The Future of War, Peace, and International Relations

I was going through my files and found this particular piece, from around 2 years ago, sitting in a metaphorical corner. The piece was requested by one of the editors of my department’s student magazines (they have this column where profs are invited to write), but as far as I know, it never made to print. So, instead of letting it sit, I might as well upload it here. I haven’t made any adjustments; everything is presented as it was the moment I sent it off to the editor. As this was intended for an undergraduate audience in a magazine, the language has been adjusted as such.

What does the future hold?

That question is the very reason why analysts and researchers remain employed and relevant. But it is not the easiest question to answer. Nobody knows what the future holds; we can only make educated guesses. So, I would recommend against thinking of my following commentary as a definitive answer. Rather, think of it as a guide to think in this increasingly perplexing world, particularly on the issue of war, peace, and international relations.

Technological acceleration will continue to be the defining feature of future international relations, along with a rise in populism as a counter-narrative to globalism. In war, technology will continue to play a dominant role as unmanned technologies become more advanced. But this doesn’t mean we will be living in a Terminator scenario. In peace, the future will only bring about newer problems that require new ways of thinking. With this in mind, what does the future hold?

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Le’ Notes #23: Introducing the revolution in military affairs

This post introduces the origins of the revolution in military affairs.

We are said to be in the middle of a self-conscious revolution in military affairs, or RMA for short. This assumption is grounded in the breakneck pace of technological advancement that’s happening almost on a daily basis. Every now and then, someone in Silicon Valley or DARPA or some whiz kid somewhere comes up with a new thing that promises to shake up or “disrupt” the entire world as we know it. Tesla Motors, for example, is trying out driverless cars. The South Korean military showcased their LEXO exoskeleton systems, which they had been developing since 2013. Suidobashi Heavy Industries have already marketed their Kurata robot, which was unveiled in 2012. The robot, which is basically just a bigger and capable exoskeleton, can be fitted with rapid-firing weapons. Although Suidobashi claims the Kurata only comes with BB guns, in the future, that may change to live ammo. However, the RMA is not just about technology. In the US.

 

Final_Four_Jaegers.jpg
Hell yeah, future warfare

 

However, the RMA is not just about technology. In the US, the Department of Defence has been constantly trying to implement their Third Offset Strategy, which (at the risk of oversimplifying) basically wants to use a combination of technology and operational art to gain an edge over America’s adversaries and maintain their alliances. With President Trump in office, America might just be great again, although the alliances part might not be.

Sure, the future looks amazing. And bleak at the same time, considering we’re developing weapons of war. But, let’s step back for a moment and reflect on this RMA phenomenon. What is it? How did it start? How did we get here?

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Le’ Notes #21: The Rubicon theory of war

This post discusses the Rubicon theory of war — where leaders fully commit to war after crossing the Rubicon River as Caesar did.

In role-playing games, it’s known as the “point of no return“, where you can no longer save your progress and have to fully commit to battling the game’s final boss, either in sequence like Kefka’s epic finale in Final Fantasy VI or alone, like Izanami no Ookami’s true ending battle in Persona 4. The fact that you can no longer save or go back to finish your unfinished business in the game world triggers this mindset that sorta goes “Since I can’t go back, might as well get this over with”.

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Le’ Notes #20: Heuristics and biases

This post serves as an introduction to the heuristics and biases school (HB) and how it might be applied in assessing war decisions.

One of the features of the naturalistic decision-making (NDM) school is their belief that people can be trained to make better decisions by becoming experts and developing better mental models. The rationalistic school already assumes that people are similar to robots, i.e. they make sound, rational judgments based on the availability of information at that given time.

However, the HB school would beg to differ. People are inherently biased in making decisions, mostly due to their reliance on intuition, which stems from a number of heuristics that we have developed as a part of the evolutionary process.

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Le’ Notes #19: Naturalistic decision making, part 2

This post visits the Battle of COP Keating in October 2009 as a case study in seeing naturalistic decision making at work.

The previous post discussed the foundations of naturalistic decision making. Let’s see whether or not the framework works. I’ll be using only the account of Jake Tapper [book] as the main historical reference. I know this limits the playing field a bit since we need a lot of information to do case studies. However, this is simply an exercise and not intended to be a research paper. Furthermore, I simply don’t have the capacity to peruse so many resources.

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Le’ Notes #18: Naturalistic decision making, part 1

This post departs from the rationalistic school to the naturalistic school of decision-making, where assumptions of rationality are thrown out of the window.

We’ve discussed at length about rational choice theory (Part 1 and Part 2). So far, I’ve come to the conclusion that rational choice theory is kind of detached from reality and tends to ignore the small things that make us human such as our habits, culture, etc.

Now, we visit the naturalistic decision-making (NDM) school that has a different set of core assumptions. Also known as “recognition-primed decision-making” (RPD for short), this school of decision-making believes that the rationalistic approach does not hold when humans are observed in a “natural” setting, such as in a real crisis or actual wartime setting.

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Le’ Notes #16: Rational choice theory, part 1

This post discusses the rationalistic approach to war decisions and application of game theory in Napoleon’s Battle of Waterloo.

Why do people go to war?

There are a number of approaches that attempt to explain how people, especially political and military leaders, make decisions. I focus on wartime decisions: the decisions to start, wage, and end wars.

In the study of war decisions, the first we stumble upon is rational choice theory. This theory assumes that when making decisions, humans are completely rational. Of course, there are certain caveats. A person can only be rational so far as the amount of information they have at a given point in time. Remember, hindsight is always 20/20.

I present the views of Fearon and Kirshner in regards to the rationalistic approach of war. We’d see that the rationalistic approach does have its merits and drawbacks in assessing war decisions. And to cap it all, I’ll present Mongin’s application of game theory in assessing the feasibility of Napoleon’s decision in the Battle of Waterloo.

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