War Games What Will Be Our Next Conflict?

“When the number of factors coming into play in a phenomenological complex is too large…prediction even for a few days ahead is impossible” — Albert Einstein

Even though Einstein could smoke me on the GRE, I think it’s still worth a try.

Will our next foray into combat be asymmetric? I would love to be able to say that America has lost its appetite for this type of war. However, it is difficult to support this claim knowing that a maximum of .5% of our population served at the height of the War on Terror. With our projected force re-structuring, it will be all but impossible to conduct anything resembling our disposition in Iraq or Afghanistan. Our highest troop number in both countries was roughly 150,000-200,000. That’s almost half the future potential size of the Army alone, which leaves the other half either training or recouping, that is to say not ready for war. There could be a possibility of counterinsurgency waged in an indirect manner (argued during my last post), but this is unlikely as we have always been disinclined to deploy conventional troops with the intent on training foreign forces.

While it is all fun to talk about how we can affect unconventional war, the enemy’s vote is far more important to comprehend. A quick rundown of our adversaries reveals quite a bit in regards to where we have concentrated our resources;

  • Af/Pak Region: HIG (Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin) & LeT (Lashkar-e Taybah) are regional threats at best. While they are the biggest threat to our deployed military at the moment, they pose little danger to the homeland.
  • Middle East: Al Nusra / ISIS are ponds in the violent chess game that is the Syrian Civil War.
  • North Africa: AQIM acts almost as a front…cannon fodder to keep our unmanned assets preoccupied.

While, recent history has supported the theory following the possibility of a strike originating from power vacuums such as those regions previously mentioned, more credible threats have unexpectedly come from inexperienced and untrained conduits, such as the 7 July Bombers in London, Umar Abdulmutallab (underwear bomber), and various other thwarted attacks on the homeland.

If conventional war was suspect prior to the GWOT, the possible outcome of the Crimea conflict could almost cement the impossibility of such a war occurring again in the future. It may sound sick when I say that this current dynamic is actually a healthy exercise, as it should provide our government with a wake-up call concerning what a possible conventional war could look like.

Say Russia shows their hand on the table and it involves a kinetic takeover of Ukraine’s southern peninsula. At this point, I find it difficult to believe our country is mentally prepared to escalate the conflict further by reinforcing unit’s in Germany and Italy. Russia’s ground troops number close to almost one million soldiers and while they are, generally speaking, poorly equipped and trained conscripts fighting for a weak cause, there is something to be said for the fact that Mother Russia has proved before that their strength is in the numbers and they are not afraid to sacrifice them. Barring nuclear involvement, would we be willing to perform airstrikes on vital Russian targets in Ukraine? I’d venture to say polls would point towards the negative as there are multiple options within the economic and diplomatic realms that we’d exhaust prior to any military involvement.

So what this proves is that one nation could completely invade and overtake another country in Europe, one of the most civilized continents on earth, and no one will do anything about it. If there is a better scenario that can rule conventional war out of the equation…I’m all ears.

For students of the subject, war has a spectrum with absolute peace and utter war on either end. If one subscribes to the 0-10 scale, the GWOT falls around the 5.75 mark while an unlikely but potential all-out ground war with Russia resides closer in the 8.33 (repeating of course) area. Many divide the spectrum into two sections, one covering general peace and the other comprised of combat. The difficult part in using this spectrum is that there are no metrics, ie casualties, length, collateral fallout. It is only defined by classifications of conflict, in other words counterinsurgency is lower on the totem pole than international war. Also, it is too cold of a grading scale. The average US citizen feels his country may be at a 1.25, with his only connection to the war on CNN, while a village Mullah from Panjwai, who lost most of his family to the fighting, will attest to a 9.5.

One may remark at the all too specific forecast of what could possibly come in a future time of war. I would argue that as the superpower we believe ourselves to be, it is simply not enough to only be prepared for any type of war…we must be able to know what comes next.


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