The AI “Revolution in Military Affairs”: What Would it Really Look Like?

December 21, 2022

Lawfare

“To some defense professionals and officials, the phrase “revolutions in military affairs” may seemingly belong in the 1990s, along with talk about how reconnaissance-strike and other high-tech capabilities would “lift the fog of war.” This understanding, however, reflects a misinterpretation of a concept that still holds significant analytical power for assessing defense applications of emerging technologies. The revolutions in military affairs (RMA) framework—a mental model evaluating technology’s effect on warfare—can be extremely helpful in addressing this distorted understanding, particularly for thinking through the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on national security. For example, and as I have described in a longer paper, the RMA framework can help policymakers consider AI’s influence on defense amid the U.S.-China technological and strategic competition by illustrating the current limitations of AI’s military impact and highlighting areas where technological and intellectual progress could one day spark revolutionary changes. It also highlights that AI’s military impact could be limited in the near term without critical and careful thinking about how the technology is applied.”

Cyber Power is a Key Element of Sea Power

December 2022

Proceedings, U.S. Naval Institute, Vol. 148/12/1,438

“China has embarked on a program to replace the liberal world order with a techno-authoritarian model dominated from Beijing. Central to this program is a desire to control the maritime commons. China is now a (in some measures perhaps the) leading sea power. It boasts the world’s largest navy, coast guard, and maritime paramilitary forces; a top-five merchant fleet; significant shipbuilding capacity; and growing control over a global network of maritime ports.”

 

Cyber Power is Essential to Sea Power

December 21, 2022

Proceedings Podcast, U.S. Naval Institute

Commander Robert “Jake” Bebber, U.S. Navy, and Andrew W. Marshall Scholar at the Hudson Institute, and Lieutenant Commander Tyson B. Meadors, U.S. Navy, discuss cyber defense as an essential part of competition.

CCP Weapons of Mass Persuasion

December 2022

The Andrew W. Marshall Foundation

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) approach to the United States today reflects the party’s formative competitive experiences a century ago. Starting in the 1920s, the CCP vied with the Nationalist Party (KMT) for control over China, but the CCP was also nominally allied with the KMT in the First United Front, 1924–27. In that context, the Communists waged political warfare against the KMT at the elite and the grassroots level. Initially, the CCP’s aim was to coopt the KMT. When cooption failed, the Communists turned to subversion before attacking the Nationalists kinetically. In recent decades, the CCP has used this united-front template against the United States, thanks partly to a foundation of U.S.-CCP cooperation laid during the Sino-Japanese War and reinforced in the late Cold War. This report accordingly traces the CCP’s repertoire for strategic competition to the Chinese Civil War (Part 1). It then analyzes the application of this toolkit to the United States across a series of interactions beginning in the late 1930s and continuing through the present (Part 2). The report concludes with two alternative visions of how the coming decades could unfold, hinging upon Washington’s ability to counter Beijing’s ongoing subversion campaign (Part 3).

This is an advance copy of a paper from the Andrew W. Marshall Foundation’s forthcoming set of publications
on Examining History to Explore the Future: France, the United States, and China. This project was made
possible by a generous grant from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.

Jesse Ausubel on “Peak Human”

December 7, 2022

“Jesse Ausubel is the director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University and the recent winner of the prestigious Nierenberg Prize. In his second appearance on the [Power Hungry] podcast (the first was on October 12, 2021), Ausubel talks about his new work on “peak human” and “peak humans,” why we appear to be reaching the limits of human potential, immunity to disease, “nature deficit disorder,” and why — after a lifetime of being a fan of the New York Yankees — he has quit watching sports.”

Peak Human? Thoughts on the Evolution of Human Performance

November 15, 2022

UC San Diego Scripps Institute of Oceanography

“Environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel, awarded the 2022 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest, discusses whether the human species can continue to improve—much like cars, computers, or other technology—or whether our species has reached its peak.

In a career spanning more than four decades, Ausubel has conceived, developed, and led numerous projects to observe and better understand the environment. This includes high-profile work on several major programs to survey and catalog the planet’s biodiversity, including the Census of Marine Life, the International Barcode of Life initiative and the Encyclopedia of Life.

The Nierenberg Prize is presented annually by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and the Nierenberg Family to honor the memory of William A. Nierenberg, an esteemed physicist and national science leader who served Scripps Oceanography as director for two decades. Recorded on 10/13/2022.”

 

“A State in Disguise of a Merchant: Multinational Tech Corporations and the Reconfiguration of the Balance of Power in Asia

October 2022

The Andrew W. Marshall Foundation

Treston Wheat

Winner of the Inaugural Andrew W. Marshall Paper Prize on Future Reconfigurations in Asia

When corporations were created four centuries ago, they fundamentally altered the relationship between the market and the state while also shifting geopolitical power. Technology corporations are creating a similar revolution in the contemporary age. As the world moves from industrial and postindustrial economies to digital ones, technology companies now touch practically every area of modern life. Politically and geopolitically, they are also changing how states interact with each other and achieve their strategic objectives. Technology corporations now play a central role in states’ relative power, and over the next two decades they will impact the balance of power in Asia. A country’s relative power may be intimately connected to native technology companies as they become essential to economic growth, defend infrastructure and businesses, participate in investigations and attributions of cyber events, and even engage in offensive cyber operations. This paper looks at those different areas, examines trends, and then posits a plausible future in which technology corporations may contribute to a reconfiguration of the balance of power in Asia by 2045.

“The AI RMA”: The Revolution Has Not Arrived (Yet)

October 2022

The Andrew W. Marshall Foundation

Owen J. Daniels

Winner of the Inaugural Andrew W. Marshall Paper Prize on New Revolutions in Military Affairs

This paper examines the prospects for artificial intelligence (AI) applications initiating a new revolution in military affairs (RMA). It analyzes this issue by applying the lens of four RMA elements—technological change, military systems evolution, operational innovation, and organizational adaptation—to U.S. and Chinese military AI development. It finds that, in the near term, AI applications may be more likely to help fully realize the reconnaissance-strike RMA than to produce a new AI RMA altogether. However, understanding why AI has not yet sparked a new RMA can shape analysis of the potential trajectory of technological-military competition between the United States and China. The paper uses historical lessons from U.S.–Japanese interwar competition, which produced the carrier aviation RMA, to draw relevant insights for present day U.S.-China AI competition. It concludes by discussing potential frameworks for understanding a future AI RMA and areas for further study.

Reward Research for Being Useful — Not Just Flashy

October 4, 2022

Nature

“Too many countries have built a research pipeline that venerates prizes and papers above all else. People and their problems get left out as scientists chase novelty and the prestige it brings. For many years, I was complicit. I oversaw basic research programmes across the US Department of Defense, determined to make sure that the United States led in science. Eventually, I realized it was equally important that research programmes lead towards tangible benefits: better national security, regional floodplain management, or a product or practice that results in better, safer lives.

Too often, in my experience, the more applied a proposal is, the less likely it is to be funded. Once a researcher finishes a project and publishes the paper, they simply go on to the next proposal — the next big, new idea, constantly chasing novelty, the bleeding edge of science. What a waste.”

Reconfigurations and Revolutions

September 29, 2022

The Andrew W. Marshall Foundation

 

Presentations of the Inaugural Andrew W. Marshall Paper Prizes

on Future Reconfigurations in Asia 2045 and New Revolutions in Military Affairs


Reconfigurations: How might technology companies change the way nation states interact with each other and achieve their strategic objectives? How might they impact the configuration of the balance of power in Asia?

Revolutions: What are the prospects for artificial intelligence (AI) initiating a new revolution in military affairs? What are the potential frameworks for understanding a future AI RMA?

This two-part webinar will feature a discussion with Treston Wheat, winner of the paper prize on Future Reconfigurations in Asia 2045, and a discussion with Owen J. Daniels, winner of the paper prize on New Revolutions in Military Affairs. A Q&A session will follow.

Submit questions during the event to info@andrewwmarshallfoundation.org.

This virtual event is on the record and open to the media.


Agenda

Welcome
Jaymie Durnan, AWMF Co-founder and Chairman

“A State in Disguise of a Merchant”: Balance of Power and Multinational Corporations in the Reconfiguration of Asia
Treston Wheat, Andrew May

The “AI RMA”: The Revolution Has Not Arrived (Yet)
Owen J. Daniels, Bob Angevine

Question & Answer Session
Treston Wheat, Owen J. Daniels

Closing Remarks
Jaymie Durnan

Immaterial Competition: Rethinking the Roles of Economics and Technology in the US-China Rivalry

May 19, 2022

The Hudson Institute

Executive Summary

The US-China rivalry is likely to be the fulcrum around which international affairs are structured in the twenty-first century, akin to the Cold War from 1947 to 1991. This rivalry, like its predecessor, emerges from divergent geopolitical interests and imperatives. While the Chinese Communist Party’s aims are many, various, and subject to change, they include its continued control of the Chinese State; economic and technological modernization and leadership; internal order; complete union with Taiwan on Beijing’s terms; certain territorial concessions from its neighbors; and the disestablishment of security arrangements across the Indo-Pacific that it views as threatening and trammeling. The latter three are in direct conflict with US interests and imperatives in the Indo-Pacific: prohibiting China’s unilateral modification of the status quo vis-à-vis Taiwan; preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its allies and partners; and maintaining its military partnerships and presence in the region. These antithetical interests animate a larger struggle for hegemony in the Indo-Pacific and serve as the terms on which this contest will be decided.

Explanations of the rivalry as an ideological contest or a competition born from competing economic interests are less compelling by comparison. The United States and China are motivated to an extent by ideological imperatives, but these do not appear to propel or serve as the central stakes for the rivalry as much as they affect each’s disposition toward the other. Long-standing trade, investment, and commercial disputes and competition, meanwhile, are not so substantial that they motivate the rivalry. While these issues are impactful to niche communities and conspicuous to national policymakers, they are not particularly consequential for national prosperity. The logic of competition, trade, and globalization, in fact, suggests that the US-China commercial relationship is mutually beneficial, notwithstanding each’s concerns with the other’s economic statecraft and market-leading firms.

In their geopolitical rivalry, there are a few key forces or contests of interest: path dependence, regime continuity, prudent strategy, third-party alignments, and the balance of military forces in the Indo-Pacific. Each affects the United States’ and China’s ability to achieve their ends and shapes their rivalry. Economic and technological statecraft, by contrast, is largely peripheral to these ends as it does not effectively advance political objectives relevant to territory, borders, security architectures, and national defense. That is not to suggest that economic and technological factors are irrelevant, however; they shape, constrain, and advantage the United States and China across their rivalry’s key forces and contests of interests.

Particularly noteworthy are economic and technological factors’ impact on the military balance. Tradition and intuition hold that nations with bigger and more advanced economies are better postured to resource, procure, and manufacture military equipment and can therefore generate greater military power. In the case of the US-China military competition, however, total military power is less relevant than the specific military balance in the Indo-Pacific, in which the distribution and strength of forces in the theater, the capability and reliability of key materiel inputs of outsized importance, and the operational concepts and tactics with which each’s military fights are more important. Total military power—and in particular greater military equipment—matters on the margin, of course, if only because the party with the greater mass and quality of materiel will be able to retain more forces in the Indo-Pacific, maintain more of these key materiel inputs, and develop novel operational concepts and tactics tailored to their superior materiel.

Neither the United States’ nor China’s total economic production, public balance sheet, high-technology commercial firms, and scientific production are likely to provide a decisive or lasting advantage on this count. Each country’s economy can support substantially greater military spending, limiting the extent to which one can derive an advantage from the other’s more binding constraints. The capacity and maturity of each country’s defense industrial base is of greater relevance, but these are flexible quotients that investment can improve. This elasticity of defense production suggests that microeconomic endowments may be binding in the short run but variable in the longer run, meaning that policy choices—rather than existing economic endowments—constrain military production. Technological endowments, informing each country’s capacity for broad innovation, are of similarly bounded importance because military technology is somewhat narrow and other factors, such as military procurement processes and inflexibility in concepts of operation, limit the extent to which superior technology translates into military advantage.

The fundamental result of this argument is that the concerns that propel the emerging US-China economic and technological competition are ultimately not all that relevant to the matters at the core to their rivalry and to the instruments of national power most relevant to these issues. The United States should therefore be wary of policies ostensibly demanded by economic and technological competition and may find its interests better served by limiting its rivalry with China to military competition driven by its core geopolitical interests.”

Ending Innovation Tourism

April 19, 2022

GovCon Different Podcast

“Dr. Melissa Flagg calls for an end to innovation tourism in order to regain thought leadership and systematically adopt new innovations as national security becomes fixated on technical superiority.”