America’s highest-ranking military officer painted a picture of a dark future with great power wars fought in urban environments. Speaking to graduating cadets at the United States Military Academy, General Mark Milley forewarned of death tolls for US soldiers in the tens of thousands.
Milley identified Russia and China as the growing powers America will face in the next generation. "We are facing right now two global powers, China and Russia," he said. "As we are entering a world that is becoming more unstable. The world you are being commissioned into has the potential for significant international conflict between great powers, and that potential is increasing, not decreasing."
During the commencement speech, he noted the importance of America confronting Russia in Ukraine. "Yet again in Ukraine, we are learning the lesson that aggression left unanswered only emboldens the aggressor," the general said.
After recalling the massive American casualties in World War I and World War II, the general explained future great power conflicts would likely cause tens of thousands of deaths for US soldiers. "26,000 soldiers and marines were killed in only six weeks from October to November 1918…26,000 US troops were killed In the eight weeks in the summer of 1940… In the summer of 1944, 58,000 Americans were killed in action in the air, at sea and on land in five theaters of war and only eight weeks. That’s the human cost of great power war."
Milley laid out how he believed warfare would evolve over the next quarter-century. The general said new technologies will shape the battlefield, including robotic tanks, ships, and airplanes. He referred to artificial intelligence as "the mother of all technologies" and said, "machines are actually developing the capacity to learn and to reason these rapidly converging developments in time and space or resulting in that profound change."
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs assesses future conflicts will be fought in cities. "The battlefield will be highly complex and almost certainly decisive in urban areas," he said. If Milley is correct, the coming wars will exact high tolls on civilian populations.