The end of industrial warfare?

Cyber warfare and decapitation strikes may signal the sunset of industrial warfare.

If a cyberattack can shut down a country’s infrastructure — disabling its power plants, refineries and ports, for example — then war starts to resemble a nation-scale ransomware attack.

If small, self-guided drones can kill key military or political leaders, then war starts to resemble a nation-scale decapitation duel.

You think war means blowing stuff up and shooting people, because that’s been true for centuries.  But that’s not the goal;  it’s just the means.  The goal is to force another country to do your bidding.  War, in the most general sense, is “the continuation of diplomacy by other means,” as Clausewitz put it.  

The industrial model was expensive. You had to devote much of your manufacturing base to making explosive widgets;  hiring semi-skilled labor, aka soldiers, to operate those explosive widgets;  and then using them to blow up your opponent’s soldiers and factories until they cried uncle.

If you can instead force another country to do your bidding without spending trillions, without firing a shot, then of course you will. If these new modes of warfare work, they will replace the old model.

This will upset some assumptions.  Under the old industrial model, it was a big advantage in warfare to have more people, more factories, and less constitutional democracy (those pesky voters always want to stop fighting).

But to win a decapitation duel, for example, you no longer need lots of soldiers or widget factories.  Instead, you need a constitutional republic, a political system that is sufficiently codified to continue functioning even when its leaders are repeatedly killed off by surprise drone attacks.  By contrast, autocracies in general, and cults of personality in particular, are highly vulnerable to this sort of warfare.

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