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Thread: Security In The 21st Century

  1. #1
    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Sep 2006
    Belly of the beast

    Default Security In The 21st Century

    I was very concerned when I read the following article. The question of the difference between 1906 and 2006 is very scary. The fact is you know that the patterns and threads of war are never changing. The manner in which tools are implemented almost always are incremental rather than revolutionary in nature. To hear somebody making the assertions would seem to suggest that the differential between academia and real world combat is much larger than I even imagined.

    Here at the 25th Army Science Conference in Orlando, Florida, more than 1,500 scientists, engineers, and soldiers have gathered to discuss the next generation of science and technology, and to figure out how to best equip and support our armed forces. But how do you plan ahead when you don't know what's coming?

    Army Science Conference That was the question posed by Dr. Colin Gray, chair in international politics and strategic studies at the University of Reading, during his address entitled “Security Threats in the 21st Century.” The government and the military must identify the principal threats to national and international security in order to prepare for the future, he said --but we've got a rotten record of doing so correctly.

    “Imagine not that we were meeting here in November 2006, but in November 1906,” said Gray. “I wonder how many of the principal threats of the 20th century we would be able to identify? ... Our record of prediction, both political and scientific, is frankly awful.”

    Ironically, it's Gray's job as a frequent advisor to the U.S. government to make just that sort of prediction. He's the first to admit that it's impossible to predict the future. But he does have some educated guesses about what's to come –and it's a grim picture.

    “In this country it's common to say the future looks bright,” he said. “But in the 21st century, I think we are likely to produce a future inferior to our past for our children and grandchildren.” As Gray outlines it, there are seven major security threats facing us in the near future.

    The first threat is the return of great power conflicts, led by the rise of China and India, and the return of Russia as a global power. Shifting power and changing alliances will challenge the current world order, he says –one substantially led and defended by the United States. “We're probably headed into a new bipolar system,” said Gray. “China is proceeding to become more prosperous... [and] if you believe that China will settle with American hegemony, than you believe that there are fairies at the bottoms of your garden.”

    But the rise of new superpowers isn't the greatest threat we face. Rather, says Gray, the biggest problem is climate change. “It will put intense pressure on world resources, and that is a classic cause of conflict and war,” he says. And it's a threat we cannot manage, largely because countries won’t take action, and risk damaging their economies, before they see the worst is true.

    Threats come in bunches, says Gray, and another troika of threats --overpopulation, migration, and pandemics-- will be worst in regions most affected by climate change. “If you overlay the map... there is a hideous match between large numbers of people and significant negatively affected area of climate change,” he said. After coastal areas are flooded or made uninhabitable, mass migrations will occur, stressing national infrastructures, and leading to degraded public health and pandemic disease.

    Uneven economic development poses a threat, too. “The unevenness of wealth is visible to almost everyone on the planet,” said Gray. “Uneven modernization is a formula for resentment... and war.” Similarly, resource shortages will continue to plague nations, as ever greater pressure for scarce natural resources prompts wars, invasions, and border fights.

    Terrorism has been getting most of our attention lately. But Gray calls it the least major threat, in part because Al Qaeda appears to be in decline. “Terrorism, like taxes, will always be with us,” said Gray. “But compared to other threats... terrorism is only of minor importance.”

    The new century will also have to deal with the biggest global threat of the twentieth century: the nuclear bomb. “We thought our attitudes towards nuclear proliferation are truly global, but they're not,” said Gray. India and Pakistan surprised us by developing bombs. States like Iran are still seeking to do so. And there's not much we can do to stop the spread. “Proliferation is unstoppable. There will be nuclear wars.”

    With the prospects of flooded coastlines, global disease and nuclear warfare looming overhead, is there any good news? Gray's picture is pretty, well, gray. “The good news is that that future as yet to happen, and that some of it may not happen at all... my nightmares are still only nightmares,” said Gray. “Things could be a damn sight worse.”

  2. #2
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Fort Leavenworth, KS


    With the threats outlined I think there are at least two parts to this. The first is strategic diplomacy, which would address the threats themselves and become part of the long term security strategies of states after they do the analysis (hopefully quality analysis). The second is the response to; prevent, mitigate, or counter those threats and specifically the related events they might trigger. The latter also requires we understand which events are related to what triggers so that we don't create new problems by addressing the problem(s).

    As noted in the above thread if you find one problem, you will probably find others that are present as well. The existing mechanisms for multi-lateral approaches seem to be inadequate given the predisposition for short term self-interest over long term stability that benefits all. A global threat is only global if enough states agree it is.

    We're going to expend a great deal of blood an treasure treating the symptoms and effects of the events so we can get over the short term humps and failure to agree on what makes a threat "common interest". It is likely we will create new problems or muddy the analytical waters on existing problems as well (look at the controversy surrounding the Middle East policy)

    The military will likely take the lead (either appointed or by default) since it seems to be the only organ of government that has the necessary expeditionary wherewithal to do so. I'd like to believe that the other agencies will move with the same speed to address capability shortfalls, but I'm not sure they even can. Part of fixing a problem is recognizing you have one, another part is allocating the will to make the necessary changes. A good start would be a larger percentage of the GDP allocated to Military spending, with a good chunk of that going to recruit, train, and retain the best people available. If the majority of what was said comes true, we're going to be very, very busy.

    The current percentage of people who volunteer would not seem to be enough for future troop to task requirements. However, we are not just going to need bodies, we are going to need talent. You don't usually get the scale or level of talent you need by taskings or drafts, you get it by enticements. Some talent will volunteer based on altruistic attraction, political ambition, or other things that don't require monetary or calculable incentives (although they will not always stay), many will not "volunteer" unless you make it attractive/competitive.

    How many military "renaissance" leaders (I could say pentathletes, innovative, adaptive, multi-faceted, etc) are out there right now? How many does the prognosis for global instability require? Part of our strategy needs to consider the size, type and structure of a force with "people" as its centerpiece.


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