In light of the spectacular performance of American high-technology weapons in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, as well as the phenomenal pace of innovation in the modern computer industry, many defense analysts have posited that we are on the threshold of a revolution in military affairs (RMA). The issue has more than semantic importance. Many RMA proponents have begun to argue for major changes in Pentagon budgetary priorities and even in American foreign policy more generally to free up resources to pursue a transformed U.S. military —and to make sure that other countries do not take advantage of the purported RMA before we do. This book takes a more measured perspective. Beginning with a survey of various types of defense technologies, it argues that while important developments are indeed under way, most impressively in electronics and computer systems, the overall thrust of contemporary military innovation is probably not of a revolutionary magnitude. Some reorientation of U.S. defense dollars is appropriate, largely to improve homeland defense and to take advantage of the promise of modern electronics systems and precision-guided munitions. But radical shifts in U.S. security policy and Pentagon budget priorities appear unwarranted —especially if those shifts would come at the expense of American military engagement in overseas defense missions from Korea to Iraq to Bosnia.
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Michael E. O'Hanlon is a senior fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, where he holds the Sydney Stein Jr. Chair. His recent books include The Future of Arms Control (Brookings, 2005; with Michael A. Levi), Neither Star Wars nor Sanctuary (Brookings, 2004), and Crisis on the Korean Peninsula (McGraw Hill, 2003; with Mike Mochizuki).Review:
"A refreshing voice of sanity on a topic marked by more than the usual amount of overstatement, sophistry, and sheer fantasy." —Kenneth Allard, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, 1/3/2001
"O'Hanlon does well to liken the current period of defense innovation to the 1920s, and to underscore the importance of research and experimentation for the future American military. " —Andrew Marshall, Director, Net Assessment, The Pentagon, The Pentagon
"This is an important book that provides a careful and nuanced perspective on trends in military technology and their implications for U.S. policy. O'Hanlon argues that it is not necessary for the Pentagon to invest in a whole new generation of weapons platforms because the mechanical technologies involved are not changing that fast, whereas he does see major change afoot in computers and the ability to network military systems to provide much greater effectiveness at modest cost. " —Frank von Hippel, Princeton University, Princeton University
"O'Hanlon's book is a good starting point." —Thomas Hamilton, RAND Corporation, Armed Forces & Society, 7/1/2001
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