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The Changing Nature of Warfare, the Factors Mediating Future Conflict, and Implications for SOF

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USSOCOM is synchronizing the Global War on Terrorism for the Department of Defense. This global initiative expands the boundaries of traditional warfighting to coordinating an attack against dispersed, flexible, and innovative enemies. Incapable of confronting U.S. military power on the battlefield, todays enemies use asymmetric techniques to strike our homeland as well as our troops in the field. In turn, we strike back using innovative approaches to combat them, such as countering extremist ideologies with strategic communications initiatives, dismantling terrorist networks, and isolating terrorist organizations from their sources of support. But these kinds of activities are artful variations on traditional combat and give little insight into the Changing Nature of Warfare, as suggested by Dr. John Alexander in this monograph. Dr. Alexander suggests that the nature of warfare has changed profoundly. It is now possible to achieve wartime policy objectives without resorting to physical violence. While we will need to maintain capable combat units well into the future, he suggests that major future conflicts are not going to be resolved mainly by use of arms. The coming changes in the nature of warfare are already apparent. The use of information operations to influence the military and the polity of ones enemies come to mind. Economic warfare can lead to the ascendant position of one nation over another. The demise of the Soviet Union reminds us of the impact of economics upon the national security of a country. Currently, China is facilitating an economic environment whereby Americans are cheerfully spending their way into submission to a Chinese future of global hegemony. And all this can be achieved without firing a canon, the paper suggests. If Dr. Alexander is right, Special Operations Forces will need to expand its capabilities so it can confront future enemies.

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  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Unconventional Warfare

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