Strategic Impasse: Offense, Defense, and Deterrence Theory and Practice

By Stephen J. Cimbala | Go to book overview

6

New Technology, Strategy, and Deterrence

The relationship between military strategy and technology is not just reciprocal but elliptical. There are long periods in which technology maintains a stable plateau, as in the many years in which sailing ships dominated the seas. At other times dramatic change seems in the offing, but high expectations are disappointed. Perhaps the neutron bomb is an example. The discussion that follows identifies some of the potential technology breakthroughs that may influence the conclusions of strategy, if not the essence of strategic art.

Most historical reviews of military technology and its societal impacts focus on the destructiveness of weaponry and the lethality of the instruments of war. Thus society seems to regress steadily from the stone age to the invention of nuclear weapons. The capabilities of weapons to destroy value has probably reached its apogee given the plethora of strategic and other nuclear weapons available. Some scientists fear that a large-scale nuclear exchange would endanger the entire Northern Hemisphere, if not the planet. 1

I suggest something less apocalyptic with regard to the impact of technology in the near term. Its actual impact on deterrence and defense will be most pronounced in the area of electronics and information science, which I refer to as the “sensor-cyber” revolution. It is less revolutionary than evolutionary in strictly technical terms. However, the impact of forward-looking technologies once they are well integrated with military systems, and therefore incorporated into strategic thinking, may be substantial.

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