Operation Desert Storm

What is Warfare Today?

What is warfare today? In the early twentieth century it was all about big armies, maneouvre and decisive victory. But two things ended that in 1945. Since the proliferation of nuclear weapons, warfare has been about standoff. The Cold War involved flexing muscles in the old way with the big armies spoiling for a fight – a fight that would end in Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) – and so the real conflict took place in a game of spies and the emerging concept of proxy wars. Since 9/11 we saw that change again with the development of asymetric warfare – small terrorist cells taking on the superpowers. Guerilla tactics have had a long and successful history – the American War of Independence is a good example – but now the guerillas are decentralisaed and distributed from Aghanistan to London’s East End. In addition, the third world has pulled itself out of poverty to start militarisation with a vengeance and create new possibilites of MAD. We may be back to sabre rattling with Russia, with troop concentrations on the borders of Eastern Europe, but US allegations of cyber warfare show a new development, yet again. Psychological warfare is as old as the invention of the club, but new technologies allow it to operate in new and undreamt of ways. And new technology is bringing new ways of direct engagement with the enemy, from targeted air strikes to drone swarms. Finally, the terms of engagement themselves have changed – so-called fourth generation warfare (4GW) is upon us, where the line between soldier and civilian is eroded and we all become the enemy’s targets.

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