Yesterday, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed the United States’ 2015 National Military Strategy. Since the Pentagon last published the National Military Strategy in 2011, General Dempsey states that “some of our comparative military advantage has begun to erode” because the United States is “faced with multiple, simultaneous security challenges from traditional state actors and transregional networks of sub-state groups.” The 2015 National Military Strategy predicts that “future conflicts will come more rapidly, last longer, and take place on a much more technically challenging battlefield” and such future conflicts will not be resolved quickly.
Since 2012 the United States military has been shrinking after a decade of continuous combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same time globalization has continued to impact every aspect of human activity, which has provided a catalyst for political instability. This globalization is spreading technological advances and information sharing faster than at any time in history. At the same time, the 2015 National Military Strategy notes that shifting demographics, especially the rapidly growing youth populations in the Middle East and Africa are resulting in “resource shortages, struggling economies, and deep social fissures.” Such conditions have led to the development of violent extremist organizations (VEOs) who take advantage of the demographic shifts and technological advances in order to undermine regional security, radicalize populations, and spread violence. In today’s current operating environment, “the U.S. military does not have the luxury of focusing on one challenge to the exclusion of others.” Although the United States has recently exited Afghanistan and Iraq, the irregular warfare faced in these conflicts is one of the hallmarks of the 2015 National Military Strategy.
As the United States looks towards the future it must be ready to deploy and engage in sustained counterinsurgency operations. The United States civilian population must be prepared for the long wars that the 2015 National Military Strategy anticipates. Additionally, the United States must be ready to counter VEOs in various parts of the world simultaneously. It is foreseeable that military units must be ready to deploy at smaller level, such as brigade or even battalion size, to provide security to a foreign country. Finally the United States must be prepared to provide on-the-ground military support when deterrence is not successful and the United States is required defeat VEOs. Such on-the-ground support has not been forthcoming in order to defeat ISIS, which may be an indication that the United States is reluctant to become involved in the long-term conflicts which General Dempsey indicated will be characteristic of future conflicts.