Does military technology increase the likelihood of war? : new precision and information technology and the future prospect of great-power war between the People's Republic of China and the United States
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In this thesis I test whether the implementation of new military technology, which is based on precision and information, leads to a shift in the offense-defense balance to where the offense dominance is heightened, making great-power war more likely than in the nuclear era (before 1991). This is hypothesized to happen through four causal mechanisms: 1) promotion of first strike, 2) promotion of false expectations of own and others’ capabilities, 3) promotion of more secrecy and fear, and lastly, 4) promotion of cleaner wars (i.e. fewer human casualties). I conduct a case study of the US-China relationship where an emerging competitor (China) poses a challenge the system leader (the US), a situation traditionally seen as unstable and more war prone. I argue that in a world where war is always a possibility, where we see an increasing western unwillingness to conduct conventional warfare and where new technology is fastening its grip on military organizations, there may be problems estimating relative power through military capabilities, which may lead to a heightened offensive dominance, in turn possibly leading to an increase in the likelihood of war. By analyzing 23 reports dated from 1999 to 2015 I find empirical support for the notion that new technology, especially in the domains of space and cyberspace, lends itself to a heightened offensive dominance and hence possibly the increased likelihood of a future great-power war. This seems to happen through the first of the three proposed causal mechanisms – first strike, false expectations and secrecy – whilst not through the last causal mechanism, cleaner wars.