Editor’s Note: This essay is part of a short essay series on Future Warfare which asked what the dominant trend in warfare will be over the next 20 years.
By Lieutenant Colonel Remi Hajjar
No dominant pattern of warfare will exist in the next twenty years. Future warfare will comprise a messy amalgamation of combating extremist movements and organizations (e.g., ISIS), emergent cyber threats to national security, enemy states, threatening alliances, and unforeseen perils, which will require the US military to perform numerous operations of varying scope, purpose, and intensity. The post-9/11 Iraq and Afghanistan counterinsurgencies revealed the full-spectrum nature of early Twenty-First Century warfare, and the strategic significance of those pending outcomes will require US investment—including some boots on the ground (such as military advisors)—for the foreseeable future. Current geopolitical conditions, including rogue states such as Iran and North Korea; reactions to catastrophic viral outbreaks; instability caused by natural disasters; an increasingly powerful China; a global narcotics industry that benefits many enemies with resources and governmental destabilization; resurgent threats such as Russia; and myriad other threats and occurrences will mold future warfare and military operations. Uncertainty and rapidly changing conditions will prevent warfare from following a predictable, prevailing pattern in the next twenty years.
The US military and government must prepare for future warfare by building a multi-skilled force, and by furthering alliances. The military must develop greater sophistication by effectively cultivating warrior, peacekeeper-diplomat, leader, technological, cross-cultural, and many other vital skills to prepare for a variety of potential conflicts and operations. Education and training programs need to build a well-balanced force ready to conduct high, medium, and low intensity conflicts, and to prepare the military to successfully partner with many other governmental and non-governmental agencies. Simultaneously, the US must continue to establish vibrant alliances worldwide. For example, the US needs to further develop robust relationships with non-extremist Muslims as an effective way to defend against the rise of Islamic extremists. New and strengthened partnerships will provide the US with critical insights about rising instability and nascent conflicts, as well as more resources (e.g., intelligence, people, coalition partners, etc.) to develop effective strategies. In sum, enhanced global alliances and a multi-talented military will best serve America in preventing conflicts and in waging diverse forms of warfare in the next twenty years.