Micah Zenko makes 12 predictions about the future of U.S. wars. I recommend reading the entire piece. Many of Zenko’s statements are not so much predictions as they are accurate descriptions of how U.S. wars have been fought for the last two decades. For example, here are a few that describe virtually every U.S. military intervention in my lifetime:
Fourth, civilian and military leaders will offer a buffet of vague justifications (humanitarian, economic, “national interests”) to defend going to war in order to obtain the widest possible support from Congress and American citizens.
Fifth, civilian leaders will wildly underestimate the human and financial costs, duration, political consequences, and second-order effects of those wars, in order to obtain the widest possible support from Congress and American citizens.
Sixth, both civilian and military leaders will mislead Congress, prominent media members, and the general public about the overall conduct and progress of the war by emphasizing positive stories and trends that they themselves generate, while similarly dismissing outside critical viewpoints.
Unfortunately, Zenko’s predictions are likely to be borne out by events because these things have happened many times before and are still happening now. His sixth prediction is really just a short summary of what the Bush administration did with the Iraq war between 2003 and 2009. The bad habit of misleading the public continues today. Just recently, information about progress in the Afghan war (or lack thereof) has been restricted by the Pentagon:
The Pentagon has ordered an independent federal auditor to stop providing the public with key information about US war efforts in Afghanistan, accelerating a clampdown on data, such as the size of the Afghan military and police forces, that indicate how the 16-year-old stalemated war is going.
The most likely reason for doing this is to obscure the truth about the war from the public, and the truth is that the U.S. and its allies aren’t winning the longest war in our history. Trump escalated the war, it continues to go poorly, and now the administration doesn’t want the public to have access to the information that would show just how poorly it is going. That will make it easier for the administration to put a positive spin on events and present a misleading picture to the public.
I would add a few predictions of my own to Zenko’s list: 1) civilian and military leaders will greatly exaggerate the benefits of future wars to the country and the world; 2) future wars will have no discernible connection to the defense of the United States or its treaty allies; 3) future wars will be fought in countries that have never mattered to U.S. security in the past, but fighting in those same countries will suddenly be deemed “vital” for national security; 4) future wars will be expanded and perpetuated long after the initial reason for starting them has ceased to exist; 5) some of the wars of the future will be offshoots of earlier unnecessary wars.