The Diffusion of Military Technology and Ideas

By Quester, George H. | Naval War College Review, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

The Diffusion of Military Technology and Ideas


Quester, George H., Naval War College Review


Goldman, Emily O., and Leslie C. Eliason, eds. The Diffusion of Military Technology and Ideas. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Univ. Press, 2003.415pp. $75

This book offers a rich collection of research papers on very important topics: the much discussed revolution in military affairs (RMA), and the less discussed diffusions of new military technology and the accompanying changes in military doctrine to other countries. The authors were carefully chosen experts in history, political science, and sociology, who address the very important factors of national culture as they affect the application of new military technologies.

The product of a series of workshops, this work owes a considerable debt to the prodding of Andrew Marshall, Director of Net Assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, who has been encouraging scholarly analysis of the full implications of the RMA.

Although recognizing the ambiguities relating to the exact definition of such a "revolution," the book does not get bogged down in the debate, but rather directs its analysis to the sociological, cultural, bureaucratic, intellectual, and other processes by which such revolutions are, or are not, replicated. Military weapons may spread through arms sales, the commercial development of "dual-use" technologies, or by simple imitation, but the military doctrines appropriate to such new kinds of weaponry sometimes do not spread so rapidly.

There are some very stimulating and provocative historical case studies, including the foreign penetrations of the past five centuries into South Asia, the development of "blitzkrieg" armored warfare in World War II, aircraft carriers, and the Soviet impact on Arab armies (Soviet tanks were delivered, but Soviet doctrine was not adopted). More recent examples include the Soviet approach to managing the Warsaw Pact, the "special relationship" that has existed since 1945 among English-speaking democracies, and the patterns of nuclear proliferation and the spread of information technology.

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