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In October 2014, the US Army released the Army Operating Concept (AOC), ‘Win in a Complex World,’ which describes the future of armed conflict and the ways in which the US Army will adapt and prepare. On 19 February, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, Director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC) and Deputy Commanding General for US Army Training and Doctrine Command for Futures, spoke in an IISS-US Policy Makers Series lecture on both the AOC and the future of armed conflict. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Eliot Cohen, the Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

McMaster explained that the AOC ’describes how army forces will have to operate in the future’ by addressing ‘the problem of future armed conflict through the lens of both continuity and change – continuity in the nature of war and changes in the character of conflict.’

According to McMaster, the political nature and human element of conflicts have remained consistent throughout history. War is waged to ‘achieve sustainable political outcomes’; the US Army’s role is to both ‘provide foundational capabilities to the joint force’ and to ‘consolidate gains – particularly political outcomes.’ McMaster explained the importance of developing upfront a political and diplomatic strategy to address both ‘internal and external political dynamics’ which can help to move a conflict toward a ‘sustainable outcome consistent with …vital interests’ after the initial conflict is over.

The human element refers to the millennia-old reasons that individuals engage in conflict: ‘fear, honor, and interest.’ In addressing these long-standing motivations, McMaster said that the army must be cognisant of the rationale of not only the enemy but also the civilian population in order to develop a fuller understanding of ‘what is driving conflict’.

Ultimately, ‘war is uncertain’, and the future of conflict can be difficult – if not impossible – to predict. Conflict has and always will be a ‘contest of wills’ in which it is necessary to develop soldiers who are ’resilient, who can operate in…uncertain environments’ and who form ‘cohesive teams’. McMaster explained that the US Army is ‘endeavoring to institutionalize the lessons of the last 13 years of war’ and has seen success in terms of ’doctrine…combat leadership…and the philosophy of mission command – which is decentralized operations based on mission orders.’ In order ‘to deal with complexity … complexity … [the army must have] trust up and down [its] chain of command” and McMaster emphasized the work done by the army in “challenging and bringing out the best in young men and women” both in preparation for peacetime operations and future complex environments.
’ and McMaster emphasised the work done by the forces in ‘challenging and bringing out the best in young men and women’ in preparation for both peacetime operations and future complex environments.

While the fundamental nature of conflict may remain the same, many of its characteristics are constantly in flux. McMaster acknowledged that in the future threats and adversaries will change, and so will the technology available to address these challenges. As conflicts develop and their characteristics change, the army will have to continually self-assess and apply new ‘lessons learned’ to its training, education, and doctrine.

The Military Balance 2015 features a chapter on ‘Hybrid warfare: challenge and response’; analysis of regional defence and security developments, including North America, Europe and Russia; and detailed entries on NATO members’ military capabilities, displaying key forces by role, equipment inventories and defence economics.

The Military Balance 2015  is The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries worldwide. It is an essential resource for those involved in security policy-making, analysis and research.
https://www.iiss.org/en/militarybalanceblog/blogsections/2015-090c/march-02a5/mcmaster-policy-makers-lecture-b97b

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