FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, February 10, 2006

Envisioning the Future of Warfare

We've known for some time -- since 9/11, at least -- that warfare of the 21st century isn't going to be anything like conflicts of the past. In September 2005, researchers and military experts at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico developed scenarios for how wars of the future might be fought.

Among the possibilities the Future of Warfare team considered:

  • Traditional military strength will be marginalized as warfare becomes more asymmetric and indirect (terrorism, sabotage, disinformation campaigns).

  • Military forces will see a larger role in peacekeeping, and a smaller role in direct combat.

  • Nonlethal attacks on systems (economic disruption, cyberattacks, etc.) will become more important... and more devastating. Terrorism expert John Robb calls such attacks, when designed to cause a cascading effect of infrastructure or market failures, systempunkt.

  • The relationship between the US and China will shape much of the geopolitical landscape as the 21st century moves forward.

  • Military strategists need to pay more attention to culture and identity when managing conflicts, and may employ sociologists and anthropologists to help in their planning.

One of the more interesting scenarios the team considered involved unintended consequences of the switch to alternative energy sources. If oil prices crash as a result, already volatile regions such as the Middle East could become even more explosive, and an even greater threat to the West.

Source: World Future Society