Sunday, June 13, 2010

Keith L. Shimko's "The Iraq Wars and America’s Military Revolution"

Keith L. Shimko is Associate Professor of Political Science at Purdue University. He is the author of Images and Arms Control, which won the Quincy Wright Award in 1992, and three editions of International Relations: Perspectives and Controversies.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Iraq Wars and America's Military Revolution, and reported the following:
The Iraq Wars and America’s Military Revolution examines whether advances in a variety of technologies associated with the information revolution are fundamentally changing the character and conduct of modern warfare. Focusing on the American experience in Iraq since 1991, the book evaluates claims of a contemporary “revolution in military affairs” (RMA) with an eye toward understanding both its promise and limitations. While the 1991 and 2003 Iraq Wars illustrated the revolutionary potential of these new technologies, the post-2003 experience and other military missions over the past two decades highlighted their limitations.

Opening to page 99 one finds a discussion not of the Iraq Wars but rather the origins of United States’ involvement in Somalia in 1992-93. Juxtaposed against the surprisingly easy and decisive victory in 1991, the Somali intervention provided an almost immediate corrective to post-Desert Storm military triumphalism and predictions of a historic transformation of warfare. This is where I begin to set the foundation for understanding the limitations of the military revolution heralded by the Gulf War: “Not long after the smashing success in Desert Storm and its dazzling display of American technological superiority, the United States was drawn into a very different conflict whose more ambiguous result would dull some of the lingering glow of victory and call into question some claims of a revolution in warfare.” The Somali intervention demonstrated that the surveillance, communications and targeting technologies that seemed to revolutionize warfare and gave the United States such an advantage in 1991 do not have an equivalent impact in all settings and conflicts. Faced with a less traditional opponent in an urban environment, these capabilities were less revolutionary and offered fewer advantages. In foreshadowing many of the problems the United States faced after the ouster of Saddam in 2003, the analytical significance of the Somali intervention is greater than its magnitude.

In The Iraq Wars and America’s Military Revolution I eventually conclude that technological change has produced fundamental changes in the character and conduct of warfare. I stress, however, that no revolution changes everything. The 1991 war against Iraq discussed in the book’s first 90 pages offers an example of the type of conflict that is being revolutionized. The Somali intervention, however, reflects a type of conflict that it is not being revolutionized. A balanced assessment of the contemporary RMA recognizes that no revolution revolutionizes everything.
Read an excerpt from The Iraq Wars and America's Military Revolution, and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue