Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Military Futures of Developing Countries: Images of Alternative Futures for the South African Military

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Military Futures of Developing Countries: Images of Alternative Futures for the South African Military

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The allocation of time, resources, manpower and space for military matters has become increasingly constrained on the South African national agenda. In the absence of an immediate threat that allows political decision-makers to keep the military agenda competitive, the prominence of the country's armed forces has declined as a national priority. This trend necessitates a prospective overview of the country's military establishment and its future roles. As a long-term view of the military emerges, clarity and focus tend to become obscure. It is therefore suggested that the contemporary debate on military futures, as well as the imaging use of some instruments from the field of Future Studies, be considered.

The present debate on alternative military futures is dominated by several trends. The emphasis on technology and the dominant input by developed countries are prominent features. At the same time, countries of the developing world are playing a secondary role, bearing in mind that their positions or contributions are not clear. Their exclusion from the mainstream debate on alternative military futures have therefore reduced them to mere spectators or even to victims of military colonialism. From this the need arises to gain an understanding of where developing countries, including South Africa, and their national military forces stand or where they are headed.

1. INTRODUCTION

If the debate on military futures is regarded as an important vehicle to explore the alternative military futures of states, it is risky to exclude developing countries. Developing countries should take note of opportunities within this debate that create room for their participation. They could benefit from current thinking and trends. Firstly, the contemporary debate, driven by ideas of a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), Information Warfare (IW), high-technology futures and information-based forces, has some weaknesses that developing countries can exploit. Secondly, developing countries should not consider themselves irrelevant in this debate and it is therefore necessary that they be aware of those matters that they could draw upon. Thirdly, developing countries should consider how to approach the matter of alternative military futures by drawing upon the current debate.

2. THE RMA/IW DEBATE AND ITS WEAKNESSES

Although the contemporary debate on a RMA and IW could be pursued at length via the burgeoning literature on the two topics, it suffices for the purpose of this discussion to merely understand these two concepts. The concepts of RMA and IW and their respective meanings are firmly embedded in theorising of developed countries and their views of possible military futures. The RMA involves a paradigm shift in the nature and conduct on military operations, which either renders obsolete or irrelevant one or more core competencies of a dominant player or creates one or more new core competencies in some new dimension of warfare, or both. (1) This implies that a military force imposes deep changes in the way it intends to operate in future. One example is to pursue outer space as the main theatre of future military engagements, hence whoever controls space will control the battle space below. In turn, IW is primarily about dominating the information spectrum and using it to deny the enemy information or to attack it s information infrastructure in addition to its land, sea and air power. (2) As such, the future is envisaged as strategic information warfare, where the opponent's ability to operate is affected by totally disrupting information systems at all levels -- national as well as military. This, in turn, supposes that traditional military combat can be avoided or limited. Both the RMA and IW concepts and their operationalisation are currently deeply embedded in technology as the means to effect desired outcomes.

The origins of this thinking can be traced back to Russian influences and ideas. …

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