Professor Marohang Limbu
Project 2: Cultural Lit.
The Evolution of and Future Outlook on the Machine of War
The mechanism of war has been in use for thousands of years. The evolution that it has undergone in such a long period of time is easy to marvel at. Changes can easily be seen between the conquests of the Romans, to World War I, to the Post 9/11 war. All of these wars however, have something in common; they are between at least two different groups fighting over the same thing. In order to obtain clear comprehension of the evolution of war, it is best to start at the beginning. First, I will talk about the traditions of war, such as what weaponry was used, where the battles took place, and what they were fought over. Second, I will discuss where the same aspects of war are in present day. Finally, I will wrap up my essay by talking about where the future of war is headed.
TRADITIONS OF WAR
Some of the earliest origins of war can be traced back thousands of years ago to when countries began cross-continental conquests in order to accumulate land and resources. Such escapades turned these countries into some of the largest empires the world had ever seen. Examples of such empires include The First Persian Empire, which stretched from Egypt to Western and Central Asia (“Heilbrunn Timeline”), or the geographically largest empire of all time, the Mongolian Empire, which covered all of the land between the Sea of Japan and Turkey (“Genghis Khan”).
During this time period, many conflicts of war were not due to specific incidents, but instead due to the greed and desire of an Emperor. Not only were many people forced to become soldiers under such pompous rulers, but also, soldiers faced a near certain death in each battle. Traditionally, the two sides of the battle met in an open field where attrition warfare was used. Attrition warfare as seen in figure 1, is when the two forces of the battle face each other and simply attack until the other army is depleted of resources or soldiers (Frisbee). This type of warfare results in large numbers of causalities and wounded soldiers. Such warfare is crude and continued to occur for many years.
THE PRESENT DAY INVISIBLE WAR
As of today, there are no hand-to-hand combat-oriented global wars or conquests underway. Instead, rapid growth in the field of technology has given way to a new type of warfare: cyber warfare. Cyber warfare is the use of computers and other devices to attack an enemy’s information systems as opposed to their armies or factories (Dictionary.com). With more and more information being uploaded to, stored on, and transmitted across the Internet, the danger of leaked confidential documents is at its highest point in history. Due to the fact that it is not a combat orientated war, the size of it appears to be small; however, in a monetary sense, this is not true whatsoever.
According to coverage in a news article by The Washington Post, in 2013 alone, the United States’ budget for counter terrorism and cyber operations was a combined $21.5 billion (Gellman, Bart). While it is an impressive number to consider, the most important concept to note, as reported in the article, is that the cyber budget is growing at an increasing rate.
Concurrently, the media has been shedding an increasing amount of light on stories of cyber attacks. An article published at the end of September in the New York Times detailed the recent attacks on the United States, from China, targeting companies who specialize in drone technology (Wong). Mandiant, a cybersecurity company, released a report this past February detailing and naming a recent Chinese attack, Operation Beebus. This operation was targeted at companies with US drone technology by a governmentally run hacking group known simply as the Comment Crew. The Comment Crew is part of Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army in Shanghai (Wong). Through their efforts, the hackers retrieved information, recently causing alarm for other companies under similar disciplines. The Chinese government is no rookie at attempting to hack into US systems. For years, specialized groups of Chinese hackers have been put together with the single goal of gaining confidential information through cyber warfare. As seen in figure 2, these hackers work day and night to digitally infiltrate the US.
Experts in the cyber warfare field do not expect the number of attacks from China or other countries to decline any time soon. In fact, the frequency of attacks is expected to increase as technology becomes more developed (Weimann). Thereby begging the question, will a cyber war be underway for the rest of human kind’s existence? Countries such as China and North Korea are conducting cyber espionage for the purpose of collecting militaristic data and in general, weakening another country (Janczewski and Colarik). According to James Thurman, commander of the U.S. forces in South Korea, such information can range from drone designs to simply sending damaging malware (Craggs).
One of the resources that are most vital to cyber operations also happens to be one of the oldest assets in the history of war: people. This is simply due to the complexity of the task. While computers have a lot to do with the process, humans are still necessary in order to "hack". Hacking is when specialized software is run that shows weaknesses in a computer program and is then exploited. In order to complete this intricate process, a human with a vast and detailed knowledge is needed. The North Koreans and Chinese have realized this quite some time ago, recruiting some of the brightest students in the country for top science schools with the singular purpose of becoming “cyber warriors”(Craggs). While the use of human resources is traditional to warfare, the types of weapons currently operating are not. The standard issue for weapons has been changed quite a bit; elite military members are now trading in rifles for super computers.
AN UNTESTED FORCE
A fact that many experts have pointed out is that the militaristic technology the United States currently possesses has not seen a glimpse of battle. The untapped source of highly developed modernized weapons is simply due to the types of conflicts the United States has been a part of in the past few decades. These tours of counterinsurgency warfare have taken place in areas such as Iraq where enemies use guerilla warfare. This style of combat makes civilians almost indistinguishable from militia members causing issues for unmanned lethal weapons. Thus, the use of an unmanned drone to take down the enemy is clearly impractical (Cohen). With a future war based around attrition-styled combat, a rise in the use of unmanned aircraft and other vehicles is on the horizon.
Furthermore, questions are arising such as “will treaties be made banning certain weapons in warfare?” This is quite important considering countries are currently pouring millions upon millions of dollars into science programs in order to equip themselves with nuclear weaponry. According to an online CNN database, the United States, Russia, China, and North Korea are just a few among the eight total countries with confirmed nuclear weapons (“Nuclear Weapons: Who Has What?”). A nuclear attack would be catastrophic to life on Earth. Apart from the initial detonation, which would destroy nearly everything in its blast radius, the fallout proceeding the explosion will plague any life form within range. Similar effects can be compared to the blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
War is an unavoidable part of human life. No matter what kind of path the future takes, heavy conflict between countries is certainly inevitable. The only question is “what kind of war will it be?” Reflecting upon where the world has come from and analyzing where it is now, the possibilities for future warfare appear extremely clouded. The world’s population is growing at an exponential rate. Traditionally impoverished countries such as India and China now have a rising middle class that continues to increase in size. In addition to population size increases, people are living longer as well. These two facts translate to one thing; resources are being used at an alarming rate. The most endangered resource is water. Out of all fresh water used, seventy percent is used for agricultural purposes (Judge). Figure 3 displays where water shortages are already beginning to occur. Thus, in a few decades from now, planet Earth will be faced with a serious shortage of water. When countries begin to realize the severity of this fact, governments may begin to take steps to secure resources for their own country. Conflict is sure to ensue. Experts say that the next large world war will be over water.
The question of what these future conflicts will hold is on the minds of many government officials from across the globe. Nobody can know for certain what will happen, but foreign policy experts are building up hypotheses. A combat oriented war will more than likely occur. Since the fight will be over physical resources, land must be captured, and foot soldiers are effective at doing so. Additionally, with the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States’ military will be well prepared for the job.
The comparison between what war was thousands of years ago, to what it is today is quite astounding to analyze. Mankind has put a lot of time and resources into the development of war techniques, weapons, and strategy. The future is sure to contain just as much if not more development, especially in the coming decades when competitiveness over resources is taken to an all time high between countries. Although, no matter what, a war always has the same few characteristics: it’s fought over something and it’s fought with something. The evolution of the war machine has changed the way groups of people answer those questions when heading into war, and the changes are not stopping any time soon.
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