Future warfare will feature small groups with weapons of mass destruction attacking urban populations, a professor said.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The nature of warfare is drastically changing, and terrorism has increasingly become part of war, a YSU professor said.
Terrorism is indiscriminate violence against civilians, with the goal of intimidating and undermining civilian morale to achieve political aims, Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, professor of philosophy and religious studies at Youngstown State University, told a United Nations Association gathering Thursday at the YWCA on Rayen Avenue.
"Justifying terrorism has been and continues to be a weapon in conventional and unconventional war," he said. "The paradigm case is the intentional, indiscriminate aerial bombardment of German cities during World War II. Dresden was the worst," he added.
Civilian casualties: Traditional rules of engagement have dictated that every effort be made to spare noncombatants, he said. He added, however, that, "Over the past century, wars have more and more taken the form of terrorism," and noted a dramatic increase in civilian casualties.
Civilian deaths as a percentage of all war-related fatalities increased from 5 percent in World War I to 48 percent in World War II, 84 percent in Korea and 90 percent in Vietnam, he said.
Even with precision weapons and a U.S. policy of minimizing civilian deaths, U.S. studies strongly suggest that up to 150,000 Iraqi civilians died in the 1991 Persian Gulf War as a result of bombing targets such as power plants and water and sewage treatment plants, the professor said.
"In the near future, wars will be fought not solely, perhaps not even primarily, by nation states, but by groups" of a tribal or ethnic nature, he predicted. "In such wars, the distinction between soldier and civilian will hardly exist.
"The battlefield will change dramatically. The Persian Gulf War may well have been the last modern war with large armies pitted against each other in territory somewhat distant from urban areas," he said.
"Instead, we will see small groups with weapons of mass destruction used against large urban populations," he said.
The weapons: Weapons will include commercial airliners, such as those used at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, chemical or biological agents or the Internet, he said. Internet terrorists could paralyze financial markets, power grids or air traffic control systems, he observed.
Palmer-Fernandez said he can envision "a nation like ours brought to its knees by a few very talented hackers."
"Religion will re-emerge as a powerful motive for war," he said. "Some of the soldiers of the future will die and kill not as a means to bring about a political objective, but as a sacramental act -- an act of worship," he predicted.
"The wars of the future will not be like the wars we have lived through in the recent past. They'll be much more like the wars of the distant past, but much more dangerous as they will employ weapons of the future," he added.