The Future of War

Grove City, PA –-( War remains, as a Prussian general defined it nearly two centuries ago, the use of force to compel the enemy to do your will.

Strategy connects ways and means to achieve an objective. The basics of strategy apply to war whether regular, irregular, guerilla warfare, nuclear war, or insurgency.

Terrorism is a tool. It can underlay strategy but it also involves applying ways and means to achieve a goal. The same can be said for counter-terrorism. Victory depends on strategy. An inappropriate strategy cannot be redeemed by heroism, effusive bloodletting, or abundant force.

Since the American Civil War, the United States has excelled at warfare by bringing overwhelming power to bear in clearly defined campaigns where strategy reflects and implements policy. More complicated conflicts such as Vietnam and the current “war on terror” are troublesome because our enormous technological and material advantages seemingly obviate the need for in-depth strategic analysis. Additionally, the separation of policymakers from military leaders discourages the dialogue needed to obtain what President Ronald Reagan brought to fruition by clearly identifying the “Evil Empire” and corralling Congress to fund a military buildup the Soviets could not match.

In the 21st century the United States must prepare for three kinds of warfare: Standoff war, Hands-on war, and Cyber war. Each presents unique challenges but the strategic approach of tying policy to desired outcome generally applies. Get that wrong and we lose.

Standoff War involves major powers. Armies, air forces, and navies will clash. Controlling space matters. The threat of nuclear holocaust is real. Losers will pay a heavy price. Deterrence is key but that requires strategic acumen as well as heavy economic investment. The challenge for the United States is to upgrade its nuclear arsenal, invest in missile defense, and maintain air, sea and land forces second to none.


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