A Revolution in Military Affairs

A “revolution in military affairs (RMA)” is a concept that explains how advancements in technology, organization, and strategy have changed the nature of warfare. Assuming that the revolution exists as described, the current transition – post-1990 – is defined by the development and use of precision-guided munitions (PGM), standoff weapons platforms (e. g. , unmanned aerial vehicles), and remote sensing (e. g. , satellite and aerial reconnaissance) (Packer, 2012).

It is inarguable that the nature of warfare has changed due to said technological and strategic advancements, but it is equally as important to understand its effect on American military policy and strategy. As the following evidence will show, the RMA has decreased the costs and increased duration of war, which has led to the increased willingness of the American government to commit to the use of force, culminating in the current state of American military omnipotence. A few assumptions with regards to the American political system must be made before assessing the effects of the RMA.

It is assumed that democracies – like America – initiate war only when it is militarily and strategically advantageous to do so (i. e. , when victory is likely, and when there is no unpredictability, or “fog,” in war). Second, it is assumed that democracies initiate war only when it is economically advantageous to do so (i. e. , when financial costs of war are low). These assumptions exist due to the “audience cost” that democratic leaders are faced with, or in other words, the need to appease their constituents (i.

e. , prospective voters). Moreover, in On War, Carl von Clausewitz states that “war is a continuation of politics with an admixture of other means,” which explains the “intimate and complex relationship between war and the political and social context within which it occurs” (Packer, 2012). Despite the fact that these assumptions and descriptions are not absolute, they effectively generalize the political environment for the purpose of determining the RMA’s effect on American political and military actions.

To discuss the changes in cost of war as a result of the RMA, both financial costs and the cost of casualties must be taken into consideration. The evidence in favor of the RMA states that expensive weapons platforms, such as ships, manned aircraft, and land vehicles, should be phased out in favor of “smaller, less expensive, and unmanned aerial vehicles (e. g. , flying drones and PGM’s),” that deliver munitions with accuracy and precision from a distance. As the PGM’s become more accurate, fewer of them are needed to destroy enemy targets, thus reducing the overall “cost of combat” (Packer, 2012).

Pursuant to statistics produced by the American Security Project, flying drones are generally less costly than traditional military aircrafts with regards to purchase price, but the operational costs (e. g. , technological upkeep, pilot compensation, etc. ) are where noticeable savings originate (Faust, 2012; pg. 4). Assuming that flying drones and PGM’s are cheaper than weapons platforms, it is clear that the RMA effectively reduces the overall, financial cost of war. Casualties – both soldier and civilian – are an equally important cost of war.

Due to audience cost, democratic leaders must remain extremely cautious of the amount of soldier and civilian casualties during offensive attacks (e. g. , if, according to the general population, too many soldiers are killed in action, the democratic leader loses support for the war. ) In 1970, General William Westmoreland was quoted as saying, “I am confident the American people expect this country to take full advantage of its technology—to welcome and applaud the developments that will replace wherever possible the man with the machine” (Packer, 2012).

As technological advances in flying drones and PGM’s continue to reduce the number of American soldiers in combat, the chance of soldier casualties simultaneously decreases, and thus the political cost of war decreases for the leader. With respect to the civilian deaths, they accounted for 33. 3 to 50 percent of casualties during the Iraq war (from 2003-2010, without the use of flying drones) (White, 2012 and Katz, 2010). On the contrary, in 2008, civilians accounted for 25 percent of casualties as a result of drone strikes, a number that significantly improved to six percent by 2010 (Bergen, 2010).

Based on these statistics alone, a reduction in civilian deaths resulting from drone strikes indefinitely reduces the political cost of war for a democratic leader. The effect of the RMA on the duration of war is determined by the financial and political costs of said war. More specifically, if a war is economically advantageous and avoids a large number of casualties, then the audience cost for a democratic leader is low. If the audience cost is low, the democratic leader can afford to extend the duration of the war for economic or political reasons.

As flying drones and PGM’s both reduce the financial cost of war as well as the risk of soldier and civilian casualties, they provide a low audience cost for the democratic leader’s actions to prolong the war (Packer, 2012). For further proof, prior to the RMA and the War on Terror (2001-Present), the United States (US) did not engage in any war – in which there was combat – that lasted more than four years (Watts, 2011; pg. 1). This evidence proves that the reduction of financial and political costs of war enables democratic leaders to engage in war for a significantly longer amount of time.

As a result of a lower audience cost due to the RMA, the US government has become increasingly willing to use military force against others. Particularly, the notable technological and strategic advantages from the RMA have significantly increased the likelihood of victory – pursuant to the aforementioned assumptions – and thus have resulted in a low audience cost (Packer, 2012). For these purposes, we must assume that the likelihood of victory is the most important factor in determining whether or not to go to war.

This being said, the low audience cost (i. e. , the likelihood of victory against a weak military was extremely high) facing former President George W. Bush allowed him to justify an expensive, invasive, War on Terror in the Middle East (Daalder, 2012). Furthermore, the aforementioned statistics regarding the improved accuracy of drones has provided President Barack Obama with a low audience cost to justify the persistent, unmanned bombings in Pakistan (Bergen, 2010).

The audience costs were low – and the likelihood of victory was high – in these cases because the United States’ military power due to the RMA is unchecked by “any nation or group of nations with roughly equal strength” (Packer, 2012). Among other explanations, the past two centuries of American interventionist policy – per the hegemonic stability theory, which argues that all countries have international stability when a hegemon, like America, maintains and carries out law and order – has equally contributed to the justification of military intervention in international affairs such as the War on Terror (Daalder, 2012).

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the distribution of military power in the world has become exceedingly unbalanced in the US’ favor. American military power as a result of the RMA is exemplified in the successes of Operation Desert Storm, in 1991, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, in 2003, where new weapons developments – PGM’s and cruise missiles in the former (“Operation Desert Storm,” 2012), remotely piloted aircrafts in the later (“Operation Iraqi Freedom,” 2011) – were displayed and “served as a demonstration of state-of-the-art weaponry, command and control of strategy” (Packer, 2012).

The US has taken a striking advantage of these capabilities by way of its unprecedented defense spending – $1. 415 trillion in 2012 (“Outlays for Mandatory and Related Programs: 1962–2017 [table],” 2011) – which accounts for more funding than the defense budgets of the next ten countries combined (“The 15 Major Spender Countries in 2011 [table], 2011). In effect, the US’ advantage defies the parity theory of system properties due to the lack of “relative capabilities between two or more world powers”.

Because of this, there is a tremendous, increasing amount of pressure on other militaries – such as China – to adapt to these technologies and strategies in order to compete using a “modern force. ” Thus, the RMA has created a tremendous gap in military capabilities between the US and the rest of the world (i. e. , American military omnipotence), while successfully reasserting “the US’ military as the greatest on Earth” (Packer, 2012). Words: 1192