The only thing that is predictable in warfare is its unpredictability. As soon as experts, general staffs, and politicians decide what they believe will be the nature of the next war in order to prepare for it properly, an entirely different kind of conflict happens. The witness of history is so uniform in this regard that it needs to become a general law of warfare: The war we expect and plan for is never the one we’re called upon to fight.
Kharkov. Dnepropetrovsk. Odessa. Mariupol. Sites of great armor battles seven decades ago, these cities are once again the front line of war. Tanks are massed but remain idle. Protesters, separatists, and “little green men” are the foot soldiers in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Snipers are the most effective weapons. Ukraine may fall to this “invasion” more easily than to an armored assault. Is this quasi-war the ultimate proof of the irrelevance of conventional forces today?
In his magisterial treatise On War, Prussian military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz wrote that war may have its own grammar, but not its own logic. By this he meant that wars are fought for political purposes, and although the means by which they are waged changes over time, the nature of war remains constant. History has witnessed a number of revolutions in military affairs, periods of time in which the grammar of war has changed significantly.