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New Face of War
According to Bruce Berkowitz, a senior RAND analyst and United States Defense Department and Intelligence consultant, the new paradigm of war involves a curious combination of stealth, secrecy, and above all, information technology. How the world's military powers choose to utilize and capitalize on existing and emerging technologies will be the key to determining the victors in future warfare. In Berkowitz's 2003 publication entitled, The New Face of War: How War will the Fought in the 21st Century, the author analyses past instances of both successful and unsuccessful uses of information technology by military powers including but not limited to the United States. Showing how the world of intelligence has evolved from, as the author puts it, "Sumerians ... preserving their beer recipes on clay cuneiform tablets," to the types of advanced digital technologies that permit covert communications between terrorist cell networks, Berkowitz presents a clear and accurate picture of the current and future state of warfare (3). The new face of war is one that is not fought on wide, grand battlefields as in the glorious days of man-to-man combat. Rather, killing will be precision-based; bombs will be stealthy, and techniques from "zapping" to swarming will replace the types of military operations that reigned supreme before the dawn of the information age. Berkowitz notes that "no one has felt the effects of the Information Revolution more than the world's military forces," (3). While consumers revel in their ultra-fast PCs, terrorists and military men alike are using digital technology far more advanced to plot small and large-scale attacks on potentially unpredictable targets. Therefore, his book The New Face of War offers the military professional and the layperson alike a window into the weaknesses of the American intelligence community and demonstrates why keeping ahead of the information war means the difference between victory and defeat; no longer are sheer numbers or even dollars the bottom line.
In fact, Berkowitz tells his readers that "information technology is so important in war today that it overwhelms everything else," (3). While trained military personnel are still requisite for traditional military strategies and combat, the new front of war will be fought not on a battlefield or in the trenches but in mainframes, servers, and portable digital technology. Moreover, the new information war incorporates manpower from all professional sectors, not limited to military specialists. For example, the author notes how increasing numbers of civilian businesspersons, scientists, and information technicians are being recruited for intelligence work. Effective military action on the new front requires insider information. "Simply having better technology" is no longer going to secure a military advantage (3). While the United States might have had the edge in the past, currently America could be falling behind organized terrorist or crime networks in terms of intelligence operations. The New Face of War is designed therefore to inform, instruct, as well as to warn.
The New Face of War comes as an immediate response to the September 11 attacks by Al Qaeda, in which information technology was skillfully used to plot a seemingly impossible feat. The attacks, concludes Berkowitz signify not that Al Qaeda has a more highly trained, better organized, and bigger force of troops. Quite the contrary: those of Al Qaeda and in fact any actual nation pales in comparison with the armed forces of the United States. Rather, September 11 proves to be "a demonstration" of the effectiveness and the scope of the new face of war (22). The success of the attack and the continued ability for Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda members to elude capture point to the necessity for understanding what the new war entails. Furthermore, the "demonstration" should be a warning bell for the American military and intelligence communities. Berkowitz emphatically states, in italicized print on page 21, "to defeat your opponent, you must first win the information war." Legitimate governments like the United States have had to totally restructure their military and intelligence communities to reflect the changing needs of new battlefront. Military tactics too have had to change: "the lines between different forms of armed conflict is blurring. National armies are planning to use many of the same methods as terrorist organizations ... Both rely heavily on information technology and on secrecy," (21).
Through his careful analyses of past military operations using information technology such as the 1991 Gulf War, Berkowitz concludes that the new face of war involves a multi-pronged effort to combine intelligence, technology, and stealth. The author points out several highlights of the new face of war, ways the war can and should be fought to ensure victory and prevent embarrassment. Many of the lessons that we have learned from the past also stem from traditional warfare. For example, based on military aircraft operations of the mid-twentieth century: "absolute speed is much less important than the ability to move from one state to another," (40). By extension, in more modern scenarios: "information warfare is whatever you need to do to get to the end of your decision cycle before your opponent gets to the end of his," (43). In other words, in the new face of war, speed of decision-making has become far more important than the speed of aircraft. The speed of decision making is maximized with optimal levels of intelligence and information technology. Traditional military techniques are honed in new ways in the new phase of information wars. Potential weaknesses such as uncertainty equally plagued traditional officers as modern ones; therefore, Berkowitz emphatically proposes that American military personnel become immediately familiar with existing and emerging information technology. In many ways, The New Face of War is written for the old school military officers who continue to offer invaluable support to the intelligence community but whose skills are at a risk of becoming dangerously outdated.
Berkowitz outlines the basics of what information wars entail. On page 75 the author presents a summary of "the most important features of modern warfare," which include the "asymmetric threat," information technology, "beating the opponent's decision cycle," and "interconnected, digital communications." Digital communication is one of the hallmarks of the new face of war, as digital forms and networks of communication are used not only by the military but by the businesses and organizations that bolster the military and support it through products or political policies. Furthermore, the nature of encryption has changed considerably since communications have become digital. Encryption and stealth are "essential to survival," (75). Furthermore, digital communications have made geographical location all but an afterthought: a novel notion to the traditional military strategist.
New military capabilities essential for victory include "the ability to pick off your adversary from a distance with a single shot," to swarm using a "stealthy network of forces," and to "control information so that you can complete your decision cycle before the enemy completes his," (75). In short, Berkowitz describes essential features of the new warfare as precision "zapping," stealth swarming, and speed of information flow, all of which apply to terrorist networks as well as official nation states. Zapping, or precision striking, has been a feature of warfare for years. As examples, the author includes the strategic bombing of the First and Second World Wars and of the Vietnam War. However, new technologies make zapping easier, more precise, and less messy. "Leapfrogging the front is not an issue, because there is no front," (77). Warfare has in many ways grown to resemble video games: "The point is simply that now you can destroy any target with a single shot if you know where it is," (77). The key, according to Berkowitz, is to strike before the enemy can hide, making "winning the information war more important than ever," (77). The author's point illustrates the significance of having the most advanced military technology and the most up-to-date, relevant, and accurate intelligence information. Swarming, like zapping, also requires a confluence of hard technologies and information technologies. However, swarming also brings to the fore the differences between "major wars" and "small wars." According to the author, "each needs different capabilities," (102). Most of the differences are obvious: major wars require bigger armies, for instance. The new wars will be increasingly smaller in scale, notes Berkowitz. Many military officials will resist transferring their knowledge and skills toward fighting war on the new "frontless" front, but "armies using the old tactics will be defeated, or will simply be left at home," (109). As swarming represents a combination of troop numbers and effective networking of information between troops, the new face of war absolutely depends on keeping up with the flow of information and the new technology. "In the Information Age, it's not just smart weapons that win wars. It's the total package -- the total information picture -- that is important," (117). One of the reasons why Al Qaeda has been so successful in eluding the quantitatively and possibly also qualitatively superior United States troops is because they have had "better information about us than we had about them," (117).…[continue]
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