National Defense for a Brave New World

John Arquilla – March 12, 2020


National Defense for a Brave New World

The challenges the US military faces are numerous, complex, and require new ideas and approaches if they are to be fully addressed.  Threats to US national security are on three basic levels: the ongoing struggle against terrorist and insurgent networks that has dominated the past two decades — the challenge is to find lower cost, sustainable strategies (trillions have been spent on these conflicts since 9/11, with very mixed results); the vexing problems of regional powers such as Iran and North Korea; the danger posed to the security interests of the United States and its allies by a rising China and a resurgent Russia.

In the face of these challenges, the American defense establishment has yet to articulate a vision that will enable sustainable, successful operations at all three levels.  Nor has there been sufficient integration of military and non-military aspects of force and statecraft. Most importantly, the pace of technological change has quickened giving rise to new weaponry — ranging from hypersonic missiles to a growing arsenal of cyber weapons.  Against these and other technological challenges, America’s armed forces remain organized around aircraft carriers, tanks, and bombers — the dominant weapons systems of an earlier era. That these traditional systems are likely to suffer great difficulties across the spectrum of conflict, from low- to high-intensity, puts a premium on the development of new directions for national defense.



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