April 01, 2009

The Past and Present as Prologue: Future Warfare through the Lens of Contemporary Conflicts

Eight years of war have given the U.S. military an unparalleled opportunity to translate real war experience into a vision of how conflicts will be fought in the future. Getting a vision of the future more right than wrong depends on the military’s ability to sift through experiences gathered from combat to discern those that will endure. This monograph seeks to do just that.

A key premise of this paper is that the United States’ emerging national security strategy is right in postulating a future conflict environment
dominated by irregular wars. For brevity, the paper concentrates on a few characteristics of future irregular wars that are likely to endure. For clarity, it parses the vision into the three classic levels of war; strategic, operational, and tactical. And for credibility, it concentrates on the ground dimension for two reasons: because Afghanistan and Iraq, like all irregular wars, are being fought principally on the ground and because the author’s past intellectual endeavors and expertise have been in that dimension.


  • Robert H. Scales

  • Commentary
    • Defense One
    • September 9, 2019
    Two Cheers for Esper’s Plan to Reassert Civilian Control of the Pentagon

    The longest-ever gap in civilian leadership atop the Department of Defense came to an end on July 23, when Mark Esper was sworn in as secretary of defense. His presence in the...

    By Loren DeJonge Schulman, Alice Hunt Friend & Mara Karlin

  • Podcast
    • December 21, 2017
    CNAS experts break down Trump's new National Security Strategy

    CNAS Deputy Director of Studies dives into the Trump administration's National Security Strategy, talking strategy development, messaging, and implementation with CNAS experts...

    By Loren DeJonge Schulman, Jerry Hendrix, Ilan Goldenberg & Daniel Kliman

    • Commentary
    • December 1, 2015
    Shaping U.S. Policy on Islamic State Amid Shifting Politics

    An ABC News-Washington Post poll conducted after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks found that 73% of Americans support increased airstrikes against Islamic State and 60% favor increas...

    By Richard Fontaine

    • Commentary
    • November 24, 2015
    Introducing Agenda SecDef

    One year from now, somewhere in a small suite of offices at the Pentagon, a team of civil servants, military officers, and a smattering of outside civilians will be hard at wo...

    By Loren DeJonge Schulman & Shawn Brimley

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia