Big Iron Won’t Win Wars Anymore

Technology changes things, sure. The question is, how do you recognize the early signs of change before they become catastrophic? I spend most of my days working on that question in academia, but what about our armed forces? Noah Shachtman regularly covers that issue in DefenseTech:

Like a lot of other sage observers, Naval Postgraduate School professor John Arquilla isn’t nuts about the idea of spending a ton on Cold War-style weapons systems when we’re supposed to be fighting terrorists and insurgents. But Arquilla is one of the first military analysts I’ve heard say that “the Pentagon’s big platforms [aren’t] merely the wrong weapon systems to fight present and future wars, but [are] actually likely to bring defeat.”

The superiority of aircraft made huge battleships a liability just before World War II. The climax of Top Gun pretty much centered on the vulnerability of our all our ships — including aircraft carriers — to missile attack (BTW, those Exocet missiles now sport ranges as high as 180km). But these are just a few examples of the general problem. Of course, the Navy isn’t the only force with big, Cold-War iron. There’s more, including some good quotes at DefenseTech.


Gary Wolf wrote in the June issue of Wired about how smart mobs in New York’s World Trade Center outbrained the “authorities” and enjoyed higher survival rates because of it. Wolf is talking about the NIST report on Occupant Behavior, Egress, and Emergency Communications (warning: PDFs). There’s also this executive summary and this looks like […] » about 300 words