Air University Review, July-August 1982
Dr. Benson D. Adams
Although I agree with the premise, reasoning, thrust, and conclusions of Lieutenant Colonel Donald R. Baucoms article, "Technological War: Reality and the American Myth" in the September-October 1981 issue of the Air University Review, I disagree with his interpretation of General Bernard Schrievers statement quoted as the article epigraph, which Baucom apparently believes is typical and indicative of the attitude that fosters the problem of the technological myth of which he writes. As will become apparent, I believe this is an important point since the authors interpretation of Schrievers remark to support his thesis could have very profound negative strategic and technological consequences for the United States and the United States Air Force far beyond what Colonel Baucom might imagine.
General Schriever, in this statement of 1960, was one of the first to recognize the critically important and central role that technology came to play in post-World War II strategy. This is different from Baucoms thesis, for which he incorrectly, in my judgment, uses Schrievers quotation to illustrate how we have become enamored with technology,". . . as the key to military success at the expense of other elements that have traditionally played a major role in military victory, such as superior combat leaders, skilled and dedicated fighting men, willingness to sacrifice, and sound strategy." What General Schriever was saying 1 (I am interpreting since I never met or served with him, although I worked closely with several members of his Air Force Systems Command staff in the early and mid-l960s), which was to find its fullest expression in the Winter-Spring 1962-63 issue of the Review,2 was that technology had become an indispensable and integral element of power and strategy in the post-World War II period, just as industrial and economic means had formed the basis for strategy and international relations after the nineteenth-century industrial revolutions.
General Schriever was arguing that the United States had to acquire scientific and technological knowledge and emphasize military research and development at least through prototype development at a faster and more regular pace than the U.S.S.R. in order that we never (1) be faced with a disadvantageous technological surprise that could upset the balance of power; (2) negate an advantage that we possessed; (3) deny ourselves an advantage. This is what was called the technological conflict, and we cannot afford to lose this conflict. We could lose if the antitechnology ideas of the erstwhile military reform movement and Colonel Baucoms thesis are allowed to prevail without an appreciation that the acquisition of technological knowledge for our security must be balanced with a more judicious and sensible application and incorporation of those ideas in future weapon systems.
The disease that has befallen us and which Colonel Baucom laments comes not only from the view expounded by General Schriever but from those responsible for weapon development and acquisition who do not understand or care to understand war, strategy, or the role played in both by technology. Their attitude holds that more technology is better even to the point of making weapons less effective and useful so long as they incorporate the latest technology. This attitude has to be guarded against; however, any diminution of our basic and applied research efforts must also be guarded against so that we do not fall behind in scientific and technological knowledge.
As a matter of interest, in 1951 Arthur C. Clarke wrote a short story called "Superiority," which portrays the same problem that Colonel Baucom has written about, but in a more dramatic manner. I recommend it to you.
1. Lieutenant General Bernard A. Schriever, USAF, The Operational Urgency of R&D," Air University Quarterly Review, Winter and Spring 1960-61, pp. 229-36.
2. General Bernard A. Schriever, The Role of Management in Technological Conflict," Air University Quarterly Review, Winter and Spring 1962-63, pp. 19-29.
Dr. Benson D. Adamsis Nuclear Policy Advisor, Office of the Assistant to Secretary of Defense (Atomic Energy), and Instructor in Military Strategy at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
DisclaimerThe conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.
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