The Army has entered a period of self-reflection that has already led to new behaviors, processes and institutions. This kind of reflection happens after every war: a time to look back at wartime experiences, assess what the Army did well and what it did not do so well, and adjust based upon whatever future the Army foresees. There are two problems with this current period, however: The war is not over, and war itself is changing in fundamental ways.War was forced upon us on Sept. 11, 2001. Final decision authority concerning how the U.S. responded lay with our senior political leaders, but selected American senior military leaders played an important role in the discussions that led to that decision. The war, initially dubbed the Global War on Terror, became three wars.One was a war to oust the Taliban from Afghanistan and kill or capture al Qaeda’s leaders and fighters. The second war, in Iraq, quickly became both al Qaeda’s and America’s main effort. The third war involved worldwide operations to hunt down, capture or kill those members of al Qaeda not in Afghanistan or Iraq. This third war has been fought by drones and special operations raids. Osama bin Laden was discovered and killed in 2011 as part of this war. The bulk of America’s attention and resources, however, went to Iraq until about 2009, then to Afghanistan. Although our enemies had a coherent view of its operations, I think the evidence shows that the U.S. has acted as if we generally considered these three to be only semirelated wars.Strategic Stance ShiftsThe evidence also shows that by 2010, America’s strategic stance shifted. In 2010, the U.S. was in the midst of significant withdrawal from Iraq and was planning the withdrawal from Afghanistan even though its “surge” had barely begun. This was also the period in which America began to execute the strategy of substituting American ground force with a combination of “partner capacity” (that is, indigenous forces) and a not-so-covert decapitation strategy against al Qaeda and their ilk, killing or capturing—mostly killing via drone—those who were actively planning attacks against us or our key allies. Substitution and remote strike was how the U.S.’ pre-emptive “no boots on the ground” policy actually played out on the ground.Multiple reasons account for this downward adjustment: America’s serious economic difficulties (from which we are now recovering), the false belief that U.S. withdrawal equated to the end of the war, another false belief that killing bin Laden meant more than it actually did, and perhaps weariness with wars that seem endless—at least unending because of the way the U.S. was waging them.Wars Not Won on DefensiveWhatever the reasons, perception and reality told this story: The U.S. was winding up its wars, narrowing its counterterrorist efforts and adopting an air-only policy.In sum, our adopted strategy was not actually aimed to dismantle, destroy and defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates, nor was it a strategy to defeat the Islamic State group. Rather, the strategic stance the U.S. has adopted reflects a minimalist, somewhat defensive approach to war. We seem to have forgotten that wars are not won on the defensive.What has this yielded? One need only look at a map or attend to news media reports about Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya (or other North or East African or Middle Eastern countries) as well as developments within Europe and the U.S. The conclusion is clear: Our enemies have expanded their areas of operations and are attempting to expand their influence. Clearly, we are not in an interwar period as some—even Army leaders—have claimed. We are in a phase of reduced American activity, even as our enemy expands.To assume our current state of sequestration-reduced budgets and falling force structure is a semipermanent state is to misread the strategic environment. Certainly the near term includes reduced budgets and force structure. Equally certain is this: The U.S. will awake from its current position—either because our enemies will do something to awaken us or we finally realize the importance of winning the war we’re in. When this awakening happens—and some might argue that our reinvolvement in Iraq, operations in Syria and slowed withdrawal from Afghanistan may be the first evidence of an awakening—the Army will face two important strategic problems: insufficient numbers of mid- to senior-level officers and NCOs and insufficient plans to expand.Among the other problems that the Army’s leadership has taken up so well, the current period of reflection should address both the problems of a too-low leader-to-led ratio and an expansibility plan that doesn’t fit tomorrow’s strategic needs.War Itself Is ChangingOn this score, the Army is better positioned. The Army’s new Operating Concept, Win in a Complex World, reflects a deep understanding of the current and future operating environment. The concept envisions a future that is characterized by uncertainty of many varieties; the likelihood of fighting in megacities; enemies that may fight on behalf of a state or a nonstate entity, or be proxies of either; the requirement to combat traditional, unconventional and hybrid strategies; the importance of innovation; and the acceleration of human interactions and the variety of actions that may result from them.By basing the new concept on these factors, the Army clearly understands how much warfighting has changed and will continue to change. In a separate section, the concept also recognized war’s continuity. Together, the concept places the Army on strong tactical and operational grounds.War is changing in other than tactical and operational ways, though. It is changing conceptually. In On War, Clausewitz tells us that “war is more than a chameleon that slightly adapts its characteristics to the given case.” A chameleon “slightly adapts” to its immediate surroundings by changing its external colors. Changes in external color don’t change the chameleon’s essence, however. The new Army concept captures the external (tactical and operational) changes that war has made and will continue making. It’s Clausewitz’s use of “more than” that is important for understanding the depth of war’s conceptual change.The essence of war for Clausewitz is the trinity: the combination of primordial violence and hatred, the play of probability and chance, and the subordination of violence to the purposefulness of policy. These three are both fixed and variable: fixed in that they are ever present and variable in that their relationship to one another changes. Because the relationship among the elements of war’s essence varies, war is “more than a chameleon.” The Army’s new concept does not fully capture this essential shift, a shift that has very important and practical consequences.Fighting Traditional WarIn what is called traditional or conventional war, the trinity is manifested through the people (reflecting primordial violence and hatred), the commander and the armed forces (reflecting the play of probability and chance), and the government (reflecting the subordination of violence to the purposefulness of policy). These kinds of wars are fought mainly between the armed forces of national governments. Defeat of an enemy’s armed force usually resolves the underlying political dispute and ends the war. The citizens of the contending nations are involved directly or indirectly, but they are not the main focus of fighting.Other elements of national power play important parts in winning a conventional war, but in this form of war, the paradigm is peace-crisis-war-resolution-peace, where the decisive factor is military action taken by armed forces.In his book The Utility of Force, Gen. Rupert Smith identifies a new form of war: “war amongst the people.” In this form of war, the trinity remains but is only sometimes manifested through the government, people and armed forces. Other times, the primordial violence and hatred come through a portion of a political community, an extremist faction, a set of “true believers” in a secular ideology, a religious community, or some other cohesive and motivated group. Ideology, narrative, belief, the existence of a sufficiently powerful core dispute, and ever present human desires for control, riches and revenge all have a role in creating and sustaining enough motivational hatred to fight.The play of probability and chance in this form of war can be manifested through a group of terrorists, insurgents, guerillas or even a religious organization, band of brigands, criminal network or some kind of armed political faction—or worse, some combination thereof.Super EmpoweredThe information age allows individuals and groups to become super empowered—that is, to obtain power well beyond what their numbers would suggest. These groups often operate in the space between war and crime and usually include acting below the threshold that would justify international intervention. The purposefulness of policy that subordinates violence in this form of war can be exercised centrally by a very small group of leaders, distributed via the variety of networks and media that will only increase in capacity or some mix of both. To make matters more complex, covert or clandestine agents of governments sometimes mix with these groups to hijack the group’s intentions for their own purposes.Defeat of the enemy’s armed force in this kind of war is more difficult and complex because violence is not limited to interaction between armed forces. Rather, violence is very often aimed at the population itself, at a government and its agents, and at opposition groups and their leaders. Further, in this form of war, defeat of the enemy’s armed forces neither resolves the underlying core dispute nor deflates the motivating hatred.Simply put, there can be no decisive use of military force in this form of war. Military force is absolutely necessary but insufficient on its own to win this kind of war; it’s the other elements of power that are decisive—the reverse of traditional or conventional war. For “war amongst the people,” the paradigm is continuing confrontation that crosses back and forth with conflict where the decisive factor is not military action taken by armed forces.Winning at Strategic LevelThe new operating concept talks about elements of this form of war but does not address it directly or completely, nor does it discuss the implications for the Army. The Army’s new concept also raises, but does not fully address, a second way the concept of war is changing: the recognition of a war-waging dimension.One of the more important aspects of the new concept concerns its accurate claim that winning wars happens at the strategic level. Fighting at the tactical and operational levels is important and necessary, but by itself it is insufficient to lead to success.This statement clearly implies that war must be both fought (the tactical and operational levels) and waged (the strategic level). The new concept then goes on to describe warfighting challenges and functions but leaves less than fully developed the Army’s challenges and functions at the strategic, war-waging level.The new concept addresses the war-waging dimension only in part. The concept’s central idea and associated elements, tenets, core competencies and description of globally integrated operations identify many of the Army’s most important contributions to decisions and action at the strategic level. In this, the concept is impressive and lives up to its desire to “ask big questions.” The central idea and associated components demonstrate that winning a war requires more than firepower from the Army, but there’s even more.The strategic level, the level at which war is waged, concerns war aims, strategies, policies, and adequate coordination and decision bodies and methodologies necessary to adapt initial decisions to the unfolding realities of war. In the U.S., the final decision authority for each of these areas resides with our elected and appointed political leaders, and this is as it should and must be. These decisions, however, do not arise in a vacuum. Senior military leaders, some of whom are Army, are responsible to participate in sets of dialogues with each other and a variety of senior political leaders, dialogues that help ensure the final decisions are the best possible, all things considered.Further, decisions concerning campaigns are also political decisions, for a campaign commits significant national resources and political capital. These are war-waging challenges and functions at least equally as important as their warfighting cousins.What is the Army’s role in these areas? How does the Army prepare its leaders, institutions, and processes to improve the likelihood of success at this strategic, war-waging level? After saying that “win” occurs at the strategic level, the concept is silent as to the war-waging challenges and functions identified above and as to the implications for the Army. It is true that final resolution of these challenges and functions lies beyond the scope of the Army’s responsibility, but the Army has a role in them, and the concept should at least address that role.This period of reflection has yielded some impressive results, but the need for further reflection is clear.