Looking at how modern wars are being fought, I have come to suspect that “strategy” has somehow been replaced with “gadgetry”. There seems to be a misguided belief that whoever has the most technologically-enhanced gadgets will definitely win a war. But gadgets do not replace the commander’s aggression, initiative, leadership or ability to be flexible on the battlefield. Nor do gadgets enhance the soldier’s adaptability.
The art of strategy development – and it is an art – ought to give cognisance to technology but it should never be replaced with technology. Nor can poorly-developed strategies be rectified by adopting a technology-superior posture. This fallacy leads to a flawed military strategy and impacts negatively on the subsequent doctrine, operational level command structures and ultimately on the tactics to overcome an enemy.
In parallel with gadgets comes “troop surges” – another mistaken approach to winning wars. Both of these “concepts” create a false sense of security and raise false battlefield expectations. When these expectations are not met, questions are directed at the wrong causes for mission-failure.
Many strategists and planners view the modern-day battlefield as a giant computer screen and the battles nothing other than a detached computer game. This game, however, costs lives and the more reliance the forces have on technology, the more they seem to get stuck in a rut, unable to seize the initiative or adapt to rapidly changing battlefield scenarios.
Whereas technology ought to be regarded as a realistic force-multiplier and casualty-reducer, it is not a primary approach to warfare. Gadgets and technology do not replace disciplined, well-trained and well-led men – they merely enhance their mission-success and open other options for engaging the enemy. The belief that technological gadgets will make war faster, more efficient, more precise and more decisive is proving to be somewhat erroneous. Gadgetry does not constitute the “magic bullet” to winning a war.
The fixation on technological superiority and its associated gadgets has led to a decline in discipline, training, leadership and battle drills and subsequently, a neglect of the human and psychological dimensions of war. Soldiers are no longer prepared for battle. Their belief that their gadgets will allow them to win is a doomed appraisal of the coming battle. When their gadgets and technology fail, their fighting spirit rapidly declines, unit cohesion is lost and morale is negatively affected.
Whereas it can be argued that both strategy and gadgetry are focussed on achieving a defined goal, the two concepts employ vastly different approaches. On the modern battlefield, technology ought to be used to enhance tactics – and not to define strategy.
The character of warfare, present and future, is continually changing. These changes are brought about by the changing weaponry, technology, counter-measures and so forth. For soldiers to cope under these unpredictable circumstances, they need to be well-trained thus allowing them to make the necessary battlefield adjustments to survive and win the battles.
Despite all the technological advancements that have been made and the gadgets available, basic intelligence on the enemy is still lacking. This has led to planners misunderstanding the nature of the looming battle and underestimating the enemy. Appreciation and plans become based on guess work. Yet, the enemy appear to learn from their mistakes and they use technology to enhance their tactics – not to determine their strategy.
It is time for the modern military machine to go back to the very basics of warfare. The enemy, his weapons and combat capabilities need to be fully appreciated and understood. Battle appreciations and plans need to be based on realistic assessments of the fighting forces that will be committed to battle. Technology must be realistically factored into all tactical plans but it should never become the driving force behind the tactics.
Nor should “strategy” ever be substituted by “gadgetry”.