April 24, 2009 (the date of publication in Russian)

Maxim Kalashnikov


Pentagon strategic analysts study von Clausewitz, Thucydides, and Sun Tzu


In the end of the last year, the U.S. Joint Forces Command issued a curious document, in fact representing a new military doctrine of the United States. The blueprint, entitled "The Joint Operative Environment 2008" (JOE), endeavors to look into a quarter of a century ahead and guess in what kind of environment warfare and combat operations are going to be waged.

The preface is signed by Gen. J. N. Mattis U.S. Marine Corps, Commander of JFCOM. That means that the document is really serious and worth studying.

The U.S. Joint Forces Command was formed in 1999 on the base of the former Atlantic Command. Since that time, JFCOM has served as a laboratory of transformation of the US armed forces, as a conductor of the Presidential guidelines and a prototype of the Army of Future. It does not have any analogues in Russia.

What do military futurologists forecast? In fact, an utterly unclear perspective. The authors admit that today, America is gripped with both intimidation and inspiration. Still, the military forces are supposed to continue playing the central role in pursuing national interests and state security. In the next quarter of the century, they expect war against regular and irregular (guerilla) troops, mostly in distant regions, along with assistance to affected regions and their reconstruction (obviously on the Iraqi pattern). Conflicts are going to emerge for various reasons – from well calculated strategy of the adversary to outbreaks of blond passions. Military capabilities of the probable adversaries vary from suicide vests and bomb belts to long-range high-precision weapons, ballistic missiles and anti-satellite systems. The number of nations, possessing WMD (nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons) is expected to increase Ц not only among stable countries but also among failed states and non- governmental networks. It is not yet possible to foresee relevant details. It is more or less possible only to characterize the environment in which future dramas are going to unfold. Obviously, military forces will have to confront aggressive Islamic militants and their terrorist assaults on the Western "open society".

The JFCOM's study addresses three issues:

- trends and disruptions that are likely to affect the US armed forces over the next 25 years;

- impact of these trends and disruptions on the context of combat operations;

- implications of these trends and contexts for the Joint Force.

JOE's authors believe that wars are inherent in the human civilization. Therefore, the United States will have to use weapons not once. Besides, many regions of the world lack reasonable political players, while religious and ideological sentiment may mobilize millions for mortal combat.


The doctrine's authors believe that the fog of uncertainty and "frictions" of war events (defined by von Clausewitz) are going to maintain in wars of the nearest future. Despite accuracy of operation planning, despite high technologies, the notorious "fog of war" and "frictions " may divert the process of combat operation to utter unpredictability.

It is noteworthy that US military futurologists urge to thoroughly study the adversary, to deeply understand the enemy. Military leaders too frequently regard the adversary as a force incapable of education and adaptation. War is never a collision of a living force with a lifeless mass: it is always a clash of two living forces.

Even in case the two sides of the battle have a similar historical and cultural background, their combat behavior plausibly varies due to dissemblance of interpersonal relations, expectations, and behavioral patterns. When a military collision takes place between representatives of various cultures, the situation is even more complicated. Therefore, one should follow the advice of Sun Tzu: to thoroughly study oneself, and then study the enemy with similar painstaking.

In practice, this suggests requirement of insight in potential adversaries Ц their culture, history, geography, religious and ideological motivations, and distinction of their perception of the external world from that of an American.


The US military are definitely not simplistic fatheads. They clearly realize that the world has entered a shocking, unpredictable age. Oncoming wars are also going to be unpredictable, involving forces capable of education, adaptation, and use of advanced technologies. To grasp the change in time, politicians should avoid extrapolation of current events into the future, and not try to measure the emerging reality with the traditional criteria.

The unpredictability of future is illustrated by JOE authors with an example from recent past. A quarter of a century ago, the US military intellect was concentrated on a potential collision with the USSR, anticipating all kinds of challenges on a strategic and tactical level. The Soviet Union was perceived as a hard and rough adversary with leaders believing in Marxism-Leninism and committed to spread Communist influence across the universe. A few persons in the intelligence community could detect and estimate the developing internal crisis leading to USSR's implosion.

At that time, the confronting sides deployed thousands of warheads at their military bases, and developed extensive ground forces, aviation and Navy. The USSR was seemingly going to win the Afghan war, while pro-Soviet guerillas won in Salvador.

The rest of the world looked also utterly different than today. China was slowly recovering after the consequences of Mao's rule; India was staying at the medieval level of poverty; the Middle East was pregnant with political and religious conflicts but it was still hard to foresee that the United States would launch two wars against Iraq, later mobilizing most of their ground forces for suppressing guerilla units in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

A quarter of a century ago, the US military were criticized for poor coordination of troops that revealed most spectacularly during the Grenada operation in October 1983. Today's unified structure of US armed forces was yet in theory. Pentagon did not yet possess the M-1 tank, the Bradley armored vehicle, while stealth fighters were being tested, the term "high precision weapons" was applied only to tactical nuclear weapons; and the global GPS system did not exist at all.

American analysts propose to look deeper into the history, to the beginning of the XX century, and to compare the strategic assessments that failed to match reality.

1900. The world's leading power is the British Empire, and its strategic analysts fear of the rising France. (The JOE analysts have forgotten that during decades after Napoleon III, France was in fact tailing on behind British policy, while the British feared of the two rising continental powers Ц Russia and Germany Ц M.K.).

1910. The British allied with the French against Germany (the Russian Empire is omitted again Ц M.K.).

1920. Britain and its allies win World War I but face a naval arms race with its formal allies Ц Japan and The United States.

1930. Nations sign first naval limitation treaties. The Great Depression breaks out. The British don't expect war within a decade, regarding the USSR and Japan as probable adversaries, while Italy and Germany are perceived as friendly powers.

1936. A top British war planner admits that the major probable adversaries are Italy, Japan, and Germany, not counting upon any assistance from the US.

1940. France's surrender leaves Britain alone against Germany and Japan; the Japanese threaten British colonies in the Far East; the Americans have only recently started to re-equip its military forces.

1950. After World War II, America is the worlds greatest power; the nuclear age has just started; still, 36,500 Americans die in the Korean War that emerged from a "police action" (along with 58,000 South Koreans, 3,000 Allied soldiers, 215,000 North Korean soldiers, 400,000 Chinese, and 2,000,000 Korean civilians). In this war, lasting until 1953, America's major adversary is China Ц the ally of the US in the war against Japan.

1960. Politicians shout that USSR has surpassed America in missile development, though that is not true. The doctrine of massive nuclear retaliation is replaced with the doctrine of flexible response. Meanwhile, a small insurgency in South Vietnam is yet almost unnoticed by US analysts.

1970. After a failure in the Vietnam campaign, the US is withdrawing troops from Indochina. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union had just successfully suppressed the emerging unrest in the Warsaw Pact. Détente between Washington and Moscow begins. Meanwhile, China is waiting for an opportunity to create an informal alliance with the United States.

1980. The USSR had just invaded Afghanistan, while the Islamic revolution had overthrown the Shah's regime in Tehran. The US military is trying to release the hostages from the US embassy's personnel, but the operation humiliatingly fails. For the first time, the US Army is reputed as a "hollow force". At the same time, the United States becomes the world's largest creditor.

1990 (more precisely, 1991 Ц M.K.). The USSR falls apart. The supposedly "hollow" US troops crush Saddam's army within 100 hours. But nobody except Pentagon personnel has heard of the Internet.

2000. Warsaw is the capital of a NATO nation. Terrorism gains support, becoming America's major enemy. Biotech, robotics, nanotechnology, and hydrogen energy research develop more swiftly than expected.


Thus, the world drastically changed within a span of a decade, not 25 years. Between 1983 and today, the economic and technological "landscape" has dramatically transformed.

In 1983, globalization was yet making its first steps, mostly encompassing trade between the United States, the EU, and Japan. Meanwhile, the "tigers" of South-Eastern Asia were yet impoverished, and are only starting their rise.

In 1983, the daily trasfer of capital among international markets was approximately $20 billion. Today, it is $1.6 trillion.

In 1983, the Internet was still a military communication network, its economic and communicative capabilities still unrevealed; cellular communication also did not yet exist. (Not correct: in the USSR, cellular communication for top officials existed since 1980 Ц M.K.). PCs are only becoming a mass phenomenon; Microsoft has just expanded beyond Bill Gates' personal garage; Google exists in science fiction novels.

And though the information revolution has already started, it applications were yet vague and not obvious. All the other achievements of today, like robotics (not true: robotics was named a key direction of technologies at CPSU XXVI Congress in 1981 Ц M.K.), deciphering of the human genome, and nanotechnologies were yet a dream.

Driving these parallels, JOE authors conclude: the changes are likely to be dramatic and drastic also in the oncoming quarter of the XXI century. The speed of technological and scientific research is increasing; qualitative shifts are going to happen in the energy, financial, political, strategic, operational, and technological domains. Some of them are well expected, but others will emerge in the way of sudden, groundbreaking innovations Ц and the Joint Force Command should be prepared to this.


The work of US military futurologists should be highly appreciated. Their doctrine is written in vivid, fruity, and figurative language Ц unlike the sapless bureaucratic style of Soviet, as well as contemporary Russian military research. In Russia's military establishment, the JOE blueprint would be regarded as "not serious".

However, the approach of the authors raises the debate to the level of a real "cosmic view". The argumentation and rhetorical technique, with reference to classical military theorists like von Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, or Thucydides, approximates the blueprint to the writings of Alvin Toffler, and in Russian literature Ц to the Russian Doctrine and this author's books.

We have to thoroughly study the United States, the nation that has always been a rival and a potential adversary of any Russian centralized statehood Ц monarchic, socialist or any else. Therefore, we have to conceive the logic of US military development, the world outlook of the US military, their approach to military planning and combat operations. In this respect, JOE is a valuable document for Russians.

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