The United States will face a number of challenges as the future war paradigm changes in next decade of the 21st century. The need to deal with an increasing number of nations with nuclear weapons, particularly hostile or unstable nations such as Iran, North Korea and Pakistan will be the most dangerous challenge for the U.S. and our allies to face. The potential for a nuclear armed Iran to become the number one state sponsor of organizations such as Hezbollah or Hamas while hiding behind a nuclear arsenal capable or reaching Israel and the major Middle Eastern oilfields will the be the defining paradigm change, should it come to pass. The instability of Pakistan and the potential for its nuclear arsenal to pass into the hands of an Islamic regime openly supportive of the Taliban, with the potential to cut most of the supply lines to American and NATO forces would be equally disastrous. Although these are worst-case scenarios, they have the potential to complete change the balance of power in one of the most important regions of the world and threaten not only American military and diplomatic, but economic interests as well.
The other major shift for at least the next Administration is the balance of risk the U.S. can tolerate in the world. Given the current military situation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the need to rebuild American military capability after 6 years of continuous combat, the military options available to the next Administration will likely be more limited. This means that areas such as the Sudan, Colombia and perhaps the Horn of Africa may not receive the attention required because U.S. forces are stretched thin.
Finally, the U.S. will need to reengage allies and organizations to the greatest extent possible. Although NATO and the UN have not provided the support desired by the U.S. on all occasions, the need for allies and coalitions will be vital as the U.S. seeks to prioritize the use of American military power.
The first half of the 21st century will be a period of great challenge as the U.S. seeks to win the GWOT, rebuild our military capability and reengage the world community in seeking stability and security for the most troubled spots on the globe.