Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Modern Warfare, Intelligence and Deterrence: The Technologies That Are Transforming Them Hardcover – February 1, 2012
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed
From the Inside Flap
During the cold war, the nuclear arms race made war increasingly unthinkable. Today, in contrast, many argue that arms races in robotics and computer technologies are making war increasingly thinkable. Remotely piloted "hunter-killer" drones, for example, make it far easier to launch an attack without the military or political risks of putting boots on foreign soil. But technology can also make wars less deadly.
Low-tech fighting has often turned into blood-bath wars of attrition, as the Napoleonic campaigns, America's civil war and the first world war attest. With modern technology, however, fighting forces can wage "system against system" war. Destroy enough elements of an enemy's system—kit and infrastructure, or specialists needed to operate it—and the force cannot keep fighting. With air power, for example, an attacker can wreck critical equipment behind enemy lines without needing to shoot its way through troops on the ground.
What matters, then, is to ensure that military know-how leads not to the nightmare of mass or nuclear destruction, but rather to fewer and less deadly conflicts. This book explores the technological developments that have given rise to what has become one of the biggest challenges of today.
The book is organised in five parts, as follows:
Land and sea
Designing, and countering, new weaponry
Upgrades for combatants
Powering up, differently
New materials, new capabilities
Air and space
Attacks from above
The growing drone dimension
Air ops, for less
Aircraft and flight, enhanced
The computer factor
The new realm of cyberwar
Better equations, smarter machines
Propaganda ops, online
Intelligence and spycraft
Identifying, and killing, the quarry
Finding what's hidden
Getting to know you better
The road ahead
The challenge of irregular warfare
From the Back Cover
The Panzerfaust 3, a German shoulder-fired heat-seeking anti-tank missile, can punch through a metre of solid steel. An Israeli precision bomb, the MPR-500, can hammer through several storeys of a building and explode on a chosen floor. Russia's Sizzler, a manoeuvring anti-ship missile, can fly 300km and then sprint at three times the speed of sound. Satellites can be blown up. Software can be scrambled with "cyber-missile" computer viruses. Data-mining computer programmes fed by unmanned spy planes can reveal terrorist or insurgent activity.
Technological one-upmanship fuels arms races and will make wars easier to start. Crucially, however, wars are apt to be smaller and less deadly than the horrific conflagrations of the last century. Technological underdogs will benefit from "asymmetric" weapons such as formidable makeshift bombs and "munitions of the mind" for psychological warfare. Some powers will benefit from complex weaponry, such as an aircraft-carrier-killing ballistic missile being developed by China. Much weaponry will most benefit the West, in part by harnessing its cultural strengths of individualism and innovation. All of it is profoundly reshuffling balances of power throughout the world.
The five parts of this book—land and sea, air and space, the computer factor, intelligence and spycraft, and the road ahead—present a selection of the best and most revealing of The Economist's writing on how startling innovations are reshaping armed conflict and the quest for peace.
Top Customer Reviews
-First, much of the book simply rehashes old Economist articles. That doesn't bother me so much, but they haven't even been updated to reflect the new publication dates--you have to look back to the date of publication in order to see what they mean by "last year," for example. Instead of simply reprinting these articles, I wish they'd put a little more effort into actually bringing them up to date.
-Second, there is a bit of sloppiness in some of the details. For example, in the article "Peril on the sea," there is an extended discussion of "cavitating" torpedoes, when the term they are looking for is presumably "supercavitating."
Still, this book brought to my attention many issues that had never before been on my radar screen. It gave me the first coherent picture of the ins and outs of seabasing, and the article on better algorithms for shuffling containers around in logistics was shockingly interesting. A very good job!
Warfare technologies are improving; soldiers have improvised physical protection, fed with better intelligence and wield more effective precision weaponry. For example, airborne laser was developed to hit large missiles just after they are launched. Smart bombs continue to be clever even after arriving at the target; their fuses can set off explosions at precisely the right moment. Weapons with "kill switches" and "back doors" could be shut down remotely if stolen. Some rob raider hover like insects and are not much bigger; they can peek easily.
Now that same Benjamin is engaged in reaching an international audience, also in need of an understanding of the new, often amazing, and sometimes mind-boggling ways in which technology is affecting modern warfare. He's doing this as a journalist, the editor of a new Economist book, "Modern Warfare, Intelligence and Deterrence," which has been published in the United Kingdom (Profile Books) and the United States (John Wiley & Sons). Reflective of the book's multi-national significance, publishing rights have been acquired for a Chinese edition. (Full disclosure -- the first time Benjamin sees this review will be when he reads it on Amazon. He had no involvement in writing it.)
The book consists of a collection of 71 articles that have appeared in recent years in The Economist, arguably the most highly regarded weekly newsmagazine in the world. Written by 26 different journalists, they were selected for inclusion in the book to convey significant and often remarkable developments in each of the five domains of warfare. The articles bring the unknown, the obscure, and the little-understood into the light, doing so with the depth of reporting and clarity of expression that are hallmarks of Economist writing. As revelation follows revelation, the reader may sometimes ask: Without a security clearance, am I really supposed to know these things?
The bone-chilling threat posed by the Sizzler is fleshed out early in the book:
"Russia's Sizzler missile can be launched from a ship, aircraft, submarine, or land battery.
It can fly 300km with its final sprint at three times the speed of sound -- farther and far
faster than the top Western fare... The missile manoeuvres to avoid being shot down, and
American officials fear it could slip through the defenses of a sophisticated warship.
"The Sizzler has been exported to India and China (where a souped-up version is being
developed). At least four other countries have expressed interest in or purchased the
Sizzler. Officials decline to reveal if Iran has Sizzlers, which could be launched from its
Russian-made Kilo submarines. However, a naval-systems expert with knowledge of the
Israel Defence Forces and their operations says that the indications are that Israel believes
Iran has the Sizzler. The manufacturer is marketing a four-missile launch package
disguised in a commercial shipping container. A non-state group that installed it on a big
lorry would secure what is perhaps the most fearsome rogue firepower in history."
In the same section describing the Sizzler, we read that "It is easier to hit a warship than to build and defend one." Little wonder that five paragraphs later we're told that "Robert Gates, America's secretary of defence to the end of June 2011, has expressed reluctance to build new carriers because of the increasing threats from anti-ship missiles."
Readers learn of an ominous threat to a country's civilian population, the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, which consists of a nuclear explosion above the atmosphere. People would not die from the blast, but computers and electronics would be rendered inoperable across a huge area. If detonated above the center of the United States, millions would die within a year because of the functional breakdown of society it would cause, according to the EMP commission created by congress to analyze the threat.
The article on seabasing is an eye-opener. It begins with these paragraphs:
"BASING TROOPS AND EQUIPMENT on foreign soil is fraught with difficulty. Even friendly
countries can cut up rough at crucial moments, as America found when Turkey
restricted the use of its territory and airspace during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In an
occupied country the situation is worse, as a base is a magnet for attacks. Nor can you
always put your base where you need it. If a country does not want to host it, and
cannot be bribed to, that -- short of invasion -- is that.
"But no one owns the high seas, and partisans rarely have access to serious naval power.
So America, still the world's only superpower and thus one with most need for foreign
bases, is investigating the idea of building military bases on the ocean. They would, in
effect, be composed of parts that can be rearranged like giant Lego bricks. The armed
forces could assemble them when needed, add to them, subtract from them and
eventually dismantle them when they are no longer required -- and all without leaving
"Constructing such bases is a formidable technological challenge. Not only do you have
to provide quarters for servicemen, but you also have to handle, store and retrieve
large amounts of supplies and weapons without access to dockside cranes. Shuffling
the containers carrying these, so that those needed immediately are accessible, is akin
to solving a moving-block puzzle where the blocks weigh many tonnes each. But
America seems committed to the idea, and the first seabases should be deployable
within a decade."
The remainder of the article presents the problems that stand in the way of making seabases operationally successful, and the work-in-progress steps being undertaken to solve them. The article ends by putting seabasing into perspective: "But warfare -- or even a formidable threat to attack -- begins with the movement and stationing of troops and kit. If you can bring your own base with you, that threat is more credible and easier to make."
The introduction to Part 4, Intelligence and spycraft, whets our appetite for the 14 articles that follow:
"IN THE HUNT FOR MEMBERS of al-Qaeda and other terror groups, Western intelligence
agencies use special software that sifts through enormous quantities of diverse data to
map "non-obvious relationships" among people, places, behaviour and ideas. If, for
example, two Saudi men have phoned a radical Afghan cleric and twice stayed in the
same Islamabad hotel when the cleric was also in the city, the three may be working
together. This effort to sort out "who's who in the zoo", in the words of Bob Griffin,
head of i2, a British developer of the software, identified a certain man in Pakistan
whose atypical behaviour and social ties were particularly intriguing.
"The man repeated certain behaviours in the days or hours before the release of
Osama bin Laden's communiqués -- perhaps, for example, travelling to meet a
non-relative from an apparently different walk of life and with whom he neither
communicated electronically nor interacted publicly. By looking for possible linkages
in data from diverse intelligence sources, "network analysis" software, as it is known,
had apparently helped identify one of bin Laden's couriers, says Mr Griffin, whose
firm's software was used in the manhunt."
Shortly thereafter we read that "...the burgeoning field of network analysis best illustrates how technology is driving transformations in the intelligence world as a whole. To begin with, many of the technologies examined in this section, no matter what their stripe, will increasingly gather or process information to feed network-analysis systems."
We learn that the developments in intelligence gathering and analysis are certainly as striking, and as sophisticated, as those in weaponry, though not as widely publicized or understood. The perceived post-9/11 security requirements have tipped the balance in favor of aggressive intelligence efforts in spite of ongoing invasion-of-privacy concerns.
The potential readership pool for Modern Warfare, Intelligence and Deterrence is enormous. There isn't a member of congress or a national defense policy advisor who wouldn't benefit from reading it. Beyond that are those in the military who want knowledge that extends beyond the boundaries of their job description and attendant duties. It certainly includes their families, relatives, and friends for whom "staying connected" is important. And it is a must-read for those considering military service or those preparing for it, be it in military academies, ROTC, or other preparatory programs. For veterans it affords a means of maintaining and enhancing the national relevance we should have as those who "put it on the line" for our country. (We can hardly be described as a valued national resource if we can't relate our own military experience to today's warfare and military service realities.)
The book is a welcome resource for all those who feel ill-equipped to assess the extent of the external threats our country faces as well as the life-and-limb risks that accompany front-line military service. Both are substantively addressed as a result of the international scope of Economist reporting.
So is there anyone for whom Modern Warfare is not appropriate? As a broad generalization, the answer is no -- everyone of high school age and above should read it. And speaking of high schoolers, there is probably no demographic group for whom the book has more relevance. Their stake in the country's future is enormous, and their role in protecting and enhancing that future is hurtling toward them, as those who served (many in their teens) in Iraq and Afghanistan can attest. They can expect the rest of their lives to be lived with a new constant, the passionate desire of determined enemies to attack and kill Americans and, if at all possible, to destroy the United States. Understanding the new realities of warfare will serve them well as they contribute to shaping the country's ongoing future.
But for some in high school there is an additional, personal benefit to reading Modern Warfare. Consider a short, seemingly innocuous article, one of my favorites titled "MBAs are for wusses". It begins as follows: "MANY ISRAELI START-UPS should pay royalties to the army, says Edouard Cukierman, a venture capitalist in Tel Aviv. He is only half joking."
The second paragraph goes on:
"Teenagers conscripted into high-tech units gain experience "akin to a bachelor's
degree in computer science", says Ruvi Kitov, co-founder and chief executive of
Tufin Technologies, an Israeli software firm. Almost all of Tufin's employees in the
country are, like Mr Kitov himself, veterans of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). One
of the firm's cash cows is software that finds spam servers and blocks their
transmissions. It is based on IDF cyberwarfare technologies that developers first
used as soldiers."
Consider the dilemma of a high schooler we'll call Joe. He's gotten pretty good grades in spite of his overall disinterest in his academic courses. He's excelled when the subject matter has anything to do with computers. He really knows his stuff.
For financial and other reasons, Joe isn't planning to attend college. He's never even considered enlisting in one of our military services -- all of which are high tech. And he's never thought about what technical training and experience in our military would do to prepare him for a civilian career. Reading one article in Modern Warfare, the one cited above, just might alter the direction of his working life.
And so it is -- knowing about the Sizzler threat and seabasing's potential, to use two examples, may influence one's thinking on national defense spending. Knowing about the threat of an EMP attack may prompt some to lay up a supply of food and water provisions as part of a plan to provide for survival contingencies. And, for some, knowing about the occupational specialties available in today's military may influence career paths.
What we have here is a must-read, but is it a great read? Is getting into Modern Warfare a chore, a project, or is it a pleasure? There are at least two factors that suggest it belongs in the pleasure category. The first is its clarity (even when British terminology or spelling is used), which readers have come to expect from Economist writers.
The second factor will provide a pleasant surprise for those who are uneasy about a book they "should read", concerned about "plodding through". It is simply this: when you pick up Modern Warfare, you're doing so to read an article (or perhaps several), and that article doesn't depend upon those that preceded it, since it was written as a stand-alone piece. The contents of this book can be read randomly, or in any order, perhaps starting with areas of particular interest (likely to be quite different for aviation enthusiasts than, say, for those interested in naval matters).
The heavy lifting has been done, twice -- first by those who did the original research and writing, and second by the Economist's packaging of the original articles into a remarkably understandable book that presents the startling impact of technology upon modern day warfare and intelligence. The book is well organized: in addition to its opening introduction, each of its five parts has its own introduction. These, in turn, contribute to assimilating the "big picture" that will be an objective of many readers. The book is fully indexed, further adding to its value as an after-read resource.
Since few have even heard of Modern Warfare, Intelligence and Deterrence, how will it get into the hands of the great many who should read it? Acquisition by public libraries (and, importantly, school libraries) will help, but concerned readers can make a meaningful contribution to the national interest by giving copies of the book as gifts. Doing so compliments recipients by suggesting that they take these matters seriously and are interested in "getting their heads around them". It is in our best interest for them to do exactly that.