Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine by Gen. David Petraeus, Andrew Roberts

Summary and takeaways from the book.

The book "draws lessons from both Ukraine and the earlier chapters about what we might expect in the wars of the twenty-first century.

We concentrate upon the importance of being at the cutting edge of the latest military technology as well as on the critical roles played by leadership, training, morale, coalition-building, doctrine, the significance of highly professional non-commissioned officers and the importance of contesting the information sphere

ISBN: 978-0063293137
Published: October 17, 2023
Pages: 544
Available on: amazon

The authors are General David Petraeus, who commanded the US-led coalitions in both Iraq, during the Surge, and Afghanistan and former CIA director; and the British historian Prof. Andrew Roberts, Baron Roberts of Belgravia, and Member of the House of Lords.

Their intention writing the book is that "critical mistakes have been repeated time and again, and the challenge, for statesmen and generals alike, of learning to adapt to various new weapon systems, theories and strategies".

"how militaries around the world have learned – or failed to learn – from each previous war when trying to fashion the means to fight the next, and it will investigate the personal qualities needed for successful strategic leadership."

The book "draws lessons from both Ukraine and the earlier chapters about what we might expect in the wars of the twenty-first century.

We concentrate upon the importance of being at the cutting edge of the latest military technology as well as on the critical roles played by leadership, training, morale, coalition-building, doctrine, the significance of highly professional non- commissioned officers and the importance of contesting the information sphere.

Role of leadership

"when done well, successful strategic leadership can transform even the most seriously disadvantageous situations for the better. Yet, when it fails, it can turn likely victory into certain defeat."

"Firstly, they need comprehensively to grasp the overall strategic situation in a conflict and craft the appropriate strategic approach – in essence, to get the big ideas right.

Secondly, they must communicate those big ideas, the strategy, effectively throughout the breadth and depth of their organization and to all other stakeholders.

Thirdly, they need to oversee the implementation of the big ideas, driving the execution of the campaign plan relentlessly and determinedly.

Lastly, they have to determine how the big ideas need to be refined, adapted and augmented, so that they can perform the first three tasks again and again and again.
"however much warfare evolves in terms of technology, leadership qualities will always continue to play a vital part."

Cyber warfare

"An important aspect of General Gerasimov’s non-linear warfare was cyber warfare. Russia’s malware attack on Ukraine prior to the seizure of Crimea in 2014 had stalled a fifth of the world’s shipping capacity, and US Generals John Allen and Ben Hodges believe it might even have been a trial run for a possibly devastating cyberattack in any future war against NATO."

"Ukrainian air defense radar was jammed across all frequency bands. “We thought we were going to be denied the entire electromagnetic spectrum around Kyiv,” noted a Ukrainian electronic warfare unit commander. Ukrainian banking websites such as Privatbank were temporarily forced offline in an obvious attempt to provoke financial panic."

"The data analytics company Palantir supplied software that translates up-to-the-second information from satellites, drones, spies’ mobile phones and sensors into a model that allowed highly accurate rocket and artillery strikes."

"Ukraine also remained connected to the internet in part due to the Starlink mobile satellite terminals that were made available by the businessman Elon Musk’s company SpaceX and paid for by the US government. It effectively gave every Ukrainian military unit with access to a terminal a complete picture of the situation on the ground in real time. The processing of targeting could be completed around ten times faster than in previous conflicts, and more accurately. Warfare was evolving fast, hour by hour."

"Russian communications system (single channel and unencrypted) had proved to be insecure and prone to Ukrainian eavesdropping and jamming. Generals were forced to go forward themselves in order to determine the nature of delays and chastise local commanders. Thus exposed near the front line, they were successfully targeted by Ukrainian snipers, drones and artillery. As the war progressed, an increasing number of Russian generals were killed, a development that sent shockwaves through the Russian high command in Moscow. Nor was it only generals; on 9 August Lieutenant Colonel Vitaly Tsikul became the 100th Russian colonel or lieutenant colonel to die in the 'special operation'."

"GIS Arta, a computer system developed by Ukrainian programmers in collaboration with British digital mapping companies, cut targeting times from twenty minutes to one, and led to the destruction of more than seventy Russian tanks, armored fighting vehicles and personnel carriers in two days of coordinated shelling and airstrikes as they attempted to cross a bridge over the Siverskyi Donets River in eastern Ukraine."

Defense vs offense

Defense vs offense: "three-to-one force ratio that history suggests is necessary for success". The offensive force has to be 3 times stronger numerically with all else being equal.

Defense has advantages when people defend their lands. "Once they had waved their families off from railway stations across the country, most went to the front with a fierce determination to punish the Russians for the misery caused."

Role of organization structure, lies, and morale

Authors compare Russian and Western armies. Russian Army is "a top-heavy organization, with officers controlling almost everything and with little power and responsibility entrusted to non-commissioned officers (NCOs), who are not comparable in professional development or authority to their counterparts in most Western armies.

Control over the means and methods of completing tactical objectives is entirely held by the officers in the Russian Army, which severely hampered its effectiveness in Ukraine.

"Russian NCOs do not dictate the tactical decisions of their units, nor discipline or motivate the troops," writes the military historian Katherine Bayford. "Instead, higher- ranking officers assume control of everything. The result is that units are inflexible, chains of command vulnerable, and troop morale low.

"High morale, which essentially stems from a belief in ultimate victory however long and hard the road may be, is a vital factor in warfare and an essential prerequisite for victory, and is easier to engender in a war of independence such as this one, rather than a war of occupation such as Russia’s. With high morale, soldiers are willing to undergo extraordinary dangers and privations; without it they simply are not."

"Once morale erodes, it is notoriously hard to regain. Some Russian troops were told they were going on a training exercise, others that the limited targets for the special operation were Ukrainian Nazi sympathizers. Few realized on mobilization that they were about to fight a full-blown war.

We have definitely seen cases of very quick surrenders by Russian forces,” Ben Wallace told the BBC on 2 March, we’ve seen lots of abandonment of incredible pieces of equipment and that is what happens when your military leaders don’t prepare you, lie to you, deceive you, and also you base a military plan on the arrogant assumption you are a liberator

Hybrid warfare: Wars of the Future

Russian "General Valery Gerasimov himself who had observed that "The role of non-military means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness.""
Hybrid warfare also known as "grey-zone war, asymmetric warfare, non-linear warfare".

Hybrid warfare is "use of unconventional or asymmetric methods of war that stretch across subjects, arenas and domains of warfare".

Hybrid warfare involves "Proxies, economic warfare, targeted disinformation, political manipulation and covert military action".

This is also called "three-block war" where military "conduct military operations against an enemy, conduct peacekeeping operations and also provide humanitarian assistance to refugees all on the same day and all within three city blocks".

Wars of the future will involve:

Economic warfare
Cyber warfare
Open-source intelligence
Military conflict
Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Sensors and electronic jammers
Tactical Nuclear weapons

"Throughout history, military struggles have been decided less by the balance of material resources than by the creativity and determination with which they have been employed."

Public can also influence the direction of war. "People know they can't necessarily change government decisions but they sense their power to influence global affairs by pressurising companies."

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