Book Review: The Future of Land Warfare by Michael O’Hanlon

There is no end of speculation among policymakers and think tanks about what the future of warfare will look like and what the future US military should look like.  The Future of Land Warfare is another entry in that speculation.

The facts.  The book is 202 pages of text divided into six topical chapters with a couple of appendices plus extensive notes and an index.

The layout of this book is pretty straightforward and it almost reads as a slightly less dry White Paper.  O’Hanlon starts out by examining the historical context of US force structure and chapter 2 examines potential and likely adversaries in the coming decades.  The analysis is pretty good although I would not put as much faith into A Great power confrontation with China as he does but that is quibbling.  The contemplations of potential flashpoints are both good and mundane at the same time as he, correctly in my opinion, draws the conclusion that in the next few decades potential flashpoints will be much as they are today although the possibility of an India-China or India-Pakistan conflict will probably be higher than they are at present and it is highly likely that the Middle East will decline in importance somewhat as the world weans itself off of fossil fuels.

The most striking part of the book is his advocacy of what he calls a 1+2 posture for the military.  That is, he advocates keeping a force large enough to fight and win one major regional war while holding in 2 others simultaneously.  He explicitly acknowledges the budget challenges facing the federal government in the years ahead but argues that maintaining a sufficient force structure to meet global commitments is a core responsibility of the US government.  I cannot disagree with him on this.

The argument and recommendation boil down to maintaining current troop numbers where they are at with a total of one million soldiers between the active and reserve forces.  He does advocate for some changes in the unit distribution between those forces such as more support troops in the active force.  I expected to see him recommend changes to the current concept of the brigade as the army’s maneuver unit but he does not do that.

All in all, this a well thought out piece of analysis that puts forth a solid recommendation.  I highly recommend this book for those with opinions about how large the army should be and what we as a nation should be asking our army to do.  A very good book.