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Strategy in the Contemporary World

Strategy in the Contemporary World (7th edn)

John Baylis, James J. Wirtz, and Jeannie L. Johnson
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p. 1258. Technology and Warfarelocked

p. 1258. Technology and Warfarelocked

  • Ryan Grauer


This chapter explores the relationship between military technology and warfare, with a particular focus on the tools and the ways they are used in conventional wars between states. There are significant technological changes afoot in military affairs, and conventional wisdom suggests that countries failing to keep pace with developments risk being relegated to the dustbin of history. However, there is reason to doubt this general claim. Militaries have always been incentivized to develop weapons and to integrate them into existing and emerging forces. As a consequence, there have been several ‘revolutions in military affairs’ throughout history and it is possible that a new one is currently under way. Technological development in the warfighting realm is not easy, however. As militaries seek to develop new tools and processes, they are constrained by a variety of factors, including national capacities, strategic culture, and strategic requirements. When they do acquire new technologies, the utility of the tools is limited by the frailty of the humans using them, their own organizational processes, and the nature of war itself. Countries that solve these problems can bolster their efficiency, effectiveness, and power in combat and so gain a decisive edge in combat over those that do not. Perfect solutions are evasive, however, and, except in cases of extreme technological disparities, tools and processes only rarely determine outcomes. The challenges of technological development persist into the present day and will continue to confound attempts to weaponize tools like artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Nevertheless, because there is significant potential in such technologies, strategists ignore them at their own peril.

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