Curbing Innovation


Curbing Innovation


Author(s): Alfred Kaufman
ISBN: 0-980238-4-0
Pages: 146
Published: July 2004
Subject: Defence Technology
Format: Print

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Today, Western nations stand at a crossroads on their way to national security. One road would continue to prepare them for a war with a peer competitor, the other would begin to prepare them for war with a much weaker, but not thereby less determined, enemy. The first road, is like a straight highway much traveled on, standing clear before one’s feet as far as the eye can see. The second is like a country road less traveled by, quickly disappearing into the thick underbrush blocking the view.

The existence of this crossroads raises the important question as to which of these two paths nations should choose to follow. For, as the American poet Robert Frost once famously said, choosing a path at a crossroads could make all the difference:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Some ten years ago, western nations took the first tentative steps down the road less traveled by when they began preparing themselves for asymmetric war, by which they meant warfare in which their enemy, unable to confront them directly on their own terms, would have focused instead on exploiting the weaknesses in their current military posture. Traveling this road, the author argues, would therefore have eventually meant developing a totally new set of rules governing the use of force in a world characterized by failed states, rampant terrorism, and easy availability of highly destructive weapons. A profound re-assessment of the strategic plans which guide the western nations today would thus have been needed, as well as a thorough re-examination of their tactical systems with an eye toward identifying and eliminating the exploitable vulnerabilities in their capability.

But, as the author points out in this book, something happened between then and now. Rather than follow through with their original intention of preparing for asymmetric war, western nations have suddenly decided to do exactly the opposite: they are preparing for a symmetric war of the kind the West fought during the Cold War against the Soviet block. As if the enemy had not really changed at all, western military establishments are planning to keep current military systems doing exactly what they have been doing throughout the Cold War, but do so even better with the help of the recently developed Internet technology. In a searingly critical appraisal of the consequences of this wrong-headed decision to follow the road much traveled on, the author exhaustively proves that this choice will, as the poet said, make all the difference.

To avoid those consequences, the book makes an impassioned appeal for a return to the sanity of the original determination to follow the road less traveled by. Once he has made the case for following the road less traveled by, the author takes us down that road. He describes in some detail the scenery one would encounter along the way, highlighting where and how information technology fits in that scenery, and then prefigures the relative security that would await at the end of that road.