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General Mark Milley told cadets graduating from the US Military Academy at West Point on Saturday that they should prepare for a growing risk of global conflict and a host of new weapons technologies in their careers.
“The world in which you are commissioned has the potential for significant international conflict between the great powers. And that potential is growing, not diminishing,” Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the cadets during from the 2022 launch event in Westpoint, New York.
“And right now, right now, a fundamental shift is happening in the very character of warfare. We’re facing right now two world powers, China and Russia, each with significant military capabilities, and both of which fully intend to change the current rules-based order,” Milley said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine teaches the world that “aggression left unanswered only emboldens the aggressor,” Milley said.
“Let us never forget the massacre we just witnessed in Bucha or the massacre that happened in Mariupol. And the best way to honor their sacrifice is to support their fight for freedom and oppose the tyranny,” Milley said.
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The urban character of the war in Ukraine is something Milley sees as a feature of future battlefields, which will be “very complex and almost certainly decisive in urban areas against elusive and ambiguous enemies who combine terrorism and warfare with alongside conventional capabilities – all embedded in large civilian populations.”
Weapons technology will also change dramatically in the coming decades, Milley said, and the change will be as drastic as the shift from muskets to rifles, rifles to machine guns or sailing to steamships. And the technological advantage is no longer automatically in favor of America.
“You will fight with robotic tanks, ships and planes,” Milley said. “We have seen a revolution in lethality and precision munitions. What was once the exclusive domain of the US military is now available to most nation states with the financial will to acquire it.”
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Artificial intelligence is “causing this profound change, the most profound change in human history,” Milley said. “Whatever military overreach the United States has enjoyed over the past 70 years is rapidly closing. And the United States will, in fact, we are already challenged in all areas of warfare in space and cyber, maritime air and, of course, land. .”
Amidst all the risk and change, Milley’s encouragement to future military leaders was to remain adaptive, resilient, and above all, to have impeccable moral character.
“We must, we must, develop leaders who have incredible character under the intense pressure of ground combat, and there is no greater crucible than ground combat. Leaders who will make the right moral and ethics, as well as the right tactical choice in the most emotionally charged environment you will ever face.”
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Milley emphasized the importance of the Constitution and the oath that cadets take to uphold. The message was so powerful that the Nazis feared it, America defeated Japan because of it, and Al-Qaeda and ISIS terrorists hate it – “We swear to an idea, and this idea is America,” Milley said.
“The idea is that each of you, regardless of whether you are male, female, gay or something in between,” he said. It doesn’t matter what a person’s race, religion or family is.
“The idea that is in this document, the idea that you are willing to die for, the idea that in this constitution that has propelled our nation through some of our darkest days, all it says, is that in this country, in this United States, under these colors of red, white and blue, no matter who you are, each one of us, by the grace of the Almighty God of Heaven, is an American, and each of us were born free and equal. rise, or you will fall depending on your talents, your merit, your attributes, your hard work, your perseverance,” Milley said.
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At one point, Milley said he remembered his own graduation 43 years ago and quoted a Bob Dylan song. “We can feel the slight breeze in the air. And right now, as we’re sitting here on the plane at West Point, we can see the storm flags flapping in the wind and we can hear in the distance the loud clap of thunder. And heavy rain is about to fall.”