The Sword’s Other Edge: Tradeoffs in the Pursuit of Military Effectiveness
The Sword’s Other Edge establishes various compromises that come about in the pursuit of military power. The idea that pursuing military power can boomerang recalls the Vietnam War, when the use of American firepower in the attempt to crush the Communist threat failed, and backfired. Currently, debates about drone strikes center on possible tradeoffs, as some fear that these attacks create more new insurgents than they kill.
The essays in this edited volume give insight into tradeoffs made and help readers better understand critical foreign policy issues we face in 2017 and beyond.
How can insurgents like ISIS be defeated?
Though the ISIS threat in Iraq is being squashed, insurgencies in India, Afghanistan, and elsewhere rage on. Joseph Felter’s chapter explains exactly what kinds of government forces are most effective at confronting insurgent forces, making use of his years of experience in the US military helping fight the Philippines insurgency.
Can artificial intelligence and next generation robotics transform our militaries as they have for manufacturing and transportation, expanding our military power?
We often think of drones when we hear ‘military robotics’, but today’s drones are piloted by humans, and future (and some current) weapons systems will be operated by computers. Michael Horowitz’s chapter is the most extensive, on-point essay to date on the critical topic of military robotics. He describes what is now available and what is currently on the drawing board, and what these technologies likely can and cannot do. Readers will be shocked to learn what is already deployed, and what is nearly possible.
Why can’t we simply invade North Korea to eliminate its nuclear threat and depose of their dangerous leadership?
The Caitlin Talmadge chapter carefully unpacks the dangers of using even just conventional forces against a nuclear adversary, and why nuclear weapons help neutralize conventional military power.
How does a democracy’s concern for minimizing friendly casualties constrain its military power?
This issue crops up every time the US or any other democracy considers using force, even for humanitarian missions. We expect that freedom helps make democratic societies more powerful, but does making elected leaders beholden to public opinion force them to fight with one hand behind their backs to avoid excessive bloodshed? The essay by Emanuele Castelli and Lorenzo Zambernardi explores this issue in great depth, looking at historical experience before, during, and after the Cold War to explain how casualty sensitivity affects military planning and operations.
These are only a few of the several essays that will help readers better understand foreign and military policy past, present, and future.