The Effect of Globalization on National Militaries

(From 2011) – Conventional militaries are changing in our modern times to accommodate a global change that is brought by the emergence of globalization. Militaries are no longer facing a conventional threat, and must become unconventional in nature in order to oppose Guerilla forces and ideals in a battle of fourth generational warfare. Militaries have outsourced their own forces to Multinational Corporations. This is part of a strategy envisioned, in part, by the World Justice Project. Also, militaries are making strong advancements in low-intensity operations such as cyber warfare, which has been called the fifth dimension of warfare (The Economist).

Globalization may be defined as increasing unification of the world’s economic order through reduction of such barriers to international trade as tariffs, export fees, and import quotas. The goal is to increase material wealth, goods, and services through an international division of labor by efficiencies catalyzed by international relations, specialization, and competition. It describes the process by which regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through communication, transportation, and trade. The term is most closely associated with the term economic globalization: the integration of national economies into the international economy through trade, foreign direct investment, capital flows, migration, the spread of technology, and military presence.

In his Article “Past and Present,” published in a March 2010 volume of Economic Affairs, Dilip K. Das admits that, “Although the three terms – globality, globalism and globalization – are often narrowly defined in their economic meaning, they are broad in their meaning and implications.” The definition of the term can, more realistically, accommodate the transition from national sovereignty to international central government, the emergence of a world military, and the development of a global worldview. Take, for instance, the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America which goes so far as to unite national defense strategies between three countries (Ackleson & Kastner).

Lincoln P. Bloomfield, who is currently a Professor of Political Science at MIT, was contracted by the United States Defense Department, in 1961, to write a thesis which envisioned a world effectively controlled by the United Nations. He quickly mentioned that “the notion of a “UN-controlled world is today a fantastic one” (Chapter 1). He said that, because at the time the idea of a central world government was radical and unrealistic. However, he sought to find a way to make it a reality. In doing so he took part in changing the structure of military powers in the world, and enacted trends which would reduce national militaries, replacing them with a world military force (Chapter 4).

Bloomfield also recognized something very key to the plan for world control. Having layed out many conflicts which would enter onto the world stage in later years, he hypothesized on the end of conventional conflict altogether. He knew that one day there would no longer be a need for conventional armies, and that a new threat would emerge- the threat of Guerilla Warfare (Chapter 6). Such a conflict would take a military out of the realm of third-generational warfare and into the realm of fourth-generation warfare.

“Then came the fourth generation, say the theory’s proponents, in which decentralization and initiative carry over from the third generation, but war changes in that states lose their monopoly on violence and are forced to fight non-state opponents” (Junio).

Today we can see that Bloomfield was right. We have wrapped up all major conventional conflicts. The main struggle in our current conflict is not between national armies, but between a coalition of mixed forces and forces that are ambiguous as to national involvement.

“This new realm of conflict has caused militaries to explore new avenues including cyberwarfare, network-centric warfare, low intensity operations, counterterrorism and counter-insurgency…Throughout history new technologies have revolutionized warfare, sometimes abruptly, sometimes only gradually: think of the chariot, gunpowder, aircraft, radar and nuclear fission. So it has been with information technology…Computers and the internet have transformed economies and given Western armies great advantages, such as the ability to send remotely piloted aircraft across the world to gather intelligence and attack targets. But the spread of digital technology comes at a cost: it exposes armies and societies to digital attack…The threat is complex, multifaceted, and potentially very dangerous. Modern societies are ever more reliant on computer systems linked to the internet, giving enemies more avenues of attack. If power stations, refineries, banks and air-traffic-control systems were brought down, people will lose their lives. Yet there are few, if any, rules in cyberspace of the kind that govern behavior, even warfare, in other domains. As with nuclear- and conventional-arms control, big countries should start talking about how to reduce the threat from cyberwar, the aim being to restrict attacks before it is too late” (The Economist).

“Low intensity conflict is a political-military confrontation between contending states or groups below conventional war and above the routine, peaceful competition among states. It frequently involves protracted struggles of competing principles and ideologies. Low intensity conflict ranges from subversion to the use of armed force. It is waged by a combination of means, employing political, economic, informational, and military instruments. Low intensity conflicts are often localized, generally in the Third World, but contain regional and global security implications” (US Army FM 100-20).

Counterterrorism is a response to a force which threatens the livelihood of people everywhere. It has been a strategy of national forces for a long time, but before the September 11th attacks in New York in 2001 it had not been on the forefront of public attention. Since then, many armies around the world have adapted to the changes that such a conflict has brought to the table. Instead of having a well-defined enemy to attack, militaries have an invisible enemy that could strike at any moment, and once the strike is launched it is often too late to stop. Therefore, forces must work to make themselves harder targets and also gather intelligence which will direct them in capturing and arresting terrorists before it’s too late (Kolodkin).

Counterinsurgency is largely related to counterterrorism, but adds a few details. It implies that a large force of invisible enemies, existing in any or all countries of the world, are hostile towards a particular government or nation-state. “The United States possesses overwhelming conventional military superiority. This capability has pushed its enemies to fight U.S. forces unconventionally, mixing modern technology with ancient techniques of insurgency and terrorism. Most enemies either do not try to defeat the United States with conventional operations or do not limit themselves to purely military means. They know that they cannot compete with U.S. forces on those terms. Instead, they try to exhaust U.S. national will, aiming to win by undermining and outlasting public support” (FM 23-4). Many times, Army leaders that do not focus on an understanding of the nature of 4GW conflict fail in their missions. “Western militaries too often neglect the study of insurgency. They falsely believe that armies trained to win large conventional wars are automatically prepared to win small, unconventional ones. In fact, some capabilities required for conventional success—for example, the ability to execute operational maneuver and employ massive firepower—may be of limited utility or even counterproductive in COIN operations. Nonetheless, conventional forces beginning COIN operations often try to use these capabilities to defeat insurgents; they almost always fail.”

“Out go all the U.S. troops by year’s end, President Obama said Friday about Iraq. And in go the contractors…As the United States pulls out its remaining 50,000 or so troops after a decade of conflict costing around $1 trillion, many of the soldiers’ non-fighting functions will be pursued by a force of State Department-funded government contractors expected to near 15,000” (Smith). Nearly every component of the Army’s operations has been outsourced to contractors. Mechanics, security guards, construction crews and even intelligence services are now a major component supplementing military strategy. The contractors get paid much more than the troops themselves, but they have the ability to operate in Iraq- for instance- after the US Army is gone. This trend of contracting forces is an ever increasing one, and I believe it will shape the future of operations around the world. This trend is essentially a transition from national militaries to international forces. Instead of being an international Army governed by a central authority, we have the complex notion of a conglomerate of multinational corporations working with groups of individual nations.

Another change that is likely to affect the US Army is the issue of retirements. The Army wants to make it so that retirements are based on a 401K style plan rather than the current 20-year commitment guarantee. I see this as being, at least partially, an effect of globalization. With all the other changes to the military being considered, it is not hard to see that the future of warfare does not require such a large conventional military. Just the announcement of the possibility of this plan has 80 percent of the soldiers I have talked to saying they are getting out of the military as soon as they possibly can. Also, the force that is left will be one with a high rate of turnover, encouraging a flexible and adaptive military that can be compartmentalized to many areas of the world at once.

The world is changing, and the militaries of every country in the world are scrambling to make the appropriate adjustments to their operational strategies. With the end to conventional warfare upon us, we have stepped into a new era of warfare- one with new enemies, and fought with new tactics. Also, with the transition towards international forces I find myself wondering if we will even have an army ten years from now. Perhaps we will have one, but whether we do or not I am sure that we’ll see it act as a part of a larger coalition force, and will not be a sole actor. Whatever path we take it is my hope that we can war to end war, because the object of war must eventually be peace.

Works Cited

1) Das, Dilip K. Globalization, Past and Present. Economic Affairs; Mar2010, Vol. 30 Issue 1, p66-70, 5p. Web. 23 Oct. 2011. From link,

2) Ackleson, Jason. Kastner, Justin. The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. American Review of Canadian Studies; Summer2006, Vol. 36 Issue 2, p207-232, 26p. Web. 23 Oct. 2011. From link,

3) Bloomfield, Lincoln P. A World Effectively Controlled by the United Nations. Institute for Defense Analysis. 10 Mar. 1962. Web. 14 July, 2002. From link,

4) Junio, Timothy. Military History and Fourth Generation Warfare. The Journal of Strategic Studies Vol. 32, No. 2, 243-269, April 2009. Web. 23 Oct. 2011. From link,

5) Cyberwar. The Economist. Web. 1 Jul. 2010. From link,

6) Low Intensity Operations. US Army Field Manual 100-20. Web. 23 May 1996. From link,

7) Kolodkin, Barry. What is Counter Terrorism. Web. 23 Oct. 2011. From link,

8) Headquarters, Department of the Army. Field Manual 3-24. Counterinsurgency. 15 December 2006. Web. 23 Oct. 2011. From link,

9) Smith, Jeffrey R. Sending Troops Home… 22 Oct. 2011. Web. 23 Oct. 2011. From link,

10) Hawley, Erin. New Plan Calls For Military Retirement Changes. Military Times. 28 Jul. 2011. Web. 23 Oct. 2011. From link,

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