Our recent commemoration of the centenary of the Armistice gave us occasion to reflect on a number of issues related to warfare, strategy, and the basics of humanity. With hindsight, World War I demonstrates at once the futility of throwing mass against mass in war, and — in contrast — the superiority of the concept of precision. Precision, the ability to neutralize or dislocate an adversary using precise effects, has been the aspiration of Western armed forces for over 50 years.
The pursuit of precision effects has, however, encouraged a culture of technological determinism, demanding increasingly exquisite technological solutions. This is problematic because the conflation of technology with precision effects has led Western militaries to spend increasingly large amounts on platforms and weapon systems when arguably, given the capabilities of their actual adversaries, a cheaper, less precise solution would be as substantively effective. In short, Western militaries have prepared to fight adversaries that look like them, rather than those adversaries they can expect to fight.