Unfortunately, too many of Wired for War’s human characters seem to have fallen into the trap of seeking to substitute technical solutions for problems of war that are fundamentally political or strategic in nature. Singer quotes Noah Shachtman fretting that excessive use of unmanned systems “makes us look like the Evil Empire [from Star Wars] and the other guys like the Rebel Alliance, defending themselves versus robot invaders.”
True, perhaps. Yet surely human invaders are just as unwelcome as robotic ones. American Predator airstrikes are unpopular in Pakistan not because the planes doing the bombing are unmanned, but because no country likes to see another country dropping bombs within its territory.
A great nation requires capable armed forces. And that, in turn, requires a military equipped with up-to-date technology. But no amount of technology is a substitute for sound strategy. Warring automatons, no matter how ingenious, cannot save a nation that squanders its wealth on foreign misadventures and risks undermining the economic foundations that support its military establishment by throwing ever more money at defense contractors rather than productive investments in domestic infrastructure and private business.
This book is almost certainly the first time that a Brookings Institution scholar has used the term “frak” in print. But with luck, it won’t be the last. So say we all.