Goodbye Conventional War. It’s Been Fun
21 March 19
By R. Jordan Prescott
Source: Modern War Institute
Why does the United States get war wrong? Why does its use of force rarely achieve national security objectives? And how can this situation be remedied?
The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder, by Dr. Sean McFate, takes on the mammoth task of addressing these questions. In doing so, it becomes an exceptional new entry into literature examining modern warfare. The New Rules of War outlines contemporary trends, contextualizes them within a broad historical continuum, and lays out the ways, means, and ends for navigating this turbulent near-term future. McFate’s latest title is a must read for national security practitioners and warfighters of all ranks. More broadly, The New Rules of War confirms the ongoing demise of the Westphalian state and conventional war as it is presently known; whether America and its allies can adapt is crucial to their security, if not their survival.
McFate’s background is singular among scholars in this field. He is a former servicemember, serving as a paratrooper and officer in the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and later graduating from the Jungle Warfare School in Panama. He is also an academic, graduating from Harvard University and the London School of Economics and Political Science, and is presently a professor of strategy at the National Defense University. Uniquely, and perhaps most importantly, McFate is a former private military contractor with extensive experience around the world. To appreciate his perspective, readers should look to an article published early in his academic career: “I Built An African Army.”
So how does McFate answer those big questions about why the United States get war wrong and how to fix it? He begins by arguing that the country has suffered from “strategic atrophy” and has failed to recognize that current circumstances are neither solely war nor solely peace. He acknowledges that grand strategy is rarely articulated formally and requires a historical review to confirm its existence, but nevertheless contends that it is observable in a country’s general vector, borne of its origin, geopolitical circumstances, interests, and values.
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