January 22, 2009
P. W. Singer’s previous two books foretold the rise of private military firms and the advent of child soldiers – predictions that proved all too accurate. Now, he explores the greatest revolution in military affairs since the atom bomb – the dawn of robotic warfare.
We are on the cusp of a massive shift in military technology that threatens to make real the stuff of I, Robot and the Terminator. More than twelve thousand robotic systems are now deployed in Iraq. Pilots sitting in Nevada are remotely killing terrorists in Afghanistan. Scientists are debating just how smart – and how lethal – to make their robotic creations. And many of the most renowned science fiction authors are quietly consulting for the Pentagon on the next generation.
Blending historical evidence with interviews of an amazing cast of characters, Singer shows that as these technologies multiply, they will have profound effects on the front lines, as well as on politics back home. Moving humans off the battlefield makes wars easier to start but more complex to fight. Replacing men with machines may save some lives, but will lower the moral and psychological barriers to killing. The “warrior ethos,” which so long defined soldiers’ identity, will erode, as will the laws of war that have governed military conflict for generations.
Paradoxically, these new technologies will also bring war to our doorstep. As other nations and even terrorists start to build or buy their own robotic weapons, this revolution could even undermine America’s military preeminence.
While his analysis is unnerving, there’s an irresistible gee-whiz quality to the innovations Singer uncovers. Wired for War travels from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, where these machines are now fighting, to modern-day “skunk works” in the midst of suburbia, where tomorrow’s technologies of war are quietly being designed. In Singer’s hands, the future of war is as fascinating as it is frightening.
P. W. Singer, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, has worked in the Pentagon, as well as consulted for the departments of Defense and State, the CIA, and Congress. The author of two previous books, Corporate Warriors and Children at War, he has also written for publications such as the New York Times and Foreign Affairs. For further information, visit www.pwsinger.com.