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One of the revolutions in military affairs began when the United States successfully detonated its first atomic bomb in the early 1945 Trinity test. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki detonations followed in August 1945 to help end World War II in the Pacific. In that same war, the Japanese experimented with germ warfare by spreading bubonic plague agents on Chinese population centers via bombing missions. Also in WWII, the Germans manufactured, but did not use, Sarin and Tabun nerve gases. These nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) armaments now form a new trinity of weapons of mass destruction that now threaten to make twenty-first century warfare potentially more costly than anything seen before.
In 1995 the world has five acknowledged nuclear weapons states: the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and Chinathe five permanent members of the UN Security Council. In addition, there are at least three undeclared nuclear weapons states: Israel, India, and Pakistan. Beyond this there are the near-nuclear or just-nuclear states: such as North Korea, Iran, and Iraq after the international sanctions are lifted. If biological and chemical weapons arsenals are added to the nuclear club, it is estimated that between 20 and 30 states possess one or more of the NBC and missile weapons of mass destruction. Some of these are hostile radical regimes, rogue states that threaten their neighbors with intervention and/or state-sponsored terrorism.
Another of the revolutions in military affairs, at least from an American perspective, has been the spread of WMD to such NBC-arming sponsors of terrorism and intervention (NASTIs) and the changes this will cause in how the United States and its allies will have to fight, train, equip, and supply its forces opposing such NASTIs in future major regional conflicts.
Will the United States and its allies be forced toward more dispersed forces, greater mobility, outranging of the opponent in disengaged combat, or improved active and passive defenses? Is this the direction our militaries must take in such a conflict against such a heavily armed opponent, or can we follow an enhanced version of Desert Storm where, relying on escalation dominance to deter enemy intrawar resort to WMD, we emphasize parallel warfare, hyperwar, information warfare, dominating maneuver, precision targeting, and/or space technologies to beat the enemy military in the region and secure our objectives?
Which set of technologies will be used in twenty-first century wars? Which set of strategies best fit those technologies? Will the technologies of a past revolution in military affairs (RMA), in the hands of our enemies, neutralize or preclude the utility of newer technologies that constitute the more modern RMA? Translation: Will the use of NBC and missile systems by the adversary dominate the terms of battle so that our ability to prosecute information warfare, space war, precision warfare, and dominating maneuver is marginalized? Or will the fear of allied retaliation keep the adversary from initiating WMD strikes against allied forces, ports, air bases, and cities?
High altitude nuclear bursts and the resultant electro- magnetic pulse (EMP) might render most allied space assets inert, and could burn out the circuitry of most allied radio transmitters, radio receivers, computers, transistors, and power grids in the region of combat, rendering many of the high-tech assets of the allies harmless, including many systems useful in information warfare and precision air strikes.
Adversaries could also cause problems by mounting NBC weapons on mobile missile launchers, camouflaged, constantly moved, and hidden from sight and easy detection, creating a targeting nightmare similar to that facing the allies in the Gulf War against Iraqs Scud missile launchers.
Countermeasures taken to blind US and allied space assets may rob war-fighting CINCs and their staffs of the information needed to target enemy forces, especially their highest valued mobile military assets like missile launchers. After all, missiles and smart bombs still need correct coordinates to execute precision attacks before they can be effective. Further, if the enemy is not blinded effectively, the dominating maneuvers of future left hooks thrown at the adversary may be rudely interrupted by catastrophic encounters with enemy nuclear attacks, anthrax barrages, or a battlefield engulfed in clouds of poison gases.
Would the NBC and missile revolution in military affairs now in the hands of adversaries trump the Warden RMA of parallel war/hyperwar or the combined RMA identified by the SAIC analystschanges in a combination of precision war, space war, information war, and dominating maneuver technologies, organizations, and strategies? Or will theater missile defenses emerge that are so successful that an adversary, armed with 20 to 40 NBC warheads and ballistic and cruise missiles, can still be neutralized?
Alternatively, even if very effective ballistic and cruise missile defenses are not developed, will allied possession of an overwhelming nuclear weapons preponderance be enough to deter rogue states from using their more limited WMDs once war has begun? In other words, will deterrence still suffice to keep warfare below the NBC threshold even if effective missile and air defenses are not available? These are some of the questions that the twenty-first century will settle.
Clearly, successful strategy planning and warfighting for the United States in the next 10 to 20 years will require highly sophisticated and well integrated political-military-technical efforts. Strategy is now being rethought in the midst of what some believe to be a distinctive RMA. Throughout history there have been a number of RMAs.
As the SAIC team has pointed out in their essay, the current RMA is multifaceted and is demonstrating the simultaneous interplay and reinforcement of technical, operational, organizational, and socio-economic developments. This integrated system RMA is also pushing the reinforcement of technical, organizational, and operational factors simultaneously across all fighting mediumsair, land, and sea. Within this integrated system RMA some new or powerful areas of warfare are (or have been) emerginglike long-range and stand-off precision strikes, information warfare, dominating maneuver emphasizing the strategic positioning of forces, and space warfare. The SAIC analysts argue that combinations of these new warfare areas are accelerating the present RMA.
Warden has written that offensive technical and military advancements, combined with suppression of enemy defenses, now give the United States the ability to wreak great havoc on some potential adversarys entire target systems. Such a degree of military shock might be applied to an adversarys system so quickly that it could produce paralysis. Adversaries, in time, however, may develop countermeasures to these US capabilities for parallel war and hyperwar, and may discover the means to reduce vulnerabilities of their operational, communications, and logistics centers of gravity.
These above-mentioned defensive measures by potential or actual antagonists of the West are routine and they usually can be countered. However, if an adversary also has a weapon of mass destruction capability, the stakes and the effects on strategy could substantially shift. WMD threats by radical, aggressive regimes may well force the United States into very different kinds of strategies. New modes of combat may have to emphasize mobile, indirect, dispersed, standoff, and disengaged operations until such time that forces in the combat area can be adequately defended against air and missile attacks.
The United States and its allies simply cannot risk putting large concentrations of our troops and equipment in the way of a WMD attack. The magnitude of the casualties could exceed anything experienced by the United States in a single battle. For example, where the United States assembles a force like it fielded in the Gulf War or like it maintains in the Korea-Japan region, more US troops might be killed in a single one-day WMD attack than were lost in all the years of the Vietnam War, Korean War, or even in World War II.
In such mega-risk situations, time-honored principles of war, like mass, may have to be reinterpreted to mean an emphasis on the concentration of firepower rather than the massing of troops. An alternative is to rely more on constant movement, dispersion, outranging the enemy, deceiving the adversary about ones own centers of gravity, blinding of enemy reconnaissance, and emphasizing disengaged remote combat until the enemys WMD and other big guns are silenced. Unless the enemy WMD can be eliminated in initial counter-force strikes, the emphasis on maintaining the offensive initiative in combat may have to be given a lower priority at the onset of war than first erecting potent missile and air defenses to counter possible enemy WMD strikes.
When confronting a Saddam Hussein with WMD, it may become essential to develop and deploy an airtight air defense system and an effective multilayered missile defense in the regions threatened. Theater missile defense (TMD) is the long pole in the tent, the most important ingredient in any combination of changes needed to cope with such radical and well-armed regimes.
No less than a two-tiered defensive system, where each layer has around a 90 percent probability of kill against an incoming enemy reentry vehicle, will be adequate for protecting US overseas expeditionary forces, allied capitals, ports, air bases, naval convoys, and population centers. Anything less and the problems of dealing with NBC-armed adversaries begin to swamp the solutions. Without such TMD protection, it could become suicidal to introduce an army into a port or put into a region through local airbases. Without effective missile and air defenses, enemy WMD can scare off possible allies from joining a coalition against them and raise the body count so high as to make US power projection into the region politically untenable, and could even threaten the outright defeat of US and allied forces in the field.
Without effective TMD, the costs of engaging such a NASTI may far exceed the gains in defeating him. Without effective missile defenses, it may even be advisable to revise US foreign policy commitments so as not be compelled to undertake action in MRCs against such lethal regional enemies.
On the other hand, the NASTI may be deterrable by allied superiority in WMD, or the early deployment of effective active defenses may help to persuade him not to escalate the conflict and to abstain from using his nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. If such escalation dominance results in intrawar deterrence of the enemys use of his worst weapons, then the United States (and its allies) may be free to exploit its technological edge via techniques such as information warfare, precision strikes with advanced conventional weapons, space assets, and other strategies such as the dominating maneuver.
The development and employment of information warfare, especially when targeted against an adversary leaderships command and control systems or its ability to appear legitimate in the eyes of its population, also looms as a potent new warfare technique. In 1991, information technology already had changed warfighting. The global positioning system (GPS) allowed US and allied ground units participating in the left hook flanking attack against the Iraqi army to maintain their positions accurately on the Kuwaiti desert even during blinding sandstorms. Self-navigating data drones can be employed to search autonomously across numerous information networks. Propaganda via the Internet has already been used by belligerents. Vulnerability to computer virus warfare and other nonlethal disabling technologies now has the attention of national security planners.
While the pursuit of nuclear weapons by rogue regimes is very alarming, cheaper and quite lethal technologies of biological and chemical warfare also are being developed. The Iraqi biological warfare threat greatly concerned coalition military planners during the Gulf War even though there is no proof biological weapons were used. As Mayer and Kadlec have written, BW weapons are easy to produce, and it is estimated that at least two dozen countries have them. Some of the most dangerous among the BW resources is Anthrax (bacillus anthracis) and the botulinum toxin. Saddam Hussein had large chemical weapons programs under way, and Iraq had begun to manufacture sizeable quantities of BW agents prior to the Gulf War.
As Mayers essay points out, a cult in Japan spread the Sarin agent in Tokyos subways, harming 5,500 people. This group also had begun research on and the stockpiling of biological weapons when Japanese police and security forces intervened. Biological warfare programs are very hard to detect in the development and production stages and could cause severe casualties if introduced into the water, air, or food supplies of crowded populations or unprotected armed forces.
Moreover, as Robert Kadlec writes, in contrast to chemical agents, biological agents can be easily adapted for use with commercially available sprayers, thus lending themselves to covert applications. Finally, biological agents could be used to conduct economic warfare and may easily be disguised as natural events that cause agricultural disasters.
While the United States currently enjoys a significant conventional force technical edge over likely rivals in the aftermath of the 199091 Gulf War, this edge can be lost if a future adversary masters the tools of the last RMA or the next one. Present US and allied advantages may be lost if they generate countermeasures by future enemies that neutalize or leapfrog them. There is little doubt that the continuous game between rival powers of measure, counter measure, counter- counter measure, etc., will continue into the twenty-first century as new ideas and technologies are introduced by strategists and scientists. National security is a continuous process, not a final resting place. Those who rest on their present military advantages, rather than seeking continuous improvements to cope with future threats and the changing conditions of future conflicts, may well be left behind, consigned to defeat in the next era.
Already, the United States and its allies are encountering rogue states newly armed with the weapons of mass destruction that were formerly held only by the major powers. This will affect the ability to project power into those regions and will require a thorough reexamination of the ways future major regional conflicts are to be fought. Soon, too, the United States and its allies may encounter new modes of warfarein the realms of land, sea, air, space, and cyberspacethrough the use of innovations in computer-enhanced information technologies, digitalization of the battlefield, space-based military systems, precision guided smart weapons, theater missile defenses, nuclear arms, chemical arms, and biological weapons.
United States and allied strategists, scientists, and operators must continue peering hard into the future, and applying the lessons of such thinking to ensure mastery of these trends and to stay ahead of very diligent competitors in order to give our military forces the highest probability of victory on the battlefields of the future.&127;
The 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 US Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.
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