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The freelancer seems to be king in this book, they are but one facet of how future war might be conducted. the development of new weapons lead to the flooding of older model and obsolete weapons. Mercenaries can get these as can others, all out-moded by the most advanced military in the battlefield. Its intriguing definitely, especially for the new comer but for people in the field or research, there seem to be more angles that could have been explored further.
Ottimo libro, mi è piaciuto molto. Sean McFate scrive molto bene, ha le idee chiare e sa come comunicarle. Unico punto debole, a mio avviso, è la tesi dell'autore secondo cui gli Stati Uniti e l'Occidente sarebbero strategicamente svantaggiati nel mondo attuale, caratterizzato da "disordine durevole", aziende militari private, gruppi armati non statali e un campo di azione caratterizzato da operazioni nell'ombra - perché troppo ancorato a un assetto strategico convenzionale, di grande guerra fra stati nazione. Si e no direi - per decine di anni dopo la fine della seconda guerra mondiale, gli Stati Uniti e i suoi alleati si sono dedicati con passione a operazioni nell'ombra, incluso fomentare rivoluzioni popolari, cambi di regime, crescita e soppressione di insurrezioni armate - ed altro. Il punto dolente, credo, è che altre potenze hanno imparato le stesse arti e dimostrano di sapere giocare nello stesso campo - vedi il crescente peso dell'Iran in Medio Oriente, l'estensione egemonica della Russia nei territori confinanti (sempre negabile ufficialmente), e la cosiddetta influenza russa nelle elezioni americane o nel referendum Brexit. Una gran bella lettura comunque.
The New Rules of War is an outstanding am long-overdue corrective to modern American strategic thinking, which remains obsessed with technology and the drive for decisive victory using conventional military force. It is not without flaws, but these are more than offset by the scythe that McFate brings to the conventional wisdom.
McFate’s essential premise is that conventional warfare is dead and that strategists need to focus on the tools that our adversaries use to circumvent conventional strength. This is not in itself a groundbreaking assertion—its become a de rigueur statement amongst strategists since the rise of insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. But as McFate points out, the chorus of voices making this point has done nothing to change the military’s emphasis on technical solutions to non-technical problems. This has only worsened since DoD reprioritized great power competition. McFate’s understanding of the coming “durable disorder” and the changing character of warfare is refreshing and should be considered deeply and at length by all involved in defense policy.
The book’s imperfections come not in McFate’s assessments, but in his tone and style. He often comes across as overly polemical, almost as though he has an axe to grind. While this doubtless makes for quicker reading--perhaps especially to a lay audience--it leads to blanket statements that undermine the strength of his arguments. For example, McFate dismisses the utility of Clausewitz to discussions of modern conflict, labeling him the “high priest of conventional warfare,” despite having recapitulated Clausewitz’s own distinction between the immutable nature of war and the changing character of warfare only a few paragraphs earlier. This is sloppy: while Clausewitz’s discussion on the conduct of warfare from the Napoleonic era is obviously divorced from conflict today, his understanding of war’s political nature, and that its conduct is governed by the blending of passion, reason, and chance remain as timeless as ever. Indeed McFate’s whole book could be read as an answer to the Prussian’s statement that the first and most important act of strategy is to understand the nature of war one is engaging in, neither mistaking it for nor attempting to change it into something alien to its nature.
Similar statements are sprinkled throughout the book, but they pale in comparison to the fresh thinking he brings to the table. Ultimately, the US and its allies are doomed to suffer failed strategies and increasing insecurity unless they understand, as McFate does, that the utility of conventional force is declining and that new method of advancing the national interest are required.
I recommend the book. I agree with the other reviewers. There is some overreaching at times, but overreach is part of being passionate about changes. I have four disagreements or perhaps added perspectives as disagreement is too strong a word:
1) The problem is not only an over reliance on technology vs human wits, but lacking the understanding of what is truly threatening from a technological perspective. A good example is an EMP. The author rightly so pointed out that the use of air carriers and the attack on Pearl Harbor were predicted, but these predictions dismissed by the establishment. The money spent on the F35 would have been enough not only to better protect the grid and having spare parts available, but also to protect nuclear reactors, military bases dependent on electricity and, as battery technology evolves, to provide large household batteries and renewables to most households in the US. The F35 is the battleship of yesterday. But again, this is technology vs. technology + imagination.
2) Borrowing from Kissinger, it is possible to divide the world in three historical moments: places where war as a political tool is unthinkable (e.g. between West European states), places where national interests and alliances resemble the 1st World War (e.g. the Asia of China, Japan, etc.) and places where the 30-year war did not take place as yet (e.g. the islamic world). Of course this is a simplification, but the increased complexity of warfare is not only be due to the rise of non-state actors but also to the multidimensional interaction of different historical moments.
3) The author stresses that the rise of non-state agents, the use of subterfuge and weaponization of information and the impact of mercenaries will change how war is waged. In fact, it has already changed. He stresses that the laws of war will not or may not be followed if one is to be victorious. However, the doctrine of jus in bello and jus ad bellum precedes nation states. My understanding is that the Catholic Church developed these ideas to assist Christian Princes to wage war in moral way in a world characterized by disorder. Of course this is not a book about the moral of warfare, but I am sure that the author gave some thought to the issue. A new understanding of jus in bello and ad bellum will be necessary for democratic societies to succeed, not a utilitarian dismissal of the subject.
4) I am a civilian and by no means know how military education is delivered. However, I suspect that the necessary changes of education must go much deeper than the early introduction to strategy studies. The ability to think differently depends in part on the ability to not believe one's opinions too strongly. There is benefit of having doubts. I suspect that the strength of certainty is a preferred quality in the military career. This is surely difficult to change.
To a degree, these are straw man arguments. The author's positions are fluid enough to accommodate all four points. I enjoyed the book very much. I am sure his classes are not only informative, but truly formative of officers and others lucky enough to meet him in person.
Sean has done a brilliant job of capturing the essence of modern warfare. He describes why the American military's preferred form of warfare has failed over the past 50 years to win a single war, and how our enemies are out-thinking us and winning, often without engaging us in direct combat. He proposes ten new rules for waging war in an era of durable disorder in which states and non-state actors fight without regard for our geographic, organizational, and functional boundaries; how they use information much more skillfully; and how private military corporations are commercializing war and relegating Westphalian warfare to the scrap heap of history. This is graduate-level military art, but Sean simplifies the complexity of modern warfare so that novices can understand it, while experienced practitioners can expand their professional horizons and make sense of the last 18 years of wars in the Middle east and elsewhere. This book should be mandatory reading in professional military education currricula, and in the library of every national security professional.
Sean McFate was a soldier in the U.S. Army and later a private military contractor (a.k.a. mercenary). He is now a professor of military strategy at Georgetown University. McFate is an iconoclast and his opinions are often provocative and controversial. The book is fun to read and an unlikely page-turner. He explains why America has stopped winning wars.
McFate claims that the U.S. has not won a war since WW2 and argues that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were lost. McFate believes the military suffers from “strategic incompetence.” This is an inability to understand its opponents and adapt their strategy accordingly. McFate believes that the Pentagon is geared to fight WW2 style battles, using better technology. That was also a criticism of the generals in Vietnam. They were mostly WW2 vets and struggled to get to grips with the guerilla warfare employed by the Vietnamese. America's modern enemies refuse to stand and fight as the Germans did in 1944.
McFate argues that “conventional war is dead.” Battlefield victory is obsolete, yet America still invests trillions of dollars in aircraft carriers, fighter jets, and killer robots—and ponders why no one is deterred or defeated. McFate does not have much faith in technology. He believes that much of the military budget is wasted on kit that will never be used in combat.
McFate complains about the Pentagon’s love of carriers. “The U.S. navy is ordering nine more such ships, even though carrier warfare hit its climax in 1942, at Midway.” They cost $13 billion dollars a pop and have played little part in America’s recent wars. The F-35 fighter is another bugbear. The plane has cost $1.5 trillion to develop and has never been used in combat. Each one costs about $120 million, twice the price of a Boeing 737-600 airliner. An hour in the air costs $42,000. McFate believes that the F-35 is “worthless in future wars.” He maintains that it is not even a good combat aircraft.
McFate claims the world is in a state of “durable disorder.” He predicts the ongoing demise of the Westphalian nation-state. He tells us that 70% of countries can be described as fragile and we are returning to an earlier time before the West became all-powerful and could impose its will on the rest of the world. He claims that much of the world is experiencing disorder and instability. This is a trend that cannot be reversed and will only get worse. He argues that we in the West are unprepared for the wars of the future and are facing existential threats. He argues that warfare is changing but we refuse to recognize this new reality. The U.S. buys, trains, deploys and fights according to rules that don't apply anymore. He argues that we should recognize what is going wrong and adapt.
America’s enemies currently include China, Iran, Russia, as well as terrorist organizations, and drug cartels. Our adversaries realize they cannot win WW2 style battles so they avoid them. Durable disorder does not result in war as we like to fight it. ISIS grabbed 81,000 square miles of territory across several countries. In Crimea, Russia used covert means including special forces, proxy militias, and mercenaries—all while waging a disinformation campaign. By the time the West had worked out what was going on Russia had grabbed Crimea. McFate complains that NATO is still training to fight a gigantic tank battle with the Soviets at the Fulda Gap on the Rhine, even though the Cold War has ended. War has moved on, and our enemies have moved on with it.
McFate argues that America is at war with China only it doesn't know it. Beijing goes right up to the edge of war in the South China Sea and then pulls back. It is slowly pushing the U.S. out of the region without firing a shot. It has bought much of Hollywood, making it difficult to cast China as a villain in movies. China is using our soft power against us. McFate argues that we need to develop a better strategy to deal with China. Instead of buying more aircraft carriers we should start reading Sun Tzu and learn to fight in a more devious way. He argues that "The West’s squeamishness about using strategic subversion only helps its enemies.” He suggests that we should consider distracting Beijing by facilitating popular uprisings in China, maybe that is already happening in Hong Kong.
McFate believes that future wars will be waged by special forces and mercenary armies, which, are more cost-effective than standing national armies. The U.S. has failed to build and train effective national armies in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They were taught to fight the American way and struggled to fight on their own. McFate argues for the continued expansion of special forces. The total annual cost of America's special forces is the price of one aircraft carrier. He argues this represents much better value for money.
Mercenaries have made a comeback. More than half of all military personnel in the recent Iraq and Afghan wars were employed by contractors, and such “outsourcing” will grow. It is becoming tougher to recruit soldiers to fight in these places, and contractors are cheaper. The public is also less concerned if they end up in body bags. Mercenaries have traditionally been unpopular because they have no political loyalties and fight for money. Having been a mercenary in Africa, McFate does not see that as a problem: “patriotism is unimportant, and sometimes a liability.” He predicts that more countries, the super-rich, and corporations will hire mercenaries in the future. They are usually well trained and experienced soldiers. Nigeria used mercenaries to fight the Islamist group Boko Harum. The U.N. doesn't like mercenaries, they would rather hire expensive and poorly trained peacekeepers. McFate does not have much respect for the U.N. or its peacekeeping troops. He mentions that in Syria, 500 soldiers of the Russian owned Wagner Group more than held their own fighting against the cream of the U.S.'s special forces. He speculates what a large army of mercenaries could do.
McFate also recommends establishing an “American Foreign Legion.” This would be similar to the French version and would be composed of foreigners recruited globally and led by U.S. officers. It could then be deployed in parts of the world that are falling apart and where we don’t want to send American born troops.
Some of what McFate describes sounds familiar to anyone familiar with the British Empire’s military history. Britain ruled a quarter of the world's population and was often flexible about how it got the job done. The British were usually fighting insurgents in their colonies and rarely fought large scale battles. The British East India Company was the world’s first multinational company and it was once listed on the London Stock Exchange. It had its own army which it used to conquer India. At its peak, it had 150,000 soldiers in its employ and 122 ships. In the 16th century, Sir Francis Drake was called a privateer. He owned his own ships, raided Spanish shipping, and paid a percentage of any loot captured to the Queen. The British hired Germans to fight in the Revolutionary War and they still employ mercenaries. Their Gurkha regiments from Nepal were initially recruited 200 years ago and are still fighting for Britain.
McFate believes in a world of increasing instability, victory belongs to the cunning and not the strong. We need to curb our obsession with hi-tech military equipment and start out-thinking our enemies.