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The Next World War: Computers Are the Weapons & the Front Line Is Everywhere 1st Edition

9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0684834528
ISBN-10: 0684834529
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Editorial Reviews Review

Has the computer chip changed the nature of warfare? Will it eventually change war beyond current recognition? Adams, the former defense correspondent and Washington bureau chief for the London Sunday Times, believes that information will become the ultimate weapon and that future battlegrounds will be everywhere we live and work. While the weapons and technology of war will improve beyond even technofiction's expectations, it's the "information warfare" that will be critical in foreign wars and in the war against domestic crime.

We've already seen some of what is to come in the Gulf War's camera-equipped smart bombs. Soldiers can now be equipped with hand-held computers that can send messages and information back to superiors. And among the weapons to come: microwave cannons; plasma guns; devices that can see, smell, and hear; and even robotic "ants" that can swarm and explode around the enemy. Soldiers will wear uniforms powered by body heat that automatically relay important information back to their base camp. Helmets will be able to locate incoming fire, help a soldier see under all kinds of conditions, and locate others in a patrol.

The ability to attack an enemy's civilian infrastructure, such as communication networks, air traffic control, bridges and dams, and electric grids, will be part of the new era of war. With the advanced state of digital imaging, misinformation campaigns in enemy countries can take on a much more convincing role. All it takes is for one country to have a few skilled hackers, and suddenly the number of troops, the hardware, and the nuclear devices don't matter. Could there be an "electronic Pearl Harbor?"

Adams's research and journalism experience has made him aware of how much information warfare is being planned for and how much is already in place. His concern, in part, is that there has been little public debate about this, even though it affects our future so dramatically. Adams says "As David proved against Goliath, strength can be beaten. America today looks uncomfortably like Goliath, arrogant in its power, armed to the teeth, ignorant of its weakness." --Elizabeth Lewis

From Publishers Weekly

In the Information Age, information has emerged as the ultimate weapon. Adams (Sellout, Hard Target, etc.), CEO of United Press International, argues strongly that the "revolution" in war making is occurring in the "virtual world" of "commerce, conversation, and connectivity." Adams surpasses even the Tofflers in his depiction of a Third Wave whose battlefields will be dominated by bytes, not bullets. It began with Desert Storm, when control of the electronic spectrum created an insurmountable imbalance between combatants. Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia demonstrated the power of information not merely as a force multiplier but as a paradigm shifter. In a country obsessed with minimizing casualties, information warfare seemed an ideal combination of mission facilitator and appropriations guarantor. Adams takes his readers on a comprehensive and enlightening tour of research establishments focusing on micro-electro-mechanical systems, non-lethal weapons and instantaneous communications. He then embarks on a darker journey into the world of high-level computer hacking and its implications for "cyberterrorism" with the potential not merely to threaten information security but, for example, to poison a nation's children through accessing the process control systems of cereal manufacturers. Less apocalyptic but equally important is the growing potential of information as a manipulative tool affecting governments and societies alike. In the cybernetic era, Adams contends, the offense outpaces the defense in both methods and principles. Adams's conclusion, that the U.S. is developing its information-warfare capacities while ignoring its vulnerabilities to the same techniques, is a strong reminder that technology depends for effect on matrices of insight, flexibility and will power?none of which can be generated by computers.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (August 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684834529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684834528
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,289,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Vandevenne on April 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is entertaining and, as other reviewers have pointed out, Mr Adams does not hesitate voicing his opinions.
Unfortunately there are several problems with the overall thesis :
1) Accuracy and fact checking are obviously not very high on the author's priority list. Somalia is given a given a 250 millions square miles area on page 61( in reality 256.000 ), 56 bit encryption is supposedly 250.000 times harder to break than 40 bit encryption ( in reality 65536 or 2^16 ) (page 219), PGP is described as having a vague backdoor when the local PC where it is used is accessible (it does not) (p 222), etc... I could provide a dozen other examples. While not necessarily critical those mistakes cast a shadow of doubt over the whole book. "If this guy is so wrong on what I know, how can I trust him about what I don't know..." was the question I kept asking myself.
2) while the author seems to criticize the position of the upper level of hierarchy as far as Info War is concerned, he basically echoes their misinformed opinions in many occasions. For example, he mentions on several occasions that computer viruses were used and could be used meaningfully to fight an info-war. He repeats the meaningless "virus insertion" sentence but notes that "launching computer bombs that would destroy the offending computer or software is currently illegal" - not only is it illegal, but it is also technically impossible at least in the context where this comes up, the hacker's PCs... According to the author, most PCs sold to Russia are bugged : "the technology does the work, sending back a steady stream of bits and bytes from the computers that have been purchased in good faith".
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By G. Mitchell on August 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
My shelves are littered with books that pretend to describe the threats in cyberspace. Recent lightweights take an apocalyptic approach - perhaps to scare readers into buying their books. Most of these cyber-scare books blur the line between fact and fantasy; they lose track of the difference between information in warfare and Information Warfare. This book is substantially different, however. It provides factual information and well grounded opinions.
Ever since Charles Colson wrote Kingdoms in Conflict we have become familiar with fictional White House dramas in the first chapter of nonfiction books. The first pages of Adams' book are very different, however. His White House sketch describes something that could very well happen next week in international cyberspace.
The book's setting is international; every chapter presents thoughtful issues that affect the global environment that security managers operate in. Using conventional wars as a background the author describes our defeat in Somalia, messy involvement in Haiti and limited victory in Iraq.
It transitions to next generation warfare by describing non-lethal weaponry. This isn't cyberspace but it will be of general interest to thoughtful managers.
According to Adams corporate security can expect little cybercop help from the government. "As a rule they have almost no computer security experience". The political forces that assign responsibility for detection of computer crimes have also dropped the ball. The presidential decision directive centralizing responsibility for defending gave responsibility to the "Neanderthal" FBI and Department of Justice.
The author's first hand sources in the US and foreign intelligence services make this book an interesting read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Carolyn P. Meinel on September 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Adams is either a liar or too gullible to be allowed in public without his nanny. The most laughable mistake of "Next World War" is Adams' story of a printer virus supposedly used in the first Gulf War. He got the story from an April's Fool joke printed in InfoWorld magazine. Duh! For a detailed analysis of the wildly false stories of this book, complete with references, see [...]
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I read this one really expecting to read about futuristic wars of all kinds. No way, the narrative was long, formal and quite boring. I found that it also was a bit disjointed, in nature and not worth the asking price of over $20.00. I would certainly not buy another book written by mr. Adams. I was not pleased with this one at all. As a total effort, it would have to be rated average, at best.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By W. Sean McLaughlin on September 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
James Adams' The Next World War was a disappointing read from an author who usually produces solid national security writing.

The book is an effort (originally written in 1998) to provide a survey of how future wars might be waged. Divided into three parts, the book begins by providing an overview of the state of "information warfare," then discusses relevant applications of information warfare, and concludes by discussing how information warfare may impact US and global security.

While the book is a decent attempt to sum up innovative thinking in the world of security studies during the mid- to late-1990s, it suffers from a critical lack of focus. The author introduces the concept of "information warfare" but discusses several topics (most notably non-lethal weapons) that appear only tangentially related to even the most generous definitions of information warfare. In addition, like many books written during this time period, The Next World War argues that cyberwarfare, viruses, and hacking present the gravest threats to US security interests. This argument almost completely overlooks the importance of information warfare outside the cybersphere. Terrorists, insurgents, and other non-state actors practice their own form of information warfare that falls largely outside of Adams' discussion. In addition, while Adams' research was undoubtedly cutting edge in 1998, the rapid changes in information technology and military technology make some of his discussions seem antiquated.

While an interesting and relatively easy read, this book is too outdated and too broadly conceived to much use for today's readers. Specialists in military technology and information warfare may find this a valuable addition to their libraries. General readers and those interested in more up-to-date information on "information warfare" should opt for more recent studies.
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