The country is searching for the elusive "third offset strategy"by Robert Fry / April 4, 2016 / Leave a comment
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London is home to one of the richest concentrations of defence and security analysis in the world. From the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in the Temple, via the world leading War Studies department at King’s College on The Strand, to the Royal United Services Institute on Whitehall and beyond to Chatham House in St James’s Square there are four centres, within a mile, whose only global competition lies within the Washington DC beltway. A seminal event in this defence think tank world is the IISS publication of its annual Military Balance, acknowledged as the definitive audit of global military power, and this year’s edition—which was published in February—makes alarming reading for the West in general and America in particular.
The technological superiority that has underpinned US military strategy for the last two decades is slowly being eroded as Asia spends nearly $100bn more on defence than NATO’s European members and Russia accounts for 20 per cent of the global increase in defence spending in the last year. In addition, while US forces after almost 15 years of unbroken operations have never been more effective, their people, equipment and techniques have been subjected to very public scrutiny and their vulnerabilities revealed to an onlooking world. So the challenge now is to invoke the American genius for reinvention and make the next technological leap that will restore US qualitative superiority.
There is, of course, nothing new in America’s dilemma. From the invention of the stirrup (and hence heavy cavalry) to the use of nuclear weapons, history has seen technology confer fleeting military advantage. One of the most instructive examples was the near simultaneous emergence of mass railway transportation, telegraphic communication and rapid-firing field artillery in the mid nineteenth century. At a stroke, the number of men that could be quickly concentrated at a single point was increased exponentially, where they could be commanded for the first time beyond the range of the human…