America's next war
July 26th, 2012
06:20 AM ET

America's next war

By Jill Dougherty, reporting from Aspen, Colorado

National security experts often refer to the core of al Qaeda as a “spent force.” Its leaders are mostly wiped out even if al Qaeda affiliates in places like Yemen continue their fight against the West. But if al Qaeda is a spent force will the U.S. military go back to the old paradigm of preparing for conflict with nation states?

That’s one of the underlying themes of the Aspen Security Forum. I spoke with author and academic Paula Broadwell, a veteran of 15 years in intelligence, counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.

RECOMMENDED: Our coverage of the 2012 Aspen Security Forum

The U.S. must be prepared for “full spectrum warfare,” she says. That's everything from a full-on war to smaller conflicts.

“Nobody thinks these small wars or these insurgencies are going away,” Broadwell tells me. “The way we’ll fight them is changing, and instead of sending a large army to fight an insurgency I think we’ll see more precision strikes, more special forces response, more drone operations, and more cooperation with our allies."

That, Broadwell tells me, is the "big shift" in the U.S. military at the moment which is looking to conduct "more security force assistance to empower the local country to fight their own war. So that’s the bread and butter of the special forces. It’s nothing new, and so it shifts back to their previous paradigm, but I think we’re taking it a larger scale.”

The U.S., Broadwell says, must be prepared for a war with North Korea or conflict with China. But more likely, she suggests, is a cyber war.

“You don’t need boots on the ground for that but you need a lot of intellectual capacity and I hope that we address that at this conference ," she says. "We are under attack right now by China, by states, right? But it’s a different type of warfare. It’s not tanks and artillery and so forth. It’s cyber warfare against our energy grid, against our banks, against our private sector and public sector.”

The State Department’s role, she tells me, is critical.

“I think what we need to think about is are we doing enough with State and the U.S. Agency for International Development to prevent these conflicts from erupting, to prevent the causes of Jihad and joining terrorism and state conflict.”

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soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. stornobrzinol

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    February 7, 2021 at 6:10 am | Reply
  4. World Citizen

    Get the kids off here, go play your video games! Kids here promoting war and attacking Hindu groups which may not be good, but are no real threat to anyone outside India, or much to anyone in it for that matter. Israel is just protecting itself, and is our long time ally it is our duty as Americans to defend a nation we created and one that spreads democracy in a violatile region such as the Middle East. Grow and have some respect. I hope y'all aren't adults thinking like that. Never pretend you understand war! That is a disgrace to our men and women in uniform, and those who have lived through real conflict!

    February 15, 2013 at 1:42 am | Reply
  5. Meh

    "Next war"?
    What about the current 3 not being resolved?

    August 16, 2012 at 11:27 am | Reply
  6. Exhausted Citizen

    The wars need to continue indefinitely to keep the military-congressional industrial complex going. The "War on Drugs" and the "War on Terror" are wars on things and tactics, not wars against nations so they can never be won, they aren't meant to be won. They are meant to continue forever, to bankrupt the taxpayer and keep congressmen rich.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:57 am | Reply
  7. RLTJ's

    What is their cause. Is it alive or dead? Has it ended? Has it been defeated?
    Because leaders can die. They are replaced.

    And when fighters hide their guns they're still there laying low. They're just waiting for another day.

    Maybe U.S. should redefine its objective there. Finishing the [radical Taliban] or the Al Qaeda in there is mission impossible. Foreign invasion feeds their existence.

    August 15, 2012 at 11:45 am | Reply
  8. geichi

    It's disgusting how the US craves meddling into other countries' politics, playing wargames whenever and wherever it sees fit.
    I have lived through a war which happened in my country, on my own soil. I choke when I hear Americans saying "we're at war", because those people, who live in the States, have no idea what "being in war" really is like.

    August 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Reply
    • Jay

      Sucks to be you, that is why we live in the Greatest Nation in the World, NOBODY comes on our soil without a thorough ass kicking!!

      August 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Reply
      • Jeremy

        That's a rather naive and simplistic way of thinking. There has been no real war on the US mainland for a long time, but that doesn't mean there will never be again. The OP makes a very good point, sitting in your living room and watching news reports about a war is one thing, living through bullets and artillery dropping around you is a whole different ball game. If more American's had to experience that then our patience for all these wars would evaporate rather quickly.

        August 15, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
      • Already Been Chewed

        ...except Obama and Bush Jr – they havent gotten the a$$ beating they deserve yet

        August 16, 2012 at 11:28 am |
      • geichi

        An answer typical of someone whose only "war experience" comes through TV and computer games.
        I wish it's the only way you ever experience it.

        August 19, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  9. Daniel Conahap

    North K is mellowing out, but China isnt, infact its getting bigger and its policies more aggresive especially here in the Philippines. Its grabbing islands that are just less than 50 miles from our country, with China thousands of miles away.

    August 14, 2012 at 11:03 am | Reply
  10. outawork

    America's next war – civil

    August 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Reply
  11. Everett Wallace

    americas war is in america and there are no more small conflicts. 1000yrs of war then a year of peace then WW3 and then after that is armageddon and that will go on for a long long long time we have zillions upon zillions of these aliens to fight and that is not including other stuff in outer space like the milky way is a whole different thing going on and then you have these "black holes" and stuff in there so if you not up to the WARS then quit while you are ahead, cause I'm on the advance ready SS&CIA

    August 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Reply
    • Robert

      Please make sure to not forget your medication. I think you have probably missed a day or two.

      August 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  12. Neil

    Please help us save five jobs.
    Anything you can do to help is great.

    August 3, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Reply
  13. 66th Strategic Command & Operations Unit.

    If any war starts up we are skeptical the U.S will get militarily involved unless their national interest are at stake or security, It will probably be either the Asian countries or just maybe a fight within another country I'e when Russia went into Georgia or when the Chechen war kicked off. Even a conflict between the British and the Falklands could become a flash-point then a war. It's not wise to toss in any bets when the whole world is on edge waiting for another conflict.

    August 2, 2012 at 5:34 am | Reply
  14. jogja cctv

    Many thanks for submitting this. This solved plenty of doubts that I had.

    July 28, 2012 at 1:29 am | Reply
  15. Jonathan Pollard

    Please someone nuke israel

    July 27, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Reply
    • Rob

      That is one of the most horrible things I have ever heard. You should be ashamed of yourself for even thinking something like that its genocide and Isreal dosn't do anything to anyone other than protect themselves.

      August 2, 2012 at 9:06 am | Reply
  16. bigs


    No more wars for Israel.

    Let them defend their barbaric nation....alone.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Reply
    • CASE

      You must really hate life, loser

      August 7, 2012 at 11:38 am | Reply
  17. Andy Christensen

    There could be a major war with China in the next 20-40 years unless we stop our intervention in the Chinese Civil War or help Taiwan to somehow normalize state-to-state relations with mainland China. The Chinese Communist Party will be motivated to use nationalism to help keep itself in power.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Reply
  18. Walter Sieruk

    Lets face reality and get with it. These jihadists who are al Qaeda members and their jihadists affiliates of other violent and murderous Islamic groups are,in fact, real Muslims who are engaging in the the violence and killing of the militant jihadism of Islam. Not some form of hijacked Islam but real Islam. Inspite of what the apoligists for this religion claim as an attemp to coverthe truth about Islam. All this does bring to mind the wisdom of one of America's Founding Fathers, Thomas Paine, for he wrote in his book THE AGE OF REASON that "Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks a child, cannot be a true system."

    July 26, 2012 at 11:57 am | Reply
    • Louis Drummond

      I bet this will make Thomas Paine spin in his grave. Do let us know your thoguhts. Hinduism appears to be more of a cult if you subscribe to Mr. Paine's reasoning.

      Bizarre child-burying Hindu ceremony in India
      Indian police have charged 80 people for burying children alive in an ancient Hindu ceremony known as "the festival of pits."
      The ceremony, in which children - some less than a year old - are buried alive briefly and then dug up, happened on Monday in southern Tamil Nadu state, The Asian Age reported on Thursday.

      Every two years, parents who have vowed to bury their first-born if they are blessed with a child, take part in the Kuzhimattru Thiru Vizha ceremony.
      The children are drugged to make them unconscious and placed in shallow "graves" in temple courtyards.
      The pits are covered with leaves and dirt and the children are pulled out after Hindu priests chant a brief prayer - lasting up to a minute.

      July 26, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Reply
      • Louis Drummond

        And more shock factor for kids in hinduism. !!!! So much for Mr. Thomas Paine's THE AGE OF REASON.


        India as a nation is facing a new problem concerning its children- emergence of children as soldiers in strife -torn states of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, AndhraPradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland and Assam. They are getting drawn into fighting both with rebel groups as well as security forces. What was considered a problem in African countries of Sudan, Sierra Leone and other countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal has become a reality for India too.

        According to human right activists the actual number of children recruited by state or non state groups as soldiers is not as obvious as in other countries but we know there is an increasing number of children being drawn into active combat.These children exposed to war and conflict are one of the most vulnerable groups often forced to witness or perpetrate combat atrocities. They are scarred for life, their childhood shattered.

        July 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • tahir

      You are just a member of a confused civilization. On one hand you say "In God We Trust", on the other hand you dont know even what had happened with the message of God as a reuslt of your clerics' extortion. Still you are being deceived by your clergy. Thomas Paine is not the apostle of God to tell others what are the hallmarks of a true religion.

      August 3, 2012 at 4:24 am | Reply
  19. Jaceb Goerge


    July 26, 2012 at 11:40 am | Reply
    • Mikey Kalish

      Is CIA sleeping again???? They should immediately take them out without further ado. Some of these groups are plain anti christianity. Drone 'em.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Reply
      • Lee Harvy Patsy

        Such a Christian thing to say. Not.

        July 26, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
      • Tom Clark

        Real Christians done 'drone' people!

        July 31, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  20. saeed

    usa and britain want to steal the oil thats why they are doing this they are bankcrupt so they cant pay for it so they want to steal it.

    July 26, 2012 at 11:28 am | Reply
    • Mister Jones

      Shut up dude. We have armies. Actual, real armies. If we wanted to steal it ... we would just take it. Do you think we are even slightly afraid of ANY M/E military force?

      August 1, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Reply
    • Rob

      Thats rediculous saeed because Syria isn't a big oil producer and if that was our only objective we would just stay in Iraq or take Iran were there is way more oil. This is about human rights violations by the Syrian goverment.

      August 2, 2012 at 9:10 am | Reply
      • Jonathan

        Syria has a lot to do strategically with trying to kick Russia out of the Eastern Middle East. Syria is Russia's only ally left in the region. Allow any sort of democratic election or even just getting rid of Assad is a huge shot to Russian Middle Eastern Influence. Which in turn is where the U.S. is focusing it's influence on right now. Sticking together with Israel. It's where the resources of the next 20-30 years are at. We already have Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan under our power essentially as we have multiple gigantic bases spread across these countries and hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors and airman stationed. I don't doubt there is a humanitarian point to it but that's mostly to sell the plan to the public. You seriously don't think the U.S. has ulterior motives in supporting rebels in Syria? Just as it had motives in the Iran/Iraq war, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the North from taking over South Korea and South Vietnam. Etc. etc. etc.

        August 15, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
      • Jonathan

        Not to mention Russia's enormous naval base on the Eastern Med. in Syria. Probably more important than who is in power in Syria. As long as they can keep their naval base.

        August 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  21. Dwight Eisenhower told you so

    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:27 am | Reply
    • Willie12345

      How so very true that rings, Dwight Eisenhower told you so. Now the M.I.C. has vitually turned this country into a right-wing dictatorship with mose obnoxious wars to come with many, many more needless deaths and unnecessary destruction!

      July 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Reply
  22. Lee Harvey Patsy

    Next war? The military-industrial complex just shot a collective load into its blood-soaked trousers.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:15 am | Reply
  23. Some Kid

    We need to get the -- out of Afghanistan and KEEP OUR OWN BORDERS SECURE. Forget trying to secure 3rd world hell holes and work on the 3rd world hell hole here at home.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:39 am | Reply
  24. George Patton

    No surprise here! As almost anyone should know, the right-wing thugs in Washington would be planning another war by now. The only way America will go to war will be entirely on it's own since no country has any plans to attack it at anytime in the future!!!

    July 26, 2012 at 9:32 am | Reply
  25. Buddy

    That would eliminate a lot of democrats.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:09 am | Reply
  26. saeed

    Well USA should start a war against Russia we will see what happens when Russia drops a nuke on London and new York.

    July 26, 2012 at 6:51 am | Reply
    • saeedTheTowelHead

      Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaddy?

      July 26, 2012 at 10:29 am | Reply
    • 66th Strategic Command & Operations Unit.

      Russia wouldn't nuke London or any place unless the nation attempted a invasion as stated in their doctrine or if a hostile faction was considering launching on first beyond that there would be no nuking, No one is dumb enough to risk starting a nuclear war and potentially getting wiped out.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:31 am | Reply
    • Rob

      Russia could do that oww yeah thats right the United States has built missle sheilds in Europe and the West Coast that could shoot down Russia's nukes or China's for that matter before they could harm us. Also the United States has proven time and time again that our military technology is about 40 years ahead of the Russians so a conventional war would end just as baddly for Russia and China as it did for Iraq in 1991 and 2001

      August 2, 2012 at 9:49 am | Reply
      • Jonsdaman

        If you did any research at all you would know that there is No missile shield protecting your butt at home! Smoke and mirrors buddy.

        August 15, 2012 at 5:53 pm |

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