War evolves. From technology and tactics to the strategic imperatives shaping the future of conflict, we explore the evolution of war since World War I in this episode of the Stratfor Podcast.
Stratfor Senior Military Analyst Omar Lamrani and Director of Analyst Operation Paul Floyd join Editorial Director Ben Sheen to explore why and how military strategies have changed over the last 100 years and what war between nations will look like in the future.
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Evan Rees [00:00:00] Hello I'm Evan Rees, an Asia Pacific Analyst at Stratfor. This podcast if being brought to you by Stratfor Worldview, the world's leading geopolitical intelligence platform. Individual, team, and enterprise memberships are available at worldview.stratfor.com/subscribe.
Omar Lamrani [00:00:26] It would be catastrophic for humanity as a whole if we have a massive war in space. Almost at the same level as a nuclear war because we are so dependent on these space constellations we will lose basically all the advantages that we currently rely on for a high-tech, modern economic world.
Ben Sheen [00:00:52] War continues to evolve, but not always in the ways that many of us think. Welcome to the Stratfor Podcast focused on geopolitics and world affairs from stratfor.com. I'm your host, Ben Sheen and in this episode of the podcast we delve into the evolution of war. From WWI through to today. Stratfor's Senior Military Analyst, Omar Lamrani and Military Analyst and Director of Analyst Operations Paul Floyd, join us to discuss the shifts in technology and tactics, as well as where current strategic thinking about how nations wage war is leading us next. Thanks for joining us. Omar, Paul, thank you so much for joining me in the studio today.
Paul Flyod [00:01:37] Thanks for having us.
Omar Lamrani [00:01:38] Thank you.
Ben Sheen [00:01:39] We're here to talk about the evolution of warfare, post WWII. Now obviously that is a huge topic and we won't be able to cover absolutely all the angles here but I figure let's have some fun with it. Let's look at some of the major developments by period and by technology and let's look at some of the ways in which the face of warfare has changed over the last you know 60, 70 years. Paul, where's a good place to start on this?
Paul Flyod [00:02:02] I should just also we should tack on the fact that we should also since we are Stratfor looking forward as well with where we think it's going. Omar's the best person to start this. He's done an excellent job of sort of narrating this by time blocks, so Omar, why don't you tick that off.
Omar Lamrani [00:02:15] I would start this with going to WWI in just kind of a preface to this conversation, because that's the really big, worldwide conflict that was a massive industrial case. One of the things that's not commonly understood, a perception of WWI is often focused on the fact that the defense had the advantage and that's why we had these massive numbers of futile attacks that led to massive casualties because it took a long time for the generals to know what they're doing so to change the track. One of the important aspects of WWI there that's forgotten is that there's actually been tremendous evolution in warfare in WWI. Artillery tactics, particularly, were developing in massive scale and that sets the really in fast forward in going to the next hundred years, just to understand that in the crucible of conflict there is going to be change. Because there is going to be development of weaponry, there is going to be development of tactics, so even in a conflict like WWI which is often thought of as a stalemate, there's been tremendous development and of course, Ben, that's where the Brits came up with the tank and various other technological developments. We can start from there and just progress in that direction going forward.
Paul Flyod [00:03:33] You should jump in. The stalemate was broken at some point, so like there was a reason there was a conclusion to that war in a relatively timely fashion, all considering. We sort of see the prototype of combined arms actually be developed at this point. Using all these different types of weaponry and systems in conjunction with each other you start to see that. You saw the development of infantry tactics to deal with and actually fire and maneuver at a smaller level. You saw accorded artillery strikes with armor, and you also started to see light machine guns that could be mobile with infantry, so they actually could respond to heavy defensive fortifications. All of that sort of combined at the same time to actually advance the war.
Ben Sheen [00:04:06] The most interesting thing about the nascent technologies that really did emerge throughout WWI, the introduction of armor, aviation, radio communications was how they continued to mature in the inter-war years and then really come to fruition in WWII. To this day, I'm a little aggrieved, that you know it was a couple of British officers who kind of wrote the first book of combined arms operations and they were ignored by the British War Ministry and then the German's applied that principle to great effect in the opening stages of WWII.
Paul Flyod [00:04:32] I have a theory and I can't prove it but basically it's because the German's lost and usually the loser's much more willing to adapt and break the system and go whole hog with something that's new and untested because they have lost as opposed to the winner who I would argue tends to stay entrenched with the old ways, for the lack of a better term.
Omar Lamrani [00:04:48] You guys both brought up really excellent points. The first one in terms of the tactics that were developed in WWI were very, very similar to the ones, especially 1917 to 1918s, were very similar to the ones that were taken in WWII. The difference is that the technology, in 1718, was not there to allow the Blitzkrieg style, lightening war, that happened in the initial stages of WWII and it took a couple decades more for the tank to become a reliable machine and a fast machine. It took another couple decades for those aircraft, which were already conducting bombing and close air support in 1918 of WWI and during WWI conflicts for them to develop into what we saw with the German Stuka, dive bomber. It took, especially one of the biggest revolutions that allowed for those tactics that were developed at the end of WWI to become those actually offensive operations in a devastating manner was the radio. The radio allowed the communications to allow us to combine arms as Paul was talking about to become possible. Because before you had to relay messages through the telephone or like these cumbersome wireless, now you had, each tank had it's radio and suddenly everything gets possible in terms of communications. With regards to your points, Paul, about German's adapting those tactics because they were losers, I think that's very, very credible and we can look at the adversary, France, for the perfect example. France learned the wrong lessons from WWI, they saw the conflict as a huge bloodshed
Omar Lamrani [00:06:21] and they basically said, never again. When they went into WWII they adopted a very defensive mindset, they put up this huge Maginot fortification line and sort of forgot that they were also the forefront during WWI of developing those offensive tactics and that offensive technology that was then adopted by the Germans in WWII to flank them and defeat them in six weeks during the Battle of France. It's really interesting again how sometimes you learn these lessons and you can forget them and sometimes because you are the loser you tend to apply these sometimes, these tactics and learn from them, sometimes even more than the winner because the winner goes back to the same mindset that they've already won and they will just apply the same mechanisms to the next war and sort of learn in a different way.
Ben Sheen [00:07:07] Absolutely and it was interesting to see how the French doubled-down on defense and then the Germans just completely came in with a different tack and were wildly successful. There were some other technologies as well the Germans developed. You mentioned bombing, which you know with the advent of aviation in WWI, it sort of started to come into its own. We actually did a piece on Zeppelin attacks, flying across the English Channel dropping bombs on Great Yarmouth. But the advent of long-range bombing as well and then you know the ability to deliver ordinance and really attack an enemy's heartland and actually make a dent in their wartime industry was potent. Then again, having all these aircraft in the air and the development of radar, you know the Germans they went one step further to pioneering initially rockets and unmanned weapons systems that they could put into the air and that led to a whole different evolution of warfare in a way.
Paul Flyod [00:07:58] Actually, let me jump in there and sort of weave your points in there, Ben, with sort of something Omar said I think is really important, it's going to be a theme throughout this entire conversation which is technology creating new capabilities for weapons systems and new opportunities to sort of weave all these things together in more combined arms and move fires out, extend fires range, when I say fires I mean force, basically things that go boom and it can be delivered by all sorts of different things, so it's a very general term. Basically it's really about the relationship of tactics and doctrines that are adapted and as technology advances capabilities and how they all lead together. Also Omar, we actually really didn't let you finish kind of laying out these blocks and we've actually done the pre-thing to what we said we were going to talk about. From WWII on like how would you characterize this real fast?
Omar Lamrani [00:08:40] I would character 1945 through the early 1960s as largely the same conventional tactics and conventional weaponry that existed in 1944-45, just beefed up. For instance, in the Korean War that was largely fought with WWII weapons, the North Koreans, the Chinese had the 234 tank, they had the Joseph Stalin tank, the American's came with Pershings and Shermans. Of course some of the jets that were becoming available in late 1945, just improved versions of those were used, but still using Mustangs and Corsairs and familiar aircraft from WWII. Where the big change happened during that decade, decade-and-a-half or two decades even, was really in the large focus on the nuclear arena. You had this, nuclear weapons came into being in 1945 as we know, and that was really such a shock that there was even this idea in the United States for instance that you can use nuclear weapons in conventional battle against armies and therefore that would be an offset against superior forces of the enemy. A lot of the investments, a lot of the focus there suddenly became the strategic bomber force in the nuclear weapons with the idea that even though the Soviets had more forces in Europe and more tanks, et cetera, more artillery, you could negate that through those nuclear weapons. It's only as we go to the next phase of this period, let's say from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, that that logic changed. Number one because of the Russians themselves developing these nuclear weapons, but also because there was a revolution in the conventional arena,
Omar Lamrani [00:10:19] the conventional warfare, conventional tactics and technology. That's usually called the revolution in military affairs. We're talking about 1967 there was the first naval vessel sunk by an anti-ship missile. 1968 was the first use of laser-guided munitions by the Americans in Vietnam. Then of course during the same period we had the first use of satellite communication, satellite reconnaissance. Then of course you also had the anti-tank guided missiles that were in prominence for instance during the 1973 war between Israel and Egypt. All these technologies allowed the United States and the Russians to sort of focus again on the conventional arena and really it became the ability to, it's not just about massive numbers and industrial scale warfare but it's also the ability to provide your forces with the weaponry at the conventional level to negate quantitatively superior forces arrayed against you.
Ben Sheen [00:11:18] I'd like to focus on some of these things in a bit more detail before we kind of move then into the modern era from the 90s onward. We talk about obviously this development of this sort of nuclear strategic capability and this almost goes in concert with some of the larger, dynamic shifts we're seeing on the global stage. It's moved from this sort of multi-polar world with all the different competing nations and the resources and armies to this sort of like more bipolar structure where you had these large blocks that were able to like mobile their resources into this new realm. How did we begin to see the evolution of this nuclear strategic capability?
Paul Flyod [00:11:55] Well, we didn't at first actually and that's something that's something that really important to unpack from what Omar was saying, which is initially, this new class of weapons was envisioned as another conventional weapon. Something we would use in conventional warfare that to his point were the numerical superiority of the Soviet Bloc could be countered by NATO and its allies through just these bigger, larger, angrier weapons that actually could offset that and do more damage. What's interesting is over this time as these systems got more complicated and further reach and you're sort of building these redundant capabilities where you could sort of take away basic, build survivability into them. You had second-strike capabilities, i.e., this is your strategic bombers that are offset, these are your underwater boomer-platform submarines. These are your ICBMs that are placed back deep in the heartland of these different states. I would argue that at that point you started to see nuclear combat kind of get separated from conventional warfare and you sort of had a separate domain at this point and it really moved from a tactical and operational, don't get me wrong, there have always been strategic weapons but they sort of became less of tactical responsive weapons systems and became more of this, its own domain with its own strategic imperatives and sort of its own level of deterrence and moved into that deterrence phase. In some ways you could see how once you sort of locked in this nuclear deterrence at this highest level,
Paul Flyod [00:13:11] and yes there are tactical nuclear weapons, but most people believe that using tactical nuclear weapons would draw you into a strategic nuclear conflict. Once that was sort of established and kind of locked in eventually, it kind of spurred the idea that okay, now we need to have that underlying level of conventional conflict, we're sort of still building on WWII platforms, really needs to be looked at and thought out again. How can we get that advantage against volume with our conventional weapons systems and take nuclear weapons off the table? How can we have conflict at the lower level without getting to that highest level of nuclear combat?
Omar Lamrani [00:13:43] When NATO was arrayed against the Soviet Union on the Northern European play, it was not just enough anymore to consider nuclear weapons as an incisive way to counter that, the United States started anti-tank guided missiles in a sophisticated fashion, you had the developments of attack helicopters, that what would rip up the Soviet's armored formations. You had the developments even up into the 1970s and 80s development of close air support like the A10, that would be designed to blunt these armored spearheads. It's tactical nuclear weapons were still part of that equation, but it was increasingly relying on this new revolution of technology, the precision guided munitions were coming into the picture to counter the larger numbers that at the time were believed the Soviets had.
Ben Sheen [00:14:34] How much is conflict, either open conflict or proxy conflicts, how much is conflict the driver to develop this technology? Because you know towards the tail of WWII the Germans were getting pretty advanced rocket technology. They could fire a V2 and then using inertial guidance drop it pretty much where they wanted to in London. Then that technology then fed into development of rockets for the space program and that naturally trickled over into like you know ballistic missiles. You mentioned a couple of key dates in Vietnam where there was you know this technology was coming to fruition and you had a conflict in which to try out some of this new stuff.
Omar Lamrani [00:15:07] Conflicts were a major driver of this technology. WWII obviously being the top, the most intense level of competition and revolutionary weapons were being created every six months or so. Even through the Cold War because of that competition, because of the very serious nature, even though it never technically became a massive conventional or nuclear brawl it still drove massive technological progress into the armaments realm. For instance, consider the evolution of surface to air missiles throughout that period, or jet fighters or stealth that came into the picture in the 1980s. Nuclear submarines were developed at an extremely fast pace during that same period. To contrast that I mean just look at post 1990s I would say there was a bit of a lull in the pace of development. Mostly because, first of all you had that peace dividend but it's also a focus on counter insurgencies. When you have a focus on counterinsurgency you start developing weapons that are catered towards that. I'm speaking specifically to the United States who took the lead on this, but others like China and Russian were playing catch up. Yes, conflict and national interest and the desire to stay abreast of your potential adversary definitely drives the pace of innovation of armaments and weapons.
Paul Flyod [00:16:20] I would throw in there a couple things. First off, you never should look at arms development and sort of warfare of raw development, it's always, always evolving. There's no way that it's not developing, humankind is consistently improving on different designs and everything else. I look at conflict as a massive accelerator and A, because there's usually an existential sort of motivator there, obviously, which allows you to dump more resources into it. It allows you to go to your society and say I need to put all of my brainpower and all of my resources to being better at this thing, i.e.,making war so we can live and/or we can accomplish these goals. Usually, what I would argue is most of these large conflicts were large accelerators because so much of the national just resources are being dumped in so many different ways. Basically close to total war when you're talking about the world wars, but even past that in a lot of ways other even more minor conflicts, all considering, you still see the same kind of pattern over and over again. Which is you start to discover these things to become very effective you know you've seen the... A great one for like the global war on terror for example, again not an official actual combat, combat, in the sense of a declared war, other than on this sort of vague concept of terror, but we started looking at things and found that like, ISR, specifically drones, are really, really effective at being a persistent thing during this conflict
Paul Flyod [00:17:35] and look how quickly America dumped so many resources into that and you had drones just explode across the thing. You had armed drones and now it's almost this sort of, it's accepted as just this thing a part of warfare now, sort of like this integration of ISR platforms and drones with sort of day-to-day actions with U.S. military troops and so many other countries are adopting that. These things were just weird sort of esoteric things going into 2001. They were sort of interesting kind of side projects that people were working on and kind of were playing with and then all of a sudden they went from being sort of these side kind of developed projects to being main front, frontline combatant units.
Ben Sheen [00:18:14] We'll get back to our conversation on the evolution of war and where that evolution is leading us next in just one moment. But if you find this conversation interesting you should definitely explore a more in depth analysis at Stratfor Worldview. There you'll find historical reflections on key conflicts, geopolitical analysis and current flashpoints today and also forward looking assessments on the future of warfare. From the development of supersonic weapons to the implications of space and the global arms race. If you're not already a Stratfor Worldview subscriber you can register for free, limited access to our analysis or subscribe for complete access to our 20 year archive of analysis and strategic forecasting. You can learn more about individual, team, and enterprise level access at worldview.stratfor.com/subscribe. Now back to our conversation about the evolution of war with Stratfor's own Omar Lamrani and Paul Floyd.
Omar Lamrani [00:19:04] There is constant development but there's also a cost to, unless you're in a total war and you're throwing resources at, essentially everything like WWII. Generally what you're doing is your throwing resources and development into areas that you think are going to be the most necessary or the most useful to you against your adversary. This brings us to current day and really talk about something that's really important going forward is how the United States has focused on equipment and tactics and training that's really conducive to this war on terror, war against non-state actors, insurgencies, terrorist groups, et cetera and that has really given about a decade to two decades to major powers and great powers like China and Russia to truly try to catch up. We've seen them put major resources and with the growing economy of China and with the resurgence of Russia at a certain point they have been able to get close, to a certain point. This is where we can tie it to the rest of the conversation that we've already had in the sense that the United States is now considering a third offset, and this is particularly the case with the previous administration, Bob Work. He tried to push this but the terminology is kind of gone but it's still very much there, it's an idea that's in the 1950s, you had the nuclear capabilities as an offset against Soviet armor and Soviet conventional quantitative superiority and then you had the 1970s and 80s. You had the revolution of military affairs, that's considered the second offset again,
Omar Lamrani [00:20:33] technology in the conventional sense to provide you with that qualitative edge to go against the quantitative superiority of the enemy. Now you have this recognition by the United States that the Russians and the Chinese are catching up and there's a need for a third offset. The third offset that we're looking at right now and it's uncertain how it's going to play in the future and who's going to win this race, but it's things like AI, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, all these things that take what we have already learned from the evolution of military affairs and really elevate it to the next level with these new emerging technologies including hyper sonics and all of that. That's the new race here and it's really uncertain who's going to win because while the United States could really crush the Russians in this competition of inches because they're much bigger than NATO as a whole, much bigger economies that could devote a lot of resources to this technology and the development of it. We have for the first time in a long, long time a country like China who's economy is basically a peer or nearly a peer of that of the United States. In terms of being able to pool those resources into necessarily technologies, this is a different type of threat that the United States faced in the Soviet Union, because the Soviet Union was always at a negative or at a disadvantage in terms of having the capabilities to pool resources into these technologies. Now China appears to be able to so that's the big question going forward,
Omar Lamrani [00:21:58] who's going to win this race amongst economically equivalent powers?
Paul Flyod [00:22:03] Well, one part of this is the U.S. has a huge headstart. But to Omar's point, the U.S. has been very distracted at some level focusing on the global war on terror and has not been thinking about peer-to-peer conflict as much, that's sort of been a sideshow. If you look at sort of all the major platforms when you think of aircraft and you think of armor and everything else there's just not a lot of new platforms that are coming out that are strategic level platforms that are designed, there was almost a decade lull and they're really kind of pushing that where you could fight a near peer competitor. But some other things to, to Omar's point, I think it's worth thinking about is some of the things in the global war on terror actually very much do feed into this third offset and that's sort of looking at our space-based infrastructure, i.e., our satellites, our continued evolution of sort of sensors, sensor platforms, communication platforms and the ability to sort of have a truly global monitoring and communication network that really the U.S. is peerless in. Our ability to basically put somebody in land lock like Afghanistan half-way across the world, and by somebody I mean an army and leave it there for 17 years and have it be supplied and have it be able to get ordinance consistently and bring fires down in disproportionate amount of power for the amount of people actually on the ground is already a start in that direction. Now to Omar's point, it's just who can start to layer on all these advanced technologies
Paul Flyod [00:23:20] that are rapidly coming on board to kind of get that next, I would say serious jump in capability platforms that they really can increase that distance of fires projection.
Ben Sheen [00:23:30] That's a really good point and it's also important to note that the U.S. has had certain distractions and the U.S. does have certain natural advantages. But China you know it's hungry, it's up-and-coming and it has this incredible ability to kind of mobilize its population and its resources to support a common effort. They really have set the bar very high for what they expect of the Chinese military. Again relating to how these new technologies, you know such as AI, hypersonic new technology, you know composite materials and stuff. The U.S. has the advantage of Silicon Valley and this very advanced you know R&D capacity and leading the forefront of a lot of the electronic revolution. But again we've seen China make huge leaps in this direction and also they're willing to do things that some Western companies simply aren't. They don't have the same, they don't hold IP in the same sort of sacrosanct nature that a lot of Western companies do and will always willing to subvert the system. Again, they have this ability to scale in a way that few other countries can, so it seems like they are increasingly a credible contender to U.S. military dominance.
Omar Lamrani [00:24:31] That threat or sort of credible contender to U.S. military dominance is becoming more apparent to the United States and that could end up driving the United States to focus more resources and attention to the issue to stay ahead. The trendline over the last 20 years has been China catching up and that's easier to do when you're far behind because those technologies are already developed. But now we're getting close to a point, let's say the next 10 to 15 years where China is going to have to create it's own technology. It's going to have to develop its own new weaponry that's completely devoid from the path already trodden. In that sense that I think is where the United States could have an advantage is that it's going to become more difficult for China to develop forward compared to what it has over the last two decades been trying to do. The United States is also secondly going to be more aware of the threat and focus more attention on the increased power competition and the peer-to-peer conflict rather than the non-state actor threat. Those are the two advantages that could keep the United States ahead potentially going forward.
Ben Sheen [00:25:34] And like Paul said, experience counts in this matter.
Paul Flyod [00:25:37] It's actually really... I mean when we talk about Chinese catching up and eroding U.S. military dominance that's still very much in a regionalized sort of way. In the sense that China is developing platforms that can beat our defensive networks. That can actually reach out and strike U.S. platforms. They can sink an aircraft carrier with a relatively, you know much cheaper missile sets in many instances. Our ability to project power into China's regional area is becoming very much diminished and that has very much taken the biggest hit in this sort of catch up or this sort of gap shrinkage, if you will. The next big step for China and a huge investment... Their biggest catch up is their ability to project power. Their ability to have a space-based, global reach network system of satellites and all that kind of ability to do things that the U.S. does right now, they're not there yet and they're touching them, they're developing them, but we're talking about trillions of dollars of investment over years to really start to kind of be in parity with the U.S. on this for example. Now they know this to a certain degree and to be fair they're developing systems that can actually screw with our space-bases infrastructure. They have anti-sat capabilities that can actually start to mess up the dominance, one of our biggest single advantages. And there's sort of a disproportionate disadvantage for the United States right now because they don't have space-based infrastructure
Paul Flyod [00:26:51] and we do, that's something that can really cripple us and actually take the legs out from underneath us in any kind of conflict right now. That's so it's kind of a weird mixed bag here, but point being though that China has an advantage if talks about fighting in its own neighborhood. Its ability to start going toe-to-toe with the United States when you talk about conflict across the globe, very much different. That's where the gap is the largest, if you will.
Omar Lamrani [00:27:12] On the space portion, there's a really interesting point in that direction as well is that the Chinese are catching up with the United States in sending up these satellites and creating these constellations but the more they do so, the more they catch up to the United States and create the same type of network, the less likely it is that they would attack the United States space assets or to rephrase that the more damaging it is to them to do so because they are putting the same type of vulnerability up in space that the United States has. If you think the Chinese are really good at intercepting satellites and destroying them, well the United States is even better. If the Chinese get to that point where they have those constellations in space they are creating the same type of vulnerability that the United States has. They are going to think really hard in a decade or 15 years when they will have that same type of constellation, whether it's worth it for them to attack that space asset because they are basically as they're evolving becoming similarly dependent on having that infrastructure as the United States is now except that you know obviously they're more focused on the regional scope, rather than the global scope like the United States.
Paul Flyod [00:28:16] That's a great point, Omar. In my mind you're creating, satellites are going in conceptually in the same way nuclear weapons are going which is you either create mutually assured destruction specifically on these assets or you create deterrence. You kind of have almost basically just parity. No one really gets the advantage in this case from here on out. But then that begs the question we're not the only people that know this and a lot of really smart people on both sides are looking at this and saying, well if we want to try and win how do we build, you know? Are there other systems that can be non space-based that are more defensible? Can we create redundancy in satellites to make them a lot cheaper and much, much harder to shoot down in the 100s or 1,000s. Basically have a redundancy in these space-based networks. That's sort of the future as we look forward is basically everyone is looking at this and saying, yeah this is where part of this arms race is going to be is frankly going to be in space, even if it's not weapons in space, per se. It's things that facilitate weapons on earth and they're very, very important and how do you do defend them or create deterrence around them or how do you fight without them and actually still be just as, maybe part of the next big offset is actually learning to get past space-based infrastructure and be from your own territory be able to monitor, have sensor platforms that can allow you to shoot and kill enemy.
Omar Lamrani [00:29:26] Actually to those two points, the United States is actively working and ahead of china in developing micro satellites. Which the idea that's to shoot them up into space, they're cheap, you use them for the time necessary and then it's okay if you lose them because they're not very expensive. That's ability to, even if you lose your constellation in an emergency you just pump out these micro satellites into space and they're good enough for what you need. That's one way and then for getting away from space completely if you really have to there's also development of high-flying drones that can act as a relay station. Almost at the orbital level and then they basically have these satellite like payloads that can really backup navigation or information, obviously no where near the same level and accuracy and sophistication as a constellation of satellites in space but enough to do the job again. But again, it's also similar to the nuclear deterrence thing in another sense. There's also the massive, massive, massive economic damage and it would be catastrophic for humanity as a whole if we had a massive war in space. Almost at the same level as a nuclear war because we are so dependent on these space constellations that if we're talking about the aspects of this getting hot and then you have a massive conflagration in space, we will lose basically all the advantages that we currently rely on for a high-tech, modern economic world. Very much similar to what we were talking about earlier with regards to nuclear deterrence.
Omar Lamrani [00:30:58] We're getting to a paradigm where if the ability to hurt each other equally and by hurting the other person your also hurting yourself because obviously there's space debris and all of that. That's why I think another aspect of this is the various efforts to develop space treaties. We already have the Outer Space Treaty and attempt to build up on that. That is another interesting thing that will develop over the next decade to two decades.
Ben Sheen [00:31:21] What I find fascinating about this is this seems to be this continuation of a trend we've seen for eons. I pick up a stick and hit you with it, you're going to find a bigger stick and take a swing and it goes through and then technologies come along and at first they're prohibitively expensive or unwieldy or simply can't use them the right way. But then there's this cost to entry eventually comes down and you see this evolution of measure and counter measure and we go back and forth and weapons become increasingly destructive. When you look at dynamite, it was the game changing explosive and it was thought to completely subvert the way that wars would be fought and become so dangerous no one would want to use it, didn't happen. And again nuclear weapons now are almost like yeah, it's a given, yet there's this other thing that can be far more deadly so it's interesting when you play it forward to see you know what's going to be put in place test ourselves.
Paul Flyod [00:32:03] Yeah, call me a cynic, but I never underestimate human's capacity to find a way to wage war, even if that means we won't fight with these because it'll kill everybody, but we'll use this other thing. We'll find a way to keep fighting one way or another, to your point. It's also worth sort of stepping back and sort of why are we so focused on satellites? I think the big point that I always want to articulate with people when I think about what is the modern-day sort of evolution in military affairs look like and what are these offsets that we've been talking about? The best way to think of it is when we talk about fires and we talk about artillery, when we talk about bombs that can be dropped, missiles, whatever goes boom. The most interesting thing that I've observed, both being in the military and sort of now basically working and studying the military is how much that's being pushed down to lower and lower levels. Think about WWII, you had Army Divisions who were calling for a small artillery assets and basically access to certain types of bombing groups that could kind of do these really broad sort of supporting large macro scale sort of supporting efforts and coordination and then of course you started getting like basically, the Stukas, the close air support for armor and for troops, but again that was still on like divisional levels, Army levels and now you're looking at like platoons. You're looking at special operations with like 12-man groups that are rolling into countries and leveraging strategic assets from CONUS,
Paul Flyod [00:33:22] and by Continental United States, when I say CONUS. I'm thinking of like when we saw Green Berets roll into Afghanistan in 2001 that are bringing strategic level assets over to them and supporting them and they're disproportionately fighting and that's the trendline I think is worth thinking about and that's why we're looking in space because all that space-based infrastructure is what supports that. That's where you communicate, that's how you call back home and say, this is where I am, this is what I'm looking at, this is what I need you to shoot and everything gets coordinated around that. That trendlines going to continue and so it gets very interesting to be thinking about does the future soldier basically become a JTAC, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller? Basically a guy who doesn't really shoot his weapon that much other than for defense purposes but has to find the enemy and look at them and say bring the weapons here. And it's about bringing fires from on high.
Ben Sheen [00:34:08] You're absolutely right, that ability to have a strategic effect on the tactical level, near instantaneously. When I say effect, you know we typically think you know like we say things that go boom, but when you consider again the future cyber realm there's a huge amount that you can do to achieve an effect on target. When you consider the myriad ways in which you can do that it does, we're almost entering the realm of science fiction.
Paul Flyod [00:34:30] Well it becomes that and it conversely, when you have the single guy or asset that can bring so much firepower if he can see you and kill you that's again part of that cyber is severing that link. If I can with cyber, sever that link and make sure he can't call back home and they can't see me with their digital assets and shoot me, I've also won. So another thing to be thinking about and that's why cyber has also become such an important component of this.
Ben Sheen [00:34:51] Also crypto graphics as well. If you can sever that link from a drone to its like base control station then you lose control of that asset and that's why you know a lot of the communications and the crypto related to that is so carefully and closely guarded.
Omar Lamrani [00:35:05] This raises a really interesting topic which is basically since modern warfare evolved as parts of industrial based aspects of human civilization there is this concept of a short war because it's so deadly, so potent that there's no ability to continue waging that war for a long period of time. Obviously we've seen that prior to WWI, we've seen that after WWI, but this was disproven obviously in WWI and disproven again in WWII. What about now? We're talking about the ability by small forces to wage unimaginable damage and of course not even referring to nuclear weapons here, I'm just talking about the conventional realm through cyber, through calling in air strikes and then long-range strikes you can basically, you don't even have to get close to a port to level it, you can level it from all the way back in another continent. And also if layer into this the much longer periods of time that it is taking to develop weapons and to produce them just because they're so sophisticated, what does this really do to the duration of conflicts? n one Olevel you have all these things that's going towards this war in modern terms, peer-to-peer, being so destructive that one side will essentially be destroyed in a short duration. But on the other hand we have all the weight of historical evidence that people always tend to think that there's going to be a short, little bevy of conflicts, but people find a way to continue going. That's an interesting idea to mull in terms of what would the reason in the future
Omar Lamrani [00:36:38] when it comes to a significant peer-to-peer conflict.
Paul Flyod [00:36:41] The idea like people talk about the short war, they're also like wars will only be fought by sort of robots and long distances in the future and everything else. But the fact is the most important component in all these things is always humans and their ingenuity and sort of the infrastructure and the nation-states and the industrialized nation-states that sort of support that entire ability. It's a bad assumption to ever think that we'll get to a place where we're having robot wars, and that someone won't go hm, I need to look at the place where these robots are coming from and the humans who are designing them and not kill them. That will always be a huge concern so it's a fallacy to think that wars will ever be completely short, it's a fallacy to think that wars will never have humans be a casualty, a main casualty of them.
Ben Sheen [00:37:29] Well that seems a good place to end on, though I fear you've left it open for a podcast grading movies and literature on the accuracy when it comes to military technology. But maybe for another time. Paul, Omar, thank you so much for joining me today on this podcast.
Paul Flyod [00:37:41] Absolutely, thanks for having us.
Omar Lamrani [00:37:42] Thank you.
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