Peering into the Crystal Ball: Holistically Assessing the Future of Warfare
RAND ARROYO CENTER SANTA MONICA CA SANTA MONICA United States
Military history is littered with mistaken predictions about the future of warfare that have left forecasters militarily unpreparedsometimes disastrously sofor the conflicts ahead. The United States has suffered its own share of bad predictions. Why do predictions about the future of warfare usually fall flat More often than not, poor predictions stem from failing to think holistically about the factors that drive changes in the environment and the implications of those factors for warfare. Such considerations go well beyond understanding the operational implications of technology and include geopolitical, environmental, and economic changes. Furthermore, such factors as international laws, public opinion, and media coverage can constrain how states use force and, thus, how wars are fought. Although successfully predicting the future of warfare is notoriously difficult, the U.S. military, for better or worse, is deeply invested in the forecasting business. All the armed services want to understand what the future of conflict holds for them because, given how long it takes to develop capabilities, they must gamble today on what kinds of technology and people they will need to win tomorrows wars.