaptive to the many scenarios that the authors and commentators have addressed. Again, agreeing with Schifferle I caution against becoming too theoretical in the discussion. Continue the discussions but focus on the practical. Good insight. The title is a bit pretentious, but there are several correct points.


The most precious is this one: "…empowering allied nations to meaningfully resource forward security postures that deny adversary initiative in all domains instead of literally funding the Russian and Chinese militaries through counterproductive trade policies. After taking time to reflect on the arguments in this essay, I would ask the authors to review their military history if they ever received it due to cuts in PME over the years and study the Strategy of Appeasement that was encouraged by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain during the interwar years.

Many of us are also very familiar with the George Santayana quote that "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Poland was invaded on 1 September Those who support the Modern War Institute proposition, are asking for the rest of us to end up in the same predicament of For those of us that served in Germany during the Cold War, we knew what it felt like to be prepared to fight outnumbered and win.

Never mind that we were potentially outnumbered by a ratio of five-to-one in certain GDP sectors. The "Risk Embracing" Mentality was prevalent in the early 's thanks to the confidence in the Reagan Build-up and the warfighting concept to go along with the material procurement. The willingness to embrace a War with Limited Nuclear exchanges was a foundational underpinning for the Cold War force. The Big Five were tactical systems but highly representative of an Operational Maneuver mindset. In my mind, the reflections of a Positional Warfare strategy leads me to remember the failed Maginot Line fortress of the French, and highly representative of their defensive mindset.

The U. Army's warfighting concept of Multi-Domain Operations reflects an offensive maneuverist approach to warfare. In an age of opportunistic and predatorial leaders such as Putin; an offensive mindset and offensive strategies will prove to be far more effective than the PM Neville Chamberlain proposals of the mid 's. Also, a Neville Chamberlain approach will foster a debilitating and demoralizing effect on junior leaders in the force of tomorrow. Large scale conflict nation versus nation as opposed to proxy versus proxy is highly unlikely due to several constraints each exclusive to one another.

The use of economic sanctions in the modern day can be a potent weapon when employed properly. Given this fact, another deterrent is added to the equation that restrains nations from direct large scale conflict…the totality of lethality that comes from losses attributed to direct conflict, nuclear engagement, economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation would be staggering Smith, The Utility of Force and Boot, War Made New Any three of the four can combine to cripple a nation, one of the four is unto itself lethal…nuclear engagement.

Nuclear engagement can not be controlled as it is no longer just in the hands of the Russians and Americans. Try to imagine a conflict where either the US or Russia uses nuclear weapons that doesn't pull in the outlying nuclear powers…Israel, Pakistan, India, China, North Korea. Can anyone reasonably imagine a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia not prompting nuclear exchanges between long held rivals such as India and Pakistan, or Israel and Iran, or North Korea and everybody else? The threat of national annihilation that would result from a direct conflict between near peer military powers on a large scale is too painful to contemplate or risk ask the Soviets or the Europeans.

So the debate about strategies and tactics involving large industrial nation conflict is academic unless a devastating series of events would force one nation or group of nation to attack, which in that "Black Swan" scenario all bets and preparations are for naught as the defender would be dealing with a suicidal attacker and there is no preparation a reasonable nation can afford to prepare for in that situation. So as much as theorists abhor "impossible" scenarios, the current parameters of international trade and relations combined with nuclear deterrence makes large scale conflict between industrial nations so remote as to be near impossible.

Fear of nuclear conflict is what the Russian military expects from decadent Western nations. By not preparing for a nuclear conflict, the U. Credible deterrence relies upon capability and will. While the U.

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The Russian military approach in Georgia, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine has been to initiate clandestine preparatory actions followed by an aggressive takeover of foreign territory. Upon accomplishing a rapid takeover, the threat of a defensive nuclear umbrella is all that is needed to secure territorial gains. The threat of Nuclear escalation without a credible NATO response will ensure that the Russian military can continue its hostile territorial seizures unhampered.

This playbook will be replayed simply because U. Fear of a nuclear conflict is exactly what Putin expects to exploit U. The capability to respond is deterrence, the Russians can continue with their games because the us and nato has decided that absense of an existential threat, nuclear weapons are not an option because there is no limited use of these weapon systems. Armchair academics can question the political will of the nato counties but with no actual skin in the game you simply will continue this shallow analysis that every act of aggression should be met with a big foot in the ass or else we look weak.

This article raises interesting ideas massive and conventional assaults are not sufficient to win. But the demonstration is not convincing because of confusions. I do not believe that the nuclear counter-strike is an enabling capability relevant only for the "bad states" Iran, China and Russia. This capability is worth for the USA too. Moreover, I do not believe that China and Russia may use nuclear weapons just to protect extra-territorial gains.

Their population would not agree this risk because they are more and more peaceful and individualist people. Russia took more advantage of the European weakness rather than of an US inappropriate warfare capability. Crimee was possible because of large population agreement for this local russian population is a fact and was a retaliation to the US active propaganda in Ukrania… By the way, do not forget the US made the same in the 90s when pushing for the expansion of NATO umbrella throughout eastern Europe… Same errors make same diseases.

Defensive wars like WWI trench war are horrific wars of attrition. But this is determined by the tech of the day. When missiles can hit any known target with pinpoint accuracy, sitting in a defensive location is a death warrant. What is needed is even greater speed and mobility. Imagine a foot android drone. Remotely controlled by a man in a feedback suit, and as many other troops gunners, intel, command, etc… as needed.

Such mobility would make targeting difficult, zig-zags at mph are hard to follow with a tank gun or heavy weapon turret. Once a 30 ft drone got close, its strength would make turtling a tank take seconds. Eventually it takes boots on the ground, America should have super big boots.

Nothing is more versatile on the battlefield than a man, except for a Drone that replaces that man, so he can stay safe and fight from an undisclosed location, like a VIP. Once the expenditure of effort exceeds the value of the political object, the object must be renounced and peace must follow.

The authors gloss over the political objectives of Russia and China. You are correct that Russia is fearful of invasion from the West, however, you take it to the extreme when you interpret this fear as that of the West's intention to overthrow their government. There is no desire on the part of NATO to invade Russia for the sake of territorial acquisition or to establish a new government there. Likewise, China is trying to edge out U. In both cases, their virtually unchecked territorial expansion is designed to create a physical and legal buffer between their regional interests and the West.

So the question then is why are they conducting very limited military operations to establish and maintain these buffer zones? My thinking is that they are trying to preserve their territorial sovereignty and expand their regional political and economic influence by pushing the West back in small increments. If that is the case, why would they risk the calamitous destruction to their homelands brought by a nuclear exchange when, as I see it, their recent and likely future actions are designed to protect their homelands and societal structures.

War’s evolution

The proposed future war does not align with their national policy in magnitude. In-depth analysis delivered weekly - Subscribe to our newsletter, featuring our editors' top picks from the past week. Sign in Subscribe. Subscribe Login Sign up. Foreign Policy. Login Sign up. In This Review. The Culture of Military Innovation. Stanford Security Studies, , pp. BookSurge Publishing, , pp.