Academic journal article Military Review

A New Form of Warfare

Academic journal article Military Review

A New Form of Warfare

Article excerpt

As horses and mechanization revolutionized maneuver and industrialization geometrically advanced firepower, information technology is transforming communications, command and control. James Schneider argues that degrading an enemy's command and control paralyzes its military force as surely as successful maneuver exhausts it and a strategy of attrition aims at annihilation. Schneider outlines this third form of warfare, relates its historical roots, explains its current applications and calls it cybershock.

ON 27 APRIL 1863, IN A HEAVY DOWNPOUR, four corps of Major General Joseph Hooker's-Federal Army of the Potomac began the first operational maneuver in military history. Thanks to the employment of the Beardslee field telegraph, a large portion of his army moved off the battlefield before Chancellorsville. General Robert E. Lee, past master of Napoleonic warfare, was "temporarily baffled" by the strange Union maneuver.1 But five days later, at Lee's direction, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson thwarted it. Jackson's blow to Hooker's army was also unique in that it was perhaps the first instance in military history where a force was defeated by cybershock, the systemic paralysis of an army through its inability to direct and control itself effectively.

Understanding the concept of cybershock is important because it offers a conceptual structure to elevate the disparate notions of command and control warfare (C^sup 2^W) and information operations (IO) to the same level as maneuver and attrition. Indeed, this article argues that cybershock is a new kind of defeat mechanism wholly analogous to, but distinct from, attrition and maneuver. Historically, cybershock evolved in the wake of the emergence of operational art. Only now with the current emphasis on information operations has the Army begun to seriously consider the practical and revolutionary implications of cybershock as a new form of offensive and defensive action.

Delbruck's Cut

In 1900 German military historian Hans Delbruck published the first of four volumes in History of the Art of War within the Framework of Political History.2 The project embraced the history of warfare from the Persian Wars around 500 B.C. to the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. Toward the end of his study, DelbrUck concluded that the whole history of warfare could be expressed by two patterns of defeat. The first pattern he called a strategy of annihilation (Niederwerfungstrategie); the second, a strategy of exhaustion (Ermattungstrategie). Annihilation aimed at the destruction of the enemy's army through a decisive battle. Here the dominant mechanism of defeat was attrition. Exhaustion, on the other hand, sought the enemy's moral and logistical collapse through a combination of battle and maneuver.3

Building on an initial insight from Carl von Clausewitz, Delbruck noted that employing a particular strategy depended on the military means available and the political purpose for which the war was being waged.4 A strategy of annihilation was appropriate for a war fought for unlimited aims with unlimited means; a strategy of exhaustion was a war fought for limited aims with limited means. Most often the selection of war aims became a function of the perceived domination of one side over another. A perceived deficit in military means, Delbruck believed, drove the weaker side to adopt exhaustion, the stronger side to seek annihilation. The correlation of forces, furthermore, entailed a particular force posture. A strategy of exhaustion, implying weakness, suggested a defensive posture since defense is the stronger form of war. A strategy of annihilation implied strength and suggested the weaker but more decisive offensive posture.5

The Beat of Battle

Delbruck's framework enumerated the two defeat patterns that had dominated military history until the Industrial Revolution. For thousands of years annihilation found its tactical expression through attrition in the techniques of the old armies based on physical shock. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.