What is War?
War occurs when a group of people uses violence to subdue another group. War is a spectrum of conflict involving thousands of elements. Shootings among local gangs are at the low end of the warfare spectrum, yet these skirmishes kill hundreds of Americans each year. At the high end are nations planning to fight for control of outer space. Death and destruction take place throughout this spectrum. A man armed with a box cutter may take control of an airplane and slam it into the Pentagon killing people planning nuclear war. The mission of a modern military is to fight throughout this spectrum of conflict.
In recent years, there has been talk of a "Revolution in Military Affairs." The basic idea is that advances in technology have made the need for mass armies obsolete. Wars can be fought by small numbers of well-trained professionals equipped with high-tech devices and weaponry centrally coordinated with "netcentric" warfare. Others claim that we have entered a "4th Generation" of warfare where wars between nation-states will not occur; wars are now clashes between elite warriors and groups of devious extremists who manipulate the media to succeed. Some claim that 4th Generation warfare was conceived by Mao Tse-Tung a few decades ago and has spread worldwide.
These arguments are faulty. Human history is filled with conflicts between those who rule nations and people who resist their authority. All empires faced continual unrest in which they fought opponents employing so-called 4th Generation tactics. The numerous rebellions within the Roman Empire are well documented. Even the word "guerilla" is an old term for locals who fought Napoleon's armies in Spain. Likewise, Britain was continually suppressing rebellions throughout its empire, including a revolution in its American colonies where it faced extremists led by terrorist mastermind George Washington.
Conventional armies have been engaged in 4th Generation warfare throughout history. The term terrorists was used to describe the Viet Cong, which was a substitute for the older term of anarchist. Before that the word assassin was used, which arose from the Crusades to describe fearless Arabs who committed suicidal attacks. In Russia alone, five emperors were assassinated within less than 200 years. The most notable assassination victim in US history was President Abraham Lincoln. Three other US Presidents have been assassinated: James Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy. In Europe the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand triggered World War I.
The challenge of a modern military is to fight throughout the spectrum of conflict. Technology is helpful when combating insurgents but is never the solution to human conflict. The new idea of netcentric warfare is an ultra-expensive upgrade of the old Soviet idea of central planning and control that requires billions of dollars of advanced command, control, communications, and computer systems. While sharing information is a good idea, centralization usually results in micromanagement by uninformed and inexperienced senior officers at distant headquarters. Complex computerized command systems require tremendous logistical support and may breakdown or suffer damage from enemy cyber attacks or jamming. Watch this short video about "Slaughterbots" to a truly futurist for of warfare.
Future wars in the mid and high spectrum of conflict are inevitable since American leaders are enthralled with dominating the world militarily. Current levels of US military spending are unsustainable and may cause political leaders to cut military spending unless a tax increase is implemented. Meanwhile, the generous military budgets of today are wasted on occupation duties and for buying expensive junk. The US Navy is unable to design and build newer types of ships, the US Army is unable to build newer armored vehicles, and the US Marine Corps and US Air Force fleet of aircraft shrink to afford ultra-expensive flying machines.
This is resulting in a decline in US economic and military power is at a time when nations like China, South Korea, and India advance rapidly. Occupation duties worsen this problem as American military equipment is overused, attention is diverted to issues like roadside bombs, and training is focused on raiding homes and protecting convoys. As a result, the US military is on a downward spiral that will only become clear after a future military disaster where American combat units must fight higher in the spectrum of conflict. Fighting assassins, anarchists, terrorists, and extremists is just a sport; a major war in the future will be much different. The British military experienced many disasters when its colonial forces found themselves mentally unready to fight a serious war with modern military forces in 1940.
The US military's biggest mistake is a focus on platforms over weaponry. A supercarrier, F-35, and M1A3 tank are a platform for weaponry. These have become far too expensive to procure, maintain, and deploy. Moreover, they are very vulnerable to modern weaponry. An intelligent enemy will focus funds on procuring thousands of sophisticated missiles that be be fired from basic trucks, simple aircraft, and small boats.
The US military has not accepted the simple idea that cheap COTS UAVs can be modified to become devastating weapons. The Russians recognized this and already fielded an anti-tank UAV! It may seem simple to just shoot down small UAVs, but watch these yahoos trying to shoot down UAVs, which fly low because shooting at targets above is nearly impossible. Think about trying to shoot at one at night or in fog, or if twenty appear at once! An enemy might coordinate a mortar barrage to keep everyone under cover whilst UAVs appear overhead. Or they might send $200 UAVs zooming around as decoys to draw fire and exhaust ammo before the more sophisticated UAVs arrive.
The biggest problem is that small UAVs are quiet and difficult to see on radar. They can't be heard until nearby, and only if loud tank engines are turned off. Moreover, units cannot standby 24/7 ready to shoot down UAVs. Tankers will know that UAVs are attacking when tanks start exploding! UAVs can fire small projectiles downward into a tank's thin top armor, or they can crash into tanks with an anti-armor warhead. Not only have ATGMs made heavy tanks obsolete, UAVs add to their demise!
A cheap UAV with a claymore mine attached could devastate infantry. Each infantry platoon should have a UAV team with expendable UAV/Claymores or anti-tank versions. A sophisticated enemy might jam wireless UAVs, but this can be countered with a tethered thin wire version just like some ATGMs use. The US military has even ignored simple UAV tactics. Why send a security patrol outside and around an airbase every six hours when a UAV can patrol the perimeter every hour? Why aren't UAVs SOP for military convoys? One soldier in a truck can use an UAV to sweep ahead and look for IEDs, hazards, and ambushes. Youtube has many videos of ultra-expensive armored vehicles getting ambushed in while on patrol in Yemen. Why don't these units have cheap UAVs scouting ahead?
Here are the major areas that modern military forces choose to ignore:
1. The lethality of of precision guided munitions to easily destroy ultra-expensive ships, tanks, and aircraft has been dismissed.
2. The use of small lasers to blind combatants. The US Marine Corps recently added expensive "dazzlers" to its machine guns that will prove more effective than the gun itself. (pictured)
3. The inability to replace munitions stocks in a timely manner. Most nations have limited stockpiles and the complexity of some make rapid production impossible. If the USA becomes involved in a major war that lasts longer than a month, it will have to pause for several months until new munitions are produced and delivered.
4. The humanitarian disaster that would result by disrupting the fragile economy of megacities. This occurred during World War II, but today's big cities are ten times larger! Armies may face hoards of millions of starving people begging for help.
5. The millions of civilian vehicles on the world's roads. It is impossible to tell if they are friend or foe unless inspected up close. Soldiers can use this to their advantage, which makes urban operations very dangerous for both civilians and soldiers.
6. The problem of thousands of commercial aircraft roaming the globe. Agents aboard can collect intelligence and these present long-range targeting problems for precision guided munitions that may kill hundreds of innocents.
7. Adding warheads to inexpensive, commercial, hobbyist UAVs create deadly "suicide micro-drones."
8. Modern anti-tank weapons are equally effective anti-aircraft weapons against slower targets like low flying helicopters and aircraft transports. A helicopter assault or airborne drop near a modern army will be disastrous as anti-tank missiles shoot upwards and knock down aircraft.
9. Modern body armor has made 5.56mm and even 7.62mm bullets less lethal.
10. Fleets of surface ships cannot hide for long in big oceans.