Sunday, January 09, 2005

Cebrowski on transforming US military - surprises?

I share what I guess is a widespread assumption that US military and geopolitical strategy keeps most of what it considers to be the most important scientific and technological development to itself and, perhaps, to a few close allies or satelites such as Israel.

So it was striking to read a piece by Arthur Cebrowski in the Financial Times that appears to make the opposite case.

In Transforming America's Military, 4 Jan, Cebrowski (a retired US Navy vice admiral) starts on familiar ground:

Growing disparities between the US and its allies in transforming their respective militaries have fuelled tensions. At the operational level, these revolve around differences in equipment and concepts that could complicate combined operations in future crises. The emerging "American style" of warfare, marked by greater mobility and use of information technology, is increasingly incompatible with the more ponderous, industrial-age militaries of some allies.

And then comes the familiar conundrum of what to do about non-state actor terrorism:

"The notion of containing today's problem until its dynamics implode or simply wind down - the axiom that once guided military diplomacy - cannot work".

But Cebrowski 's prescription for what to do about it looks surprisingly multilateral. Not only, he argues, does the US need to work more closely with traditional allies to solve the problem as defined, but it needs to reach out to non-traditional allies and share technology in depth with them too:

"...the US should consider four collaborative steps with both traditional and potential allies, including Russia and China. First it should broaden joint experimentation. Second, a collaborative, "spiral" development programme should be adopted for similar classes of information technology. Spiral development involves the early use of prototype equipment by troops to test it. Third, the US should dramatically expand its multinational R&D efforts. Finally, personnel exchanges within each of the three areas should be expanded".

This looks like the makings of collaboration with all plauisible major state actors (although India and Brazil are among those he happens not to mention). How far does this go? Who is behind it, and could it really mean?

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