NATO’s former supreme commander, Admiral James Stavridis, is headed for academia, so what better time to discover the fashionable side of warfighting? Last week he rolled out a cool, casual line of future warfighting capabilities at foreignpolicy.com that he calls “The New Triad.” His fellow professors will like it a lot, because it doesn’t contain any of those nasty nuclear weapons that might upset delicate sensibilities. There are no amphibs, fighters or tanks either. It’s just the light and likeable stuff — special operators, unmanned vehicles and cyber skills.
Stavridis doesn’t actually say that the future of warfare is all about Rangers, Reapers and Stuxnet, but he clearly believes that mass and firepower have had their day. Imagine how much better the Iraq war would have gone if we had simply collapsed the Iraqi power grid with cyber attacks, used Predators to find Saddam’s lieutenants, and then sent in Navy Seals to take them out. Piece of cake, home for the holidays.
Is it really possible that senior military officers believe such nonsense? The main reason drones look so useful is that Al Qaeda and the Taliban lacked air defenses. Try flying a Predator over Syria, and see how long it lasts. Or try using special operators to blunt a North Korean attack across the demilitarized zone. As for using cyber skills to collapse enemy capabilities, guess which major military power is most dependent on vulnerable networks to sustain its economy? In case you haven’t heard, the Iranians have been having a lot of fun with our networks since they figured out where Stuxnet came from.
So the notion that Admiral Stavridis’ new triad is going to deliver victory in the world of tomorrow is very debatable. He’s right that the items in his triad can operate across the spectrum of threats, but so can a fifth-generation fighter, and in most situations the fighter is likely to yield better results. What I get out of the Stavridis commentary is that when we go too long without serious threats, even seasoned military officers start to lose their perspective. If you act on such flighty, fashionable ideas, one day a real enemy will show up to remind you why we needed that old triad to get us through the Cold War.
Find Archived Articles: