In This Review

Technological Change and the Future of Warfare
Technological Change and the Future of Warfare
By Michael O'Hanlon
Brookings Institution Press, 2000, 197 pp.

The Brookings Institution has produced a defense study that proposes modest cuts in military spending based on an all-too-familiar recipe: a high/low mix of weapon systems (similar to the combination of expensive, high-performance F-15 jets and the cheaper F-16s in the past); smaller hardware purchases; and prudent research that stops short of weapons acquisition. But unlike in previous works with a similar approach, the author takes aim at the debate over the so-called revolution in military affairs (RMA). In this polemic against rma proponents -- who are rarely identified by name and are generally lumped together into an undifferentiated, ill-informed mass of technological enthusiasts -- O'Hanlon's basic message is "not so fast." Building on the belief that technology does not change war all that quickly, he expects that the military of 20 years hence will look like the military of today, give or take a few microchips. O'Hanlon may be right, and he offers much prudence here. But had he said the same thing in 1900 or 1920, he would have been very wrong indeed. Too many straw men clutter his book, against which precision-guided arguments such as his are not needed.