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The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder

Sean McFate
January 30, 2019

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Some of the principles of warfare are ancient, others are new, but all described in The New Rules of War will permanently shape war now and in the future. By following them Sean McFate argues, we can prevail. But if we do not, terrorists, rogue states, and others who do not fight conventionally will succeed—and rule the world.

Dr. Sean McFate is an author, novelist and expert in foreign policy and national security strategy. He is a professor of strategy at the National Defense University and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. His newest book, The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder, will be released on January 22, 2019.

Recently, he was a Visiting Scholar at Oxford University’s Changing Character of War Program. He was also a think tank scholar at the RAND Corporation, Atlantic Council, Bipartisan Policy Center, and New America Foundation.

McFate’s career began as a paratrooper and officer in the U.S. Army’s storied 82nd Airborne Division. He served under Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus, and graduated from elite training programs, such as Jungle Warfare School in Panama. He was also a Jump Master. Then McFate became a private military contractor in Africa. Among his many experiences, he dealt with warlords, raised small armies, worked with armed groups in the Sahara, transacted arms deals in Eastern Europe, and helped prevent an impending genocide in the Rwanda region.

McFate co-wrote the novels Shadow War and Deep Black, part of the Tom Locke series based on his military experiences. New York Times #1 bestselling author Mark Greaney said: “I was blown away…. simply one of the most entertaining and intriguing books I’ve read in quite some time.”

He also authored the non-fiction book The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order, which explains how the privatization of war is changing world order in the 21st century. The Economist called it a “fascinating and disturbing book.”

For another perspective on the future of warfare, see Bill Gertz’s Westminster talk, iWar: War And Peace In The Information Age.


Robert R. Reilly:

Tonight, I’m very happy to welcome our speaker, Sean McFate. I think the best way of introducing him other than saying that he is a professor of strategy at the National Defense University and at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service is to read a few lines of self-introduction that I found on Amazon with the advertisement of the book about which he is going to speak tonight, which is titled, The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder. That’s a very optimistic title, I think.

So, I’m quoting Sean McFate here, “I see war differently. I’ve traveled to 65 countries, some places where war never ceases. I’ve served as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division and then as a private military contractor in Africa. Some would call me a mercenary, an intellectual one at least. I studied at Brown, Harvard, and the London School of Economics, doing my PhD in international relations. Now, I’m a professor of war studies, strategy, and foreign policy. The question that drives me is why does America keep losing wars to weaker powers? I write books to explore and answer this question.”

Let me basically stop there to mention some books that Sean McFate has written, including the Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order. He is also co-author of a couple of novels. So, please join in welcoming Sean McFate.

Sean McFate:

I wrote this book – I was talking to some of you before – because I was frustrated, as this alluded to. I wanted to know… We have the best military, we have the best troops, we have the best technology, we have the most money, yet we lose to inferior foes and the question is: what’s the problem? What’s the problem? That was the puzzle I sought to answer in this book.

And this book is not a dry, abstruse academic tome. It is not some wonky think tank white paper. It is written so that my mother could read it. It is written- She’s read it. She’s become an amazing PR agent for me, but I wrote it so that everybody could read it. I wrote it for an audience that was beyond the Beltway and I wrote it to help push a conversation that I think has been subterranean but gaining momentum for some time now.

And I ask some hard questions, so for example, we will get to an answer to the puzzle, at least my example, in a little bit. Let’s start with what’s going on in the news right now: Venezuela is burning, literally. Once the richest, most opulent country in South America has become the Somalia of that continent.

As you know, we have two presidential candidates, Maduro and Guaidó, and we are in this sort of international limbo about who is the real president not just a Venezuela one. Guaidó is being supported by the U.S., by much of the EU, and much of Latin America. Maduro is being supported – well, first of all by the military – but also by Russia, China, and Turkey.

One could almost boil it down and say it’s ideological, autocracy vs democracy, and maybe that is what is going on here, but that’s not the point [of] why I raised this.

Just a few nights ago, Russia sent in mercenaries for Maduro. These are not the lone guys with Kalashnikovs in the Congo jungle that you see ridiculed in Hollywood or villains in comic books. This is the Wagner Group. The Wagner Group or the Wagner Group is a Russian mercenary company, although their people could be from anywhere. That’s the thing about being a mercenary. They could be from anywhere.

See his talk here…

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