Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The Future of War essay contest: Time to ante up and vote for your favorites

Here is a complete list of the 27 Future of War essays, nicely compiled by Cyrus at New America. I think it is a pretty impressive collection. Looking it over, I was surprised to see how many were from military officers. I count 10 from current or former Army officers, three from Marines, two from ...

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Here is a complete list of the 27 Future of War essays, nicely compiled by Cyrus at New America. I think it is a pretty impressive collection.

Looking it over, I was surprised to see how many were from military officers. I count 10 from current or former Army officers, three from Marines, two from the Navy, and one from the Air Force. That distribution probably is a good reflection of the military readership of this blog. Overall, I would say there were about 70 submissions. Two people had two entries appear.

Both in the ones that ran and the ones that didn't, I think there was a surprising amount of consensus. That's more vividly expressed in the particulars of each essay than in general overarching terms, but in short: Messy, unpredictable, violent, using a mix of robots and humans, with a lot of effort by each side to interrupt the adversary's communications. (Does the future belong to the side that has the best encrypted, jam-defeating links to its drones? Or to the one that has the best counter-drone concepts?) Technology promises a lot, especially in robotics, but the more we try for standoff, the more the enemy will try to move in. Overall, nothing beats adaptiveness and resiliency. The question, of course, is how to attain those.

Here is a complete list of the 27 Future of War essays, nicely compiled by Cyrus at New America. I think it is a pretty impressive collection.

Looking it over, I was surprised to see how many were from military officers. I count 10 from current or former Army officers, three from Marines, two from the Navy, and one from the Air Force. That distribution probably is a good reflection of the military readership of this blog. Overall, I would say there were about 70 submissions. Two people had two entries appear.

Both in the ones that ran and the ones that didn’t, I think there was a surprising amount of consensus. That’s more vividly expressed in the particulars of each essay than in general overarching terms, but in short: Messy, unpredictable, violent, using a mix of robots and humans, with a lot of effort by each side to interrupt the adversary’s communications. (Does the future belong to the side that has the best encrypted, jam-defeating links to its drones? Or to the one that has the best counter-drone concepts?) Technology promises a lot, especially in robotics, but the more we try for standoff, the more the enemy will try to move in. Overall, nothing beats adaptiveness and resiliency. The question, of course, is how to attain those.

But not everyone jumped on that wagon. Some of the outliers were 1. The guy who said there will be no future war because the current ones will never end, 2. the former officer who argued we already have lost the next war, 3. the actuary who said simply that we are gonna have a nuclear war, and 4. the guy who argued that we have been out-innovated for the last 13 years, so don’t count on technology to bail us out. Call this the pessimist party, if you will.

Now, please vote. Read over the list and pick two.

For ease of voting, they are numbered, just as they were when they originally ran. I would like to ask you to send me an e-mail, using the e-mail address at the end of my bio, to list your favorite and your 2nd favorite. Put "Contest" in the subject line and write something simple like, "My top choice is no. X and my second is no. Y."

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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