Don't Techno for an Answer: The False Promise of Information Warfare

By Goodwin, Brent Stuart | Naval War College Review, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

Don't Techno for an Answer: The False Promise of Information Warfare


Goodwin, Brent Stuart, Naval War College Review


Adams, James. The Next World War: Computers Are the Weapon and the Frontline Is Everywhere. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998. 288pp. $25

Arquilla, John, and David Ronfeldt, eds. In Athena's Camp: Preparing for Conflict in the Information Age. Santa Monica, Calif: RAND, 1997.501pp.$20

Schwartau, Winn. Information Warfare: Chaos on the Information Superhighway. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1994. 432pp. $2.95

Shukman, David. Tomorrow's War. The Threat of High Technology Weapons. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1996. 272pp. $26 THE U.S. VICTORY IN THE 1991 Persian Gulf War prompted widespread speculation about the future of warfare and the role of technology and information in the conduct of war. This has produced an ever-growing body of literature concerning the future of war and the implications toward U.S. policy. Unfortunately, that literature has gone from explanation to prediction with very little analysis in between.l The predictions that have been made need to be studied in light of some of the major works in strategic studies. On the whole, one finds ruminations about information warfare lacking in useful hypotheses toward generating theoretical frameworks for strategic thinking about future events.

By any measure the performance of U.S. weaponry in the Gulf War was impressive, even taking into account some overstatements made at the time. However, there is a profound difference between winning the war, on the one hand, and sound strategy and policy being aided by superior technology, on the other. At this point in history, it is important to keep in mind that technology and information are not the automatic solutions to every problem. From a strategic standpoint, we may have reached the point where technology and data complicate more than they clarify. Technology does not fix systemic organizational problems, but it does increase implementation costs in time and money, and thus it should not be seen as a cure-all. Most importantly, technology is a poor offset for unsound strategy and policy.2

The volumes reviewed here typify the tone of the literature regarding war in the information age. Taken together, they exhibit a preoccupation with technology and nonstate actors. Those two factors are not without consequence for strategic thinking, but these authors make little attempt to situate their claims in broader strategic thought, which would prove useful in sparking debates that would lead to theory building about information warfare (IW). In none of the works are theoretical frameworks presented for evaluating events, and thus the reader cannot find a basis for the development of sound strategy and policy regarding IW.

This is not to say that authors in this genre are incorrect in suggesting that technological advantages should be exploited or that they present dangers, but rather that their predictions of technological prowess translating into battlefield dominance have not been systematically established. Generally, the literature proceeds from observations to conclusions with insufficient attention to the component parts of society and war, and how they relate to one another.

To varying degrees these four books share two assumptions regarding information warfare.3 The first is that IW implies the rise of a new political-economic order that privileges nonstate actors because IW allows nonstate actors to threaten the security of Westphalian states. Second, technological dominance is the key to winning future wars.

Information Warfare (Schwartau) and Tomorrow's War (Shukman) present views based largely upon the first assumption. The Next World War (Adams) and In Athena's Camp (Arquilla and Ronfeldt) accept the first assumption but emphasize the second.

Barbarians at the Gate: Schwartau and Shukman. Winn Schwartau sounds an alarmist note in Information Warfare, highlighting the potential "computer Pearl Harbor waiting to happen."4 His concern is that IW will be part of the formation of a new political and economic order that will have dire consequences for individual, as well as American national, security.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Don't Techno for an Answer: The False Promise of Information Warfare
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.