THE NEXT WORLD WAR by James Adams

THE NEXT WORLD WAR

Computers Are the Weapons and the Front Line Is Everywhere
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Reads like science fiction that is alternately dream and nightmare. Formerly a London Sunday Times defense correspondent and now CEO of UPI, Adams (Bull’s Eye, 1992, etc.) argues that the emergence of high-tech weaponry is initiating a paradigmatic change in warfare. Satellites and computers will provide tomorrow’s soldiers with extraordinary knowledge of their foe, and weapons ranging from Trojan horses in computer codes to “flying beetles” that are actually miniature airplanes will enable warriors to control the enemy’s operational environment. While fascinating and fun, the scenarios Adams presents to illustrate the future of warfare do not leave a strong impression of neutrality; for Adams the enlightened military men and women (“cyberknights”) promoting information warfare and other high-tech approaches to conflict are on the right track, and those who oppose increasing expenditures in this direction are examples of bureaucratic resistance to change. While he may be unduly open to claims of technical wizardry, however, Adams recognizes that it is a two-edged sword. The US can effectively utilize its scientific superiority in armed conflict, as demonstrated in the Gulf War, but there is a Pandora’s box quality to information warfare: everyone can join in the game, and the highly technical and computerized nature of American society makes us more vulnerable than most other countries. We already have extensive experience with individual hackers who are able to penetrate mainframe computers, and Adams argues strongly for increased intelligence efforts to counteract such threats. Perhaps the biggest danger, however, is the complacency public knowledge of information warfare may engender. Showing pictures of smart bombs going through doorways may leave us believing that war can become a no-risk proposition and that information warfare is a low-cost solution to our security needs. This could leave the US looking “like Goliath, arrogant in its power, armed to the teeth, ignorant of its weakness,” and just as vulnerable. An odd blend of fantasy and foreboding.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-83452-9
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1998