Future Operating Environment

The 21st Century Security Environment and the Future of War

By Mick Fry August 25, 2020

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In this article Colin S Gray, discusses the dilemma facing defence planners: how to effectively prepare for the future even though that future 'cannot be predicted in any useful detail'. First, Dr Gray discusses the importance of planning for the future and embracing the uncertainty and complexity that are inherent in those considerations. He argues that  'the future has not happened, and no amount of planning can make it visible to our gaze today'.

Second, Dr Gray outlines his assertions about future conflict:

  1. The 21st century will be another bloody century
  2. War and strategy will continue as ever, albeit in new guises, characters of warfare, and unique strategies
  3. The insecurity or security narrative of the century will be amply explainable with reference to the genius of Thucydides 'fear, honour and interest’.

He then outlines the principal features of the 21st century security environment and the implications of that environment for the military. Although written nearly a decade ago, Dr Gray's pragmatic thinking remains relevant to the future planners of today.    



Mick Fry


Mick Fry is a member of the Cove Team.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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