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    « Mediating Conflict: New Media in the Public Service | Main | Autonomous Weapons and Asymmetric Conflict »

    Future Warfare at Chatham House

    Three new articles in Chatham House's October 2008 edition of International Affairs from three of my favourite academics.

    Christopher Coker, 'War, Memes and Memeplexes' [free PDF]:

    Meme theory has been attracting much attention in recent years. Pioneered by Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett it suggests that there are self-replicating units of culture analogous to genes. Like genes these 'memes' seek to copy themselves as widely as possible. One of them may be war. Memetics remains in its infancy but the truly sobering aspect is that 'fitness of purpose' for a meme may have little to do with the biological fitness of the people who are 'programmed' by it; it simply evolves because it is advantageous for itself. Memes also persist because they flourish in the presence of other memes (such as religion) in what Dawkins calls 'memeplexes'. One of the most persistent memes is honour, and another is revenge for dishonour imagined or real. War is a powerful medium for both. Even if meme theory never catches on it encourages us to think about war more creatively.

    James Der Derian, 'The Desert of the Real and the Simulacrum of War' [PDF requires membership]:

    As the global war on terror bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, a new interand intra-service struggle emerged within the military, between what we might call the 'transformationists' and the 'neotraditionalists'. The transformationists put their faith in network-centric warfare and precision munitions to resolve the intractable political, civil and religious conflicts of the twenty-first century. The neo traditionalists, in contrast, go back to the future for lessons, to the 'low-intensity conflicts' of Malaya and Vietnam, the 'small wars' that Marines fought in Central America in the interwar period, and even the instructions given to American servicemen deployed to assist the British occupation of Iraq during the Second World War. Lumped together under the rubric of 'irregular warfare', two new watchwords have had emerged from the neotraditionalist camp: 'counter-insurgency' and 'cultural awareness'. As the neotraditionalists reach out to social scientists to assist them in their efforts, a secondary civil war has erupted in the universities over whether academics should become involved in the new war efforts. Based on a week spent embedded with the 1/25 Marines at 29 Palms and extensive interviews with key proponents and critics, this article maps (and reflexively questions the practice of mapping) the future of warfare as it is planned, taught, gamed and operationalized by the US military.

    Antoine Bousquet, 'Chaoplexic Warfare or the Future of Military Organization' [PDF requires membership].  Bousquet has featured at CTlab before (here and here):

    Scientific methods and concepts have been exerting a powerful influence on the exercising of armed force since the Scientific Revolution and the dawn of the modern era. In association with the respective technologies of the clock, engine and computer, the scientific theories of mechanism, thermodynamics, and cybernetics have all in turn been recruited to shape distinct approaches to the challenges of imposing order on the chaos of the battlefield. Today, it is on the basis of the new sciences of chaos and complexity that the latest regime of the scientific way of warfare is being erected. Chaoplexic warfare draws on the study of nonlinear phenomena of self-organization to propose a radical decentralization of armed forces through the adoption of the network form. For all its present flaws, network-centric warfare and its operational concepts of self-synchronization and swarming mark an important step on the path to chaoplexic warfare.

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