Ours is an age in which any untoward development becomes a crisis, the slightest departure from the ordinary is immediately tagged as historic, and the mere glimmer of novelty is heralded as revolutionary. Such semantic extravagance is not especially conducive to clear thinking about the real moral and ethical issues posed by change.
By common consent, we live in an era of rapid and momentous change in military affairs. Awareness of this phenomenon fairly burst upon the public consciousness during the Persian Gulf War. It manifested itself above all in the dazzling "systems" that figured
prominently--or at least appeared to figure prominently--in securing victory over Iraq: stealth aircraft, antiballistic missiles, an array
of "smart" munitions, and above all an integrated architecture of command and control. Embodied in hardware such as surveillance
satellites, the Global Positioning System, JSTARS and AWACS aircraft, and Aegis warships, American superiority in C4I2--the product of a concerted effort to tap the military potential of microelectronic information management--provided the key that not only exposed the vulnerabilities of Saddam Hussein's old-style arsenal but rendered it all but irrelevant.
To many observers, these technologies suggested that the United States had achieved a level of military superiority without precedent in modern history. To others, Desert Storm itself was less a demonstration of capabilities fully developed than a trial run that hinted tantalizingly at what was still to come. Extrapolating from the experience of the Persian Gulf, analysts identified four major
capabilities that comprise this remarkable advance in military prowess, none of them altogether in hand, but each within reach for a
wealthy and technologically advanced nation such as the United States. Those capabilities are: