Thursday, April 22, 2010

What War Will the West Fight Next?

Wayne got me thinking again. He sent me a link to an article about The New Rules of War. John Arquilla, a professor of defense analysis at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, describes how he thinks the U.S. military needs to change to fight the new threats of "netwars".

He argues that a military made of smaller organizational units, that is more concerned with finding an elusive enemy and then "swarming" with overwhelming force is the new model that will best suit the conflicts that the U.S. will face in the coming years. He's certainly not the first to try and figure out how to fight the next war. 

The article is an interesting read. I'm not sure I disagree with the conclusions. Or at least not all of them. It's certainly written by someone with an agenda and someone who isn't afraid to try and push it hard. It's when the author is trying his hardest to make a point using historical precedence that I tend to disagree with his conclusions. You can't say in one place that:
Nuclear weapons were next to be misunderstood, most monumentally by a U.S. military that initially thought they could be employed like any other weapons. But it turned out they were useful only in deterring their use.
And then follow that later with:
The failure to grasp the true meaning of nuclear weapons led to a suicidal arms race and a barely averted apocalypse during the Cuban missile crisis.
Kennedy did use the threat of nuclear war to get the missiles removed from Cuba. If that isn't using nuclear weapons to deter the use of nuclear weapons I don't know what is. Yes the Cuban missile crisis is more complicated than a couple short lines. And yes there is more to the history of nuclear weapons in the cold war than simple brinksmanship. But a suicidal arms race that doesn't turn 'hot' is an example of nuclear weapons being used in a deterrent role successfully.

So just be aware that the author of the piece has an agenda and does his best to support it without giving the alternative view much credence. Standard operating procedure when you're trying to sell your particular vision of things. Still it's a look at some of the military thinking going on.

Another way of looking at the wars of the future is to look not at the type of battles but at what motivates your potential enemies.

Our New Old Enemies is an article from 1999 that appeared in the US Army War College Quarterly Parameters. Written by Ralph Peters the article ranges through a slew of ideas. From the importance of religion and belief in helping to inspire warriors to how living in a stable and prosperous country like the U.S.A. alters it's citizens views on the need or necessity for war. It's not a typical piece in that uses Judeo-Christian sources and the Iliad to make some of it's points. Not something you get to read every day.

Our New Old Enemies is particularly interesting in that it was written pre 9/11. Like almost every attempt to predict how wars will be fought in the future there are lines that stand out as naive in retrospect:
Leaving aside the threat from weapons of mass destruction, however, the United States appears invulnerable for the foreseeable future. Terrorists might annoy us, but we will triumph.
I'm not sure many would call 9/11 an annoyance and until that day not many would have considered a civilian airliner a weapon of mass destruction.

Still the two articles are good modern examples of the ever present predictions on the future of warfare. One explains the tactics and equipment that we should use in the future. The other explores the minds of those that the west may be fighting.

Here's hoping we don't have to find out if either of them is right anytime soon.

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