Pentagon Malady: “Next-War-Itis”

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I was approached by Foreign Policy magazine back in January to pen one of their “Think Again” columns, this one focusing on the future of war.

The notion was, now that America has disengaged from Iraq and is doing the same with Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s thoughts invariably drift to future definitions of conflict amidst the ongoing budget battles.

Those future visions of war are how the various services rationalize their funding requirements in the fabled “out years” (beyond the current budget cycle) to Congress. Naturally, there’s a fairly fierce competition, in which each service attempts to paint the most compelling picture possible.

Remember when then-defense secretary Robert Gates complained about certain Pentagon elements catching “next-war-itis”? That’s when you’re allegedly engaging in this sort of futurology, when you should be focused on the current conflict.

Well, now that those conflicts are gone or being demoted, next-war-itis is kicking in, big time. That’s what this article I wrote sought to capture: the competition among the services to see which can come up with the most fabulously-gripping description of future war.

Check it out, here.

I interviewed a number of colleagues before attempting my write-up, to include the inestimable Mark Thompson. So let me thank those people now by citing their aid. They are Henry Gaffney, Gerald Mauer, Raymond Pritchett, Mark Lewellyn, Greg Jaffe, Alex Gallo, Shane Deichman, Randy Fullhart, Theodore Obenchain, Mark Safranski, Dave Dilegge, Henry Hendrix and Frank Hoffman.