The relationship between technology and power is rather complex. There are numerous theories that technological advancement is the key to strength and prosperity – in parts of the world where such evolution did not occur, political institutions and therefore economies developed less (Diamond 1999). Technological evolution has especially revolutionized America’s modern military, as well as the military capabilities of other nations. Since today’s world no longer exhibits a Soviet Union, newer threats have emerged, particularly in the form of radical terrorism, but also by the assertiveness of China, Russia and India, who possess technologically advanced weaponry too.
World War II marked the beginning of a new age, with the creation of the nuclear bomb, as well as revolutions in aviation, mechanization and information (Krepinevitch 2006). There are various instances in history of major shifts in technology which almost coincide with changes in the nature of warfare. Perhaps America’s military and technological superiority have created the current scenario in which the only global hegemony, the US lacks a coherent “enemy” or “threat” in the form of a state. Rather, this modern counterforce is splintered into terrorist networks across the globe.
The modern technological shift has taken the form of unmanned drones, as well as long-distance warheads. Drones have enabled policymakers in the US to conduct military operations without employing any troops. A prime and often cited example of this is the use of US drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan both for surveillance and to eliminate targets – but this tactic has arguably not changed the trajectory of US policy. Rather, it has refined it by further exploiting the technological primitiveness of the opposition. Two other factors limit the vast influence which the Revolution in Miliary Affairs could affect policy – the accountability of American democracy & perhaps more ambiguously America’s moral idealism. Together, these two traditions have arguably helped to limit indiscriminate use of modern military means. Furthermore, the War in Iraq demonstrates how nation-states are willing to employ troops on the ground despite technology superiority over their enemies. Perhaps this implies that policy is less motivated by technological advancement and more by the threat of attack as well as economic interest.
Jared Diamond. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. WW Norton & Company (1999).
Andrew F. Krepinevich, “Cavalry to Computer: The Pattern of Military Revolutions,”The National Interest (Fall 1994), 37: 30-42. http://wwe.jstor.org/stable/42896863