First it was the Europeans who sought an escape from the tragic realities of power that had bloodied their 20th century. At the end of the Cold War, they began to disarm themselves in the hopeful belief that arms and traditional measures of power no longer mattered. A new international system of laws and institutions would replace the old system of power; the world would model itself on the European Union—and if not, the U.S. would still be there to provide security the old-fashioned way.
But now, in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is the U.S. that seems to be yearning for an escape from the burdens of power and a reprieve from the tragic realities of human existence.
Until recent events at least, a majority of Americans (and of the American political and intellectual classes) seem to have come close to concluding not only that war is horrible but also that it is ineffective in our modern, globalized world. “There is an evolving international order with new global norms making war and conquest increasingly rare,” wrote Fareed Zakaria of CNN, borrowing from Steven Pinker of Harvard, practically on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Islamic State’s march across Syria and Iraq. Best-selling histories of World War I teach that nations don’t willingly go to war but only “sleepwalk” into them due to tragic miscalculations or downright silliness.
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When President Ronald Reagan asked, in his now-famous speech; “What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, but instead that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?” it caused a sea change in the entire concept of U.S. national BMD. That single statement still provides the organizing impulse for the United States’ ballistic missile defense efforts.
When the U.S. Navy commissioned USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) in 1983, it was, to many, merely the first ship of a new class of warships, one among many in a U.S. Navy that numbered well over 500 ships. Then a tiny fraction of an almost 600-ship Navy, Aegis cruisers and destroyers have now become the Navy’s primary surface combatants. And, importantly, Aegis has enabled the nation and the Navy to take a significant step in accomplishing President Reagan’s vision three decades ago.
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What does the future hold? We all want to know.
We are at a critical juncture in human history, which could lead to widely contrasting futures. But the future is not set in stone, it is malleable, the result of an interplay among megatrends, game-changers and, above all, human agency. In their hard-hitting report, Global Trends 2030, The National Intelligence Council encourage decision makers – whether in government or outside – to think and plan for the long term so that negative futures do not occur and positive ones have a better chance of unfolding.
In a sentence, there is no more comprehensive analysis of future trends available anywhere, at any price. It’s not an overstatement to say this 160-page document represents the definitive look at the future
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Many think terrorism is on the run. It is not. The number of al Qaeda and other jihadist groups and fighters are growing, not shrinking. U.S. disengagement—or even risking the return of terrorists to the field by freeing them from detention—is not the answer to the threat they pose. Instead, U.S. strategy should be revamped, prioritizing American interests and developing a more effective, light-footprint campaign.
According to new data in a RAND report, from 2010 to 2013 the number of jihadist groups world-wide has grown by 58%, to 49 from 31; the number of jihadist fighters has doubled to a high estimate of 100,000; and the number of attacks by al Qaeda affiliates has increased to roughly 1,000 from 392. The most significant terrorism threat to the United States comes from groups operating in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. Moner Mohammad Abusalha, an American who was a member of the al Qaeda affiliate organization al-Nusra, blew himself up in Syria on March 29.
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The United States Defense Strategic Guidance notes: “This country is at a strategic turning point after a decade of war and, therefore, we are shaping a Joint Force for the future that will be smaller and leaner, but will be agile, flexible, ready, and technologically advanced. It will have cutting-edge capabilities, exploiting our technological, joint, and networked advantage.”
The AirSea Battle Concept undergirds how the United States will fight and win in the face of a substantial anti-access/area-denial threat. The Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC) describes in broad terms the vision for how joint forces will operate in response to emerging anti-access and area-denial security challenges. Due to three major trends – the growth of anti-access and area-denial capabilities around the globe, the changing U.S. overseas defense posture, and the emergence of space and cyberspace as contested domains – future enemies, both states and non-states, see the adoption of anti-access/ area-denial strategies against the United States as a favorable course of action for them.
Read more about AirSea Battle and where it plays in our national security on the Defense Media Website here
Ballistic missiles armed with WMD threaten America today…and the U.S. Navy is at the tipping point of leading the nation’s defense against this threat.
The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States provided a dramatic warning that even the “world’s hegemon,” as America was called by some, was not invulnerable to threats against the homeland. As Americans, their elected officials, and the intelligence and military communities evaluated 21st century threats, the assessment was clear. Absent terrorists operating on American soil, the one existential threat to the nation was the rapidly growing number of states and other actors who already possessed – or were developing – chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and who also possessed, or were developing, ballistic missiles to carry these weapons great distances. In the decade-plus since those 9/11 attacks, rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea have, in fact, developed and in some cases launched ballistic missiles, often designed to intimidate their neighbors.
For the nation, the military, and especially for the Navy, the need to develop robust defenses against this threat was as clear as it was compelling. Under the overarching stewardship of the United States Missile Defense Agency (and its predecessor agencies) this new emphasis accelerated ballistic missile defense development. Like the German buzz-bombs and Japanese Kamikaze attacks during World War II, Americans were reminded once again of the potential of missile attack from the air, both to forward-deployed forces as well as the homeland.
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Who could have predicted the invasions going on today – Russia invading Crimea and Ukraine, Israel invading Gaza? Who could have predicted a Malaysian airliner would be shot down over Ukraine. These events – and many more like them – tell us that our confortable views of what tomorrow will be like are fraught with peril.
We would be vastly more able to anticipate futures that are presently opaque to us by anticipating Alterative Worlds. The Global Trends 2030 report builds on the precedent set by earlier editions of Global Trends in identifying four possible future models of the world out to 2030 – but takes this alternative world futures analysis to a new level. It presents these models with a caveat, by noting that “none of these alternative worlds are inevitable and in reality, the future will probably consist of elements from all the scenarios.”
Based upon what we know about the megatrends and the possible interactions between the megatrends and the game-changers, GT2030 has delineated four archetypal futures. The four posited “worlds” that could present themselves as we move toward 2030 are:
- Stalled Engines
- Gini Out of the Bottle
- Non-State World
Read more about these potential Alternative Worlds on the Defense Media Network website.
China’s rapidly growing military spending is paving the way for the country to expand its sphere of influence and challenge the U.S. across the globe, the Pentagon said, in a report laying out challenges facing America as it steps up involvement in Asia.
While U.S. military spending is in decline, China is spending billions of dollars to develop stealth fighters, cyber-weaponry, armed drones and a growing naval fleet that has repeatedly squared off with its Asian neighbors, according to the Defense Department’s annual report to Congress.
China spent more than $145 billion on military programs in 2013, the Pentagon estimated, part of a two-decade-long increase in the country’s military spending. China’s official budget has grown by an average of 9.4% each year since 2004, the report said. U.S. military spending is facing a constrained future as the military prepares to bring 13 years of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to an end. “China’s military investments provide it with a growing ability to project power at increasingly longer range,” the report said.
The Pentagon said the Chinese air force is aggressively modernizing “on a scale unprecedented in its history and is rapidly closing the gap with Western air forces across a broad spectrum of capabilities.” China is trying to develop a stealth jet fighter, but the report said the country “faces numerous challenges” in the program, which it isn’t expected to overcome for at least five years.
The report also warns that China continues to use cyber-warfare to target the U.S. in an effort to increase its advantages over America. Cyber is a critical element of China’s military strategy and is becoming an increasingly tense battlefield for the new nations.
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It is easy to look back from the perspective of 2014, with scores of Aegis cruisers and destroyers populating the U.S. Navy’s fleet – and with Aegis ships now serving as the Navy’s primary surface combatant – and think that the journey toward building an Aegis fleet was simple or straightforward. It was not. A full description of that journey is vastly beyond the scope of this post. But for those readers wanting more, the 2009 Naval Engineer’s Journal, The Story of Aegis: Special Edition contains a rich and detailed description of the Aegis program – how it came into being, where it is today, and where it is going in the future.
As Adm. John Harvey, former Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, explained, what made the original Aegis program so successful was “a single-minded dedication to the pursuit of technical excellence.” That commitment to excellence permeated the Aegis community even before the first ship of the class, the cruiser Ticonderoga (CG 47), was commissioned in January 1983. It likewise remains embedded in Aegis today.
Read more about the United States journey to provide world-class missile defense on the Defense Media Network website here
Technology changes everything. It creates possibilities that did not previously exist. As Max Boot famously said in his New York Times best-seller War Made New, “My view is that technology sets the parameters of the possible; it creates the potential for a military revolution.”
The U.S. Intelligence Community’s capstone publication, Global Trends 2030 notes that technology will figure prominently in what kind of future world we live in. It asks the question, will technological breakthroughs be developed in time to boost economic productivity and solve the problems caused by the strain on natural resources and climate change as well as chronic disease, aging populations, and rapid urbanization?
Read more about these Technological Game Changers on the Defense Media Network website here