How has technology and technological change affected strategic thinking? How have “disruptive” technologies and new weapon systems influenced national security issues, military thought and, on a more concrete level, wars and conflicts?
This edited volume focuses on the complex interplay between strategic thinking, technological resources and their (potential) use. Throughout history, technology has enabled military and political strategies to be applied to real or imagined problems. Technology connects as a crucial means to ends for civilian and military affairs, both on and off the battlefield. However, the military-industrial complex with its focus on technology does not “make history” on its own. In this regard, Colin Grey once famously proclaimed, “weapons don’t make war.” Other scholars have since argued that “new” capabilities and technological superiority could diminish the unpredictable friction famously described by Carl von Clausewitz. Despite its benefits and advantages, emerging industrial progress has repeatedly caused new problems, in essence a technological “fog of war.”
Most of the relevant “revolutions in military affairs” were only partially driven by technology. Hence, virtually all proponents of a technological determinism in strategic thinking have been proved wrong. For example, the levée en masse changed the French Revolution and indirectly the Napoleonic way of war. Under Napoleon, the intensive use of cavalry and artillery revolutionized the battlefield, but it was also the speed of movement and the coordination of troops that made a big difference, having no real equivalent since Roman times. Planes, tanks, and aircraft carriers became crucially important in the interwar years. Nevertheless, it seems hard to argue that they determined the outcome of the Second World War on their own. It was much more about the strategic planning and use of such novel inventions by humans that proved to be decisive. The concept of effects-based operations, with its reliance on technological superiority, might have been crucial to the First Gulf War, but it was by no means the only reason for the swift American success. The long and bloody counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated that western nation building is not achieved solely by superior technology. The inability to conduct combat adequately on the ground has been glaringly obvious in recent conflicts and has led to disastrous consequences. Various scholars have recently emphasized the American tendency to rely more on weaponry than on an allied understanding of the enemies or the environment.
This book aims to bring together both academics and practitioners in exploring various past and present issues concerning the nexus of (military) strategy and technology. New technologies always have shaped novel weapons employment and doctrine, and they will continue to do so in the future. In a sense, the national power of a country directly depends on this interaction. Yet, more important than military technology is the employment of novel innovations by military strategists, generals, and politicians, indirectly affecting civil-military relations. Thus, military strength is much more than just technological superiority.
Each new generation of technology inevitably creates new types of weapons and logistics systems, modus operandi and operational concepts. National military doctrine thus has implications on the respective organization, education and engagement of soldiers. Therefore, new operational concepts and doctrines are deduced from technologies and developed in flux with this process.
This chronologically structured edited volume will focus on this complex interaction. Chapters on recent case studies since the First World War are especially welcome. Additionally, essays that compare and contrast the role of modern technology and their employment until the present are also of great interest.
Suggested chapters should address issues and offer answers across time and domain to the following broad questions:
- Are there disruptive weapons technologies and how have they affected modern strategic thinking?
- How have incremental technology improvements been successful?
- How is technological change and acquisition most effective in the realms of strategy?
- What are the pitfalls of technological determinism?
- How has new technology been “translated” into operational concepts, doctrine, and strategy?
This edited volume seeks to address these niches from a comparative and global perspective.
Please send a working title and a brief abstract (no longer than 400 words) by 30 April 2023 to email@example.com.
Marcel Berni, Swiss Military Academy at ETH Zurich