(1/2) Trends in geopolitical, economic, and technological developments increasingly need to be viewed within a global context. Gregory R. Copley

Aug 17, 2019, 04:48 AM
Image: New York City streets in 1890. Besides telegraph lines, multiple electric lines were required for each class of device requiring different voltages. Public domain.  Book of Old New York. Henry Collins Brown. 1913.

 Defense and Strategic Planning Challenges in an Entirely New Age  (1 of 2)
Trends in geopolitical, economic, and technological developments increasingly need to be viewed within a global context. The age of stovepiping, which worked during much of the Cold War, cannot be expected to work now, or through the coming decades. Everything is connected.

Analysis. By Gregory R. Copley, Editor , GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs. Defense and strategic policy planning officials around the world are beginning to comprehend that the types of threats and opportunities likely to arise in the coming few decades have little in common with the threats, opportunities, and contextual priorities which evolved during the 20th Century.  

That is not to say that there are no lessons to be learned from the past, that strategic principles have changed, or that there is no continuity whatsoever between the recent past and our immediate future. But some things have already profoundly changed, or will soon change, and, as a result, it is necessary to see where the balance of thinking and budgets should go in addressing future threats and context as opposed to funding evolving legacy technologies, doctrines, and alliance structures.  

Because of substantially changed global circumstances (with more to come), it is increasingly clear that the tendency of experienced military and policy officials to “fight yesterday’s wars” is more dangerous than usual. On the other hand, the inexperience which youth — especially today’s younger generation — brings to the situation tends to ignore historical lessons substantially, while expecting the security of funding and the availability of resources to be inviolate.  

So, it is true: the future is not what it used to be. After at least a century and a half of being able to extrapolate our current trends into expectations of the near future, we can no longer do so.  

So what is changing in our global strategic context to make us reconsider whether thinking needs, commensurately, to be changed in geopolitics (transforming the balance of power, and therefore considerations on basing, power projection, etc.), economics, military doctrine, and technology?  


1. Changed context: For much of the recent era, from, say, around 1800 until 2000, the strategic context was driven by the direct physical realities of geography, resources, and kinetic power. By the year 2000, or maybe slightly before, the strategic contextual tipped and began to be dominated more by the indirect, intangible power of electricity.  

Yes, the fundamentals remained: food, water, and geography were necessary elements of actual survival. But now, for advanced societies to prosper and have power, their wealth and fighting ability became overwhelmingly dependent upon their ability to produce, protect, and project their use of electricity. This applies now to kinetic competition as well as to wealth creation.  

Again, the principle driving purpose (or goal) of power projection did not change, which is the need to impose the will of one’s own society on another society and/or its leadership. The contextual difference which emerged, and which became of overriding importance, is that the most important way to impose will is now through the electronic spectrum rather than through marching feet and high explosives.  

So areas of greatest threat potential and areas under greatest threat have often become the same: areas of greatest access to electricity.  

If nothing else, . . .