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Warfighting in the new century

The New Face of War
The New Face of War: How War Will Be Fought in the 21st Century
(Bruce Berkowitz)

A wonderfully intelligent romp through "networked warfare"! I had an earlier try at "information warfare" but was unable to finish the book. Berkowitz by contrast personalizes this stuff by tying each aspect to an individual--generally an interesting one. So he kept me reading all the way through.

Basically, The New Face of War argues that in the age of the internet, all the old bets are off. Thus a ragtag band of guerrillas was able to inflict one of the largest calamities upon the United States in its 200-year history. Mohammed Ata grabbed the "high ground" of information technology (to be sure, it was cellphones and the like, along with some box cutters), while NORAD and the FAA tried and failed to play catchup on September 11, 2001.

In Afghanistan, however, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Army, and Air Force were the ones to seize and keep the informational high ground. Thus we had Special Forces soldiers mounted on horseback, knowing their exact location by means of Global Positioning satellies, and using lasers to mark targets for B-52 bombers--bombers that had taken off, flown to Afghanistan, and orbited for minutes or hours without knowing what their target would be. (Berkowitz explains that the CIA got the nod because it was better prepared than the Army to get into the 'Stan quickly, with lethal effect. He doesn't approve, however; he thinks that combat should be the province of soldiers, not spooks.)

One chapter is devoted to the oft-hyped "electronic Pearl Harbor". Not to worry, Berkowitz says: sure, somebody could take out California's electric grid or New York's telephone system, but what good would that do them? Japan lost the war despite its effective blow at Pearl Harbor. He points to "Hack USA Week", when Chinese cyber-warriors set out to attack American websites in retaliation for the P-3 intruder that downed a Chinese fighter pilot. American cybergeeks then went to work on Chinese websites. "But none of this amounted to a hill of beans," Berkowitz says. "It was a food fight, not a geopolitical death match."

Berkowitz deals with the 1991 Gulf War and explains what the U.S. was able to cause thousands of Iraqi battle deaths while losing only a few hundred of its own troops. He doesn't actually cover Gulf War II, but the American war-fighting strategy (and the outcome) is so obvious that I found myself wondering if Don Rumsfeld had read galley proofs on this book.

Definitely worth owning.

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