«You can not win all wars»
Colonel Roland Kaestner, German Armed Forces, about the changes of warfare, the importance of socio-economics and the effects of globalization.
Mister Kaestner, you have served in the German armed forces as the former head of Strategic Future Analysis now as a teacher at the Bundeswehr academy. What has changed in the time since you entered the army?
As I entered the army the international system was bi-polar in military sense nowday the international system is and will be multi-polar and in a military sense the actors of war are wide spread from states to non-state actors, for example warlords, actors of international crimes, terrorists, multi-national companies and so on. It seems that war will be go back to the roots: War as organized violence used by actors who have enough money to pay the war.
Traditional confrontations between two nations facing off still exist, as the example of the conflict in Georgia recently showed. Apparently prior to the attack by Russia, Georgia was faced with a distributed denial of service attack, shutting down the governments internet access. Will such cyberwarfare be part of the future strategies?
One of the instruments of IT is cyberwarfare but more important could be the influence of international media to define the interpretation of the conflict. That is another instrument of IT but it is more, it is information warfare. Its target is national and international legitimation, winning the hearts and minds of people.
Globalization is changing the face of the earth. The traditional concept of nations is giving way to a less structured and more economical approach. In what way does this affect armies which are traditional representatives of a nations power?
I think one of the effects of globalization is the privatization of war. This has two sides, first there is tendency that states will lose their power of the state and second a lot of other actors will use violence for their own interests. The international system will be quiet violent if the states find no way to control this violence in future. Beside the states there are no actors to do this job.
Arial surveillance, information gathered by drones and on ground by small robots are already part of current warfare. This information is then be forwarded to soldiers in the field
and relayed on to a miniatur heads-up-display. I am not sure if this already being done, but how can a soldier deal with all this information, decide which strategy is best and move in hostile territory as well?
In future the soldiers will be specialists and they need the technology to move in hostile territory if it is necessary. It means his job can not be done from a distance. But a lot of military work can only be done by people from the society especially if the societies infrastructure are under attack. I think we will need a military structure based on military specialists and militia-man and -women to defend our societies. Only the militia have the knowledge about our societal infrastructure.
For some time the number of U.S. war deaths was decreasing. Was this due to the technical sovereignty?
Yes, but also the use of force, it means, you could not use military specialists with long time of training and militia with important knowledge as an infantryman in the first world war. The time of mass armies for the next 30 years will be over. Further on we have to see, how the warfare will change his face.
In the second Golf war and the following aftermath in Iraq the death toll rose again as the US-army was confronted with a guerrilla type of conflict and urban warfare. How does this type of warfare affect the future strategy of war?
First, you can not win all wars. So the most important thing is to find out in what kind of warfare you will engage. It depends on all the actors who could get involved. You have to analyze by what means and interests the actors are driven and what effects it will have on all sides. The job of the strategy is to minimize the risk in both cases – victory and defeat. But all that is no longer a question of the military. In most cases it's a question of socio-economical development. More boots on the ground would not have solved the problems of Napoleon in Spain because he has won all battles against insurgences but at last he lost Spain.
In Iraq, Afghanistan and other middle eastern countries the western armies are facing an enemy that is fueled by fundamentalist believes. Will future wars be religious wars once more?
Globalization and the change of societies will be driven by the increase of population from now six billion to round about 9 billion people in 2050. It means that a lot of our society's infrastructure has to change if the societies will still manage all the needs of the people (food, energy, knowledge and so on). Many of the elites in the world have no interest in change and they use all kinds of ideology to defend their positions and they always find believers. Force them to solve the problems of the people and they lose their believers. In a military-way, you can not win this play.
Many people believe that the Golf war was fought because of access to oil resources. By 2020 the energy consumption of Asia will practically double. To what extent will energy
issues feed into the future of global conflicts?
I am very sceptical that in a globalized world you could buy oil and other resources with military means. You can buy it on international markets, if you have enough money. If not we will fall back into a world of mercantilism. In this cases the lack of resources are our smallest problem. In a modern world another way is to find new technologies driven by other resources. For example, 60 percent of oil consumption – tendency increasing – is used by mobility. If you want to solve the problem you change the engines of land, sea and air vehicles. In a strategic sense it is a better way to solve future problems than you fight for the last drop of oil. He comes sure and in this case you have always lost.
Global terrorism has changed the face of war and struck fear into the hearts of the western world. Conventional methods of warfare seem to be out-dated in the face of such an agile and unpredictable enemy. How can terrorism be dealt with effectively?
Terrorism is a kind of violence used by states and non-state actors. It means the use of violence for the purpose of horror. The aim is a kind of reign of terror. Historically more people are killed by state terror than by non-state actors. If you will stop the terror you have to show that nobody can reach his aims with terror. In this case the use of such kind of violence will end because only successful violence is copying. But I think we will see more or less tests how people handle terror in future. One of the biggest challenge is to lose your own rule of law.
What can we look forward to hearing from you at the fourth European Futurists Conference Lucerne?
I think my task is talk about the picture of war in future. I will do my best!
Colonel Roland Kaestner served as a commanding officer and as a staff officier. In 2005, he became a lecturer in strategy at the Bundeswehr Academy.
Colonel Roland Kaestner
Keynote «The Future Face of War»,
Culture and Convention Centre KKL, Lucerne, Switzerland
October 27, 2008; 14.45 h