Dale Walton: Revolutions in Strategic Perspective (RSP) and Military Affairs (RMA)

Introducing Dale Walton

Dale WaltonDr. C. Dale Walton is an Associate Professor of International Relations at Lindenwood University in St. Charles (Missouri, US). A US citizen, his previous career experience includes teaching International Relations at the University of Reading (UK) from 2007-12, serving on the faculty of the Defense and Strategic Studies Department at Missouri State University from 2001-07, and working as a Senior Analyst with the National Institute for Public Policy. As a PhD student at the University of Hull (UK), he was an H.B. Earhart Fellow.

Dr. Walton is the author of three books:

  • “Grand Strategy and the Presidency: Foreign Policy, War, and the American Role in the World” (Routledge, 2012);
  • “Geopolitics and the Great Powers in the Twenty-first Century: Multipolarity and Revolution in Strategic Perspective” (Routledge, 2007);
  • “The Myth of Inevitable U.S. Defeat in Vietnam” (Frank Cass/Routledge, 2002); and is a co-author of “Understanding Modern Warfare” (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

In addition, he has published more than seventy chapters, scholarly articles, and book reviews.

Dr. Walton’s research interests include strategic relationships and security problems in Asia, geopolitics and the changing geostrategic environment, U.S. military and strategic history, and the influence of religious and ideological beliefs on strategic behavior.

More information about his work can be found on the website of Dale Walton

This is part 2 of the interview with Dale Walton. The other parts are:

Interview

The world order II – revolutions in military affairs and strategic perspective

What is a revolution in military affairs (RMA) and how can it affect the world order?

Many different RMA definitions have been offered, and they all have virtues and drawbacks.

However, Colin S. Gray’s definition—”an RMA is a radical change in the conduct and character of war”—might be the best, because it is, as he says, “truly minimalist.”

RMAs are often associated with technology, and some RMAs (such as the ‘nuclear RMA’ or, as I prefer to call it, the ‘First American RMA’) certainly are technologically driven. However, changes in military organization and tactics, socio-political changes, and other factors can all be drivers for an RMA.

An RMA can shake a world order to its foundations, or even conceivably destroy it. What often is called the Napoleonic RMA — which reflected an interlocking set of socio-political, military organizational, and tactical developments — very nearly destroyed the multipolar European great power system, and with it the existing world order.

Over a century later, the ‘Blitzkrieg RMA’ effectively did destroy the multipolar world system—though not with the results that the RMA’s originators intended.

Both the Napoleonic and German examples illustrate a very important caveat: RMAs do not make a polity undefeatable. Given time to adapt, clever enemies can adapt to the changes unleashed by the RMA, adapting to, and even improving upon, new tactics and technologies.

What is a revolution in strategic perspective (RSP) and how can it affect the world order?

Revolutions in Strategic Perspective are a much rarer event than are RMAs. Successfully adapting to an RSP requires policymakers to radically alter the way that they think about politics. In my view, the last RSP occurred because of the European breakout and the Age of Discovery.

Rather quickly after their realization that the Americas existed and that the entire globe was navigable using existing technologies, the leaders of the Western European seapowers came to think about politics in a truly global fashion.

With the possible exception of outliers such as Alexander the Great — who may well have hoped to conquer the entire world — they were the first leaders do so in a systematic manner, asking how they could further their interests by acting globally.

Most of the powerful polities that existed in c. 1500 never made that transition. In the book, I take particular note of the Ottoman and Ming Empires, both of which were enormously powerful, populous, and wealthy political — but neither had a policymaking class that made the transition to seeing strategy as global enterprise.

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