Rapid developments in information technology and precision weaponry are said to herald a 'revolution in military affairs' (RMA), making possible quick and decisive victories with minimal casualties and collateral damage. But has such a revolution taken place? The issues that drive conflict will persist, and many of the technical advances associated with the RMA will not necessarily produce a transformation in the nature of warfare. The end of the Cold War has highlighted another revolution one in political affairs. Major powers appear less likely to go to war with one another than they are to intervene in conflicts involving weak states, with potential opponents including militia groups, drug cartels and terrorists. RMA technology may be less suited to conflicts such as these.
If the cumulative effect of these changes has produced a revolution, it is a revolution in strategic, as much as military, affairs. This paper argues that:
The problem for the West is not how to prevail, but how to do so in an acceptable manner. The more warfare becomes entwined with civilian activity, the more difficult it is to respond with the type of decisive and overwhelming military means embodied in the RMA. The RMA does not create a situation in which information is the only commodity at stake, and so does not offer the prospect of a 'virtual war'. The new circumstances and capabilities do not prescribe one strategy, but extend the range of strategies available. The issue underlying the RMA is the ability of Western countries, in particular the US, to follow a line geared to their own interests and capabilities.
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