The Future of War Power, Technology and American World Dominance in the Twenty-first Century

George and Meredith Friedman

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

272 Pages



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The Future of War makes a brilliant case that the twenty-first century, even more than the twentieth, will be the American century, and that America's global dominance will be associated with a revolution in weaponry and warfare as basic as the one that arose with the development of gunpowder five hundred years ago. From the era of flintlocks and cannons to the day of automatic weapons and heavy artillery, the waging of war-while undeniably changing in many aspects-has continued to rely on the technology that began with the use of black powder to expel a projectile through a tube.

In The Future of War, the authors argue that this Age of Ballistics is ending and we are entering a fundamentally new period, the Age of Precision-Guided Munitions (PGMs), the so-called smart weapons that will antiquate the traditional way of making war. Where guns and artillery are inherently inaccurate and need to be fired thousands of times to hit one target, these new projectiles are precise and lethally efficient; while ballistic weapons platforms must be brought within range of the battlefield, PGMs can devastate from any distance.

The authors show how the innovations in weapons technology will affect America's defense strategies on land and sea, in air and in space, reshaping our military forces, while confronting us with new strategic challenges as America enters the twenty-first century as the dominant power on the globe.


Praise for The Future of War

"We will be hearing a great deal more about this book as time goes on. It is one of those rare watershed documents in a class with the works of Giulio Douhet, B.H. Liddell Hart, and Herman Kahn. It is a benchmark . . . Competitors and critics alike will find themselves obliged to deal with it, one way or another."-Maj. Gen. Edward B. Atkenson, Army magazine

"Revolution in modern warfare is upon us. George and Meredith Friedman have provided us an important insight into many of the critical elements of that revolution and their possible implications. There are no answers, but there is one certainty: It is in America's national interest to have the debate about where technology is taking us and to then resolutely put policies, doctrines, and budgets in place to protect our country. This book is an important element in that debate. I strongly recommend it."-Adm. Bill Owens, Ret. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

"From those wonderful folks who brought you The Coming War with Japan (1991), another arresting, thoughtful, and closely reasoned appreciation of how and by whom armed conflicts might be successfully conducted in the post-millennial era. Persuasively dismissing the beguiling notion that global interdependence, economic or otherwise, has made war unthinkable, the Friedmans (who run the GPA Strategic Forecasting Group, a corporate intelligence service) assume that the days of shooting irons (artillery, machine guns, mortars, rifles, et al.), which ruled the world's battlefields for over five centuries, are numbered. As the final stages of Desert Storm made clear, they assert, precision ordnance (directed by lasers or other advanced means) is supplanting ballistic firearms. The advent of so-called smart bombs and missiles, the authors point out, has made a wealth of inordinately expensive weapons systems obsolete by making them unacceptably vulnerable to assault; cases in point range from manned fighter planes crammed with avionics through aircraft carriers and tanks. Nor, the authors maintain, do nuclear capabilities loom large in the strategic scheme of things, other than as a deterrent against other countries' nuclear arsenals. Accordingly, the Friedmans conclude, the key to military domination in the 21st century will be conventional ordnance precisely applied, and the willingness to use it. With unrivaled command of computer, guidance munitions, radar satellite, and sensing technologies, they argue, the US is in the strongest position to seize the high ground of space (for use not only as a reconnaissance site but also as a launching pad) and achieve a capacity to engage in remote-control warfare in which pilotless vehicles deliver explosives at hypersonic speeds and with deadly accuracy to enemy targets anywhere on earth. Provocative, accessible perspectives on the long history of war and on a new world of belligerency whose convincingly documented emergence could give pause to prophets of Western decline."-Kirkus Reviews

"The Friedmans corral the available information concerning the ongoing revolution in precision weaponry. They contend that smart missiles have rendered the tank, the piloted airplane, and the aircraft carrier obsolete-a case they laminate together in acronym-studded layers that cover each weapon's invention, heyday, and 'senility' (a jargon term meaning improvements that defend the weapon-for instance, tank armor-but increasingly impede the weapon's main mission). Even the Persian Gulf War's air offensive, the Friedmans insist, represented not so much vindication of piloted planes as the maximum effectiveness of technology; hereafter, they say, precision weapons will get the upper hand, despite stealth technology. Their thesis implies a fundamental reorientation of weaponry development toward hypersonic, intercontinental munitions. Bureaucratically, the thesis would compel the U.S. Navy to wean itself from aircraft carriers in favor of controlling the seas from space . . . A provocative glimpse into the issues roiling America's military professionals."-Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads



  • George and Meredith Friedman

  • George Friedman is coauthor of The Coming War with Japan as well as numerous other books and articles on politics and international and military affairs. He is on the faculty of Tulane University in New Orleans and is chairman of Strategic Forecasting in Baton Rouge, which specializes in business intelligence and analysis.

    Meredith Friedman was born and educated in Sydney, Australia, and moved to the United States in 1976. She is a freelance writer who has published on international affairs and other topics and was coauthor of The Coming War with Japan. She is a senior writer for Strategic Forecasting and manages research on business intelligence.