The Soviet Union’s Chief of the General Staff, Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, had conceived of it first, or at least of the kernel of an idea. Viewing the world, he had identified the onset of a “Military Technological Revolution”. That is, he had the insight to point out the link between growing information technology and conventional means – something that could be a force to rival nuclear potency on the battle field.
Marshal Ogarkov’s observations seized the imagination of others. In 1992, the US Defense Department’s Office of Net Assessment prepared a seminal report that had adopted, or cribbed, the Soviet military planner’s insight, describing it as a “Revolution in Military Affairs”, or RMA. The DoD report, again, emphasized the importance of superior information and communications technology married with military strike capabilities. US military planners took the message seriously.
The US launch of “Operation Desert Storm”, a decade or so before the new century, is deemed to be the first example of RMA’s practical implementation. The world watched and took note, just as China’s CCP leadership took note of unfolding Glasnost and Perestroika in the Soviet Union as a cautionary tale to bear in mind.
At the most fundamental level, force – or rather the capability to use force – is the thing that underwrites the global political order. It fundamentally determines, in fact, sovereign discretion. States at a tacit level recognize this and seek to foster that capability through the marshalling of their own resources, or to capture and bottle it through effective treaty making and international understanding.
The premium to be had, the race to be won, hinges on technology, which depends on scientific innovation and the societal competence to use that innovation. And make no mistake, the contest is a real one, even if the players are largely quiet about it.
Why is this evolution in military thinking important to global savers and investors? To borrowers and creditors? It is important, because it influences again sovereign discretion. And, sovereign discretion effects everything.