It is a curious thing when warfighting becomes easier, it tends to happen more often. Conflicts today are of lower intensity, happen more frequently, and may be called by different names, humanitarian (and "democratic") interventions & "military operations other than war" to name two. The point is using military force to implement policy has noticably incresed.
The calculas of using force by politicians has many inputs. Some may
use their personal experience in the armed forces. However, that
element has taken a steep drop in recent years. Most of the politicians
— no longer do we call them statesmen, I don’t think it was because of
political correctness — have not served and do not have family that
served. Many, like VP Cheney, had "other priorities". Critical to the
deployment decision and thus the ability to use force is water. It is
one thing to insert troops and another to supply them. As the saying
goes, wars are not won by the generals but by the quartermasters.
On the eve of World War I, when the Kaiser asked Moltke to stop the
trains from rolling west, Moltke (with sadness, as he wrote in his
journal) stated it was too late. After the war, however, when this
story came to light (without the teardrop enhancement), the chief of
the railroads wrote a scathing rebuke stating flately his operation was
so efficient it could easily have halted or reversed. Today, we do not
have this problem. Troops can be — and have been — en route and a
mission scrubbed or changed at the last minute. Advanced communications
allows sat. images & video to be provided and studied while in
transport or on/near site. Advanced transportation deployment through
air, land, and sea means provides the global reach that has defined
American foreign policy in the last few decades.
Recently, a system entered evaluation in the US Army to address the
problem of getting water to the troops, made especially more difficult
in conflicts without frontlines. As with much of the technology
developed for war, it is likely a civilian application will follow the
military down the road, possibly resulting in replication’s of Luke
Skywalker’s uncle’s farm. In the meantime, development of a system on
just under 500 pounds and can filter only between 75 and 200 gallons of
water before the filters must be replaced. And of course it produces
water only as long as the vehicle is burning fuel. The water-from-air
system makes about 600 gallons of water a day, compared with 600
gallons an hour for a traditional machine that purifies water from a
river or pond.
Associated Press from Military.com
is a great development and I hope for its success. It is hard if not
impossible to deny success to this project or the implementation of
this technology in both civilian and military area, but the consequence
is even less resistence in deploying in hard to supply locations.
Training and technology for self-sufficient forces, in the model of
the Future Combat System (FCS), will result in a more efficient
fighting force. However, the inherent drawback of easier to deploy
troops — logistics are easier and figure less in planning — will mean
an increasing use of the military as a political tool.
Madeline Albright once lamented the value of our first-rate military
if we don’t use it, to paraphrase. Modernity has taken away or reduced
diplomatic discourse and replaced it with communiques issued through
the media. Modern communications and transportation and weapons,
including obedient weapons, have given rise to Shock and Awe. This
tactic, which may have a greater long-term impact on domestic audiences
than on the enemy it is used against, is increasingly used in favor of
soft power to accomplish our wishes. Combined with the 72hr
self-sufficiency requirement of FCS, decision makers will be more
likely to order punitive or "surgical" strikes with the hope of ending
the conflict before it begins. Contrast the Gulf War’s 100 hours versus
the FCS requirement versus the reality of Mission Accomplished.
Systems like water-from-air or water-from-exhaust are great, however
in the context of the current military strategy, it is an incremental
deepening of the civil-military gap as the civilian leadership sees yet
another restraint breakaway. There is no getting around technological
advances, and we should not avoid their use. It is important to keep
these in perspective and modify our decision making appropriately.