Next War Won’t Resemble Any War Ever Fought Before, Retiring Pentagon Chief Says

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by John Haughey at

The nature of war has stalked mankind since the dawn of civilization and will remain fixed in the human psyche as long as emotions such as fear, hatred, anxiety, and jealousy influence the actions of individuals, organizations, and nations.

The character of warfare—tactics, strategies, weapons—is constantly evolving, steadily developing more lethal technologies, and continuously reacting to the shifting churn of political challenges and geo-strategic threats.

Armed forces that can swiftly, effectively incorporate technological advancements into war-fighting tactics will dominate the battlefields of the future, just as they always have, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley said.

Those that don’t, he said, will suffer the same fates as Western European nations did when the German military blended technologies into  combined-force tactics to unleash a new type of “blitzkrieg” warfare that overran much of the continent in a matter of weeks.

Speaking June 30 at a National Press Club Headliners Luncheon in Washington, Milley said the nation’s armed forces must adapt to “the most significant fundamental change in the character of war ever recorded the history” by training to fight a war unlike any other waged before.

“Perhaps the biggest change is the rapid onset of artificial intelligence and quantum computing,” he said. “In fact, in the next 10 to 15 years, we’re likely to see that at least one-third of the advanced industrial militaries of the world will be robotic. Think of a pilotless air force or a sailor-less navy or crew-less tank.”

Sun Tzu to Clausewitz

Milley, frequently quoting from Prussian theorist Gen. Carl von Clausewitz’s 1832 book, “On War,” and Sun Tzu’s 2,500-year-old “The Art of War,” was likely making his last appearance before the National Press Club as the highest-ranking officer in the United States military.

His 44-year career in the U.S. Army and a four-year stint as chairman of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff ends with his Oct. 1 retirement. In his remaining three months, the four-star general, who rose through the ranks as an armor—tank—officer, is likely to repeat his call for sustained modernization in a summer of speeches.

Milley did not refer to, nor was he asked about, his entanglements with former President Donald Trump during the 19 months he was Joint Chiefs chair under the Trump administration.

He did not mention the “secret” plan to attack Iran he allegedly drafted that Trump was referring to—but claims he didn’t actually have—in the July 2021 recording at his New Jersey golf club that is cited among the 37 felony counts lodged against him for purportedly mishandling classified documents that he should not have had after his presidency.

Milley’s post-presidency bark-to-bark banter with Trump—he claims in the waning days of his administration, he thwarted the former president from launching a massive attack on Iran—has relegated him to the highest pantheon of MAGA enemies along with Hillary Clinton, Anthony Fauci, and Christopher Wray, among others.

Nor did he discuss the House Republican uproar over diversity, equity, and inclusion training and other “woke” policies in the military that conservatives say are contributing to recruiting shortfalls and impairing readiness.

What Milley did talk about was typical of a leader leaving an organization he’d been part of for five decades, including a final post so consuming, he has no idea what he’ll do when he wakes up Oct.1 and is longer an active-duty soldier.

“Literally, I have not had time to figure all that out,” he said, noting he and his wife “don’t even know where we are going to live.”

One thing is for certain, Milley said. He has “zero” interest in politics and will “absolutely not” seek any type of public office.

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