Modern Wars: How Information Technology Changed Warfare
Modern Wars: How Information Technology Changed Warfare
On the 30th of September Vladimir Vladimirovitsj Putin, President of Russia, announced that Russia conducted its first air-strikes in Syria targeted at ISIS (or ISIL). However, in the days after the United States of America and other countries began to question Russia’s motive and use of old school bombing technology which might cause harm to civilians and inflame the civil war in Syria (CNN/Time, 2015). According to US official’s Russian bombing technology is a lacking behind American weaponry in terms of accuracy. As such moves increase the tensions between the East and the West and businesses use information technology to reach their goals, I started to research how information technology has changed warfare over time.
The main goals of warfare have not really changed, but the way wars evolve and are waged certainly have. Just hundred twenty years ago, armies marched to battle in their uniforms, lined up against one another, and mainly used weapons with a short effective range. Thus, people who killed one another were always in close proximity. Later on, longer-range weapons emerged, and the distance between the soldiers became larger and larger. Today, some countries have the capability to destroy towns without having to be physically at the site or even have a within a hundreds of miles. All due to the introduction of IT in modern warfare which enables people to fight wars with the touch of button. This instantaneous transfer of information through the Internet and availability of the Internet around the world increases the number of participants in war. Unarmed actors thousands of miles away can participate in a conflict even by sitting at their computer, providing funding or (video/picture) information through the Internet or deep web.
Also people from all over the world are now to a certain extend able to check almost real-time war reporting through the Internet and social media in order to be informed. Lately, the next generation of real-time conflict reporting is started mainly due to the importance of user-generated content and Web 2.0 technologies, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, witnesses to warfare are not only acting as bystanders, or victims, but also as reporters. YouTube is now particularly powerful tool for documenting incidents of violence. These forms of independent reporting sometimes led to video’s going viral.
One of the most influential innovations in the area of warfare are the bombing and fighter jets, especially those equipped with so called, smart bombs or precision-guided munition. The predecessors of these bombs were first introduced during World War II and radio-controlled with a cable from a submarine. As the concept was further developed infrared and electro optical guided “fire-and-forget” self-guiding missiles were invented, followed by the laser-guided missiles (Hamilton, 1995). Nowadays, highly accurate bombs are guided to their targets by computers based on the latest information from satellites. The newest smart bombs hit their targets much more frequently than dumb, unguided bombs and cause both fewer casualties and less damage to civilian areas (Boeing, 2015; Hamilton, 1995).
However, computers and information technology is not only present in smart bombs. Also the latest fighter jets carry more than a dozen of computers with them and all most all of them, if not all, are unable to fly without the computer systems activated. For example, the introduction of fly-by-wire systems in air crafts enabled more precise computer guidance, better control and quicker advanced flight manoeuvres. These systems automatically stabilize air planes, without relying on manual inputs from the pilot while also providing extensive information about the environment and ground movements.
Information Technology is not only incorporated in the weaponry of modern warfare, but has also heavily influenced the process of obtaining and storing intelligence data and strategic planning. Information has become crucial and even important as it is increasingly tough to identify enemies due to the absence of uniforms as well as enemies blending in in civilian areas. This invisibility evolves mainly from the fact that most enemies (and for example terrorists) are not a national entity (Brooking, 2015). Recently, we have seen an increase in “guerilla” warfare in numerous areas of which Vietnam was probably the first of such “modern” war. Today, the war in Syria is a good example.
Strategic use of Information Technologies such as satellite pictures, drone broadcasts and even Facebook and Twitter messages/accounts are now being used to find out more about the enemy, its movements and location (Nicks, 2015). For example, lately an ISIS Commander posted a selfie on Facebook within one of the IS hubs. U.S. Intelligence crawled this message from social media and 22 hours later the place was successfully bombed (Ernst, 2015).
At least, it is crystal clear that the battlefield has also become virtual. It is no longer only fought on the ground, at sea, or in the air but also on the web. Any willing person can become a participant in war, not just by fighting, but also by transferring information, money, or technology through on-line infrastructures. As new tools enter battle, the battlefield continues to expand. It is both real and virtual, urban and rural. It is evident that as 21st century warfare continues to evolve, it will become more complex.
Understanding the way technology has changed warfare and the way it is viewed is important to the wars of the future: how they will be waged, and more importantly how they will be resolved. But, what will the future brings us as technology enables for example enables warfare to move to space or more reasonable what happens when the latest version of modern warfare becomes real: cyber wars? (Bejtlich, 2015)
Author: Glenn de Jong
Hamilton, Richard (1995). “Precision guided munitions and the new era of warefare”. Air Power Studies Centre, Royal Australian Air Force. Retrieved 08-10-2015
Boeing, 2015 – http://www.boeing.com/defense/weapons
Nicks, D. 2015, “New Zealander ISIS Fighter Accidentally Tweets Secret Location” January, 1st 2015, Retrieved from: http://time.com/3651559/new-zealand-isis-twitter/
Ernst, D. 2015, “Terrorist ‘moron’ reveals ISIS HQ in online selfie; U.S. Air Force promptly destroys compound’ The Washington Times – Thursday, June 4, 2015, Retrieved from: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jun/4/air-force-bombs-islamic-state-hq-building-after-te
Human Security Center, University of British Columbia. Human Security Report 2005: War and Peace in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2005)
Bejtlich, R., 2015, “Outside perspectives on the Department of Defense cyber strategy”, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services, Retrieved from: http://www.brookings.edu/research/testimony/2015/09/29-department-of-defense-cyber-strategy-bejtlich