The revolution in military affairs: Its driving forces, elements, and complexity

Journal Article


The current concept of a “revolution in military affairs” (RMA) mainly characterizes the transformation of the US military to smaller, more lethal forces. It is driven by structural changes in the international system, the high investment in R&D and military expenditures by the US government, the dramatic advancements in information and communication technologies, and the integration of these military, doctrinal, and technological factors into new military structures and tactics. This current revolution in American affairs has been a capital‐intensive evolution, and while these innovations have lead to tactical victories over opposing forces on the battlefield, it is not yet clear that they have contributed to stability in the larger strategic context. Indeed, even the tactical advantages are eroding as potential and existing opponents retool their own military doctrines. The strategic response runs the length of technological spectrum, from the development of countermeasures such as in the proliferation of WMD to the development of effective low‐tech warfare strategies and tactics like IEDs detonated by cell phone. The proliferation of conventional weapons combines with the adaptation of new asymmetric tactics to offer a particularly grim forecast of the future. The Iraqi war demonstrates that the fog of war is not overcome, nor are wars fought with precision‐guided munitions necessarily “clean.” In short, the sophisticated weapons and communications platforms of RMA are no panacea for the ills of the modern world. The key task for the globalized world is first and foremost to develop strategies to win the “hearts and minds” of people in zones of violent conflict. The inclusion of civil society is a basic element, and armed forces should seek the dialogue with the civil society before it comes to war. Moreover, efforts must be redoubled to develop new methods for effective arms control. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Complexity, 2008

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