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Review Essay

Future Fights

Planning for the Next War

In This Review

The Future of War: A History
The Future of War: A History
By Lawrence Freedman
PublicAffairs, 2017, 400 pp. Purchase

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has been known to quip that Washington’s predictions about its future wars have been one hundred percent right, zero percent of the time. In early 1950, officials said that the United States would not fight in Korea. In 1964, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson promised that he would not send American troops to fight wars in Asia. Iraq was not on any American’s list of enemies in 1990; after all, the United States had assisted that country in its war against Iran just a decade before. And few people—not even Khalid Sheik Mohammed, one of the architects of the 9/11 attacks—anticipated the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001

So why bother thinking about the future of war at all? The answer, for better or worse, is that there is no other choice. If bureaucracies do not carefully consider possible future scenarios, they

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