‘Developments in weapons was the main reason for change in the nature of warfare from 1900-2017.”How far do you agree?
-role of government
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Undoubtedly, developments in weapons was the main reason for change in the nature of warfare from 1900-2017 due to the advancements in science and technology, changing the nature of warfare like never before. Weapons improved in terms of rate, range of fire and maneuverability. For example, tanks were used for the first time at the Battle of Somme in 1916 and later to devastating effects by German Panzer units in Blitzkrieg. Moreover, Precision guided missiles were introduced, guided by radar,heat sensors and Global Positioning Satellites(GPS). Moreover Unmanned Aerial vehicles were used which could be used for reconnaissance, surveillance and targeted surgical strikes. Machine guns were used too, which could fire 600 bullets per minute, and greatly terrorised infantrymen during the first world war. Modern tanks such as the British challenger armour was also used during the Iraq war in 2003, these could travel 50km an hour and are well protected by Chobham armour. Modern jet fighter planes and bombers now use ‘stealth technology’ to reach targets and fire guided missiles drop precision ‘smart bombs’. Such developments have clearly transformed tactics, and have increasingly helped in tackling new tactics such as Guerilla warfare.
To add to this, the role of the government has changed the nature of warfare from 1900-2017 but to limiting effect. The role of government was largely impacted by propaganda and conscription. During the first world war, conscription was enforced by the government for men between the ages of 18 to 41,with over 3 million men conscripted and this later increased during the second world war for between the ages 18-51. Propaganda was also enforced by the government with public posters encouraging pal’s battalions and engineering a sense of patriotism and enthusiasm, this large recruitment drive was led by Lord Kitchener. Furthermore, national service was introduced for men aged 17 to 21, who would serve for 18 months and stay as reserves for the next 4 years, to help keep up with the demands of defending the empire due to Britain’s role as a member of NATO during the unfolding cold war during 1960. However, the size of the army later returned to 80,000 in 1945 as mass destruction could be enforced without the deployment of a large number of troops. This indicates that in fact weapons were the main reason for change, although the role of governments were still important in order to raise large armies and pay for the development of new technologically advanced weapons.
Furthermore, public attitudes have also changed the nature of warfare, although it could be said that change is mainly driven by developments in weapons and guerilla warfare and there has been little effect. Public attitudes have been affected by the role of the government and censorship. Censorship has impacted public attitudes as during the first world war and second world war, soldier's letters were heavily doctored, to help prevent the impact on public morale, later on however censorship had become unavoidable as seen by the Iraq war in 2003 where reporters were embedded with soldiers, reporting on the tragic conditions firsthand. Education also increased with the role of media, television and newspapers, this impacted public attitudes as seen by the Battle of Somme in 1916 to the 20,000 british casualties and 40,000 injuries, this indicated the faults in recruitment and training, and led to pressure on the government and also waving away any initial enthusiasm. Moreover, as the electorate increased it gave public opinions a voice and indicated that the government had to be careful when choosing to go to war. Public attitudes also changed due to the Iraq war, where domestic opposition was held to the Iraq war and campaigns such as the CND challenged the government. With all this mind, it indicates that public attitudes have indeed changed but this has been as a result of guerilla warfare during the Iraq war in 2003, as it changed opinions on the nature of warfare through the use of social media and mass reporting.
Lastly, guerilla warfare has also played a key role for change in the nature of warfare from 1900-2017. Guerilla warfare has changed the composition of the army in particular At the start of the century, the army was made up of infantry(accounting for two thirds), the cavalry(10%), the artillery(20%) and specialist troops(the smallest part), however this has now changed to 25% infantry, 10% cavalry, 10% artillery and the largest part of the army being specialist troops. Guerilla warfare includes using ambush , exploiting your knowledge of the local terrain through IED’s, suicide bombers on the sides of roads and hit and run tactics. This has led to the deployment of specialist troops, such as the Specialist air service and bomb-disposal units, who counteract this change. Guerilla insurgents avoid open battles where they can easily be overcome, and it allows an inferior force to resist a superior one, and cause superior forces to seek a political solution. This can be seen by the vietnam war from 1960-1970 by Viet Cong insurgents using guerilla warfare, which accounted for 58,000 American deaths. Hence, indicating that guerilla warfare has indeed played a key role in change during 1900-2017 as it has refined the composition of the army, however is not the main reason for change.
Overall, the modern army has become streamlined in terms of size, the main reason for this has been the development of weaponry, as it indicates how mass destruction can be carried out without the recruitment of large numbers of troops. The requirements for armies to use highly sophisticated weapons has certainly become more varied and specialised, demonstrating the main reason for change are weapons. The role of the government has also been keen though for funding this change and recruiting a more specialised army to counteract tactics such as Guerilla warfare. It is also important to note that the role of public attitudes has also changed due to censorship, though not very much as the ultimate decision goes to the government as seen in the Iraq war in 2003, where despite much opposition war was seeked as a solution. Guerilla warfare has also changed warfare as it has led to the recruitment of more specialist troops such as chemical engineers, and led to a great number of casualties, which has in turn led the government to develop a more surgical and electronically based way of fighting as seen by cyber warfare.
As trite as it is, weapons are just a tool. An army can have the best weapons in the world and still get completely spanked on the battlefield if they dont have the training, tactics, morale, technical/operational skill and a broad military strategy to go with it. Weapons themselves are merely an enabler, as most strategic experts will note. Look at Schelling, Grey et al. as they have both written extensively on this topic.