How Technology Made the U.S. Military Its Own Worst Enemy

Nothing has changed the course of modern warfare as much as Scientific and technical progress, military and others. Martin Van Creveld, a prominent historian of Israel, tells us that “technology affects war like waves that throw stones into a pond. The disturbance is strongest at the point of impact; The more widespread the ripples, the weaker and less noticeable they become. And the further they went, the more likely they were to lose their identity when mixed with the ripples thrown by other stones. ”

The most revolutionary technologies for influencing war have emerged since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the end of World War II in 1945, according to leading military historians. leading military historian. The muskets of the 1830s marked the beginning of the end for tight tactical formations, such as Roman wedges and Napoleonic columns, as well as the brightly colored uniforms that defined warfare Western competition since the rise of nations. By the 1860s, repeated rifles had rendered bayonet strikes obsolete, but Civil War generals failed to realize this fact, and the result was catastrophic losses. in combat.

The widespread use of explosive shells in the 1850s ensured the demise of two ancient and venerable military installations, built fortresses and wooden sailing ships. However, it took more than 20 years and several other non-military technological innovations before modern steel-hulled navies could emerge. All were products of the Industrial Revolution in Britain: steam engines, screw propellers, and large-scale steel production.

Two other innovations of the Industrial Revolution greatly expanded both the scale and scope of warfare. Railroads and telegraphs allowed commanders to move large numbers of troops and material to the battlefield, tracking for the first time widely dispersed regiments and divisions. At Gettysburg, generals Meade and Lee presided over 200,000 men fighting. At the Somme on the Western Front in 1916, more than 3 million soldiers fought each other. One million people became casualties in the 140 days of battle, and the result was a draw.

Following a fascinating new history of weapons technology, Firepower by Paul D. Lockhart, in the half century between the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 and the end of World War I in 1918, “weapons technology advanced further and faster than ever before… It was a time. period of the profound, rapid, even violent change in the lethal potential of weapons, made possible by the union of brilliant engineers, great strides in the fields of chemistry and physics. logic, and – perhaps most importantly – an arms race in which governments are aggressively seeking every possible advantage they can steal over their enemies, neighbors, and rivals . “

At the end of the “war to end all wars”, three new types of transformable weapons appeared: tanks, fighter planes, and torpedo submarines. Strategists and senior commanders must now deal with simultaneous land, sea and air operations. But the military capabilities of tanks and aircraft were not entirely clear at the time of gun silence in 1918. General Heinz Guderian of the Wehrmacht during World War II was the driving force behind the emergence of mobile warfare. combined weaponry, integrating Panzer tank divisions with motorized infantry and concentrated air support. It is called Blitzkrieg. The Germans were able to defeat most armies in Western Europe in just nine months. The campaign against its powerful rival, France, lasted only six weeks, despite the presence of nearly 400,000 British troops in France.

In the Allied struggle to defeat the Axis powers, the United States quickly emerged as an “army of democracy”, producing more ships, planes, and tanks than any other allied nation. so far, and the war was ended through the use of atomic weapons, which possessed unimaginable destructive power. The United States has spent billions of dollars developing the “bomb”. Not long after the war, an international consensus emerged: Atomic weapons should no longer be used, for the simple reason that the exchange of atoms could quickly end all of history.

As the Cold War began to take shape in the mid-1940s, the U.S. military was widely recognized as the most powerful and technologically complex force in the world to date. This is still true today, even given China’s significant military rise. The Pentagon spends billions of dollars each year on research and development of technology to defeat the enemy while suffering as few casualties as possible. The U.S. military establishment and policymakers that have presided over it since the beginning of the Cold War have demonstrated a strong and compliant disposition to seek technological solutions to new challenges on the battlefield, rather than through tactical or strategic innovations with existing technology, or through in-depth study of the culture and ways of war of its potential enemies.

Ironically, Washington’s penchant for finding technological solutions to military problems goes as far as to explain why the United States has had such a lousy record in wars since the disaster. distress in Vietnam. Our failures there, and in Lebanon (1983), Somalia (1993), Afghanistan and Iraq have largely stemmed from a lack of understanding by both policymakers and generals about political dynamics. , culture and fighting style of our opponents.

The story of American military deployments to foreign shores since Vietnam is, more often than not, largely a fantasy.

In civil wars, insurgencies, and failed states due to anarchy, raw firepower and a technology-driven approach to war often prove to be more of a problem than a solution, because such wars are primarily about gaining and maintaining control of the local population, not about destroying the enemy’s armed forces. What distinguishes these conflicts from the usual skirmishes between national armies, wisely remarked Professor Carnes Lord of the US Naval War College, “is not the size of the violence but the fact that violence is embedded in a political context directly shapes and constrains it… Low-intensity wars are distinguished from other wars to the extent that politics not only determine strategic but also military operations and even tactics”.

Senior American political and military officials have been involved in these conflicts and believe that superior technology and firepower will prevail. It does not have. Indeed, frank, factual thinking about the nature of these conflicts, both before the commitment of forces, and then during the actual war, has become a scarce commodity. . All of which shows the credibility of historian Max Boot in Newly created war that “technology alone rarely confers an insurmountable military advantage. Even if a nation finds a way to harness military power, it still needs wisdom to know the capabilities and limitations of its war machine.”

The story of US military deployments to foreign shores since Vietnam, more often than not, is largely a fantasy in which the extraordinary capabilities of our technology have blinded us. blindly overconfident presidents, national security advisers, and generals against the limitations of military force. in creating political change in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

In short, over the past half-century, the extraordinary military might of the United States has been badly squandered against the wrong wars, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

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