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The Future of War: Power, Technology and American World Dominance in the Twenty-first Century Paperback – February 15, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Friedmans are geostrategic optimists. The next century, they argue, will be the American century?not from any economic, diplomatic or moral achievements, but because of a revolution in warmaking. According to the Friedmans, who operate a business intelligence firm, technology?specifically that of precise-guided munitions (PGMs)?is creating a revolution as fundamental as that inaugurated by gunpowder. The authors establish their case by concentrating on the "senility" of major "traditional" weapons systems (tanks, aircraft carriers, manned aircraft) when confronted with weapons "that can, in some sense, think." The U.S. possesses the knowledge and the resource base to take advantage of a form of warfare that will eventually, they say, reduce costs not only in money, but also in the lives Americans are increasingly reluctant to sacrifice. The Friedmans advocate in particular the extension of weapons and control systems into outer space. Their book is more convincing as history than as prognostication, however. The authors make strong complementary cases for the technical vulnerability of high-cost, high-profile weapons and for the tendency of those weapons to exceed the physical and psychological capacities of their human operators. Their emphasis on technology takes too little account of the complex spectrum of nonmaterial factors that are increasingly recognized as critical to shaping "revolutions in human affairs." The concept of a paradigm shift in conducting wars based on PGMs is a useful tool, but one requiring careful examination and critical review that seems beyond the scope of the advocacy to be found here. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The Friedmans, noted for The Coming War with Japan (LJ 5/1/91), work at the GPA Strategic Forecasting Group, "a corporate intelligence service involved in military modeling." Although their book's title suggests futurology, the contents are more historic. In fact, the book is, as the Friedmans admit, "not really about war today" either. It offers some decent analysis of the evolution of battleships, carriers, tanks, and aircraft, but it comes nowhere near matching the astonishing vision of the late Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, former Chief of the Soviet General Staff. In fact, their work doesn't even cite him or some other key foreign strategists who have written at length about this subject. Perhaps the Friedmans should rerun their model. An optional purchase.?John J. Yurechko, Georgetown Univ., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1St Edition edition (February 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312181000
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312181000
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Victor A. Vyssotsky on July 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
"The Future of War" predicts US dominance of warfare throughout the 21st Century, as a result of US advanced technology in general and precision weaponry in particular. Their train of thought has considerable merit, and deserves reading and thoughtful attention. However, the book suffers from the same two major flaws as most books by visionaries without enough practical experience: misunderstanding of specific happenings in the past, and unlikely projections into the far future. Having been involved with US defense for 50 years, as a member of the military, as a designer and developer and advisor on US weaponry, and as an advisor on strategic, operational and tactical issues, I read this book with considerable amusement, although I do take seriously much of what it says. I shall give specifics on two failures to understand the details of the past, and then offer criticism of two of the book's projections, as examples.

Past episode #1: The 1991 precision strikes against Iraq. There is no doubt that our air strikes and land attacks in the 1991 campaign to liberate Kuwait were exceedingly effective, and there is no doubt that this effectiveness was largely due to our precision weaponry. However, to do precision strikes, whether with airborne munitions or ground forces, it's necessary to know what targets to attack, where they are, and what weapons are likely to be effective against a particular target. In the 1991 campaign, this effort was undertaken by the "Jeddi Knights", largely under the guidance of Col. John Warden. The key role of the "Jeddi Knights" was to establish priorities and mission profiles for which targets to strike when with what munitions, and they did this extraordinarily well.
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Format: Paperback
The authors begin by noting that there is "a deep chasm between the advent of technology and its full implementation in doctrine and strategy." In their history of failure they note how conventional wisdom always seems to appreciate the systems that won the past wars, and observes that in the U.S. military there is a long history of transferring power from the political and military leadership to the technical and acquisition managers, all of whom have no real understanding of the current and future needs of the men who will actually fight. They address America's vulnerability in both U.S. based logistics and in overseas transport means-"Destroying even a portion of American supply vessels could so disrupt the tempo of a logistical build-up as to delay offensive operations indefinitely." They have a marvelous section on the weaknesses of U.S. data gathering tools, noting for example that satellites provide only a static picture of one very small portion of the battlefield, rather that the wide-area and dynamic "situational awareness" that everyone agrees is necessary. They go on to gore other sacred oxes, including the Navy's giant ships such as the carrier (and implicitly the new LPH for Marines as well as the ill-conceived arsenal ship) and the largest of the aircraft proposed by the Air Force. They ultimately conclude that the future of war demands manned space stations that are able to integrate total views of the world with control of intercontinental precision systems, combined with a complete restructuring of the ground forces (most of which will be employed at the squad level) and a substantial restructuring of our navel force to provide for many small fast platforms able to swarm into coastal areas.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
The Friedmans stir up controversy because they don't adhere to any one standard weltanschauung (not even that of MIT). That's OK. Their primary contribution in this book is framing the issue of maritime security with both focus and relevance. They are 100 percent right: in the next half century it will become much harder to defend ships at sea - merchantmen or warships - because of long-range shoot-and-scoot missiles posing a threat from shore, and because of inescapable surveillance from space. This will profoundly alter international security relationships and world trade patterns. This will in turn affect your life directly.
America is the only great naval power in history who has never really recognized that she is one. The Friedmans pull out some nuggets, even if much of their information is well known to those in the military and the defense industry.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on August 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
In light the number of stars I have given this book, I feel I should start off be stating that there is tremendous merit in this work. The authors do a superb job of pointing out the root causes of warfare, and why it is naïve to expect that armed conflict has gone by the wayside. They then go on to point out the challenges to American global preeminence, and what needs to be done to assure it.
Specifically they look to precision-guided munitions as the key weapons of future combat, and space as its primary battleground. They make compelling arguments for each, particularly regarding the obsolescence of the primary weapons of today's Pax Americana: the tank, the strategic bomber, and the aircraft carrier. Furthermore, the completely debunk the myth of nuclear supremacy on the modern battlefield.
The problems with this book that I alluded to are twofold. First, the editing is appalling; there are numerous typos and misprints (for example, referring to a torpedo that can travel at 400 knots). While the knowledgeable reader can usually infer what the authors' intent is, editorial errors always make for a frustrating reading experience.
The second concern cuts to the heart of the book. While the authors do a superb job of defining the future battlefield, they offer very little in terms of how we get there from where we currently stand. The weapons systems they describe will almost certainly come to pass, but they neither make suggestions as to the allocation of R&D dollars, nor offer any sense of what research should receive priority. In the absence of such commentary, their bold assertions frequently seem more like dogma than scholarship.
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