(By Loren Thompson) Nothing focuses the mind like fear. What’s focusing the minds of U.S. Army leaders right now is the fear that they will be in a major war within five years. They know they’ll be fighting terrorists and insurgents for the foreseeable future, but what really preoccupies them is the likely return of large-scale conventional conflict — maybe with Russia in Eastern Europe, or Iran in the Middle East, or North Korea in Northeast Asia. Maybe in all three places.

Senior Army officials are circumspect about discussing the danger in open forums — they don’t want to advertise U.S. vulnerabilities — but it seems clear that the Obama administration’s “pivot to the Pacific” announced in 2012 has created a geopolitical vacuum stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Persian Gulf that Russia and Iran are trying to fill. Meanwhile, the unpredictable government of North Korea continues its bellicose behavior toward the South, which the U.S. is pledged to defend. CONTINUE