Interview | Dean, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, University of Bath, Professor David Galbreath

I Imagine the Argument will be Around Entropy as we live in an Increasingly Information Rich World

Professor David GalbreathProfessor David Galbreath, who is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences at University of Bath, was visiting New Delhi early February. A professor of international security in the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies, his research interests are in comparative national security and defence policy, as well as how science and technology affect war, conflict and violence. In a freewheeling interview, he spoke to FORCE about the future of warfare, China’s long-term view and how technology will shift the battlefield


What are your areas of interest?

My area of expertise specifically is modern warfare along with future operating environments and primarily the role of science and technology in the context of modern warfare. A good example would be the defence industry in India which does excellent composite manufacturing that has a direct impact on the role of missiles or heavy machinery. Even modest changes have revolutionary legacies.


Large military nations have begun to take a very deterministic view about technology. What is the role of technology in modern combat?

There is a big debate going on in literature at the moment. Many are pointing to this idea that through automation, through militarisation, through complex weapon systems, we can get to a point where we don’t need humans. The only kind of challenge is that it runs contrary to Clausewitz’s notion of war and the idea that war is an extension of politics. Christopher Coker at London School of Economics argues in his work that one really cannot take the person out of war because fundamentally, war is a social phenomenon.

Then there are individuals who take it to the logical end and say that what we saw in the Fifties and Sixties with nuclear weapons in terms of deterrence, we are now going to devise technologies which prevent us from fighting future wars.

The truth is somewhere in the middle. The ability to concentrate and distribute kinetic force continues to escalate. Our ability to be lethal continues to increase. In that sense, war is becoming more and more kinetic. The question of winning and losing wars becomes quite problematic because how do you know that you’ve won the war. How do you know that you aren’t already at war? A report came out in 2016 which said that how do we know that China is not already at war with the United States or vice versa.


The War on Terrorism is an abstract idea. How can nations deal with such abstractions?

Everyone is looking at China, whether its India and China or United States and China, China’s interests in South Korea and Japan, in Southeast Asia along with Vietnam and China’s interest in Africa. This indicates the traditional realist notion that states are primary agents of war, that they are primary agents of international relations.

But the point is that multinational companies are bringing in more money than international nation states. So, the question really is that even if nation-states don’t remain the way they are, for instance, United States breaks apart or China breaks apart. As Max Weber said, there are monopolies on violence.

I am not convinced that war will be an outcome of an organised outcome by national governments, one military against another.

A good example would be something like Somalia, of course there is a Somalian government but there are also a variety of different warlords, different religious ideology, not to mention economic reasons around piracy. Sometimes these sets converge and sometimes they don’t.

I imagine the argument will be around entropy as we live in an increasingly information rich world. You can’t reverse entropy, so there is going to complex politics, complex ideology and the manner in which it is going to affect war.

That might be the future of war, putting pressure on urban warfare since that is where humanity is going to be.

If a person is not connected to the Russian government but is sitting in Vladivostok and tries attacking the US State Department using a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, then is that one man’s war against a State? ICT does allow us to do that. How do you keep the genie in the bottle? I don’t know. I think that the truth will be in the middle, some states will be far better in handling this as a national entity while others may have some global agenda. The global war on terror indicates we don’t have a good way to deal with the issue.

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