Future of the “nature of the character of war”
General Mark Milley spoke to The National Press Club on July 27, 2017 about changes in the “nature of the character of war” that will require modifications for the future of the United States military. Beginning at 30:52 in video link.
War is a political act
“War is a political act” where your political will is imposed on your opponent through the use of violence. The “nature of war is political.” How is the political war going to be fought in the future?
Milley believes the “character of war, the way you fight a war” and the weapons used are “going through a fundamental change”.Fighting will be in more populated urban settings and technology with artificial intelligence and robotics will be making changes to warfare.
Armies in the past were optimized to fight in rural areas. Gently rolling hills, sands and deserts were optimized. Jungles and mountains were sub-optimized. Fighting in urban areas was also sub-optimized. This will need to change. A century and a half of societal urbanization is only increasing with the curve going exponential. By the mid-century 80 – 90% of the projected 8 billion people will be “concentrated in highly dense urban areas”. The open country of northern Europe or deserts of the Middle East to highly dense urban areas will require “significant and fundamental” changes to the military force.
War is politics and politics is all about people. With the urbanization of the global population the future battlefields will be in urban areas, such as happened recently in Mosul. Armies will need to optimize for combat operations in urban areas. This will require changes in the size of the force, command and control, operations of movement, and the weapon systems.
The US is on the leading edge of a revolution in robotics says General Milley. In the “commercial sphere’ robotics are being used more and more. Unmanned aerial (drones) and maritime vehicles are already being used by the military in a limited way. “Eventually we will see the introduction of wide scale robotics”, including on land. “All areas that move, shoot and communicate are being impacted very, very rapidly by technology at a speed and a scope unlike anything we’ve seen in history. The combinations of terrain and the combination of technology is significant” and “leading to a fundamental change in the character of warfare”.
The future of the of war is not certain. War is always dealing in the realm of uncertainty, friction, chance and human will.