Document created: 27 April 03
Air University Review, January-February 1976

Researching the Future:
Warfare Tomorrow and Beyond

Dr. Richard Lester

DURING the last decade, researching the future has become both a serious intellectual pursuit and a pervasive fad. With increasing regularity, studies of the future are being conducted worldwide, but primarily in the United States and Europe. The better studies of future national security and related policies are characterized by use of a sustained and relatively systematic approach, enlisting many disciplines in an integrated effort of speculation and analysis.

Armed conflict has not escaped the scrutiny of those probing the future. This is evidenced in the publication of two recent books providing a comprehensive assessment of War and its ramifications in the coming decade: Strategy for Tomorrow* and War in the Next Decade** present a vivid dissection of the implications of future military involvement.

*André Beaufre, Strategy for Tomorrow (New York: Crane, Russak and Company, Inc., 1974, $7.50), xi and 91 pages.

**Roger A. Beaumont and Martin Edmonds, editors, War in the Next Decade (Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1974, $11.00), x and 217 pages.

GENERAL André Beaufre was well qualified to discuss these matters. Often referred to as the "brain behind the French Army," Beaufre was formerly the director of the French Institute of Strategic Studies, past editor of its journal, Stratégie, and an internationally recognized strategist and expert on European political-military affairs. His distinguished military career included command assignments in Europe and Africa in World War II, Indochina in 1947, and Egypt in 1956. He died on 13 February 1975.

In Strategy for Tomorrow Beaufre contends that the West must plan long-range political, economic, and social objectives before devising a common security strategy that will support societal goals. In order to reach a new level of cooperation, he believes that Western Europe and particularly the United States must become more conscious of the other's problems and capabilities. He asserts that, in view of recent political, economic, and strategic vicissitudes in the United States, Western Europe must develop the capability to defend itself, under its own command; the United States and Canada "would be associated with this command in the same way that French forces are now associated with NATO."

This position is antithetical to the German viewpoint emphasizing the necessity of a commanding United States presence in Europe: it holds that only the United States can provide the leadership, force, and attendant deterrent effect to insure Western security. There is much support in the West for this German position. Those disagreeing with Beaufre on the future role of the United States in Western security assert that, like it or not, ours is the only Allied power capable of providing the required strategic deterrent. The alternative is to leave a vacuum the Russians would be eager to fill. Beaufre and his supporters counter this reasoning by declaring that eventually the balance of force concept will result in U.S. withdrawal from Europe and ultimate dissolution of the Warsaw Pact alliance in exchange for the dissolution of NATO.

In view of possible American disengagement, Beaufre believes that Western Europe should develop a common policy for defense and become "the European pillar" of the Atlantic Alliance as envisaged by President John F. Kennedy. This "pillar" could" achieve an equilibrium in the East with the Soviets and in the West with the United States and set the stage for détente in Europe through a Pan-European Security Alliance.

The Germans distrust this point of view, for they are convinced that NATO has played a great role in bringing both stability and prosperity to Europe. Why, then, attempt a new security arrangement? Further, Germany sees no hard evidence of the so-called "reality of a progressive disengagement of American responsibilities in Europe." In fact, the Germans believe that there is ample evidence for convincing argument that these "incontestable" French realities are simply a fashionable myth. Beaufre's reaction to the German concern is that the entry of Britain into the Common Market will create a new Europe with a fresh potential for economic and political as well as military security. The European and British press are conducting open debate on these divergent points. Realistically, NATO will continue for years to come but with decreasing élan. It grows clearer that the defense of Europe against attack by Russia results from a U.S.—West German working alliance.

It is difficult to argue against Beaufre’s general theme, which embraces the broad context of European and Atlantic security. In a workmanlike way, be asserts that in the future, even more than in the past, the military power of a nation will depend on its economic strength and the self-discipline of its people. The credibility of such a nation in the future, among both its allies and adversaries, will depend on their assessment of its moral, productive, and staying powers.

Beaufre maintains that in years to come we should expect war to be more limited, its primary goal being to persuade the enemy to accept an "honorable compromise"; all the resources of a "persuasive strategy" would be put into play to attain the desired results. Beaufre's rationale for this concept of limited war derives from the supposition that today all-out war (and, to some degree, any war) is nearly unthinkable as a practical alternative. In effect Beaufre, grappling with the role of the military in the atomic age, asks the chilling question: Does Clausewitz's famous aphorism that "war is the continuation of politics by other means" still retain its intended meaning? With massive, nuclear weapons in his arsenal, possessing a destructiveness not contemplated by Clausewitz, Beaufre calls for more viable and realistic options to be used in the pursuit of political objectives.

To accomplish this" Beaufre states what he calls "the defensive solution." This consists essentially of establishing military institutions of minimum strength and cost during peaceful periods, and these institutions should be so organized as to lend themselves to immediate re-enforcement in rapid response to political exigencies and without any signincant reorganization. Beaufre calls this the principle of the "inflatable army," i,e" a force in-being always prepared to apply force to the degree required by the nature of the situation. Central to Beaufre's thesis is the question of how much kinds what kinds of military power are most appropriate for accomplishing a state's predetermined military objectives. Fundamentally, Beaufre appears to be in agreement with Clausewitz to the extent that military power is meaningful only in relation to strategy and strategy is meaningful only in relation to national objectives.

Insofar as the future of the armed forces is concerned, Beaufre rightly contends that their future

. . . essentially depends upon the evolution of international politics during the coming decade: Whether it will or will not settle the existing tensions and if it will succeed or not in establishing an effective system of international arbitration.

He calls this reasonably probable perspective the classic vision of the international future. Under this hypothesis, it is evident that armed forces will retain their present role in the service of national politics, both as deterrents and as active forces, but that this will most likely be accomplished through the limitation of conflicts.

In this regard, Beaufre in traditional French military manner, takes a rather pessimistic view of the international future. He holds that true security is assured only when there are no grave political differences susceptible of raising tensions. Such a situation presupposes that political problems are resolved by agreements arrived at as a result of rapproachement preceded by détente. As long as political tension cannot be resolved at the political level, national security can result only by recourse to that stability assured through armed force.

Realizing that Communism has brought together ideology and terror in what appears to be a permanent fusion, Beaufre accepts the classic solution and anticipates that in the next decade the role and importance of military forces cannot decrease; and he entreats Western public opinion to recognize this reality. Beaufre reassures those interested in military careers as their future will in all probability be similar to that of their predecessors. However, imagination will be necessary to discover future possibilities for maneuver as a result of the evolution of arms as well as ideas.

In Strategy for Tomorrow, André Beaufre has given us a profound, brisk, readable book. It is indeed a viable up-to-date anthology of current political, military, and economic problems in the U.S.-Western European relationship as evaluated within the Context of the Atlantic Alliance.

ROGER Beaumont and Martin Edmonds, in War in the Next Decade, present a microcosm of varied opinion from key civilian analysts of the international strategic environment; contributing authors include Robert Ficks, Colin Gray, Morris Janowitz, Philip Kronenberg, Peter Nailor, Laurence Rodway, Roger Williams, and T. Alden Williams. There is a freshness and a compactness to the book that make the subject matter congenial for people who do not study the military role and presence in a democratic society as a major interest. Notable, too, is the fact that War in the Next Decade avoids the pretentious, undigested, fragmentary quality of so many academic compilations. The volume is indeed a valuable contribution to the literature of military affairs and fulfills the need for an intensive academic study of the role of the military at a most crucial juncture in the twentieth century.

Premier Georges Clemenceau's aphorism: "War is too serious a matter to be left to the generals" is one of the most quoted of all times. German General Heinz Guderian, commander of the swift and powerful armored units that swept across Western Europe in 1940, also believed that the limiting pressures of the military should be supplemented by innovators from outside the military establishment. These reactions and similar ones made within the last decade constitute the impetus for War in the Next Decade.

More often than not, the Clemenceau and Guderian comments have been used by those arguing against something the military has done or is proposing to do; but the authors of War in the Next Decade take a positive approach and are actually promilitary. They believe that the campus protests, sit-ins, and sieges on university campuses during the Vietnam era were indicative of the fragile links between the university and the military establishment. They also believe that the rupture between academia and the military needs to be mended. In their judgment, the profession of arms should be held in higher esteem, and, as is generally known, the more thoughtful leaders of both the academic and military communities have been striving for several years to find some kind of mutual accommodation.

One possible bridge to better understanding advanced in this book is the development of a new academic discipline in joint effort by civilian universities and senior service schools. The primary objective of this new discipline would be to develop a highly credible body of knowledge about military science and the profession of arms generally that would be respected by both the military and the professional civilian scholar. This science of conflict would consist of substantive contributions from the social and behavioral sciences as well as from the natural sciences. The authors submit that since the university is our society's institutional center for research and instruction, it can playa significant role in developing this new discipline. This effort should provide an accommodation between the military and our educational institutions and assist in the development of an enlarged matrix from which a more professional understanding of modern warfare can emerge. In principle, General Beaufre, too, supports this concept.

War in the Next Decade suggests that in the next decade serious military scenarios should address not only technological and strategic considerations of war but also focus attention "on the dynamics of military institutions and their impact on society." The book further claims that in the West there has been a tendency to separate political and military objectives in War; the authors feel that it has been a mistake to draw too qualitative a distinction between military means and political ends. 

The numbing realization of Vietnam has already made its impact on the future of the military profession, according to War in the Next Decade. From every indication it appears that the military is likely to emerge as "(1) a smaller establishment, (2) recruited permanently on an all-volunteer basis, and (3) organized predominantly on a force-in-being basis with a de-emphasis on the older tradition of a cadre for mobilization." However, this does not guarantee proportionate decreases in manpower costs. In this connection, it is estimated that within the foreseeable future the American military will be supported by six to seven percent of the gross national product, i.e., about half the rate of the late fifties. This is nearly $90 billion in 1980 (in 1967 dollars). The authors also contend that despite termination of the draft, the military, at least in the short range, will be able to find enough competent recruits for all ranks. However, the armed forces in the next decade will have only minimal political support among the intellectuals, respectable press, universities, and the upper-middle class generally.

War in the Next Decade suggests that a key goal for the immediate future should be to fuse the professional military establishment more closely into the civilian society. This is essential unless the military is to be perceived by the civilian sector as a separate establishment; it would be further counter-productive if the military began to see itself as alienated from the mainstream of American life. In this respect, education and mutual understanding emerge as key mechanisms for solidifying an effective civilian-military mix.

Until recently the tendency has been either to ignore entirely or regard as of marginal significance the role of our reserve forces. Yet from every indication the reserve forces will assume greater importance in our overall defense posture in the next decade.

In an interesting sketch, the future of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) is analyzed. From the educational side, the book contends that, although ROTC has been part of the American educational scene for more than half a century, some critics continue to assail the program as being devoid of theoretical interest and laden with trivia unworthy of academic credit. But in recent years the services have given more ground than is generally recognized in accommodating program differences with host institutions. In the future, "ingenuity, imagination, and good will on all sides" will be required to meet the educational objections to ROTC. It is expected that more officers with intellectual distinction, and who are not starting their last tour before retirement, will be assigned to ROTC. Drill requirements will probably be reduced, and more civilians will be invited to teach ROTC courses. Some junior officer instructors will also probably have to settle for less than full faculty status. The larger issue of civil-military relations appears to this reviewer to be highly significant. ROTC must continue to be a viable means of officer input. If it were removed from the campuses, it might result in isolating the services from civilian centers which they serve and defend. When properly administered, ROTC plays an important role in blending civilian and military values in this country.

With regard to military-technological possibilities in the next decade, technological forecasting indicates that intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) will continue to be the principal delivery system in strategic warfare. Multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRV) are being introduced into both the Soviet and American operational inventories. These weapons should remain operational for the next decade barring restrictive arms control agreements. Although hard resource allocation choices will have to be made, ICBM's with or without MIRV's can be deployed in the mid or late seventies.

A fine depiction of a powerful nation dealing with the staggering complexities of science and the future of warfare, War in the Next Decade asserts that there is no hard evidence for supposing that the nuclear stalemate between the United States and Russia will be broken in the coming decades. Still less evidence exists for believing that either Russia or the United States will again be permitted by the other to establish a first-strike capability. More effective integration of air and land activity is a highly significant trend worthy of careful study, also. Within the next decade the nation that best coordinates air and land activities will be in the forefront of military competence; in this regard, there will be a need for innovation and the capacity for change.

The future role of the aircraft carrier, as well as the worldwide deployment of the U.S. Navy, is barely touched upon. This is an admitted weakness of the book. Although the Navy came away from the Mayaguez affair with pride in being able to play a key role, a realistic appraisal of the total force capability of the Navy indicates that it is stretched extremely thin. Is the U.S. Navy big enough for its worldwide job? Hopefully, future academic studies of this kind will address such relevant questions.

Another point that the authors do not consider is détente. This so-called spirit of cooperation with the Russians stands today as a keystone of U.S. foreign policy. The problem is that few students of warfare, international affairs, or foreign policy know exactly what détente means or what the military strategic implications are for the armed forces. Both are rich areas for further research.

BOTH THESE BOOKS emphasize that the fear of nuclear weapons makes rocking the boat a hazardous enterprise. The "don't-rock-the-boat impulse" will become stronger as the balance of term becomes firmer. However, as the authors correctly contend, we live in. a world filled with hostile emotions: greed, resentment, anger, and ambition. Yet, military strength is still the ultimate ratio of power in international relations and for this reason we must retain a strong military force. In the future, victories may be few, sacrifices many, but the rewards great, if America and her allies retain their strength, courage, and determination.

These two books provide clear insight into the complex arena of future strategy and military power. They constitute a firm foundation for further study of military science. Both are memorable works worthy of careful reflection.

Air University Institute for 
Professional Development


Dr. Richard I. Lester (Ph.D., Institute of Historical Research, University of London) is Director of Curriculum and Evaluation, Institute for Professional Development, Air University. Previous assignment have been as Chief, Social and Behavioral Sciences, United Sates Armed Forces Institute (USAFI), and education officer with SAC and USAFE. Dr. Lester has also served on the faculties of the University of Maryland and Auburn University.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

Air & Space Power Home Page | Feedback? Email the Editor