The most significant security related events during the industrial age were the atomic devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since then efforts to manage and control the overwhelming power of nuclear weapons has been at the very least successful in preventing the use of this weapon again in a conflict situation.
Seeing that the information age is still young, the question remains what would be the most significant national security threats, emanating from this age which governments will face in the future. Successful management of these threats depends upon the ability of government leaders to adapt to a rapidly changing global security environment. While security threats associated with the earlier agricultural and industrial age remains relevant, identifying upcoming threats to national security in the information age remains a challenge. Unfortunately, the lead time once enjoyed by decision makers to analyze and respond to these and other changes is decreasing. Traditional long-range planning models, with their inward focus and reliance on historical data, do not encourage decision makers to anticipate environmental changes and assess their impact on the national security (Cope:1981). In this regard the study of a phenomenon currently referred to as “information warfare” does hold some promise, especially if the exponential growth of technology is taken into account.
National security threats remain closely linked to the shifting basis of state power. As the global civilization moved from agriculture to industry and then to information as bases of fundamental state power, the power structures within states also changed. At its core the transformation to an information based society represents a shift from manufacturing to knowledge, where the creation, application and dissemination of knowledge - rather than the production of manufactured goods or agricultural products - is becoming the central defining activity of modern society (Mazarr:1997). This shift has a direct impact on how national security is being viewed by some governments. At the same time there has been an increase in countries studying innovative ways to try to gain an advantage by changing how conflict are managed and power projected. The information society brings new revolutionary technologies and means, which demand change in the way state security, is managed (Lin:2000).
Regardless of shifting global power structures a coherent national security strategy is an important instrument. All states, even those with limited resources, have a broad range of tools at their disposal to advance their interests. These tools, whether diplomatic, economic, informational, or military, provide the means by which they seek to achieve their security objectives. A national security strategy provides a rational framework for specifying interests in a comprehensive and methodical way (Africa Center for Strategic Studies:2005). However, security challenges stemming from the unique demands posed by the information society have only recently been taken into account in terms of national security. It can, however, be expected that information warfare will become a central theme in the future management of information age security threats.
Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Background Paper on the Senior Leader Seminar, Gaborone, Botswana, 19 June to 1 July 2005, p. 1.
Cope, R. G. 1981. Environmental assessments for strategic planning. In Poulton, N.L (Ed.), “Evaluation of management and planning systems” New Directions for Institutional Research, Vol 31, pp. 5-15. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Lin, A.C. 2000. Comparison of the Information Warfare Capabilities of the ROC and PRC, 27 December 2000, http://cryptome.org/cn2-infowar.htm, (27 October 2005).
Mazarr, J.M. 1997. Global Trends 2005: The Challenge of the New Millennium Center for International Studies.