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Technology, Coercive Diplomacy, and the Lure of Limited War
by Dr. Douglas Peifer, Small Wars Journal
Just when critics have consigned the Revolution in Military Affairs and Transformation to the dustbin of clichéd phrases, a fresh buzz of excitement is stirring among technophiles. Admiral Arthur Cebrowski and his evangelists of network-centric warfare failed to come to grips with the realities of small wars, counterinsurgency, and urban warfare, but a younger cadre of writers, operators, and analysts is emerging who insist that we are indeed in the midst of a Revolution in Military Affairs, only one that centers on robots, unmanned vehicles, and artificial intelligence. They claim that unmanned systems and robots are changing the calculus of war, and will allow the United States to threaten military intervention and the use of force without substantial risk to ourselves.
Will robots, UAVs and precision-guided munitions be as strategically effective as their advocates proclaim? Do they provide a future, high tech solution to the challenges of small wars? More specifically, will technological dominance enable the United States to threaten and wage limited wars that compel the enemy to do our will, as the more exuberant unmanned and robotic system advocates assert? The historic record indicates that even in times of technological disparity, the promise of waging war from afar was elusive and uncertain.