Published on May 22 2018

Doug Casey on the Future of War

Justin note: Something’s stuck with me since the last time I spoke with Doug Casey.

Earlier this month, we discussed the new “era of peace” in the Korean Peninsula. Doug talked about a meme floating around the internet saying that the US could employ a new super weapon dubbed the “Rod from God.”

While this weapon probably won’t be deployed anytime soon… it got me thinking about the future of war.

Specifically, how they’ll be fought and how they’ll be different from past wars.

I called up Doug for more on this idea…


Justin: Doug, how will wars of the future be fought differently than today?

Doug: War’s evolving in several ways. For starters, we won’t see as many nation states fighting each other. There will, instead, be more conflict between nation states and non-state entities like so-called terrorist organizations.

Over the last 30 or so years terrorism has become a buzzword, supposedly one of the greatest evils of our era. But “terrorism” is simply a method of warfare. So you can’t fight terrorism. It’s like saying you can fight artillery barrages, cavalry charges or frontal assaults. Terrorism isn’t a thing, it’s a tactic.

There are about 100 separate definitions of terrorism. I’m not sure any two US Government agencies can even agree on one. It’s a little like trying to define pornography using the standard of the rather confused Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who said “I know it when I see it.”

Terrorism is essentially a form of psychological warfare, intended to sway the minds of the enemy. As such, it’s much cheaper, much less destructive, and potentially much more effective than conventional warfare. As Napoleon said, in war the moral is to the physical as three is to one.

I should also mention Sun Tzu in this light. He’s become very fashionable in recent years. This isn’t the time to discuss his views on warfare, but there’s no question he would have been a huge advocate of terror as a method.

I did a couple of pieces on terror, in previous Conversations With Casey and Totally Incorrect, Vol.1.

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Anyway, the big names in the terror world are still ISIS and Al Qaeda, although there will be plenty of others. These groups have good public relations arms. PR is absolutely essential, critical, to a proper terror organization. There are undoubtedly scores of little groups looking to break into the bigtime, and become governments themselves. All of them want to gain as much recognition and power as those two groups.

Nation states—governments—are well aware of the value and effectiveness of terror, and use their own variations of it. Drone strikes and B-52 raids are prominent examples, but aren’t characterized as terror, because it’s convenient to say only the bad guys do that.

Terror, as used by non-state actors, is all about what John Robb calls “open source” warfare. One group tries something, and all the others imitate it if it’s successful, and improve on it. There are going to be many more non-state organizations in the future. Most of them want to be governments when they grow up. They’ll use terrorism to project force.

But you can’t attack these organizations directly, like you can a nation state. To do so you’d have to attack civilian populations wholesale, which tends to be counterproductive. So the era of B-52 mass-bombing raids and mass attacks by tanks are over. That’s all history. Those weapons are increasingly useless in today’s world. Entirely apart from the fact bankrupt governments are about to find they can’t afford them.

Justin: And yet, many governments around the world still appear committed to the technologies.

Doug: Further proof that the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history—and that’s absolutely true of bureaucracies. The F-35 is a perfect example of this. It reportedly costs around $100 million per copy, but who knows if you can trust that number with all the strange accounting that the government does. Each of those planes could really cost much, much more.

It’s completely unaffordable. And none of this junk is going to get used anyway. Most of it is just toys for boys, and free money for “defense” contractors, so they can make political contributions.

Of course, it wasn’t always like this. In World War II, it took nine months from its conception on blank paper for the P-51 Mustang to be in production, arguably the best fighter aircraft of World War II. They cost about $50,000 per copy to make. That’s like $600,000 today. But with the huge advances in manufacturing techniques, materials, computer tech, and so forth, you can argue prices should be dropping. They’ve been playing with the F-35 since 1992, and it still doesn’t work right.

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Justin: If those tools won’t work in future wars, what will?

Doug: Part of the answer is special operations groups. These outfits are well suited to fight non-state organizations.

Commandos and special operations troops used to be just a teeny-weeny part of the US army. They weren’t held in particularly high regard by the conventional military. Now, they’re the fastest-growing part of the military establishment. I understand that there are roughly 70,000 personnel that are special ops in one form or another. And that number will continue growing.

They’re especially good at trying to decapitate the leadership of opposing forces, the command and control systems, without doing a huge amount of physical damage.

That’s important, because if you want to win a war, you need to change the regime—not necessarily destroy the country itself. And it’s interesting that the US government now uses the term “regime change” as opposed to “start a war.” It sounds much more sanitary, and less risky. In fact, however, the Nuremberg Trials determined that starting a war is, in itself, a war crime. “Regime change,” as Iraq and Afghanistan have shown, only differs in semantics from starting a war.

Today, the US Government is the main outfit in the regime change business. They want “regime change” if they don’t like the way a foreign government is acting. It’s actually a fair description from one point of view, because the people of a country itself almost never want war. At least not unless the regime incites them. The average person in most places just goes about his business. The real problem is with the people at the top. The people in the Deep State. The people who run the government and the people who, in turn, run them. Every “democracy”—a very problematical word—has a Deep State, or a Shadow Government, which is somewhat different. Absolutely including the US. I did an essay on this here and here.

In today’s world, the intelligent way to win a war—the low-cost way and the most-effective way—is not to have all these ridiculous weapons that will bankrupt you if you build them. And if you use them, they could end up destroying civilization.

Justin: So, the answer is to simply kill the people at the top of the power structure.

Doug: Exactly. But that’s almost never done. There wasn’t even a serious effort in World War II to take out Hitler and his coterie. During the Cold War, was there any effort to take out Soviet leaders as individuals? No.

It makes me think that the Top Dogs realize that they’re very vulnerable to being taken out. If governments started doing that, it might not be considered playing fair. But it’s apparently totally fine to terror bomb Tokyo and kill 100,000 civilians in a night, as the United States did in World War II.

They never even tried to kill Emperor Hirohito, Tojo and the other top Japanese officials, perhaps because then they might return the favor. These are things we need to think about.

Even to this day foreign government officials aren’t targeted. I believe it may even be illegal… The only recent example that I can think of is when they tried to take out Gaddafi in Libya. They used the Air Force as an assassination vehicle, bombing his tent.

This is only done with nothing-nowhere countries. Panama is a similar case, with Noriega, although it was an actual invasion that killed a couple thousand Panamanians. That was OK, in that they were just what’s known as collateral damage. It’s quite unfortunate how the US has gotten into the habit of attacking small, backward places. Not because they’re a threat to anybody. But because they have the wrong allies. Grenada comes to mind. Another completely illegal unprovoked invasion.

It’s reminiscent of a famous incident in the Peloponnesian War. Athens wanted the use of the harbor of Melos, a small city-state, in their war against Sparta. The Melians refused, saying they were neutral. The Athenians attacked, burned the city, and killed or enslaved all of its inhabitants. Thucydides summed it up with the line “the strong do what they can, the weak suffer what they must.” It was a permanent blot on Athens’ character. I’m afraid the US is making the same mistake.

The days of conquering a neighboring country for profit—stealing the gold, the women, and the cattle—are gone. Anyway, if the rulers of one country don’t like the rulers of another, I’d say it’s appropriate they go after them personally—and not involve millions of innocent bystanders, using the country’s military. I know that sounds quaint, but I suspect there might be more of that kind of thing in the future. It’s only possible with special operations groups. And that’s one reason why these groups are on the ascendant.

The other is that most people on this planet are already living in cities. That means there will be a lot more emphasis on urban warfare. More fighting will occur inside and around buildings as opposed to fields, forests and deserts. And special ops are best-suited for this kind of conflict.


Justin’s note: Keep your eyes peeled for part 2 of our interview tomorrow, where Doug will show how artificial intelligence could be used in future wars. He also shares what he believes will be “the single biggest technology that’s going to change the nature of warfare.”

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Reader Mailbag

Today, readers respond to Friday’s Dispatch: “California May Have Just Ignited the Next Great Bull Market”…

I own over 80 properties in Dallas and I can tell you that about every seven years we can count on replacing many of our roofs because of severe hail storms. For that reason, our insurance policies limit roof repairs to 1% of the coverage limits. So, people in Texas are not bullish on solar power, roof panels are shattered by the kind of hail we get that batters unprotected cars and even breaks windshields! We go by comparative size: pea, golf ball, baseball and grapefruit!

– Jeff

Just read the article on mandated solar panels. Yes, that is good for solar stocks. But don’t ever think that translates to cheaper panels. Anything the government mandates only causes that product to cost more. Free markets are what’s causing the costs of solar panels to decline. That’s no longer the case when the government interferes.

– Joe

This may be true, but Californians are going to be voting on rent control in November, which will dampen building in a very serious way.

– David

As always, if you have any questions or suggestions for the Dispatch, send them to us right here.