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Revolution in Military Affairs


Revolution in Military Affairs

The United States military and others. Broadly stated, RMA claims that in certain periods of the history of mankind, there were new doctrines, strategies, tactics and technologies which led to an irrevocable change in conduct of warfare. Furthermore, those changes require an accelerated adaptation of novel doctrines and strategies.

Especially tied to modern information, communications, and space technology, RMA is often linked to current discussions under the label of Transformation and total systems integration in the U.S. military.


  • History 1
    • Renewed interest 1.1
  • Areas of focus 2
  • Criticism 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


The original theorizing was done by the Soviet Armed Forces in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly by Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov.[1] The United States initially became interested in it through Andrew Marshall, the head of the Office of Net Assessment, a Department of Defense think tank. It slowly gained credence within official military circles, and other nations began exploring similar shifts in organization and technology.

Interest in RMA and the structure of future U.S. armed forces is strong within the Canada, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Republic of China (Taiwan), India, Russia, and Germany—but not all militaries due to the significant infrastructure and investment involved.

Renewed interest

The United States' victory in the 1991 Gulf War renewed interest in RMA theory. In the view of RMA proponents, American dominance through superior technology emphasized how the United States' technological advances reduced the relative power of the Iraqi military, by no means an insignificant rival, to insignificance. According to Stephen Biddle, part of the growth in popularity of the RMA theory after the Gulf War was that virtually all American military experts drastically over-estimated the coalition casualty count. This led many experts to assume that their models of war were wrong—that a revolution of sorts had occurred.[2]

After the Kosovo War, in which the United States did not lose a single life, others suggested that war had become too sterile, creating a "virtual war". Furthermore, the United States' inability to capture Osama bin Laden or effectively combat the Iraqi insurgency led some to question RMA in the face of asymmetrical warfare, which the United States' foes may increasingly engage in to counter RMA's advantages.

In 1997, the U.S. Army mounted an exercise codenamed "Force 21", to test the application of digital technologies in warfare in order to improve communications and logistics by applying private-sector technologies adapted for military use. Specifically, it sought to increase awareness of one's position on the battlefield as well as the enemy's, in order to achieve increased lethality for enemies, greater control of the tempo of warfare, and fewer instances of friendly fire via improved identification friend or foe.[3]

Areas of focus

One of the central problems in understanding the current debate over RMA is due to many theorists' use of the term as referring to the globalization and the end of the Cold War.

When reviewing the gamut of theories, three fundamental versions of RMA come to the forefront. The first perspective focuses primarily upon changes in the nation-state and the role of an organised military in using force. This approach highlights the political, social, and economic factors worldwide, which might require a completely different type of military and organisational structure to apply force in the future.

Authors such as the RAND Corporation's Sean J. A. Edwards (advocate of BattleSwarm tactics, a type of military swarming), Carl H. Builder and Lt. Col. Ralph Peters emphasized the decline of the nation-state, the nature of the emerging international order, and the different types of forces needed in the near future.

The second perspective—most commonly assigned the term RMA—highlights the evolution of military doctrine among advanced powers. This "System of Systems" perspective on RMA has been ardently supported by Admiral William Owens, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who identified three overlapping areas for force assets. These are intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, command, control, communications and intelligence processing, and precision force.

Advanced versions of RMA incorporate other sophisticated technologies, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), nanotechnology, robotics, and biotechnology. Recently, the RMA debate focussed on "network-centric warfare" which is a doctrine that aims to connect all troops on the battlefield.

Finally, the third concept is that a "true" revolution in military affairs has not yet occurred or is unlikely to. Authors such as Michael E. O'Hanlon and Frederick Kagan, point to the fact much of the technology and weapons systems ascribed to the contemporary RMA were in development long before 1991 and the Internet and information technology boom.

Several critics point out that a "revolution" within the military ranks might carry detrimental consequences, produce severe economic strain, and ultimately prove counterproductive. Such authors tend to profess a much more gradual "evolution" in military affairs, as opposed to a rapid revolution.


The revolution of military affairs is the inclusion and expansion of new technology—e.g., drones, satellite imaging, and remotely operated vehicles—within current military tactics. RMA has generally been praised for its ability to reduce casualty rates and facilitate intelligence gathering. On the other hand, critics argue that RMA serves to further dissociate soldiers from the horrific realities of warfare, while other maintain that RMA restricts the overall understanding of warfare and its dynamics.[4] Scholars recommend a gaining a critical understanding of RMA before implementing it.

Operation Desert Storm is considered the first major global conflict successfully implementing RMA and is considered a paragon of future military operations due to the low casualty rate and the U.S. military's speed and precision. On the other hand, others claim that RMA technology severely inhibited the U.S. military's ability to respond to guerrilla tactics and that efforts to incorporate advanced weapons like patriot missiles were unsuccessful.[4] Indeed, a number of epistemological issues have cropped up.

In the wake of RMA technology such as drones, unmanned ground vehicles, and clean bombs, there are several concerns about the distanciation and disassociation that eclipse the realities of war. A gendered analysis of tactical strikes reveals that while the number of one's own soldiers may be preserved, as the number of long-range attacks increases, so does collateral damage.[4] Furthermore, by removing the soldier-on-soldier element to warfare, the natural reactions and consequences of wartime actions is impacted, which has been frequently referred to as the removal of humanity from war. RMA technological advances have resulted in a dehumanizing of warfare, which negatively effects the decisions made by officers, as well as individuals in the field.[4] A feminist critique argues that RMA's good intentions notwithstanding, the resulting collateral damage is unacceptable and thus urges more careful consideration in incorporating RMA technology.[4]

Stephen Biddle's 2004 book, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern War, discounts the idea of RMA. He argues that military doctrine and tactics are far more important to battle outcomes in modern warfare than technological progress is, and that basic doctrine has changed little since the second half of World War I.[5]

See also

US military-specific:


  1. ^ Steven Metz, James Kievit. "Strategy and the Revolution in Military Affairs: From Theory to Policy" June 27, 1995
  2. ^ Biddle, Stephen (2006). Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. p. 20.  
  3. ^ The United States Army 1995 Modernization Plan. Force 21
  4. ^ a b c d e Blanchard, Eric M. (2011). The Technoscience Question in Feminist International Relations: Unmanning the U.S. War on Terror. London: Routledge. 
  5. ^ Cohen, Eliot A (June 2005). "Stephen Biddle on Military Power". Journal of Strategic Studies 28 (3): 413–424.  

Further reading

  • Alexander, John B., Future War: Non-Lethal Weapons in Twenty-First-Century Warfare, New York, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Griffin, 1999 ISBN 0-312-26739-8
  • Arquilla, John and David F. Ronfeldt (eds.), In Athena's Camp: Preparing for Conflict in the Information Age, Santa Monica, CA, RAND Corporation, 1997 ISBN 0-8330-2514-7
  • Barnett, Thomas P.M., The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century, New York & London, Penguin, 2004 ISBN 0-399-15175-3
  • Broad, William, Judith Miller and Stephen Engelberg, Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War, New York, Simon & Schuster, 2001 ISBN 0-684-87159-9
  • DerDerian, James, Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network, Westview Press Inc. 2001 ISBN 0-8133-9794-4
  • Edwards, Sean A. J., Swarming on the Battlefield: Past, Present, and Future, Palo Alto, CA, RAND Research, 2000 ISBN 0-8330-2779-4
  • Gongora, Thierry and Harald von Riekhoff (eds.), Toward a Revolution in Military Affairs?: Defense and Security at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century, Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 2000 ISBN 0-313-31037-8
  • Gray, Colin S., Strategy for Chaos: Revolutions in Military Affairs and The Evidence of History, London, Frank Cass, 2004 ISBN 0-7146-8483-X
  • Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, Hamish Hamilton, 2005 ISBN 0-241-14240-7
  • Henrotin, Joseph, La technologie militaire en question, Paris, Economica, 2008.
  • Kagan, Donald and Frederick W. Kagan, While America Sleeps: Self-Delusion, Military Weakness and the Threat to Peace Today, New York, St. Martin's Griffin, 2000 ISBN 0-312-28374-1
  • Knox, MacGregor and Williamson Murray (eds.), The Dynamics of Military Revolution 1300-2050, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001 ISBN 978-0-521-80079-2
  • Krames, Jeffrey A., The Rumsfeld Way, New York & Chicago, McGraw-Hill, 2002 ISBN 0-07-140641-7
  • Landa, Manuel de, War in the Age of Intelligent Machines, New York, Zone Books, 1991 ISBN 0-942299-76-0
  • Rumsfeld, Donald H., Transforming the Military, in: Foreign Affairs, vol. 81, No. 3, May/June, 2002, pp. 20–32.
  • Ugtoff, Victor (ed.), The Coming Crisis: Nuclear Proliferation, U.S. Interests, and World Order, Cambridge & London, The MIT Press, 2000 ISBN 0-262-71005-6
  • Cohen, Eliot A. 1995. Come the Revolution. National Review, July 31, 26+.
  • Schwartzstein, Stuart J.D. (ed.), The Information Revolution and National Security: Dimensions and Directions, Washington, D.C., The Center for Strategic & International Studies, 1996 ISBN 0-89206-288-6
  • Tomes, Robert R., US Defense Strategy from Vietnam to Operation Iraqi Freedom: Military Innovation and the New American Way of War, 1973-2003, 2007 ISBN 0-415-77252-4
  • John Gordon, "Transforming for What? Challenges Facing Western Militaries Today", Focus stratégique, Paris, Ifri, November 2008.
  • Dajun Huo. Study on Networked Swarming Warfare. Beijing: National Defense University Press.2013
  • Asymmetric Warfare and the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) Debate sponsored by the Project on Defense Alternatives

External links

  • Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) Sharjeel Rizwan
  • The Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA): Canada's Window On The Future
  • Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century Project for the New American Century
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