Author Archive

The Hazards of Forecasting

by Jack S. Levy

International relations scholars have known for years that the last six or seven decades have been the longest period of peace between the great powers in the last five centuries of the modern system, and, depending upon whom and what you count, perhaps since the Roman Empire. Extrapolating from these and other indicators, many argue that this long peace is highly likely to persist for many years into the future. Although I am less confident that other forms of warfare will continue to decline during the next two decades, and although I suspect that peoples in many parts of the world might be puzzled by the description of the period as a “long peace,” I basically share the optimism about the low likelihood of a future great power war. My optimism is tempered, however, by the recognition that political forecasting is a hazardous business, a point that I develop in these comments.

It would be instructive to imagine the dialogue on an earlier blog on the decline of war, say 100 years ago, to pick a round number. Bloggers in August 1912 would presumably have talked about some recent books bearing on this question, including Ivan Bloch’s book subtitled Is War Now Impossible?(1899) and Norman Angell’s The Great Illusion (1910). Each argued that a war between the leading industrial powers would be long, economically devastating, and socially disruptive, and consequently not rational. The strong inference was that a future great power war was unlikely because – reflecting the logic of the Global Trends 2030 report (iv) a hundred years later – “too much would be at stake.”

Our bloggers might have gone beyond these theoretical arguments to note existing trends in war and to project those trends into the future. Looking back, they had lived through the most peaceful century on record. Perhaps using words similar to those in Allan Dafoe’s introductory comments on this blog, they may have written that “There are fewer great power wars, fewer wars in Western Europe, fewer years during which a great power war is ongoing, and less redistribution of territory after wars.” A long peace between the European great powers had persisted for over four decades, the longest such period in four centuries. A hegemonic war involving nearly all the great powers had not occurred for nearly a century. But it was not just the frequency of great power war that had been in decline. The median number of battle deaths in wars continued to decline, as did the average duration of great power war. The four great power wars since the Congress of Vienna had each lasted less than a year on average, reflecting a significant decline from the wars of previous centuries. Only one European interstate war had occurred in the last three decades (the Greco-Turkish War of 1897), and it only lasted thirty days. The frequency of civil wars had declined by half over the last four decades.

The bloggers of 1912 may have emphasized that although militarized disputes between the great powers continued to occur – over Morocco in 1905, Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908, and Agadir in 1911 – each had been resolved peacefully. This increased political leaders’ confidence that they would also be able to peacefully resolve any dispute that might arise in the future. True, some military leaders had advocated a preventive war, but those pleas had been rejected by statesmen like Bismarck. No European great power had incorporated preventive war into its national security strategy or publically used preventive logic to justify military action.

The statesmen of 1912 had other grounds for optimism. A détente continued between Great Britain and Germany, the two leading European powers in the system. That détente was motivated in part by the strong commercial and financial relationships between the two countries. In fact, Europe as a whole benefited from historically unprecedented levels of economic interdependence. This further reinforced the peace, based on the increasingly popular arguments of Norman Angell and others, that wealth was based on credit and commerce, and that territorial conquest was no longer an efficient strategy for increasing wealth.

Thus the bloggers of 1912 had reasonable grounds for forecasting a continuation of the long peace.  In fact, in many respects the quantitative trends pointing in that direction were stronger than those observed by bloggers a century later. Compared to the bloggers of 2012, the bloggers of 1912 could point to a more sustained decline in great power war and a longer period without a destructive hegemonic war.

I believe and certainly hope that the parallels between 1912 and 2012 end there. But the occurrence within two years of the Great War – which resulted in over eight million battle fatalities and which is often described as “the seminal event of the 20th century,” should be a constant reminder of the limitations of both trend-based and theory-based forecasts of the future.

 

***

Jack S. Levy is Board of Governors’ Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University. He is past president of the International Studies Association and of the Peace Science Society. His most recent books include Causes of War (2010) and The Arc of War: Origins, Escalation, and Transformation (2011), each co-authored with William R. Thompson. He is co-editor (with Leonie Huddy and David O. Sears) of the second edition of the Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology (forthcoming, 2013), and he is organizing an edited volume on the First World War.

The Arc of War

–by William R. Thompson      

Forecasting the level of conflict two decades ahead is not something we political scientists are very good at – in part because we lack appropriate theories and in part because it is hard to tell how the world will look in the future.  The 2030 report appears to use a combination of projecting current trends and relying on some key indicators such as demographics to predict declining or no conflict between great powers, states in general, and within states, subject to some reservations about the possible impact of climate deterioration, resource scarcities, ascending powers, and new weapons.

I would probably make a similar but not identical projection based on different theoretical premises.  My forecast would be based on arguments developed in The Arc of War (University of Chicago Press, 2011), an examination of the evolution of warfare since its initial appearance and co-authored with Jack S. Levy.   Levy and Thompson make six general arguments.  The first one is about the origins of war and need not concern us here.  The other five do appear to be germane.

  1. War co-evolves with other activities, including military and political organization, political economy, threat environment, and weaponry.
  2. Major changes in politico-economic complexity, in particular have led to occasional transformations in warfare.  Yet, the expansion of warfare is not inexorable. An important constraint in the escalation of warfare are its costs which have influenced strongly and negatively the probability of warfare between industrialized states in the contemporary era.
  3. The pace of change/transformations in warfare has significantly accelerated three times – first in the late fourth to early third millennium BCE, then in the last half of the first millennium BCE, and again in the second half of the second millennium CE.
  4. The attempt to centralize regional political-military power is one of the major drivers of periods of acceleration and transformation, especially in the third acceleration, which was concentrated in the Western trajectory.
  5. Much of the world did not experience the third acceleration directly (other than as targets) and remains more agrarian than industrial.  As a consequence, states outside of the western trajectory tend to be weaker, vulnerable to internal warfare, and prone to fight fewer and shorter interstate wars.

Thus, warfare between industrialized major powers should continue to be regarded as too costly and therefore not very likely in the next few decades.  Interstate warfare should also continue to be infrequent mainly because most states lack the resources to engage in it for very long.   But we would expect intrastate warfare to continue more or less at current levels because so many states are vulnerable to coercive challenges at the domestic level.  Since drought and oil/water shortages seem likely and most likely to occur in places that are least able to cope with such problems, anticipating limited interstate warfare may prove to be optimistic.  But the increased problems caused by climate and scarcities may at least tell us which parts of the world are most likely to experience conflict in the near future.

***

William R. Thompson is Distinguished Professor and Donald A. Rogers Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington.  He also is Managing Editor of International Studies Quarterly. Recent books include Asian Rivalries: Conflict, Escalation, and Limitations on Two-Level GamesHandbook of International Rivalries, 1494-2010, and The Arc of War: Origins, Escalation and Transformation.  Forthcoming next year are How Rivalries End and Transition Scenarios: China and the United States in the Twenty-first Century.

Migration would seem to one of the least promising areas for global governance, but factors might emerge out of left field in the period to 2030 that could improve the prospects.

Global governance of migration seems far off.  Trends are hard to determine, with flows driven by economic, demographic, security, climate-related and political push and pull factors.  Adverse consequences of migration are borne unevenly, and concerns about migration often involve dyads or groupings of sending and receiving countries, often with little national incentives to widen their issues to broader forums.  National approaches have tended to dominate, with states eager to protect their prerogatives, less than completely willing to admit deficiencies in enforcement or demand for labor for their informal economies.  Weak countries that incur adverse consequences have little clout with more powerful sending or receiving countries.  Countries that might lead global governance issues would have to contend with “glass house” issues before trying to induce others to collective action.  If all this were not enough, adverse consequences and the net outcome of costs and benefits are notoriously hard to measure.  For example, erosion of social cohesion as a consequence of migration is hard to weigh against benefits of labor migration.  It is unclear who will be the future advocates of global governance of migration, if there are any.  It may be the closest we collectively get is a spaghetti-like network of bilateral commitments, conventions on standards, and side deals.

Global governance perhaps has come farthest for human trafficking, but with its criminal dimension, this is only partially a migration issue.  Human trafficking may be unique in the traction it gets because of shared concern or compassion for victims.

All that said, some form of global governance of migration would be rational for nation-states, because of the prospect for overall improvement in economic performance, and cross-cutting human rights.  Perhaps the strongest argument is that migration shocks will inevitably come, and they could be cross-regional or global in scope.  Some form or efforts are global governance could provide a rehearsal stage for cooperation in times of migration shock. Shocks of sufficient magnitude could even kick global governance of migration forward, with the right set of actors involved.

One big open question concerns the sources of future advocacy for global governance of migration.  Who will the strongest advocates be and will they have some common backgrounds?  Of nation-states do not champion improved governance of migration, will others?

There could be an intersection with the trend in which there are many more cosmopolitans globally, with fewer and weaker attachments to nation-states?  Globally, we could see more citizenship a la carte,including dual citizenship, with extensive freedom of action for this special kind of migrant.  Some of these cosmopolitans will primarily have economic motivations and incentives.  They will have strong preferences for lifestyle residences, flexible citizenship, and venue shopping for attractive public finance and investment arrangements.  However, there also will normative cosmopolitans, with sophisticated insider critiques of both the West and of emerging economies, with nuanced interpretation of home countries challenges, including challenges and human costs of unregulated migration. The counter argument is that successful advocates of global migration would need strong roots in the domestic politics of major player countries to work.  Normative cosmopolitans would likely not, under today’s circumstances at least.

Robert O. is one of the Research Directors in the National Intelligence Council’s Strategic Futures Group, with a portfolio covering governance, democratization, and migration.

Mega-cities and Migrants

Between now and 2030, urban conglomerations will likely continue to be magnets for migration, including continued internal rural-to-urban migration in the developing world, urban-to-urban migration of poor people between neighboring countries, and migration of people to cities in Europe, and in strong emerging economies. Migration could easily add to the stresses on urban governance that already exist.  Mega-cities will cover hundreds of square miles, with increasing complex mixing of socio-economic classes in concentric circles from city nuclei to vast urban peripheries. A few key questions come to mind on the intersection of urban growth and politics, and all three involve migrants.

Is the supply of institutions and leaders for urban governance likely to meet the demand?  Demand for sound urban governance is likely to be intense.  There will be a premium on problem-solving for resource management, including food and water security, environmental standards, and working across seams in law enforcement because of their critical importance to the welfare of urban dwellers, including many migrants.

Under the right circumstances, people in mega-cities are likely to take the initiative to supply sound urban governance. Many examples already exist of grass-roots innovation and creativity; in fact, within the territories of almost-failed states, the city and local governance structures are often the best organized and most competent.

However, the ability of cities to take such initiatives will likely be dependent on how they are able to navigate public finance and their abilities to draw revenues from economic activities in cities and not losing those revenues to higher levels of government or to patronage.   Cities will seek effective workarounds to tap the revenues from large informal economies in cities, and using those revenues to improve services.  This is bound to involve accounting for and incorporating large numbers of internal or international migrants, without challenging their presence or residency.  Geo-demographic mapping—facilitated by ICT, could enable good characterizations of urban residents and neighborhoods.  Will city residents come to have a sense of agency that catalyzes problem-solving or will survival instincts dominate?

Are people likely to work across jurisdictions or borders to improve urban governance?  Policy coherence or coordination among cities within a country could give them leverage against central governments. In some cases, people from cities in adjoining countries could have more in common than with co-citizens from elsewhere in their respective countries, potentially mediated by migrants with ties to several countries. Moreover, shared interests between urban actors and international actors, such as NGOs, could empower urban areas and motivate actions to improve problem-solving in mega-cities. While sovereignty barriers between countries could prevent coordinated actions or cross-learning, barriers could be overcome by the public demand for problem-solving and the cross-nation affinities of many urban-dwellers.  Will workarounds prevail?

Will urban migrant concentrations act as incubators for political change or emergence of political entrepreneurs? Concentrations of migrants could catalyze social mobilization among urban residents, including creative ways to harness informal economies or foster political decentralization. Rural to urban migration also has played a role in revolutions in places as historically diverse as 1848 Europe, 1978/79 Iran, and the 2011 Arab Awakening.  People in urban areas and their vast urban peripheries could have more exposure to economic inequalities, more incentive to shake the system, and more access to new ideas than their co-citizens. The presence of large numbers of migrants could facilitate contagion of ideas across cities in unexpected ways, including ideas for improved governance.  Can social and political mobilization occur in ways that avoid blaming migrants?

Robert O. is one of the Research Directors in the National Intelligence Council’s Strategic Futures Group, with a portfolio covering governance, democratization, and migration.

The potential for persistent instability in North Africa, the Levant, and South Asia clearly has high stakes for Western Europe, for lots of reasons, but foremost because of the prospect for increased migration from Muslim-majority countries.  This trend will likely reshape Western European society and politics.

With low projected economic growth, Western Europe would have many challenges with current levels of immigrant flows and immigrant residents.  Assuming that Western European fertility remains at sub-replacement levels, countries can expect to experience a rapid shift in ethnic composition, particularly around urban areas. While Western Europe’s future of demographic aging and declines in its working-age population should enhance immigrants’ job opportunities, labor market and workplace policies could continue to dampen formal-sector job growth. When coupled with job discrimination and educational disadvantage, these factors will confine many immigrants to low-status, low-wage jobs, and result in deepening societal cleavages.

  • The growing presence of Muslim communities in Western European countries has already triggered contentious debate over policies affecting human rights, group rights, education, women’s rights, freedom of expression, and the relationship between the state and religion.
  • Despite a sizable stratum of integrated Muslims across Western Europe, a subset will increasingly identify with Muslim communities that are relatively closed to outsiders, valuing their separation as distinct communities, oriented toward Muslim-specific rights and privileges, with some driven by a sense of alienation, grievance and injustice.
  • It may be that Western European governments, and political systems, could meet with limited success in managing integration of resident Muslims. Part of the challenge will likely be a surplus of policy goals—from mitigating radicalization to engendering adoption of shared values of tolerance and individual human rights, to respecting majority community values, and respecting minority community values. The skill and subtlety required to reconcile these diverse goals and implement programs with broad public support across multiple jurisdictions of government could well be beyond the capacity of most Western European states and their political systems.

Debates over Muslim-related social policies are almost certain to influence the structure and texture of the European political environment.  Even without increased levels of migration, Western Europeans face wrenching tasks of rewriting of social contracts and adaptation of political systems.  The presence of large Muslim minorities in Western Europe, as voters and as non-voting residents, will give these tasks a normative dimension that will hard to avoid.  It is a massive open question whether Europe’s rich and complex history of reconciling religion and the state will be a net hindrance or a net asset.

Robert O. is one of the Research Directors in the National Intelligence Council’s Strategic Futures Group, with a portfolio covering governance, democratization, and migration.

New trends involving global migration?

In the period to 2030, I expect the powerful motivations that induced people to migrate in last 20 years are expected to persist.  The motivations of migrants will be shaped by both push and pull factors—pressure to exit and attraction of destination countries—resulting in increasing numbers of  migrants going to emerging economies with growing middle classes in Asia, Africa and Latin America.  Massive cities with informal economies and technology centers will likely have magnetic-like attraction for both internal migrants and people from poorer countries.

  • Migrants will continue to be pushed from their origin countries by environmental stress, including climate change, by war, civil conflict and crime, and by ethnic rivalries and discrimination.  Survival will motivate many to move, despite marginalization of refugees in destination countries.
  • Migrant motivations also will be powerfully shaped by pull factors, such as the attractions of greater wages, improved life chances, opportunity to better use their skills and education, and chances to influence their origin countries as part of cohesive Diasporas.  People affected by pull factors will range from low-skilled agricultural and service workers to top flight scientists and engineers.  Successful migration experiences of earlier migrants will feed motivations of others to take their chances, especially among women with constrained life chances in their home countries.

It is worth considering seven potential trends involving global migration:

  1. Proliferation of border control and immigrant identification technologies, to track not only flows across borders, but also activities of resident immigrants. Increased use, maintenance of data bases for residents, citizens for access to services.  There will likely be a related increase in opportunities for corruption, cyber intrusions, and false documentation.  Technologies could give governments capabilities they really don’t want to implement, especially for large informal economies.  Workarounds will abound.
  2. Sharp increase in emerging economies as immigrant destinations.  Labor migrants will take advantage of vibrant economic growth and large, urban informal economies, even if the environments portend social stresses.  Governments grapple with how to accommodate immigration as both a source of economic growth and of social tension. Efforts to introduce gradations in immigrant citizenship status (as in Roman imperial efforts to give legal status to peoples from the periphery). Where will middle class interests come down? 
  3. Aging societies will find ways to make labor migration work. Aging populations and mismatches between education and labor demand will make labor migration more important to economic performance. In these aging societies, private sectors will likely sustain and increase demand for migrant labor—for both low-skill and high-skill or professional workers, even if politically and culturally sensitive.  Despite episodic efforts to rein in migration, governments will generally be both unable to withstand private sector influences favoring migration and unable to systematically track and regulate individuals migrants.  Are backlashes inevitable?
  4. Intensified debate over status of labor immigrants and refugees in advanced social welfare states. We should expect increased social mobilization, legal maneuvering and NGO activities over rights and obligations of immigrants.  How immigrants relate to preexisting social contracts will become an increasingly important issue.  Will private sectors that need labor mount campaigns to support immigration and even immigrant rights?
  5. Tensions, frictions between government jurisdictions over migration. We should expect to see divergent goals and incentives of national and provincial or local governments, with increased efforts of urban jurisdictions to extract revenue from informal economies with extensive immigrant participation. Different jurisdictions will bear different kinds of costs for migration. We are likely to see increased attention to the obligations of residency, as opposed to citizenship, with lots of contention over which part of society can articulate such obligations.  Educational standards for new migrants will likely be contested.  Could inconsistencies between jurisdictions persist for years?
  6. Increased recognition by national and sub-national governments of reputational advantages of having immigrant rights and “the right to have rights” (Arendt), at least for the highly skilled.  National reputations will be a determinant of flows and, recruitment of talent and could increasingly seen as a factor in economic performance.  Can we expect a global market for highly skilled, mobile people?
  7. Increased government-to-government cooperation over labor migration. We could see some nascent global governance mechanisms, and increased incentives for governments to bind themselves in bilateral or multilateral institutions, conventions or protocols, in order to (1) gain leverage with domestic constituencies over migration issues, and (2) gain reciprocity from signatory nations. Implementing and monitoring such agreements will be difficult, contentious, and touch sensitivities regarding sovereignty.  Would brain drain or brain gain be among the first issues to be addressed?

Robert O. is one of the Research Directors in the National Intelligence Council’s Strategic Futures Group, with a portfolio covering governance, democratization, and migration.

By Owen R. Coté, Jr.

Modern military technology can make fixed, non-hardened land targets essentially indefensible from conventional attack. US forces have already exploited this revolution by embracing standoff weapons with guidance that integrates signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites and miniaturized inertial navigation systems (INS). China is emulating this development with the mobile missiles of its Second Artillery Force deployed along the littoral of its Inner Seas. More recently, spurred on by the demands of the War on Terror, US forces have also greatly increased their ability to detect, identify, and locate a variety of land-mobile targets by creating networks of persistent sensors that can cue attacks by precision weapons. Today, these networks depend on non-stealthy, air breathing sensor platforms and relatively insecure communication links, and debate has already begun regarding how, if at all, to replicate these capabilities in a peer competition with an opponent that possesses modern air defenses and electronic warfare capabilities. At the same time, China, like the Soviet Union before it, is taking the first serious steps toward a mobile target capability of its own, albeit one that is focused on anti-ship attacks to deny access by US naval forces to the Western Pacific.

Beginning from a very low base in the mid-1990s, China’s rapid military modernization has consistently been informed by the realization that fixed targets have become terminally vulnerable. By contrast, much US force structure, and particularly land-based tactical aviation, is a legacy of an era when alliances and geography enabled the construction of many hardened and dispersed bases near the opponent, and in which precision, conventional attack by weapons like Tomahawk were not a threat. Neither condition applies in the Western Pacific today or will apply in the future.

Two significant but different doctrinal challenges result, one for the Air Force and one for the Navy. The Air Force is in the midst of a phase where it’s internal organizational hierarchy, and therefore resource allocation, is out of synch with the demands of the future military competition. Fighter pilots, and particularly those who specialize in air-to-air combat, still dominate the Air Force, while longer range bombers and surveillance platforms, whose pilots and operators have much lower status in the organization, are under-funded relative to demand. As Thomas Ehrhard has shown, these hierarchies within the Air Force tend to be more pronounced and self-sustaining than in the other services. Thus, the bomber community retained control of the Air Force long after the switch from Massive Retaliation to Flexible Response made the fighters of Tactical Air Command its most important contribution, and the reverse is happening now when long range strike and persistence surveillance are central to answering the A2/AD challenge.

The Navy’s challenge is different. The Navy needs to make the transition back to a force equipped and trained first and foremost to gain command of the sea from a force that has been able to take command for granted for almost 25 years. Contrary to much current debate, this does not threaten the continued viability and relevance of aircraft carriers, surface ships, or submarines. Rather, it requires that those platforms adopt new sensors and weapons, and more intensely combine their arms in order to achieve traditional ends under modern conditions. One example of the type of doctrinal innovation envisaged would be for the submarine community to embrace the destruction of enemy air defenses (DEAD) mission.  This would require two sets of developments.  First, submarines would need to possess and deploy organic networks of electronic intelligence (ELINT) sensors to identify and precisely locate the mobile radars necessary to the functioning of modern air defenses. Second, they would need to deploy tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) that can quickly strike those radars after the briefest emissions and before they relocate (for more on this particular concept, see http://www.informationdissemination.net/2012/06/how-will-new-submarine-sensors-and.html). Together with cruise missile strikes against discrete ocean surveillance systems such as over-the-horizon (OTH) radars, submarines could create the conditions needed for carriers and their air wings to operate safely within the outer rings of an advanced A2/AD network.

In general, the emerging Air Sea battle concept will likely involve intensifying combined arms operations across different domains.  (This will certainly be an aspect of future anti-submarine warfare operations – see http://web.mit.edu/ssp/publications/working_papers/Undersea%20Balance%20WP11-1.pdf.) New cross-domain combined arms operations will require innovation in both technology and doctrine, and it is the obstacles to doctrinal innovation that likely will pose the largest challenge.

Owen R. Coté, Jr. is Associate Director of the Security Studies Program at MIT

By Owen R. Coté, Jr.

Modern military technology can make fixed, non-hardened land targets essentially indefensible from conventional attack. US forces have already exploited this revolution by embracing standoff weapons with guidance that integrates signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites and miniaturized inertial navigation systems (INS). China is emulating this development with the mobile missiles of its Second Artillery Force deployed along the littoral of its Inner Seas. More recently, spurred on by the demands of the War on Terror, US forces have also greatly increased their ability to detect, identify, and locate a variety of land-mobile targets by creating networks of persistent sensors that can cue attacks by precision weapons. Today, these networks depend on non-stealthy, air breathing sensor platforms and relatively insecure communication links, and debate has already begun regarding how, if at all, to replicate these capabilities in a peer competition with an opponent that possesses modern air defenses and electronic warfare capabilities. At the same time, China, like the Soviet Union before it, is taking the first serious steps toward a mobile target capability of its own, albeit one that is focused on anti-ship attacks to deny access by US naval forces to the Western Pacific.

Beginning from a very low base in the mid-1990s, China’s rapid military modernization has consistently been informed by the realization that fixed targets have become terminally vulnerable. By contrast, much US force structure, and particularly land-based tactical aviation, is a legacy of an era when alliances and geography enabled the construction of many hardened and dispersed bases near the opponent, and in which precision, conventional attack by weapons like Tomahawk were not a threat. Neither condition applies in the Western Pacific today or will apply in the future.

Two significant but different doctrinal challenges result, one for the Air Force and one for the Navy. The Air Force is in the midst of a phase where it’s internal organizational hierarchy, and therefore resource allocation, is out of synch with the demands of the future military competition. Fighter pilots, and particularly those who specialize in air-to-air combat, still dominate the Air Force, while longer range bombers and surveillance platforms, whose pilots and operators have much lower status in the organization, are under-funded relative to demand. As Thomas Ehrhard has shown, these hierarchies within the Air Force tend to be more pronounced and self-sustaining than in the other services. Thus, the bomber community retained control of the Air Force long after the switch from Massive Retaliation to Flexible Response made the fighters of Tactical Air Command its most important contribution, and the reverse is happening now when long range strike and persistence surveillance are central to answering the A2/AD challenge.

The Navy’s challenge is different. The Navy needs to make the transition back to a force equipped and trained first and foremost to gain command of the sea from a force that has been able to take command for granted for almost 25 years. Contrary to much current debate, this does not threaten the continued viability and relevance of aircraft carriers, surface ships, or submarines. Rather, it requires that those platforms adopt new sensors and weapons, and more intensely combine their arms in order to achieve traditional ends under modern conditions. One example of the type of doctrinal innovation envisaged would be for the submarine community to embrace the destruction of enemy air defenses (DEAD) mission.  This would require two sets of developments.  First, submarines would need to possess and deploy organic networks of electronic intelligence (ELINT) sensors to identify and precisely locate the mobile radars necessary to the functioning of modern air defenses. Second, they would need to deploy tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) that can quickly strike those radars after the briefest emissions and before they relocate (for more on this particular concept, seehttp://www.informationdissemination.net/2012/06/how-will-new-submarine-sensors-and.html). Together with cruise missile strikes against discrete ocean surveillance systems such as over-the-horizon (OTH) radars, submarines could create the conditions needed for carriers and their air wings to operate safely within the outer rings of an advanced A2/AD network.

In general, the emerging Air Sea battle concept will likely involve intensifying combined arms operations across different domains.  (This will certainly be an aspect of future anti-submarine warfare operations – see http://web.mit.edu/ssp/publications/working_papers/Undersea%20Balance%20WP11-1.pdf.) New cross-domain combined arms operations will require innovation in both technology and doctrine, and it is the obstacles to doctrinal innovation that likely will pose the largest challenge.

Owen R. Coté, Jr. is Associate Director of the Security Studies Program at MIT.

By Dima Adamsky

How is the Russian military likely to evolve in the context of the continuing diffusion of the precision strike, information technology (IT) “revolution in military affairs” (RMA) in various forms, and the likelihood of further nuclear proliferation by 2030? The current Russian approach to dealing with strategic challenges emanating from advanced conventional militaries may inform our thinking about this question. For the last two decades Russian doctrinal publications, official statements, and military theoreticians have mentioned the non-strategic nuclear arsenal as a counter to the conventional military threat from IT RMA-type NATO militaries. In the theater of military operations, the Russian nuclear arsenal’s mission is to deter, and if deterrence were to fail, to terminate large-scale conventional aggression through limited nuclear use. Among other scenarios, this nuclear countermeasure is imagined as a credible option against US Prompt Global Strike. Given the very slow procurement of Russian long-range precision guided munitions, and due to the significant backwardness of Russian command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities, a non-nuclear alternative against precision strike is a very distant and improbable prospect for the Russian military.

What if, toward 2030, more states on Russia’s borders become nuclear, and what if the diffusion of precision strike capabilities gathers momentum among Russia’s neighbors? Russia will be forced to deal not only with NATO and the US Prompt Global Strike, but also with the advanced conventional capabilities of the small and big non-NATO neighboring militaries. Russia’s arsenal of non-strategic nuclear weapons is unsatisfactory for missions demanding precision, cleanness, and low collateral damage. If, by 2030, Russia is unable to transform its armed forces into a sophisticated reconnaissance-strike complex and to bridge the gap with other IT RMA-type militaries, it is possible that it will opt for a solution in the area of a new generation of nuclear weapons.

Futuristic works by several Russian military theorists and nuclear scientists already call for the development of a new generation of usable nuclear weapons. These fourth generation nuclear weapons (FGNW) can be realistically used on the battlefield due to their tailored effects that ensure low ecological and political consequences. Theoretically, FGNW rely on non-fission means to trigger a low-yield fusion reaction. Hypothetically, they can be developed without a test, thus without violating the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Lower yields and lower radiation fallout levels will minimize collateral damage, and will offer potential solutions against big and small powers that are superior in the field of precision strike capabilities. Also, FGNW may provide effective deterrence and military options vis-à-vis unstable and rogue nuclear-armed state and non-state actors.

What if ideas about a new generation of nuclear munitions and accompanying doctrinal concepts materialize into an actual military posture?  What happens if these doctrinal and scientific ideas proliferate to other nuclear powers, or the latter emulate them? This imagined second nuclear RMA might have major implications for international politics. Presumably, the current nuclear taboo norm would erode, significantly transforming the nature of future warfare. A shift in perception would make nuclear weapons usable, legitimate, and a strategically desired battlefield tool, and thus would lower the nuclear threshold level. This, in turn, may stimulate a new era of nuclear competition and arms racing.

It is unclear how expensive and complicated the adoption of this class of munitions would be for current and prospective owners of military and civilian nuclear programs. Although developing FGNW would be a significant scientific-technological challenge demanding political will and financial investment, it may be more feasible than one would expect. In principle, one may realistically imagine technology transfers, doctrinal diffusion, and adoption capacity pertaining to such capabilities among and the old and new members of the nuclear club. Deterrence models and campaign designs based on FGNW may be immediately useful for China and Pakistan, along with other states in East Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere, as a countermeasure against adversaries possessing various forms of conventional precision or nuclear capabilities.

Dr. Dmitry (Dima) Adamsky is Assistant Professor, School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy, IDC Herzliya.

Trends in the Security Environment

The draft Global Trends 2030 report states that “the risks of interstate conflict are increasing,” partly because “the next 15-20 years will see a wider spectrum of more accessible instruments of war.”  How will this broadening of the spectrum affect how different states approach military competition and conflict?  What will be the impact on the global balance of military power?  The draft report outlines several ongoing competitions – including “anti-access vs. access” and “nuclear disfavor vs. nuclear renaissance” – relevant to the ability of the United States to project force and protect its friends and allies.  This week the blog’s attention turns to the trends underlying these competitions and their implications over the next two decades.

We will hear from a variety of subject matter experts based in the United States and other countries.  All of the contributors will respond to the question of how the diffusion of conventional precision strike capabilities and potential further nuclear proliferation are likely to affect the security environment of 2030.    Some posts will focus on the conventional dimension, and others on the nuclear side; still others will attempt a synthesis, analyzing how conventional and nuclear trends may interact.  Contributors will offer their perspectives as experts on a particular country, military service branch, or domain of conflict.

How should we knit together these contributions into an understanding of the net impact on the security environment?  Integration is more an art than a science.  It is difficult enough to forecast how trends based purely on material factors may interact or be disrupted, but in the case of the future security environment, we are dealing with factors of organizational and strategic culture that, together with technological capacity, will shape how military force is conceived and employed from country to country, in peacetime, during a crisis, or in war.  Unfortunately, there is no simple formula or established methodology for anticipating the outcome of the interaction of the various capabilities and concepts of operation that different states will adopt.  We must also acknowledge that the diffusion of conventional precision strike and nuclear proliferation are not the only trends relevant to the future security environment.  Still, they are at least among the dominant factors that will shape the outcome of military competition and conflict in the coming decades. Even if we can’t give a definitive answer to questions such as how the United States will project power or extend deterrence to friends and allies in 2030, the importance of the subject compels us to do our best to begin to outline the dominant alternative possibilities.