Perpetual War

This is a pretty fascinating read via The Transom this morning.

What does this era of perpetual war mean for the U.S. military? First, “war” and “peace” are no longer binary conditions, as they had been for much of the nation’s history. This is one of the few times that the U.S. military has had to undertake the demands of continuous warfare while at the same time rigorously preparing for a wide range of potential future threats. Even the limited conflicts in Korea and Vietnam were fought within the context of a possible global war against the Soviet Union, and each had a relatively clear end. Today’s military must think in unconstrained ways about what could be the much different wars of the future, while simultaneously conducting wars with no prospective end points.

In the past, the periods of peace that followed periods of war gave the U.S. military time and space to prepare for the next war — to devote serious intellectual energy to thinking about scenarios for a range of these future challenges and to develop the doctrine, force structure, technologies, and capabilities to meet them. Even though the military often did not predict the next war correctly, that period of time, reflection, and investment helped make it more ready to adapt to the next set of challenges it faced. But that protected time and space no longer exist in this era of perpetual warfare, since the military will inevitably have to focus on fighting current battles and preventing them from worsening or expanding. Neither military nor civilian leaders can think deeply about the wars of 2030 when the roiling conflicts of today dominate the headlines and have immediate political and international impact.

Thus the U.S. military faces an inevitable tradeoff between maintaining readiness for today’s wars and building preparedness for the possible wars of tomorrow.

It is really worth reading in its entirety.

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Erick Erickson

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