The military capabilities of 2010 are not goals for the future but the functions of our militaries today.
The military capabilities of 2010 are not goals for the future but the functions of our militaries today. Indeed, some militaries today seem to be militaries of tomorrow, with robots, drone airplanes, and other high-tech weapons. Speed and communication are considered the most valuable traits in a modern army, the high cost of which has led to an incredible diversity in military capabilities. The level at which a nation can conduct warfare has many measurements. Is it strong enough to protect itself from aggressive neighbors? Can it project power beyond its own borders? How far can it project and how much of its forces can be mobilized? How quickly can its army move its forces?
Throughout the ages, armies have used superior speed and mobility to gain an advantage, and the armies of today must be faster than ever before. Beyond conventional warfare, a modern military must also be able to compete with asymmetric warfare–to deal with guerrilla tactics, kidnappings, terror bombings, and fighting in close proximity to civilians. Like conventional warfare, asymmetric warfare has evolved. Insurgents and malcontents make excellent use of mass communications to strike at civilians around the globe.
The complications mentioned above create benchmarks by which the military capabilities of a nation can be assessed. Few nations are able to excel in all areas. The strata of modern militaries can be broken down into innumerable subcategories of those who are able to meet certain challenges but lack the capabilities to meet others, but for simplicity’s sake can be divided into three groups. Those in the top tier are, unsurprisingly, those nations with
It is generally those nations with the strongest economies and highest military budgets that have the most advanced militaries. In 2010, the nations on this exclusive list were the
U.S. president Barack Obama at the Group of Eight (G8) meetings in Italy during July, 2009, where he expressed “serious concern” over post-election violence against demonstrators in Iran.
Some individuals and organizations argue that
Hence, the major asset of a nuclear arsenal remains the defensive advantage gained by the threat of large-scale destruction. An excellent example is the newest member to the nuclear club. In 2006,
A robot designed to detect improvised explosive devices (IEDs), used by terrorists and other insurgents, in Afghanistan in 2005.
How fast can the American military respond to international threats? Unfortunately, that information is not readily available. The U.S. military is understandably cautious about disclosing response times to international threats; however, some of the U.S. ability to deal with domestic threats has been announced. The U.S. government has stated that the Marine Corps is capable of deploying two platoons of soldiers anywhere in the United States within twenty-four hours, and then is able to support those Marines with another thousand soldiers within three days. Considering the size of the continental United States, twenty-four hours is quite a short amount of time. The use of this type of accelerated deployment domestically is a response to new threats.
The shock of the terrorist attacks on
China has the largest land army in the world, but it is still in the process of modernization. China announced that during the 2010’s it will focus on closely integrating its various military branches–a prerequisite for developing advanced strategic capabilities. China’s two international focuses are acquiring sources of oil and the reintegration of
Freed from constant military threats, advanced nations like the United States, Russia, and China have turned their focus to dominating their opponents’ communications. Because of the incredible amount of information that is available from satellites, spy planes, and long-distance detection devices, a battle can be fought over hundreds of miles in multiple locations. The modern theater of engagement could include offshore batteries from miles away, tactical bombing and missile attacks from aircraft, indirect fire from mobile batteries, and enfolding tactics from soldiers behind enemy lines (deep striking). With modern technology, attacks can be synchronized and coordinated across an entire country.
The key theory in net-war is that the army that has the most information, and that is able to make best use of that information, is unbeatable–or, as stated in a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “[to be] able to penetrate the enemy’s decision making system and react so quickly that the opponent cannot compete.” In ages past, if a battlefield commander could find a key spot in battle from which to gain the advantage, that commander was said to have an “eye” for the battlefield. Now battlefields are so large that the only “eye” of any use is one from a satellite or aircraft.
Not everyone, however, is convinced that the robot revolution and net-centric warfare are the keys to modern military dominance. Fourth-generation warfare, or 4GW for short, is a theory that focuses on the changing nature of warfare. 4GW states that in the modern era we have passed the days of centralized warfare between well-organized armies, having moved into an era of warfare when armies fight against small cells of armed civilians. Fourth-generation warfare has its own critics, however, who point out that a new theory is not needed to explain
One great benefit of the 4GW theory is that it takes into account a wide range of capabilities and combatants. In fact, that range is the whole point of 4GW–it covers militants from African warlords to the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers. They are usually either loosely connected or not connected to traditional armies and fight for ideology, resources, or family or tribal groups instead of a national military. These groups are so small that they are infuriatingly difficult to pin down by conventional militaries. However, like traditional militaries, these sideline groups have evolved.
The West holds some stereotypes of nonconventional combatants: that they all use AK-47 machine guns, old Soviet RPG launchers (rocket-propelled grenades), and the infamous IEDs, or homemade bombs, to harass invaders. Due to constant news coverage and stories from the Middle East, most Americans would connect this type of warfare to extremist Muslim groups. The tales of
Militaries of today face the constant pressure of modernization and preparation. If there is any single military truth that has made its way through history and is unlikely to change soon, it is that militaries must constantly evolve. Not only are traditional militaries expanding their capabilities; even nonconventional military forces are expanding and adapting their strategies to gain the upper hand. This element adds a new level to an already difficult and expensive competition. Today the threat from the nonconventional opponents is perhaps the most pressing.
To meet these threats, foreign and domestic militaries will continue to adapt. They will buy more robots, build more ships, acquire new long-range cameras, piece together new tanks, and develop new tactics and technologies. The militaries will continue to evolve–as they must. The militaries of 2010 are our militaries of today; however, with phenomena like global reach, network-centric warfare, airplane drones, and combat robots, the capabilities of some advanced militaries embody our ideas of the future.
Berkowitz, Bruce. The New Face of War: How War Will Be Fought in the Twenty-first Century. New York: Free Press, 2003. Investigates how information in warfare has changed the nature of combat in the twenty-first century. Burke, Arleigh A. The Asian Conventional Military Balance in 2006: Overview of Major Asian Powers. Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2006. Presents detailed profiles of major Asian nations, as the region has become increasingly vital in the early twenty-first century. Echevarria, Antulio J., II. Fourth-Generation War and Other Myths. Carlisle, Pa.: Strategic Studies Institute, United States Army War College, 2005. Discusses the idea of fourth-generation war: an insurgency that uses political, economic, social, and military pressure to convince an opponent nation that victory will cost more than it is worth. Langton, Christopher. The Military Balance, 2002-2003. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. The major source book, presenting the relative strengths of the world’s armed forces, rebel groups, and other military forces. Wilson, Ward. “The Myth of Nuclear Deterrence.” Nonproliferation Review 15, no. 3 (2008): 422-439. Investigates whether the strategy of nuclear deterrence actually was the preventive factor during the Cold War and whether or not it can work in the modern age, with the slow but steady proliferation of nuclear weapons.
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