Leadership: November 11, 2003

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In the last two decades, the "Revolution in Military Affairs" (RMA) has glimmered in the distance, always just out of reach. All the new technology of the last few decades was seen as capable of causing a fundamental change in how wars are fought. Then came the end of the Cold War, the disappearance of the enormous Soviet army and a new military landscape. This meant there would be no clash of huge mechanized armies in Europe, or anywhere else. The 1991 Gulf War showed that many of the American military technologies worked quite well. U.S. troops could not see more of the battlefield, communicate better and fight faster. But the RMA that developed over the next decade had less to do with technology and more to do with the nature of future wars. With "The Big One" now out of the picture, new kinds of wars became more common. There have been three major changes since the Cold War days. First, there is a lot of neat new technology that allows for quicker, less bloody conflicts. Second, the current and future wars are smaller than what NATO and the Warsaw Pact were planning for nearly half a century. These wars also involved a lot more civilians getting in the way, plus politics, diplomacy and other complications. Then there is the growing media angle. Mass media has been around for over a century, but it has grown enormously in presence and volume in the last two decades. News is now a 24 hour a day operation and reporters are everywhere. Moreover, the Internet makes is easy for anyone with a camera, or a way with words, to join the media stream and get their story out. All of this has changed the battlefield atmosphere enormously since the Cold War. The New War involves smaller forces fighting more complicated (by political, diplomatic and media issues) battles. While better sensors and communications gear give troops a better view of the battlefield, the greater presence of civilians and media actually make it a more complicated place. As a result, RMA is going places it's first boosters never imagined. And no one knows exactly where the destination is.


 


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