- The past decade has witnessed remarkable advances in weapons technologies, predominantly in the United States, but increasingly in other parts of the world, notably Western Europe. Attention to these technologies has tended to focus upon their development, deployment and possible applications on the battlefield. However, their potentially profound implications for arms control have received far less attention. It is, therefore, the intention of this report to begin to rectify that by identifying some of these implications. In the Rapporteur's view, the Science and Technology Committee should study this subject in more detail.
II. THE TECHNOLOGIES
- The emerging technologies themselves stem from a wide array of disciplines. Some of these are already at the development stage, even though they might sound futuristic. For instance, the American-Israeli Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) successfully intercepted a test missile in June 2000. This system will shortly be deployed to Israel where it is intended to negate the threat posed by Katyusha rockets. The United States is building a prototype Airborne Laser consisting of a powerful laser mounted on a Boeing 747. The first test against a theatre ballistic missile is scheduled for 2003. And other, technological advances in sensors, communications, and materials, are already finding their way into new military systems. And - as investigated previously by this Committee - new technologies are being developed for so-called "non-lethal weapons", such as incapacitating sticky foams, acoustic devices, anti-traction substances, super-adhesives and anti-personnel electric stun guns.1
- Other technologies still in the research area are expected to have far-reaching military and civilian applications. Quantum physics, for instance, could revolutionise information processing in ways that would have a major impact on weapons design, cryptography, and communications. Nano-technology - the production of microscopic machines - could present new ways of incapacitating military equipment.
III. MILITARY IMPLICATIONS
A. RMA ESSENTIALS
- The leap forward in weapons technology is often seen as constituting a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). An RMA can be described as "a major change in the nature of warfare brought about by the innovative application of new technologies which, combined with dramatic changes in military doctrine and operational and organisational concepts, fundamentally alters the character and conduct of military operations".2
- There have been many previous instances of such revolutions. Some of those most frequently cited include the introduction of gunpowder, and the development of the steam engine, the submarine, the internal combustion engine, aircraft and the atom bomb. These technologies alone do not constitute an RMA, but their innovative application in the conduct of warfare is said to have constituted a revolution, as opposed to an evolution, in military affairs. Two criteria must, therefore, be met in order to establish an RMA: firstly, that a modern technology exist, and secondly, that its innovative application bring about changes in the very conduct of warfare.
- Proponents of the current RMA believe the development of Information Technology (IT) and the increased adoption of joint and combined military doctrine (designed to maximise the advantages of the available technology), are the driving factors behind the present RMA. The creation of new operational concepts is particularly significant. The United States has been the forerunner in this development, publishing in 1996 a document entitled Joint Vision 2010 (JV2010). JV2010 outlines two key concepts relating to the conduct of warfare by the United States armed forces in the 21st century: the importance of technological superiority and the use of increased joint operations.
- Other United States military publications that develop this concept include the Concept for Future Joint Operations (CFJO), Army Vision 2010 (AV2010) and the Army After Next (AAN). CFJO essentially builds upon JV2010, detailing follow-on assessments for future joint operations. AV2010, in the same vein, identifies the patterns of operations and technologies that the US Army will need in the 21st century to convert its joint vision into reality. AAN looks thirty years further ahead, building upon the ideas of AV2010. Other nations are reaching similar conclusions in the field of military doctrine. The United Kingdom, in its Strategic Defence Review (SDR) of 1998, highlighted the importance of "jointery" or joint doctrine, and is, among other things, developing Joint Force 2000 intended to combine Royal Navy and Royal Air Force fixed-wing aircraft.
B. ASYMMETRIC WARFARE
- It is clear, nevertheless, that the United States is at the forefront of the RMA. This is not surprising since the United States, as the sole remaining superpower, is considerably outspending all other nations on defence. Indeed, at over $280 billion, this year's United States defence budget exceeds some national GDPs. Given its military supremacy, few rational adversaries would challenge the United States armed forces conventionally. The performance of American forces in Desert Storm and Operation Allied Force provided ample evidence of United States military prowess. However, United States military power does not preclude the possible future use by other less militarily capable nations of unconventional methods of warfare.
- In 1998, United States Defense Secretary Cohen stated that "a paradox of the new strategic environment is that American military superiority actually increases the threat of nuclear, biological, and chemical attack against us by creating incentives for adversaries to challenge us asymmetrically".3 Asymmetric warfare is the exploitation of an adversary's weakness, involving innovative yet affordable weapons and tactics designed to weaken the stronger power's resolve and its ability to use its superior conventional military capabilities effectively.4 The possibilities of terrorist attacks on the United States mainland are often cited as an example of asymmetric warfare. While being well-equipped to defend itself against conventional attack, the United States is heavily dependent upon information technology and is also perceived as having a lower tolerance of casualties than other nations. There is concern that these factors could lead an adversary - either a nation state or a terrorist organization - to consider attacks on the United States using chemical or biological agents, or information warfare techniques. However, the United States is not uniquely vulnerable to such threats: all nations are vulnerable to terrorist attack and as nations become increasingly reliant on information technology, they become increasingly vulnerable to information warfare.
C. FUTURE COALITION WARFARE
- The existence of a capability, or technology gap between the United States and its European Allies has been well documented. The technology gap refers to the disparity between the United States' application of "high" military technologies such as stealth technology, long-range precision guided munitions and uninhabited aerial/combat vehicles, compared to the European allies' more lethargic up-take of new technology. If this trend continues, it will have serious implications for the future conduct of coalition warfare.
- At the 1999 Washington Summit, NATO Heads of State and Government approved the Alliance's new Strategic Concept. This document formalised Allied intervention in Non-Article Five crisis response operations and furthermore acknowledged a military doctrinal shift towards greater use of joint and coalition forces; a move driven in part by the need to pool diminishing military resources, but also to demonstrate a unified show of force, potentially beyond Allied boundaries.5 In order to better match Allied tasks to Allied capabilities NATO nations also launched the Defence Capabilities Initiative (DCI). The DCI is the latest in a series of modernisation and standardisation processes. The initiative focuses upon five key areas requiring additional attention, in order that NATO nations continue to be able to perform coalition operations. The DCI seeks to address the technology gap between United States armed forces and those of its Allies, thus maintaining NATO's ability to operate effectively in the same theatre.
IV. ARMS CONTROL IMPLICATIONS
- While these operational aspects relating to emerging technologies have been well documented, far less attention has been paid to arms control. This is perhaps due to the belief that many high technologies are not readily available to nations other than the United States and some of its Allies, and that therefore there is less need for concern regarding their proliferation. However, new technology is likely to have as profound an impact on arms control in the future as it has in the past.
A. ARMS CONTROL AND MODERN TECHNOLOGY
- Technology has always challenged arms control. The desire to maintain the upper hand in battle has often driven the development of more sophisticated weaponry, although increasingly, advances in military technology have had their origin in the civil sector. Regardless of origin, however, the notion that new technology should be regulated to preserve stability and rule out particularly unpleasant forms of warfare is not a recent idea.
- Probably the best-known example of this is the development of the atom bomb and subsequent efforts to develop bilateral agreements between the two dominant nuclear powers - the United States and the former Soviet Union - and to develop multilateral arrangements to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons technology to other nations. The fruits of these efforts are well known: the ABM Treaty, SALT, START, the INF Treaty, and the NPT, to name just a few.
- Although these agreements all concern nuclear weapons (or defences against them), the Non-Proliferation Treaty differs from the others in several significant ways. Unlike the others, it is multilateral rather than bilateral, it concerns a technology with both military and peaceful applications, and it embodies a "bargain" whereby nuclear weapons nations agree to assist non-nuclear weapons nations to exploit civilian nuclear technology, provided that they agree to forgo nuclear weapons.
- This latter feature - rewards in return for restraint - is also a central element in the Chemical Weapons Convention.
- Such regimes, however, are not the only arms control model that can be applied to technologies. During the Cold War, exports of dual-use technology were regulated by the Co-ordinating Committee on Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM), and although this body no longer exists, there still are multilateral "suppliers regimes" for nuclear, chemical, and missile technologies. These types of multilateral frameworks which deal with technologies with both military and civilian applications clearly are the most promising models for future regimes relating to emerging technologies.
B. CURRENT AND FUTURE ISSUES
- The question is, therefore, not whether, but how arms control can be implemented with regard to emerging technologies. Two potential areas can already be identified: information technology and non-lethal weapons. A more rigorous analysis would certainly have to address other areas, but these serve as useful examples.
1. Information Warfare
- Information technology (IT) has revolutionised almost every aspect of industrialised societies. The Internet, for instance, provides global access to information and is an integral part of international business.
- However, the dependence on IT has raised concerns about information warfare (IW), or cyber-warfare. While the definition of IW is broad, including anything from "psy-ops" and media warfare, to terrorist attacks by computer hackers, in all cases the primary objective is to corrupt information "such that an opponent can be dominated with a minimal need for the application of physical force".6 Analysts describe situations where powerful leading nations are brought to their knees before their first soldier has been deployed, or even knows where to strike.
- The advantages of IW for the attacker are threefold. Firstly, a strike can be planned covertly without the warning signs that might presage a conventional military offensive. Secondly, it is difficult to trace the source of an information attack, as antagonists are able to work across international boundaries. And thirdly, the tools required for IW are increasingly accessible in the commercial market, as well as relatively cheap compared with conventional weapons or weapons of mass destruction. Information warfare is, by definition, unpredictable, undetectable and accessible. It also offers the prospect of being very destructive. For the terrorist, international interest group, or militarily inferior state, it is the perfect method of asymmetric warfare.
- The potentially devastating effects of IW are clear. Attacks against the information infrastructure could disrupt communication networks, financial institutions, transport systems, power distribution, government departments etc. Clearly, the need to restrain the proliferation of IW capabilities must be addressed. At present, however, the main concern has been defence against IW rather than on efforts to explore possible control measures to limit the threat.
- Part of the reason for that emphasis is the obvious difficulty of controlling technologies that are widely available commercially. In a paper entitled Information Warfare: Implications for Arms Control, Dr. Andrew Rathmell suggests the creation of an IW Convention, the objective of which would be not the restriction of the growth of IT capabilities, but rather the restriction of their use in IW. Efforts have already been made in this field between national police forces, which are being confronted more frequently with transnational crime. The purpose would be to create a forum where all interested parties would convene - both governmental and commercial.
- This would certainly be a complex undertaking, but there are efforts to regulate IT internationally in order to deal with fraud, limit the availability of pornography, and to permit the monitoring of electronic communications for security purposes. At the very least, there should be a rigorous assessment of the potential to (i) limit access to the technologies needed to implement IW, (ii) monitor the Internet to detect warning signs of IW operations, and (iii) co-operate internationally to counter terrorist IW operations.
2. Non-Lethal technologies
- As mentioned earlier, new technologies are being investigated for their potential to create so-called non-lethal weapons (NLWs). The category "non-lethal weapons" includes a wide spectrum of disparate weapons system technologies, which have a range of effects on matériel and personnel. Some of the most frequently mentioned NLWs include acoustics (infra-sound and stun technologies); biological and medical agents (incapacitating and calming substances), chemicals (adhesives, corrosives and embrittling substances); and electromagnetic weapons (lasers and microwaves). Some of these technologies, however, raise important arms control issues which are being studied by, for instance, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations.
- One source of concern is that the effects of certain potential NLWs - particularly chemical, biological and ultra- and infrasound weapons - might be difficult to control or even be indiscriminate. Some could also cause unnecessary suffering. These factors would infringe one or more international agreements such as the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or have Indiscriminate Effects.
- It is tempting to say that the current Revolution in Military Affairs promises to alter the conduct of warfare in a positive way by permitting the more selective use of force and by providing options for non-lethal operations. New technologies could equally be applied more malevolently by unscrupulous regimes to enhance their lethal effects. This underlines the thesis of this report that there is a need to look at ways to control new technologies.
- This effort has already begun. The 27th International Conference of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Red Crescent, held in November 1999, invited states to consult on the "establishment by states, which have not already done so, of national mechanisms and procedures to determine whether the use of weapons, either held in their inventories, being procured or developed, would conform to the requirements of international humanitarian law".7 Under the auspices of its Superfluous Injury or Unnecessary Suffering (SIrUS) project, the ICRC compiled a report on the legality of weapons they intend to use, particularly with regard to weapons that may cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.
- The United Nations has also prepared reports on the role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament. The last such report was produced in 1998, covering subjects such as IT and space technology. This concluded that revolutionary developments would require additional forms of control.
- Many questions remain to be asked, however. These include:
- What measures can be taken in order to most effectively establish arms control of emerging technologies?
- Can models such as the NPT and the CWC be applied to certain dual-use technologies or would export control regimes be more appropriate?
- What new opportunities do new technologies such as sensors and micro-satellites provide for verification and transparency?
- Which nations should be involved in assessing and implementing new approaches to arms control?
- Could emerging technologies threaten existing arms control treaties, and, furthermore, could they destabilise the critical trust upon which treaties have been built?
- Could the development of ever more impressive emerging technologies trigger new arms races?
- What are the legal implications of developing emerging technologies into new weaponry?
- In sum, while there is a consensus that a revolution in military affairs is taking place, we should seek to promote a revolution in arms control to keep pace with it.
- The Rapporteur would like to thank Ms Rachel Winks for her assistance in preparing this report.
- Non-Lethal Weapons, Lord Lyell. Report of the Science and Technology Committee, North Atlantic Assembly, October 1997 [AP 238 STC (97) 8].
- Jeffrey McKitrick, The Battlefield of the Future - 21st Century Warfare Issues, Air University, Chapter 3, p. 1.
- Centre for Defence Information, "Military Domination or Constructive Leadership?", Defence Monitor 27 (3) (1998), p. 8.
- Jonathan Tucker, Asymmetric Warfare , Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy, (http://forum.ra.utk.edu/summer99asymmetric.htm).
- James Thomas, "The Military Challenges of Transatlantic Coalitions", The Institute for Strategic Studies, Adelphi Paper, No. 333, May 2000, p. 9.
- Andrew Rathmell, "Information Warfare: Implications for Arms Control", Bulletin of Arms Control, No. 9, April 1998, p. 4.
- International Committee of the Red Cross, "The SIrUS Project and Reviewing the Legality of New Weapons", January 2000, p. 1.