Transcending the cultural gaps in 21st century strategic analysis and planning: the real revolution in military affairs

Author/s (editor/s):

Edwin Lowe

Publication year:

2004

Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 155

In the closing years of the 20th Century, two competing strategic paradigms emerged from the United States and the People's Republic of China. The 'Asymmetric Warfare' (US) and 'Unrestricted Warfare' (PRC) paradigms were both hailed as the new doctrine of warfare required to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
 
Although the names of these two paradigms allude to a similar doctrine, they in fact differ at the most fundamental levels of cultural assumptions and cultural perspectives. The respective paradigms are deeply rooted in each culture's philosophic roots and the way each views strategic and state affairs. The American 'Asymmetric Warfare' paradigm is centred on the complete battlespace dominance by a potent US military, based on modern RMA technologies. It is a paradigm firmly based on the scientific and rationalist, Western 'way of war'. The Chinese 'Unrestricted Warfare' paradigm reflects the holistic and abstract Chinese view of statecraft. Its premise is that in the interdependent and globalised post Cold War world, the nature of warfare in the 21st Century has evolved beyond that of the traditional paradigms of military confrontation. Warfare has evolved to encompass all aspects of state affairs, including national economies, national infrastructure and public opinion; where the 'combatants' include statesmen, scientists, economists, consumers, voters and the media. International trends in the years around the turn of the century lend great gravity to this paradigm.
 
In the 21st Century, the real 'Revolution in Military Affairs' will be the ability to transcend one's own cultural paradigms and to view the adversary through his own cultural norms and assumptions.

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