Unfolding the Future of the Long War
Motivations, Prospects, and Implications for the U.S. Army
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The United States is currently engaged in a military effort that has been characterized as the “long war.” The long war has been described by some as an epic struggle against adversaries bent on forming a unified Islamic world to supplant western dominance, while others describe it more narrowly as an extension of the war on terror. But while policymakers, military leaders, and scholars have offered numerous definitions of the long war, no consensus has been reached about this term or its implications for the United States. To understand the impacts that this long war will have on the U.S. Army and on U.S. forces in general, it is necessary to understand more precisely what the long war is and how it might unfold over the coming years. To address this need, this study explores the concept of the long war and identifies potential ways in which it might unfold as well as the implications for the Army and the U.S. military more generally.
This report uses the generation of either “trajectories” or alternative paths in which the long war might unfold to explore the implications for the U.S. military. The discussion focuses on the potential threats the U.S. faces in each trajectory and considers the confluence of three major problems raised by the war: those related to the ideologies espoused by key adversaries in the conflict, those related to the use of terrorism, and those related to governance (i.e., its absence or presence, its quality, and the predisposition of specific governing bodies to the United States and its interests). The goal of this report is not to determine which of these areas is the key problem. Instead, we take the stance that in order to ensure that this long war follows a favorable course, the United States will need to make a concerted effort across all three domains. Numerous broad conclusions and recommendations are given for addressing issues surrounding the long war.
Table of Contents
What Is the Long War?
Who Is Involved in the Long War?
What Will Affect the Way the Long War Unfolds?
How Might the Long War Unfold?
What Does This Mean for the Army?
Observations on the Long War
Short Descriptions of Ideology, Governance, and Terrorism
The Use of Civilizational Conflict When Describing the Long War
Interpreting the Influence Diagram
Relating Long War Strategies to Grand Strategies
Location of Oil and Natural Gas Resources
Demographic Trends and Factors
Water in the Middle East
Research conducted by
The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.
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