Technology and the Rise of Boundless Warfare by Professor David Galbreath

  • Seminar Room G, Manor Road Building, Manor Road Oxford OX1 3UQ

A light sandwich lunch is provided for seminar participants at 12:50.

War and technology are codetermined, much in the way that Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz said of war and politics. Our world is full of technologies that are changing society as we know it. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have done more than anything to change how we communicate and build (and break) communities. The opportunities that this presents is evident as we can buy anywhere goods sold anywhere. At the same time, the challenges are also as evident with increased levels of surveillance, identity theft, and rise of ‘digital isolation’.

What this means for society is being debated, discussed and framed as we think. Yet, what this means for war, how it impacts our social and political understanding of it, is less understood. Modern and emergent warfare increasingly takes place in an environment that challenges traditional notions of space, time and information. Militaries can strike anywhere their enemies anywhere. The levels of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance go beyond anything we could have imagined even at the end of the Cold War.

As a result, war is changing. While militaries seek to make space obsolete, others seek to ‘bridge the gap’, like insurgents avoiding the punishment only to strike through attrition. While some can strike anywhere and anytime, others seek to use time as a weapon itself, posing different problems to different combatants. While security services have more information than ever before, they also battle to restrict, control and interpret in order to make their identities and actions diffuse and unrecognisable, such as diffuse cyber attacks from an unknown source.

This change in space, time and information suggests that war is being changed by technology to become increasingly fought across traditional boundaries. In doing so, it has the potential to challenge the relationship between the military, state and society.

David Galbreath is Professor of International Security and Director of the Centre for War and Technology at the University of Bath. He is also the Conflict Theme Fellow for the Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security (Global Uncertainties Programme) funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council. He is currently working on a research fellowship funded by the AHRC and ESRC on how technology is shaping emergent warfare, relying on Science and Technology Studies, Philosophy and War Studies approaches. He has recently finished ESRC and ESPRC projects on how European militaries change and prior to this an ESRC-DSTL project on how technological innovation challenges arms control regimes. He is an Associate Editor for the European Journal of International Security and former Editor-in-Chief for Defence Studies (2014-2016) and European Security (2009-2015). His next book is the Routledge Handbook for Defence Studies (edited with John Deni, published in 2017).