August 17, 2015
In 1932, British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin evoked fear throughout Europe when he warned Parliament that “the bomber will always get through.” Baldwin couldn’t imagine a technology that would blunt the danger posed by air power, and thus he argued any defense was futile. The apprehension his remarks engendered made it easier for Hitler to cow the West into appeasement. But by the time Baldwin made his bleak forecast, scientists in several nations were well on their way to developing radar — the technology that would make effective air defense feasible.
As Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work has observed, America’s military today finds itself in a similar state to that prevailing during the interwar years. New technologies are proliferating at a rapid pace, creating unprecedented challenges and opportunities at the same time. The most important such technologies are those centering on digital computing and the internet. Initially, there was great optimism that these new tools could transform the world in America’s image. Now the mood has shifted to one of profound pessimism as extremists of every stripe embrace the digital revolution and U.S. networks come under continuous attack from intruders.