The Return of Mercenaries, Non-State Conflict, and More Predictions for the Future of Warfare
Private armies were the norm in most of military history, and they’re making a big comeback
Everywhere around the world, the nature of war is changing, and the West is failing to adapt. Western powers are already losing on the margins to threats like Russia, China, and others that have made the leap forward and grow bolder each year. Eventually someone will test us and win.
The West has forgotten how to win wars because of their own strategic atrophy. Judging by how much money the United States invests in conventional weapons like the F-35, many in our country still believe that future interstate wars will be fought conventionally. But although Russia and China still buy conventional weapons, they use them in unconventional ways. China has armed its fishing fleet in the South China Sea, turning it into a floating militia. Russia gave T-72 tanks, truck-mounted rocket launchers, and howitzers to its mercenaries in Syria. Tellingly, Russia even cut its military budget by a whopping 20 percent in 2017, yet it shows no sign of curbing its global ambitions. Its leaders understand that war has moved beyond lethality.
Conventional war thinking is killing us. From Syria to Acapulco, no one fights that way anymore. The old rules of war are defunct because warfare has changed, and the West has been left behind. War is coming. Conflict’s trip wires are everywhere: black market nukes that can melt cities; Russia taking something it shouldn’t and NATO responding in force; India and Pakistan duking it out over Kashmir; North Korea shelling Seoul; Europe fighting an urban insurgency against Islamic terrorists; the Middle East goes nuclear; or the United States fighting China to prevent it from becoming a rival superpower.
Traditionalists who view war purely as a military clash of wills will be doomed, no matter how big their armed forces, because they do not comprehend war’s political nature, while their enemies do. There are many ways to win, and not all of them require large militaries.
Changing the way we fight means forging new instruments of national power, starting with how we think. The first step is jettisoning what…