Capabilities Needed for the Army Future Force, 2030 & Beyond – A Tale of Two Wars

David A. Shunk
28 July 2009

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[CR note: As readers of this blog know, I don’t see much possibility of conventional war between nuclear-armed powers.  This doesn’t rule out some occasional sparring, like the P-3 incident that occurred near Hainan Island in April 2001, but I don’t understand how a nation that has nuclear weapons would let itself be conquered by conventional weapons.  One suspects that Saddam wouldn’t have.  So I certainly agree with Sir Rupert Smith that “real” war — the “province of life or death” — has disappeared among the major powers.

Still, the possibility of confrontation — sparring — remains.  How serious could it be?  Lots of healthy disagreement on that point.  In this post, Dave Shunk, an analyst who works for the Army at Ft. Monroe, VA, poses a scenario for consideration.  Frankly, I think it comes in at the high end of what might be possible, but not outside the realm of possibility.  So even though I think the scenario described here is unlikely, none of us has an infallible crystal ball, and future opponents will find ways around those scenarios we most expect.

Colonel Shunk (USAF, Ret.) contributed a piece to DNI back in January, “Lessons learned from Afghanistan.”]

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One Response to “Capabilities Needed for the Army Future Force, 2030 & Beyond – A Tale of Two Wars”

  1. OldSkepticon 24 Aug 2009 at 4:15 am 1

    “much possibility of conventional war between nuclear-armed powers”.

    Sorry I’m not so sanguine. 1962, 1972, 1983 and 1994 (roughly), we all got very close. And 72 was very deliberate, 62 was the result of an escalation (US nukes in Turkey, then pawn to rook 4 as a reply), 83 was panic by the Kremlin and 94 (or was it 95) just a stuff up. Far too close too many times, you roll the dice enough times (or click the trigger) then boom.

    Simply put, it can happen by relatively small things blowing out of control. Then ‘we can’t back down’ idiocy can take over, or even just panic.

    My bet is on: Georgia. This is really shaping up to a scary scenario, with a chance for Russian and US troops (or ships) slugging it out. Doesn’t mean it will happen, just that there is a non-zero probability.

    As the US expands evermore into the ‘Stans, and shows no sign of stopping or backing down then the chance of US/Russian troops actually shooting at each other increases. Not much later, at the current rate of progress, then a US/China confrontation starts to loom up.

    Add in the current Georgia play (and how surprising is it that it start to ramp up again just after Biden has been there?) then the probabilities of miscalculation increase.

    My feeling is that the US could easily blunder into a very scary scenario in the near future, then not be able to handle it eitther through over confidence or sheer panic.

    Plus, we have to add the fact of Russian military weakness, not as weak as some people think, but it knows it can’t get into a conventional slugging match. So its incentive to escalate quickly, ‘use it or lose it’, must be entered into the equation.

    Interesting times as they say.