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

Nothing has changed the face of modern warfare like technological innovation, military and others. Martin Van Creveld, a brilliant Israeli historian, tells us that “technology affects war like waves of stone thrown into a pond. The violation is strongest at the point of impact; the further the ripple spreads, the weaker and less noticeable they become. And the further they go, the more likely they are to lose their identity by mingling with the ripples that other stones throw. ”

According to leading military historians, the most revolutionary technologies that influenced the war appeared between the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the end of World War II in 1945. The rifled musket of the 1830s marked the beginning of the end for brutal tactical formations such as the Roman Wedge and the Napoleonic Column, as well as the bright uniform that defined the Western War since the emergence of nation-states. By the 1860s, a re-rifle had made bayonet charges obsolete, but American Civil War generals failed to acknowledge this fact, and the result was catastrophic losses in combat.

Extensive use of explosive artillery shells in the 1850s led to the demise of two ancient and esteemed military establishments – a brick fort and a sailing ship with a wooden hull. However, it took more than 20 years and several other non-military technological innovations before modern steel-hulled fleets could appear. All of these were the products of the Industrial Revolution in England: the steam engine, the screw-screw and large-scale steel production.

Two other innovations of the industrial revolution greatly expanded both the scale and the scale of the war. The railroad and telegraph allowed the commanders to transfer huge troops and equipment to the battlefield for the first time, as well as to monitor the widely scattered regiments and divisions. In Gettysburg, Generals Mead and Lee commanded about 200,000 fighters. On the Somme on the Western Front in 1916, more than 3 million soldiers fought with each other. A million people died in 140 days of battle, resulting in a draw.

According to an exciting new history of weapons technology, Firepower Paul D. Lockhart, half a century between the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. and the end of the First World War in 1918 “weapons technology was advancing further and faster than ever before … It was a period of profound, rapid, even violent changes in the lethal potential of weapons, made possible by a combination of brilliant engineers, great leaps forward in chemical and physical disciplines and – perhaps most importantly – an arms race fueled by governments that are aggressively seeking to take advantage of every possible advantage they could steal from their enemies, neighbors and rivals ”.

By the end of the “war for the cessation of all wars” there were three new weapons: a tank, a fighter jet and a torpedo submarine. Senior strategists and commanders now had to simultaneously march on land, at sea and in the air. But the military capabilities of the tank and aircraft were not at all clear until the guns fell silent in 1918. General Heinz Guderian of the Wehrmacht in World War II was the driving force behind the emergence of a general military mobile war that united tank tank divisions with motorized infantry and concentrated air cover. It was called Blitzkrieg. The Germans were able to kill most armies in Western Europe in just nine months. The campaign against her powerful adversary, France, took just six weeks, despite the presence in France of nearly 400,000 British soldiers.

In the Allies’ struggle for victory over the Axis powers, the United States quickly became an “arsenal of democracy,” producing more ships, planes, and tanks than any other Allied country, and the war was stopped through the use of nuclear weapons, which had unimaginable destructive potential. The United States has spent billions to develop the “bomb”. Shortly after the war, an international consensus emerged: nuclear weapons could not be reused for the simple reason that nuclear exchange could end history fairly quickly.

When the Cold War began in the mid-1940s, the U.S. military was widely recognized as the most powerful and technologically advanced force in the world. This remains relevant today, even given China’s significant military growth. The Pentagon spends billions each year on technology research and development to defeat adversaries with as few friendly losses as possible. The U.S. military establishment and politicians who have ruled it since the beginning of the Cold War have shown a strong and unwavering propensity to seek technological solutions to new challenges on the battlefield rather than through tactical or strategic innovation with existing technology or in-depth study of its potential opponents’ culture and warfare. .

Ironically, Washington’s propensity to seek technological solutions to military problems goes far beyond explaining why the United States has such a bad experience of waging war after the burning disaster in Vietnam. Our failures there, as well as in Lebanon (1983), Somalia (1993), Afghanistan, and Iraq, are largely due to the ignorance of both politicians and generals of the political dynamics, culture, and ways of fighting our opponents.

«The story of the deployment of U.S. troops to foreign shores since Vietnam is often largely a story of what is desired for what is desired.

In civil wars, uprisings, and anarchic nation-states, firepower and a technologically sound approach to war have often proved to be a problem rather than a solution, because such wars involve gaining and maintaining control over the local population rather than destroying enemy forces. What distinguishes these conflicts from the usual battles between national armies, wisely notes Professor Carnes Lord of the US Naval College, “is not the scale of violence as such, but the fact that violence is embedded in the political context that directly shapes and restrains it … Low-intensity warfare differs from other hostilities in the extent to which politics dictates not only strategy but also military operations and even tactics. ”

Senior political and military officials in the United States have entered into these conflicts, convinced that high technology and firepower will prevail. It wasn’t. Indeed, honest, realistic reflection on the nature of these conflicts, both before the involvement of forces and during real battles, was a scarce commodity. All this gives credence to the claims of historian Max Booth A new war that “technology alone rarely gives an insurmountable military advantage. Even if a country is figuring out how to use military force, it still needs wisdom to know the capabilities and limitations of its military machine. ”

The history of the deployment of US troops abroad since Vietnam is often largely a history of the coveted by the coveted, in which the extraordinary capabilities of our technology have blinded overconfident presidents, national security advisers and generals to limit military power. political change in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

In short, over the past half century, the extraordinary military power of the United States has been heavily wasted on waging the wrong wars in the wrong places at the wrong time.


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