Review: Non-state Threats and Future Wars

4 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Future, War & Face of Battle

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Rehash of Old “New” Ideas–Preface is the “Must Read”,

August 31, 2003
Robert Bunker
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add links.

The authors, with the exception of those writing about intelligence, are world-class, and if you have not read many books about 4th Generation Warfare, non-traditional threats, and non-state actors as forces in their own right, then this is a superb single book to obtain and read.

If, on the other hand, you have read most of the books and articles written by these talented individuals, you will find the book irritatingly “old”–most of these ideas were published ten years ago, and the book is a superb undergraduate publication well-suited for those who have not done the prior reading.

The book is a reflection of its institutional provenance, and brings together a mix of defense writers and the current crop of transnational crime academics and practitioners. It does not adequately discuss the non-violent traditional threats (water and resource scarcity, mass migration and genocide, pollution and corruption, inter alia), and it does not really discuss the future in creative ways.

There is no index and the bibliography is marginal.

There is one bright spot, and it alone makes the book worthy of purchase: Phil Williams, a top academic with superb law enforcement and national security connections at the working level, provides a preface that is concise and useful. He begins by pointing out that Clinton as well as Bush to date have ignored non-state threats, specifically including terrorism, and failed to understand the gravity and imminence of the asymmetrical threat. He lists five realities and three solutions:

Reality #1: International security is more complex. It is not sufficient to focus only on states.

Reality #2: Distinction between foreign and domestic security is gone–one cannot have homeland security in isolation from global security, and vice versa.

Reality #3: States are not what they were–the balance of power now requires that states, corporations, and organizations find new means of coordinating policies, capabilities, and actions.

Reality #4: Non-state enemies are everything that states–and especially the USA–are not. They are networked, transitional, flexible, learn from their mistakes, can embed themselves invisibly into existing financial and other communities, and possess a capacity for regeneration that national policy-makers simply do not appreciate.

Reality #5: Globalization has down and dark sides. It is imposing costs that lead to “blowback” and it is diffusing technologies and capabilities to non-state actors to the point that the complexity of Western infrastructures is now the greatest vulnerabilities of all of these state-based societies.

He concludes with three solutions: get intelligence right (a draconian challenge); change mind-sets (an equally draconian challenge); and revitalize and revamp the entire institutional archipelago through which national security policy, acquisitions, and operations are planned and executed (also a draconian challenge).

This is an excellent and reasonably priced undergraduate paperback, and a fine primer for those who are not already steeped in the literature. It does not significantly advance the literature in and of itself.

See also, with reviews:
A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change
Seeing the Invisible: National Security Intelligence in an Uncertain Age
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World
Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror

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