mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
The Weird Future of Warfare

A newly declassified US intelligence report raises concern over the possibility that China could develop high-powered microwave weapons capable of disrupting communication networks and other electronic infrastructure in Taiwan and beyond.

The speculation about a Chinese capability of this sort is, as far as we know, still just that — speculation — and the US has been doing similar research for a long time. It is a safe bet, though, that, should any major conflict erupt between world powers in the future, it will look quite different than anything we have seen in the past.

The big worry isn’t even what these weapons might do; the real danger is that accelerating technological change will increase the chances that new weapons will alter the balance of power in unpredictable ways.  That makes war more likely and the course of future wars more unpredictable.

This can’t be helped; the IT industry creates new vulnerabilities and new capabilities at an accelerating rate, and world powers have no choice but to join the infotech arms race.

The roller coaster ride is getting wilder all the time.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Luke Lea

    I sometimes try to imagine what would it would be like if the Internet suddenly went down across the nation. Everything would come to a halt: banking, retail, telecommunications, publishing, law enforcement, Wall St., electric power grids, Google, email, and lots more. Is it really impossible?

    • Walter Russell Mead

      You don’t even mention the catastrophic consequences of any interruption in the flow of essential blog posts.

  • Mrs. Davis

    Productivity would jump 50%.

  • Jim.

    If you start seeing a NASA push for Space Solar Power, that might be evidence that we’re trying to stay ahead in this new arms race.


    [raises hand in back of clas]

    Um, sir?

    The internet was designed to survive a nuclear attack.

    It’s a redundant system.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      And yet we are discussing new generations of weapons, that, unlike nukes, might be designed specifically to take the internet down. Are you suggesting that the internet is the Maginot Line of technology and that it has no vulnerabilities? A techno-Titanic that cannot sink? I am in any case not sure what would survive of the internet if all human life were destroyed by a mass nuclear exchange.

  • Jim.

    TANSTAAFL – I believe you’re thinking of DARPANET, not the Internet.

    The scale-free nature of the Internet as we know it could be brought to its knees by a “flash crowd”, such as might be generated by a spontaneous internet meme, much less a coordinated attack.

    Please consider also that the power grid the Internet depends on is far from immune to disruption by RF technologies.

    No, the Web has not suffered anything like the most serious sorts of attacks that physicists can throw at it.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service