War is transforming itself before our eyes, turning into something unfamiliar and strange. Information has taken a place as a major class of weaponry, with sabotage and subterfuge as preferred tactics. On the new battlefield, these weapons are available not only to nation-states, but to organizations and even individuals.
The Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) is something that ought to be more widely known than it is. Starting in the 1980s, advances in cybernetics and communications began having a dramatic impact had on military operations. Such innovations as Precision-Guided Munitions (PGMs) and high channel capacity communications systems not only increased the effectiveness of individual weapons systems, but, acting as force multipliers, they also boosted the capabilities of entire units to a point where they could take on and defeat enemy forces that in the past would have been considered far superior.
The impact of the RMA became apparent in the First Gulf War of 1990-1991. Most of the two-thirds of a million Coalition troops deployed in Saudi Arabia never engaged with enemy forces. The Iraqis were defeated by a handful of spearhead units so technologically superior to the Warsaw Pact-type Iraqi units that there was no contest. In 2003, a much smaller Coalition force routed the Iraqis, utilizing all the technological advantages that had appeared in the ensuing twelve years. (Unfortunately, Donald Rumsfeld attempting to carry out the occupation of Iraq with the same size force, demonstrating that the RMA does not extend to civil affairs.)
But despite all the speculation surrounding the RMA, few foresaw the arrival of a second phase in which the breadth, execution, and very definition of warfare would be transformed. The new technology empowered not only military forces, but also intelligence agencies and even non-state actors. Utilizing communications and cybernetics innovations, the new combatants can, under the right circumstances, have an impact rivaling that of entire nation-states, causing serious turmoil and damage with a minimal outlay of effort. In 2010, we have been introduced to this mutated form of warfare by two distinct events: Stuxnet and WikiLeaks.
Yes it’s long, but read the whole thing. TL;DR doesn’t cut it here…