Today, we are at war on several fronts. The fights against terrorism, organised crime, economic espionage and weapons proliferation are permanent conflicts that are likely to confront us through the next century. At the same time, some of the old tensions remain, with ethnic conflicts in Bosnia and Somalia reminding the revolutionaries and the traditionalists that wars will continue however many chips and computers may populate the world.
A new generation of visionaries has sprung up, enabled by the computer revolution. They predict a very different world that will emerge from the current uncertainty. It will be a place where wars of every type will be fought not by soldiers confronting soldiers but by new warriors engaging in the infosphere, the virtual world where commerce, conversation and connectivity will all occur. In those wars, new weapons will be needed and real power will accrue to the nation or group that understands the use of this new technology.
In this new world, the soldier will be the young geek in uniform who can insert a virus into Teheran's electricity supply to plunge the city into darkness. His civilian equivalent will be able to read every e-mail, crash any office computer anywhere in the world, invade networks and destroy systems, all from thousands of miles away. The bank account of the drug baron or organised criminal located in an apparently safe offshore haven will be an open book.
Although little of the perils and possibilities of this new form of warfare has reached the public or the political leadership, across America and the world, thousands of men and women have been quietly working to make what sounds like science fiction into a reality. And such is the pace of the information revolution that many of the tactics and weapons that sound like fantasy are already in place.
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