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Michael O’Hanlon discusses the future of land warfare

On Tuesday, November 17, IWP welcomed Michael E. O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, to give a talk on his book entitled Order from Chaos: The Future of Land Warfare. This was the first of IWP’s Global Impact Session Series.

Dr. O’Hanlon began the talk by noting the significance of his lecture to the current conflicts in Syria and Russia and the threats that they pose to our world today. He also spoke on the strategy and policy shift that the current administration has made in terms of staying out of current conflicts versus diminishing the capability to intervene in future conflicts.

He noted several problems with the military strategy of our defense today, the first of which is our over-reliance on technology. The world is changing in terms of warfare. Through the usage of drones and other military technology, war has been made more accessible, and has, as a result, changed the attitude we have towards warfare. Similar to the US military’s usage of napalm and the potential usage of nuclear weapons in the Vietnam conflict, the United States’ dependence on technology in counterinsurgency missions shows the current trend that we are headed towards if these tactics continue. Second, he noted the dangers of downsizing the military in the current administration. The trend that we are facing is a lessening of military power under the Obama administration. This trend could be dangerous if the it continues.  

As a solution, Dr. O’Hanlon believes we must be realistic in our decisions surrounding an increase or decrease of active military personnel, while at the same time preparing the military for potential scenarios that the United States faces. He noted the dangers in underestimating the number of military personnel needed, but the United States should be able to make a calculation based on the current and potential threats and scenarios occurring, such as the ongoing Korean conflict. It is impossible to know exactly what will be occurring in the world today, but estimating and factoring in these various scenarios will give us a good framework to deal with other potential problems that may arise. He suggested that a military of one million active personnel would be sufficient for the defense and national security of the United States.

He concluded by discussing several potential scenarios in the world and the effects that they could have on the size and strategy of the military on a variety of threats. The potential nuclear arms race in Southeast Asia and the potential outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa are possible problems that could arise. Looking at these scenarios in terms of the coalitions involved and the severity of the threats, Dr. O’Hanlon believes, is important. Having a balance of humanitarian relief and security policy is essential and ensures we are prepared for the conflicts that arise that affect our national interests and security.

Many thanks to IWP student Patricia Schouker for organizing this event.