THE West is “wasting money” developing high-tech weapons systems in a world where “conventional war is dead” and a new type of “sneaky” conflict is looming, a US-based defence expert has said, citing China’s activity in the South China Sea region and Russia’s in the Ukraine.
Dr Sean McFate made his remarks during a conference organised by the Washington-based Carnegie Institute at which he also suggested future warfare would also be characterised by mercenaries offering their services to the highest bidder. Dr McFate, a Professor at the National Defense University in Washington, said: “Warfare has changed, but we have not. “Our adversaries grasp this, and that’s why they prevail.”
“Today, we are seeing the return of mercenaries for the first time in 150 years.
“They went underground, but now they’re coming back.
“And these are not just the lone guys in the Congolese jungles with a Kalashnikov, these are high-end Special Operations units. These are showing up with attack helicopters.
“Now they have mercenaries, anybody who is rich enough can wage war for whatever reason they want, no matter how petty, the super-rich can become a superpower for good or for bad.”
Dr McFate said the shift to private armies reflected a dramatic change in the way wars would be fought in the 21st century.
He explained: “Everybody thinks that if there’s going to be a big fight with China or Russia, that’ll be just like World War II – just with better technology.
“It won’t. Conventional war is dead.”
Therefore, he argued, it was pointless Western nations spending tens of billions of pounds on weapons such as stealth jet fighters and submarines which were designed to fight on a battlefield which he said was becoming obsolete.
He added: “So what does new war look like?
“Endurable disorder. A new type of global environment. A new type of conflict.
“It’s getting sneakier. War is getting sneaky.”
Dr McFate singled out China as an example of a nation which was no longer taking a conventional approach.
He said: “They get right in between that space of war and peace
“They go right up to the brink of war in the South China Sea, right up to where we will react — and they stop.
“But they keep everything they capture or create.
“And this is how they’re winning the South China Sea, one island at a time — without carrier battle groups.”
Russia used similar tactics with respect to Crimea, he added.
He explained: “Russia used a lot of propaganda and information warfare.
“They occupied eastern Ukraine and Crimea with a ghost occupation.
“And the reason this works is that we live in a global information age where plausible deniability is more powerful than firepower.
“The Kremlin gets that. We do not”.