I know I must seem to be in a dual with my two personalities at times when one day I support the irregular warfare crowd and the next I turn bitterly on its strongest opponents now labeled COINdistas, but I have been consistent in stating state on state war almost always trumps the importance of small wars strategically, and that small wars often appear to be of greater strategic importance than they actually are when we have the luxury of not having to deal with a credible state actor adversary. Irregular warfare will almost always play a supporting role, sometimes a significant supporting role, in state on state conflict, and it is important in pursuing other national strategic objectives, so I'll put on my other hat and state Secretary Gates was right when he said we had to find a balance between our irregular warfare and more conventional/higher end combat capabilities. Unfortunately, after 10 years of low intensity combat on the far left of the scale we have let our conventional combat capabilities and capacity dangerously erode. We're now being challenged/tested by Russia in Europe and China in the East China and South China Seas. If they're successful in altering the current global system where the U.S. is seen as a global leader, the strategic impact to our national security interests, including our economic interests, will be at much greater risk than that posed by another 9/11 style attack. It disappoints me that the Army, Marines, and USSOCOM tend to focus on the past decade when they are designing the force structure for 2020 threats to our national interests. Terrorism, insurgency, separatism movements, Arab Springs, have been a constant throughout modern history and will continue to be constant. In most cases they do not present a direct strategic risk to our interests, but an indirect one where they erode the global system over time. Meeting this challenge requires a long term investment working with our partners (foreign partners and interagency partners) to address these challenges before they elevate to the strategic level, so I'm not making light of them. On the other hand, the military is the only credible option that America (and other nations) have that can deter or defeat state adversaries, and failure to prevail in these conflicts presents an immediate risk to our strategic interests. We have time to adapt to insurgencies and terrorist groups, we don't have time to adapt to states attacking our allies or launching missile or bomber attacks on our homeland. It is well past time to shift some of our focus back to the right, while maintaining (and always enhancing) our irregular warfare capabilities.


The new battlefield

The United States did not predict tensions with Russia over its invasion and annexation of Crimea or China declaring an air defense identification zone in a territorial dispute over the Senkakau/Diaoyu islands also claimed by Japan, the national security expert noted.

"I think it's a warning to the whole idea that you sit there and prioritize," Cordesman said. "The inability to predict the future was about the only thing consistent with predicting the future."
Of course the reality there is nothing about this, and many of our think tanks for years have predicted an emerging and more aggressive Russia. We chose to ignore it.

David Axe, the long-time military tech writer notes that the T-50, which can fire long-range missiles while flying both high and fast, may be able to “exploit critical vulnerabilities in U.S. and allied forces and level the air power playing field for the first time in a generation.”

An independent Australian think tank, Air Power Australia, drew a more severe conclusion. “If the United States does not fundamentally change its planning for the future of tactical air power, the advantage held for decades will be soon lost and American air power will become an artifact of history.”
A lot of other comparisons in relative capabilities in the article. No one in the article is predicting a U.S. war with Russia, but I'm suggesting the failure to maintain a credible deterrent increases that risk. I much rather see us deployed fighting small wars than the world experiencing the massive bloodletting and economic disruption a war between states would cause, and the best way to remain at the left of the conflict spectrum is to be ready for the right end of spectrum.