THE REVOLUTION IN MILITARY AFFAIRS AND CONFLICT SHORT OF WAR
Steven Metz and James Kievit
July 25, 1994
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-- Another View of the Revolution in Military Affairs, by Jeffrey R. Cooper
-- The Military-Technical Revolution: A Preliminary Assessment, by Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr.
-- The Conflict Environment of 2016: A Scenario-Based Approach, by Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr.
-- Strategy and the Revolution in Military Affairs: From Theory to Policy, by Steven Metz & James Kievit
-- Keeping Pace With the Military-Technological Revolution, by Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr.
The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. This report is approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.
For ideas, comments, and background material, the authors would like to thank Rudolph C. Barnes Jr., Rod Paschall, William W. Mendel, Charles F. Swett, Jeffrey Cooper, Stefan Antonmattei III, Gary Guertner, Douglas V. Johnson, and, especially William T. Johnsen.
Comments pertaining to this report are invited and should be forwarded to: Director, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA 17013-5050. Comments also may be conveyed directly to the authors by calling commercial (717) 245-3822 or DSN 242-3822, FAX (717) 245- 3820, DSN 242-3820.
For many experts on U.S. national security, the combination of emerging technology and innovative ideas seen in the Gulf War seem to herald a genuine revolution in military affairs. The victory of coalition forces demonstrated the technology and seemed to suggest that the revolution in military affairs can solve many of the strategic problems faced by the United States in the post-Cold War security environment.
In this study, the authors concede that the revolution in military affairs holds great promise for conventional, combined-arms warfare, but conclude that its potential value in conflict short of war, whether terrorism, insurgency, or violence associated with narcotrafficking, is not so clear-cut. Given this, national leaders and strategists should proceed cautiously and only after a full exploration of the ethical, political, and social implications of their decisions. To illustrate this, the authors develop a hypothetical future scenario--a "history" of U.S. efforts in conflict short of war during the first decade of the 21st century.
It is too early to offer concrete policy prescriptions for adapting many aspects of the revolution in military affairs to conflict short of war, but the authors do suggest an array of questions that should be debated. In order to decide whether to apply new technology and emerging concepts or how to employ them, the United States must first reach consensus on ultimate objectives and acceptable costs. The Strategic Studies Institute is pleased to offer this study as a first step in this process.
JOHN W. MOUNTCASTLE
Colonel, U.S. Army Director,
Strategic Studies Institute
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF THE AUTHORS
STEVEN METZ is Associate Research Professor of National Security Affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College. His specialties are transregional security issues and military operations other than war. Dr. Metz has taught at the Air War College, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and several universities. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in international studies from the University of South Carolina, and a Ph.D. in political science from the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Metz has published many monographs and articles on world politics, military strategy, and national security policy.
JAMES KIEVIT is a Strategic Research Analyst at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College. His specialties are operational art, military engineering, and U.S. Army force structure issues. Commissioned in the Corps of Engineers, LTC Kievit has served in a variety of troop leading, command, and staff assignments in the 1st Cavalry Division, the 7th Engineer Brigade, and the 8th Infantry Division (Mechanized). He has also served as Assistant Professor of History at the U.S. Military Academy, and as a force structure analyst and study director at the U.S. Army Concepts Analysis Agency. LTC Kievit holds a B.S. from the U.S. Military Academy, a M.M.A.S. from the School of Advanced Military Studies of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and a M.A. in history and M.S.E. in construction management from the University of Michigan.
Many American strategic thinkers believe that we are in the beginning stages of a historical revolution in military affairs (RMA). This will not only change the nature of warfare, but also alter the global geopolitical balance.
To date, most attention has fallen on the opportunities provided by the RMA rather than its risks, costs, and unintended consequences. In the arena of conflict short of war, these risks, costs, and unintended consequences may outweigh the potential benefits.
The Strategic Context.
The Cold War notion of conflict short of war is obsolete. Politically and militarily, the Third World of the future will be full of danger. The future will most likely be dominated by peace enforcement in failed states, new forms of insurgency and terrorism, and "gray area phenomena." Many if not most Third World states will fragment into smaller units. Ungovernability and instability will be the norm with power dispersed among warlords, primal militias, and well-organized politico-criminal organizations. U.S. policy in the Third World is likely to be more selective and the U.S. homeland may no longer provide sanctuary. Renewed external support will restore the lagging proficiency of insurgents and terrorists.
The Application of Emerging Technology.
Emerging technology will have less impact on conflict short of war than on conventional, combined-arms warfare. It will, however, have some role. In noncombatant evacuation operations, new technology can assist with identification and notification of evacuees. Sensor technology, robotics, nonlethal weapons, and intelligence meshes will be used in combatting terrorism, countering narcotrafficking, and peace operations. These technologies, along with simulator training and unmanned aerial vehicles, will also be useful in insurgency and counterinsurgency.
Constraints and Countermeasures.
There are a number of constraints on applying the RMA to conflict short of war. These include the lack of a powerful institutional advocate for this process, a shortage of money for the development of technology specifically for conflict short of war, and the possibility that new technology may run counter to American values.
Enemies may also develop countermeasures to RMA innovations. Rather than attempt to match the technological prowess of U.S. forces, future enemies will probably seek asymmetrical countermeasures designed to strike at U.S. public support for engagement in conflict short of war, at the will of our friends and allies, or, in some cases, at deployed U.S. forces.
Rather than simply graft emerging technology to existing strategy, doctrine, organization, force structure, objectives, concepts, attitudes, and norms, the United States could pursue a full revolution in the way we approach conflict short of war. This is rife with hidden dangers and unintended consequences. A hypothetical future scenario illustrates some of these.
Conclusions and Recommendations.
In the near future, change will occur in the American approach to conflict short of war. To understand and control ongoing change, research, analysis, and debate is needed on a number of topics:
• A comprehensive general theory of military revolutions set within the context of broader notion of global politics and security;
• The strategy and policy foundation of military revolutions;
• The ethical dimension of RMA;
• The impact of the RMA on the structure of the U.S. national security organization;
• The impact of RMA on leader development within the military;
• The cultivation of appropriate expertise within the Army; and,
• Technology designed specifically for conflict short of war, especially psychological, biological, and defensive technology.
THE REVOLUTION IN MILITARY AFFAIRS AND CONFLICT SHORT OF WAR
Introduction: Groping for the Future.
In the late 1970s Soviet military analysts, led by Marshal N.V. Ogarkov, began to write of an emerging revolution in the nature of warfare. 1 By the early 1990s, this idea had spread to the United States, leading strategic thinkers inside and outside the government to conclude that ongoing innovation represents a true turning point in history.2 If this is true, the strategic implications are far-reaching. Revolutionary changes in the character of warfare, according to Andrew F. Krepinevich, "have profound consequences for global and regional military balances."3 But while it is clear that dramatic change is underway, its ultimate repercussions remain hidden.
In its purest sense, revolution brings change that is permanent, fundamental, and rapid. The basic premise of the revolution in military affairs (RMA) is simple: throughout history, warfare usually developed in an evolutionary fashion, but occasionally ideas and inventions combined to propel dramatic and decisive change. This not only affected the application of military force, but often altered the geopolitical balance in favor of those who mastered the new form of warfare. The stakes of military revolution are thus immense. Full of promise, it seems to offer Americans an answer to many enduring strategic dilemmas, whether intolerance of casualties, impatience, or the shrinking military manpower base. In a time of shrinking defense budgets, emerging technology may allow the United States to maintain or even enhance its global military power.4 The Gulf War was widely seen as a foretaste of RMA warfare, offering quick victory with limited casualties. As a result, most attention has been on the opportunities provided by RMA rather than its risks, costs, and unintended side effects.
It is ironic that just as Marxism reached final bankruptcy as a framework for political and economic organization, one of its basic notions gained new life. Karl Marx, after all, postulated that revolutions can be deliberate rather than inadvertent; historical change can be created, engineered, and harnessed by those who understand it. Without direct attribution to Marx, this idea led many analysts to assume the current RMA can be the first deliberate one as senior military leaders and strategic thinkers consciously shape the future.
Whether Marxist or not, revolutionaries must always ask a series of key questions. First: Do the proper preconditions exist for revolutionary change or can they be created? In contemporary military affairs, the answer to this is "yes." Emerging technology; economic, political, and social trends; and, most importantly, new ideas create the right environment for revolution. Then revolutionaries must ask: How can I begin, sustain, and control the revolution? In current military affairs, this question is still under debate. Finally, the most difficult and often most critical questions are: Do we truly want a revolution? and, Will the long-term benefits outweigh the costs and risks? Advocates of a revolution in military affairs have not begun to grapple with these issues.
The change wrought by some revolutions is deep; others do not reach such extremes. This also applies to RMAs. The United States now faces a crucial choice. We can choose to drive the current RMA further and faster than any of its predecessors. In combined-arms warfare, this may be necessary. But conflict short of war--whether terrorism, narcotrafficking, peace enforcement, or insurgency--is different. Even if the RMA does prove applicable to these problems, there are good reasons for deliberately limiting it. As the United States faces this dilemma, strategic considerations rather than our fascination with technology and enthusiasm for change must be paramount.
Cry "Havoc!": The Strategic Context.
RMAs are born, develop, and die in specific strategic contexts, each composed of an array of social, economic, political, and military factors. The strategic context of the current RMA is dominated by the transformation of the global system from the Cold War to post-Cold War period. This shapes conflict short of war and influences the utility of U.S. military force.
During the Cold War, the most strategically significant form of conflict short of war-- then called "low-intensity conflict"--was revolutionary insurgency in the Third World. Low-intensity conflict outside the Third World did not require U.S. military force--the British, Italians, Germans, or Spanish could deal with their own problems--but revolutionary insurgency targeting our Third World allies often did. Using the strategy of protracted guerrilla war perfected by Mao and Giap, insurgents, usually supported by the Soviet Union, China, or their proxies, sought to overthrow fragile, pro-Western regimes. Because revolutionary insurgency thwarted political reform and economic development, often spread to neighboring states, and, when successful, increased Soviet influence, we considered it a major threat. Admittedly no Third World insurgency directly endangered the United States, but in combination they did. The dominant strategic logic was what French counterinsurgent theorists called "death by a thousand small cuts." 5
In response, Western strategists developed an elaborate counterinsurgency doctrine. Codified by Robert Thompson, Roger Trinquier, and others, this initially emerged from the French and British experience in Malaya, Algeria, and Indochina.6 Eventually Americans assumed responsibility for the counterinsurgency paradigm; Vietnam replaced Malaya and Algeria as the seminal event.7 The culmination of Cold War-era thinking was the 1990 release of Field Manual (FM) 100-20/Air Force Pamphlet (AFP) 3-20, Military Operations in Low Intensity Conflict.8 By defining counterinsurgency as opposition to Marxist "people's war," this document viewed low-intensity conflict in general as a subset of the struggle between the superpowers.9 Regime legitimacy was the central concept. The United States sought to augment this and, ultimately, ameliorate the underlying causes of conflict. The military dimension of counterinsurgency simply allowed economic and political reforms to take root. Counterinsurgents could not win through purely military means, according to this theory, but they could lose.
Full of well-developed, impressive thinking, FM 100-20 deals with forms of violence rapidly becoming obsolete. Today, the essential nature of conflict short of war is changing. Marxist "people's war" represents the past. The future will most likely be dominated by peace enforcement in failed states, new forms of "spiritual" insurgency designed to radically alter the ideological structure of regimes, and "commercial" insurgency from quasipolitical "gray area phenomena" such as narcoterrorism.10 Other important changes are also on the way. During the Cold War, conflict short of war primarily concerned nation-states. In the post-Cold War era, many if not most Third World states will fragment into smaller units. Ungovernability and instability will be the norm. Even those which formally remain intact will see political and military power dispersed among warlords, primal militias, and well-organized politico-criminal organizations.11 Most of these will be characterized by ruthlessness, some also by dangerous sophistication as terrorists and narcotraffickers master modern technology. Rapid, multilayered global communications will allow insurgents, terrorists, and narcotraffickers to learn and adapt quickly and even to form alliances and coalitions. While war or near-war may be no more common than in past decades, general, low-level violence will be pervasive.
In this environment, the United States will probably concentrate on containing rather than ameliorating conflict. Our future policy in the Third World is likely to be more selective with a trend toward disengagement. While the global conflict with the Soviet Union forced American engagement in Third World struggles where tangible national interests were minimal, the end of the Cold War gives us the option of limiting our role in certain types of conflicts to support of the United Nations or other multinational efforts, or rejecting involvement all together. While the great powers are currently cooperating on Third World conflict, they are likely to lose interest over the long-term. If this happens, U.S. objectives will increasingly be symbolic as we pursue humanitarian relief or attempt to cultivate a system of world order but are not willing to bear the costs of the final resolution of complex and long-standing conflicts.
Most ominously, the U.S. homeland may no longer provide sanctuary as it did from Cold War-era low intensity conflict. As in Great Britain, insurgents and terrorists angered by U.S. policy may bring the conflict to our country using global interdependence and the increased international flow of people. Moreover, as Third World dictators assimilate the lessons of the Gulf War, they will see conflict short of war as a useful but safer form of aggression.
Renewed external support will restore the lagging proficiency of insurgents and terrorists including their technological capability. Politically and militarily, then, the Third World of the future will be full of danger.
Let Slip the Dogs of War: The Application of Emerging Technology.
The emerging RMA in mid- or high-intensity warfare is centered around the fusion of sophisticated remote sensing systems with extremely lethal, usually stand-off, precision-strike weapons systems and automation-assisted command, control, and communications (C3). Trained with electronic simulations, virtual reality devices, and field exercises, this fusion is expected to allow smaller military forces to attain rapid, decisive results through synchronized, near-simultaneous operations throughout the breadth and depth of a theater of war.12 The eventual result may be radically new forms of conventional warfare. With a few exceptions, however, the impact of the RMA on conflict short of war is far less clear.
Attacks or raids--which are doctrinal missions for the U.S. Army--are an exception. The military objective of attacks or raids in a conflict short of war is to damage or destroy high value targets of an adversary in order to seize and maintain the political or military initiative, and to demonstrate U.S. capability and resolve.13 Although sometimes such operations are covert and executed by unconventional or special operations forces, in most cases a successful operation and its effects should be clearly visible to both the target and the international community. Emerging RMA technologies should improve the U.S. military's capability in these types of operations. Terrestrial, aerial, and space-based, autonomous, wide-ranging, high-speed collecting devices capable of on-board processing will identify precise targets and provide near-real-time information about the adversary's dispositions. Distributed interactive simulations and virtual reality devices will train the forces and be used to rehearse the strikes. And automation-assisted C3 systems will synchronize and control lethal, stand-off, precision-guided weapons systems in near-simultaneous attacks.14 Information technology could be used to both conceal the intent to strike and, later, provide evidence of a successful strike.15 Attacks and raids during conflict short of war are, in effect, mid- to high-intensity operations writ small.16 RMA therefore can have a significant effect. By contrast, the potential impact of emerging technology on more "traditional" operations in conflict short of war such as noncombatant evacuation operations (NEOs), counterterrorism, counter-narcotrafficking, peace enforcement, and counterinsurgency is more ambiguous.
In the increasingly global economy, large numbers of Americans may find themselves in areas of instability and conflict. Voluntary and involuntary noncombatant evacuation operations will therefore be more frequent. The strategic objective of a NEO is the removal of U.S. (and occasionally allied) citizens from danger. The presence of Americans in areas of conflict reduces the flexibility of decision makers not only because U.S. citizens might be taken hostage or endangered, but also because their injury or death can rally public support in the United States for more militant action than policymakers might otherwise favor. But the open declaration of a NEO and its execution also restricts options since it signals the seriousness of a crisis by "clearing the decks" for further action. For decision makers this creates a tension between a desire to remove citizens from danger early and a fear of intensifying a crisis or precipitating undesirable adversary reaction.
While advances in robotics and information technologies may make it possible to perform many commercial activities with fewer employees in dangerous regions, those Americans who are overseas will be more isolated and dispersed. This complicates the main problems of NEOs: identification and notification of the individuals to be evacuated, identification of safe evacuation routes, and assessment of threats to the evacuation. Technology could diminish these problems. In the near future every American at risk could be equipped with an electronic individual position locator device (IPLD). The device, derived from the electronic bracelet used to control some criminal offenders or parolees, would continuously inform a central data bank of the individuals' locations. Eventually such a device could be permanently implanted under the skin, with automatic remote activation either upon departure from U.S. territory (while passing through the security screening system at the airport, for example) or by transmission of a NEO alert code to areas of conflict. Implantation would help preclude removal of the device (although, of course, some terrorists might be willing to remove a portion of the hostage's body if they knew where the device was implanted). The IPLD could also act as a form of IFFN (identification friend, foe, or neutral) if U.S. military personnel were equipped with appropriate challenge/response devices. Finally, such a device might eventually serve, like Dick Tracey's wrist radio, as a two-way communication channel permitting the NEO notification to be done covertly.
The second emerging technology with direct application in NEOs is the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). UAVs will be able to conduct rapid reconnaissance of possible evacuation routes and identify threats during the evacuation. Their small size will make them less conspicuous than either ground vehicles or manned air platforms. Large numbers of fast UAVs could cover multiple exit routes, thus complicating any attempt to interfere with the NEO. In combination with "wrist-radios," High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs could provide NEO notification capability via scrambled TV/radio to Americans on the ground.17 When a NEO required combat action, stand-off, precision-strike weapons systems could allow small military teams to accomplish missions which today require companies or even battalions.18 Equipping these small units with adaptive camouflage could also reduce the visibility of NEOs.19 The less visible an operation, the less provocative; the less visible military teams are, the harder to interfere with them.
Finally, developing military C3I systems could help avoid dangerous, last minute evacuation of Americans all together. Currently, businessmen and diplomats facing crises tend to linger until the last possible moment, often ignoring official warnings. If the U.S. military could gain nondestructive access to (and perhaps even control of ) the communications of an area from remote locations and made this available to Americans, businessmen and diplomats might voluntarily depart early in a crisis knowing they could carry on their activities even though not physically present. By encouraging voluntary departure prior to a crisis, reducing the need for a public disclosure of a NEO, and reducing the political visibility of evacuations, emerging technology increases options available to decision makers and reduces the degree to which NEOs act as barometers of U.S. resolve. When evacuees are actually threatened, the ability to strike quickly, precisely, and from a distance will provide a margin of safety.
Providing safety is also the primary U.S. objective when combatting terrorism. Currently, the State Department deals with terrorism overseas and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has domestic jurisdiction. The military supports both. Efforts to combat terrorism fall into two categories: defensive measures to reduce the vulnerability of individuals and property (antiterrorism), and offensive actions to prevent, deter, and punish (counterterrorism).20 Emerging technologies are a two-edged sword. Some-- like bio-technical weapons--can be tools of terrorism. Others--like precision, stand-off weapons or intrusive information technologies--may be used either for or against terrorism.
If technology allows a reduced American presence overseas, antiterrorism will be easier. Improved sensors and robotic guard systems may make installations, both military and commercial, more difficult to penetrate. In counterterrorism, according to Count de Marenches, former chief of French Intelligence, "Precision personal intelligence can be more critical than precision-guided munitions."21 Advances in electronics and sensors and, even more importantly, the ability to fuse data through automation and improved organizations may provide that most critical commodity. New computer software, according to Alvin and Heidi Toffler, could "quickly discover and expose critical associations that would otherwise go undetected."22 As demonstrated by Israel, UAVs can also play a significant role: "... a remotely piloted plane followed a car carrying fleeing terrorists back to their base, so that it could subsequently be demolished by air attack."23 If the Army develops the aerial capability to broadcast and alter television signals, it could remove a key and essential weapon from the terrorist arsenal--media coverage.24 Finally, some authors have speculated that advances in nonlethal weapons may make it possible to disable and capture terrorists or "glue" incoming car bombs to the street.
At least one analyst has suggested using "soft kill" weapons such as high energy radio frequency (HERF) guns and electromagnetic pulse transformer (EMP/T) bombs, to interdict narcotrafficking flights by damaging or destroying their avionics.25 Like combatting terrorism, counter-narcotrafficking operations are primarily a law enforcement function, with the military providing support.26 Because narco-traffickers operate like terrorists, much counterterrorism technology can be used against them. In fact, narcotraffickers are even more likely than terrorists to rely on radios, cellular telephones, fax machines, and computers. This greatly increases their vulnerability to electronic intelligence gathering and disruption. For example, remote intrusive monitoring of the financial computer networks of offshore banks could identify the deposits associated with money laundering. If desired, such accounts could be electronically emptied.
Because interdicting narco-trafficking is similar to locating a military opponent's reconnaissance platforms, a military capable, in Martin Libicki's words, of collecting "more and more data about a battlefield, knitting a finer and finer mesh which can catch smaller and stealthier objects" could pinpoint intruders into U.S. territory.27 Existing radar nets can identify aircraft attempting low altitude entry into the United States, so a favored technique of drug smugglers is to transfer the contraband from planes to speedboats offshore. Tracking and stopping high-speed small craft in coastal waters is difficult today. With projected advances in sensors and directed-energy or stand-off precision conventional munitions it could become routine. Drugs smuggled in commercial carriers might be interdicted by hosts of miniaturized, remote controlled, robotic detectors capable of rapid stem to stern searches of ships and airliners.28 Interdiction of narcotics at the source, currently a resource-intensive activity involving search and destroy operations or large scale spraying of ecologically damaging herbicides, might be done in the future by miniature, self-mobile, bio-mechanical "bugs" delivered by aerial dispenser to seek out and kill or modify narcotic producing plants.29 Alternatively, information warfare systems might influence the behavior of populations by convincing citizens to turn in traffickers or not buy drugs.
Behavior modification is a key component of peace enforcement. The primary objective of these operations is to prevent violence and facilitate diplomatic resolution of a conflict.30 "Soft kill" systems can play a key role. Examples include not only information warfare but also biotechnical anti-material agents which "could disable propulsion systems (attacking fuel and lubricants or clogging airways and critical passages); change the characteristics of soil or vegetation (to deny terrain to vehicles and troops); or degrade war-fighting material (particularly those with organic components)."31 Advances in electronics and robotics could also prove useful in peace operations, allowing commanders to separate forces with a "no man's land" populated by remote sensing devices or robotic patrols and enforced with stand-off precision strike weapons, thus reducing peacekeeper casualties and improving the chances that the peacekeeping force will remain long enough for a political resolution of the conflict.
The final area of consideration for application of emerging technologies to conflict short of war are insurgency and counterinsurgency. The military objectives of insurgency and counterinsurgency are diametrically opposed. In insurgency the United States assists an armed political organization attempting to seize power or extract political concessions from a regime opposed to U.S. interests. Counterinsurgency seeks to contain or defeat an insurgency attempting the overthrow of a friendly regime.32 How then, might the RMA affect these operations? According to FM 100-20 the U.S. armed forces, when directed to do so, can assist insurgent efforts to:
• Recruit, organize, train, and equip forces;
• Develop institutions and infrastructure;
• Gather intelligence; and
• Perform psychological operations, surreptitious insertions, linkups, evasion, escape, subversion, sabotage, and resupply.33
Emerging technology can augment U.S. capabilities in a number of these areas. Simulator training devices can help force development and partially compensate for the difficulties insurgents face in performing actual field training. UAVs can be used for psychological operations aimed at mobilizing support and enhancing the legitimacy of the insurgents. Stealth vehicles can be used for insertions, biotechnological anti-material agents for sabotage, and the U.S.'s extensive sensor and collector network can provide intelligence support.
Counterinsurgency is similar. Success hinges on obtaining accurate intelligence about the insurgents, and developing or maintaining government legitimacy. Greatly improved intelligence gathering and fusion is a primary component of the RMA, and proposed information warfare capabilities might be ideally suited for helping develop desired emotions, attitudes, or behavior.34 Stand-off weapons could interdict outside support to the insurgents without requiring a U.S. presence. This could help a beleaguered regime maintain legitimacy. Improved training of security forces using simulators would improve their effectiveness, thus increasing the public's trust in the regime's ability to provide security.
Potholes in the Information Superhighway: Constraints and Countermeasures.
Emerging technology may improve the application of force in conflict short of war, but there is probably no imminent RMA in this arena. The changes in conflict short of war will be considerably less dramatic than in those projected for mid- to high-intensity combat, particularly when possible constraints or countermeasures are considered.
These constraints begin at the highest level as the basic nature of our national security organization generates obstacles to innovation. As Stephen Peter Rosen points out, large bureaucracies are not only difficult to change, they are explicitly designed not to change--"the absence of innovation is the rule, the natural state."35 Ironically, the successful end of the Cold War, even though it dramatically increased the need for innovation, complicates the process. In all human endeavors, success tends to stifle innovation. The natural attitude is "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." The fact that the United States has not faced a recent military or national security disaster has hindered the development and application of new technology to conflict short of war. To many Americans, the absence of disaster shows that our national security strategy "ain't broke." Moreover, conflict short of war lacks a powerful institutional advocate able to transcend this attitude. Both civilian and military leaders in the Department of Defense fear that effort, time, and, most importantly, money spent on conflict short of war will be subtracted from that available for conventional combined-arms warfare. And it is not clear that the American public and the Congress consider improving our capabilities in conflict short of war important.
In this era of shrinking defense budgets, little money is available for technology designed specifically for conflict short of war. Fortunately, much of the technology developed for conventional mid- and high-intensity conflict can be extrapolated to conflict short of war, but insurgency, terrorism, and narco-trafficking also demand some unique capabilities. Like a business' investment in new plant, military technology increases effectiveness and efficiency in the long-term, but has major short-term costs. If we choose to engage in conflict short of war, two things could inspire efforts to develop and apply cutting-edge technology. One is the emergence of an active and powerful coterie of visionaries within the national security community, including both senior military and civilian leaders. The other is defeat or disaster. Yet even if the United States did make a concerted effort to apply emerging technology to conflict short of war, our opponents would quickly develop countermeasures, thus posing new problems and forcing further innovation by U.S. forces. Because U.S. engagement in conflict short of war will continue to be have weak domestic support, opponents will not have to match us innovation for innovation, but only increase the cost of American engagement beyond the low limits of public and congressional tolerance. How, then, might future opponents attempt to counter high-tech U.S. forces?
First, they will strike at domestic support for U.S. engagement. One way to do this is to kill Americans or damage U.S. property. Off-duty and rear-area U.S. forces in country will--as always--be targets. But in the increasingly mobile and interdependent world, the United States itself may also be vulnerable. At times, immigrant or resident alien communities within the United States may provide a base of support. New alliances among groups unhappy with our policy will coalesce, share information and, occasionally, conduct cooperative operations. Electronic terrorism--the sabotage of communications and computer systems in retaliation for official policy--will also be a tool of our enemies. Cyberspace will supplement international airports as the point-of-entry for terrorists. As a National Security Decision Directive signed by President Bush noted, "Telecommunications and information processing systems are highly susceptible to interception, unauthorized access, and related forms of technical exploitation...The technology to exploit these electronic systems is widespread and is used extensively by foreign nations and can be employed, as well, by terrorist groups..."36 Opponents will also undercut domestic support for U.S. engagement through traditional political mobilization using immigrant and resident alien communities as well as sympathetic indigenous political groups -- time-tested tactics honed during Vietnam and the 1980s. Advertising and public relations firms will be hired to construct sophisticated "consciousness-raising" campaigns. Often these will attack American public opinion indirectly by creating international opposition to our policy.
Opponents will also counter American military prowess by targeting our friends and allies. Reliance on allies has long been an American vulnerability in conflict short of war. In Vietnam, for example, even our hard-won understanding of revolutionary "people's war" could not bring victory to the incompetent and repressive Saigon elite. For American doctrine and strategy to work, we must have a local ally with some base of legitimacy. Given this, future opponents may not even attempt to confront high-tech American forces, but instead steal a flank march by undercutting our allies. In conventional, combined-arms warfare, backward or weak contingents of coalitions can be assigned peripheral duties--figuratively holding the horses- -and thus not erode the overall military effectiveness of the alliance. With the exception of operations in failed states or certain types of raids and attacks, a host nation must be the centerpiece of efforts to confront insurgency, terrorism, or narco-trafficking. The United States can be no more effective than its allies, a coalition no stronger than its weakest element. Terrorists, insurgents, and narco-traffickers will quickly recognize this.
In some cases, though, our opponents will attempt to directly counter deployed American forces. Since new technology will improve the ability of U.S. forces to locate and track enemies and to collect, analyze, and disseminate intelligence, the most useful countermeasures will be tactical, operational, and strategic camouflage and deception. Some opponents, especially those with an external sponsor, may deploy limited but high-tech methods of camouflage and deception. External sponsors may also provide just enough technology to their clients to foil our forces as Stingers did for the Afghan mujahedeen. Some narco-traffickers, insurgents, or terrorists will take a purely low-tech approach including things as simple as abandoning electronic communications in favor of written or voice messages, and relying on time-tested cellular organization to foil intelligence efforts.37 Organizational decentralization may not totally destroy the effectiveness of RMA technology, but certainly erodes it. Saddam Hussein's Iraq or the other Third World caricatures of the Soviet Union are perfect opponents for a RMA-type military. Driven by the well-earned paranoia of tyrants, they have highly centralized military forces. This prevents coups d'etat, but also limits the chance of military victory against determined advanced states. Future insurgents, terrorists, and narco-traffickers will not be so stupid.
The use of new technology may also run counter to basic American values. Information age--and in particular information warfare--technologies cause concerns about privacy.38 For example, the individual position locator raises several thorny issues: Would Americans overseas be forced to wear (or worse have implanted) such a device or would its use be voluntary? If forced, would it apply equally to those employed overseas and tourists? Will Americans accept the fact that the government might, by access to the NEO locator data base, know every move they make? If a locator device could be remotely activated, how could Americans be sure that activation was only effective outside the United States? How would they know that "wrist radios" were not used to monitor personal conversations? Similarly, military use of television against foreign adversaries raises the specter of domestic applications. Even if domestic use was never contemplated, its possibility might cause greater public skepticism regarding television appearances, reducing the impact of one of the American politician's greatest communication tools. Deception, while frequently of great military or political value, is thought of as somehow "un-American."
American values also make the use of directed energy weapons against suspected narco-trafficking aircraft technologically feasible but morally difficult, perhaps unacceptable. The advantage of directed energy weapons over conventional ones is deniability. Against whom is such deniability aimed? Certainly not the narco-traffickers, who will quickly recognize that interception by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) or military planes leads to loss of their aircraft.39 Instead, deniability must be aimed at the American people, who do not sanction the imprisonment, much less execution, of individuals without a trial (and execution is how they will perceive it--the argument "we only disabled the aircraft, it was the crash which killed the pilot" will carry little weight). Deniability will not last long, since narco-traffickers can choose any number of ways to make such interceptions public such as landing and then challenging the intercept technique in court, or arranging to relay communications with their aircraft to a ground station which could broadcast the "nonlethal" downing (ideally of a plane carrying no drugs). The American public may perceive the DEA or military involved in such actions to be as bad or worse than the narco-traffickers.
Certain biotechnical weapons--considered by some to violate the biological warfare convention to which the United States is a signatory--also may transgress American values regarding appropriate means.40 Most Americans would not support the use of a weapon designed to target only a specific racial or ethnic group in anything less than a war for survival of the nation.41 Could the government and military of this multi-ethnic republic face charges that it was developing or using a weapon targeting Africans, Jews, Koreans, Hispanics, etc.? Would defense against such a charge occupy the attention of policymakers to the detriment of other essential business? And even accidental injuries or deaths caused by "nonlethal" anti-material substances could be politically damaging.
American values and attitudes thus form significant constraints on full use of emerging technology, at least in anything short of a perceived war for national survival. Overcoming these constraints to make a RMA in conflict short of war would require fundamental changes in the United States--an ethical and political revolution may be necessary to make a military revolution.