A top US military official on Saturday challenged the next generation of Army soldiers to prepare the US military to fight future wars that may seem less like today’s wars.
Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, painted a grim picture of a world that is becoming more unstable with great powers intent on changing the global order. And he told graduate cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point that he would take the responsibility of making sure America was ready.
“The potential for significant international conflict between the great powers is increasing, not decreasing,” Milley said in prepared remarks. “Whatever overmatch we’ve enjoyed militarily over the past 70 years is quickly closing in, and in fact, the United States will, we’ve already got war, space, cyber, maritime, air and of course Every area of the land has been challenged.”
He said that America is no longer a challenged global power. Instead, it is being tested by Russian aggression in Europe, China’s dramatic economic and military development in Asia, as well as nuclear and missile threats from North Korea and instability from terrorists in the Middle East and Africa.
Parallel to what military officials are seeing in Russia’s war on Ukraine, Milley said that future war will be highly complex, with elusive enemies and urban warfare that requires long-range precision weapons and new advanced technologies.
The US is already sending new, high-tech drones and other weapons to the Ukrainian military – in some cases equipment that was in the early prototype stages. Weapons such as the shoulder-launched kamikaze switchblade drone are being used against the Russians, even though they are still being developed.
And as the war in Ukraine has shifted – from Russia’s unsuccessful battle to move the capital of Kyiv to a gritty urban battle for cities in the eastern Donbass region – so has the need for a variety of weapons. In the early weeks the focus was on long-range precision weapons such as the Stinger and Javelin missiles, but now the emphasis is on artillery, and shipments of howitzers have increased.
And in the next 25 to 30 years the basic nature of war and its weapons will continue to change.
The US military, Milley said, cannot cling to outdated concepts and weapons, but must urgently modernize and develop forces and equipment that can stop or, if necessary, win in a global conflict. He said graduating officers must change the way American forces think, train and fight.
As leaders of tomorrow’s military, Milley said, newly minted Second Lieutenants will fight robotic tanks, ships and airplanes, and rely on artificial intelligence, synthetic fuels, 3-D manufacturing and human engineering.
“It will be your generation that will bear the burden and take responsibility for maintaining the peace, preventing and preventing the outbreak of great power war,” he said.
In harsh terms, Milley described what failing to prevent wars between the great powers looked like.
“Consider that the Battle of Meuse-Argonne in World War I killed 26,000 American soldiers and Marines in the six weeks from October to November 1918,” Milley said. “Suppose 26,000 American soldiers died in the eight weeks from the beaches of Normandy to the fall of Paris.”
“This great power is the human cost of war. Butcher’s bill,” he said, remembering the 58,000 Americans who died in the summer of 1944 during World War II.
Describing a song by Bob Dylan, Milley said, “We can feel the light breeze in the air. We can see the thunderstorms in the air. We can hear the loud clapping of thunder from afar. A hard rain. It’s about to fall.”
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