General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith said the army has to “update and change the rules of war” if it wants to tackle new security threats such cyber attacks. General Carleton-Smith, Chief of the General Staff, said high-tech weapons were useless against low-level threats like fake news and subversion and “leaves us close to a position of dominant irrelevance”. He told a conference of defence chiefs from 38 countries the threat from cyber attacks and aggressive actions did not fit the traditional view of warfare.
He said: “What we need now is an urgent reappraisal of how, with what and by whom war is waged in the future.
“The rules of warfare are changing and need updating.
“Some authoritarian regimes, aspiring to their own separate spheres of influence, have sought to neutralise the Western advantage in the industrial age of warfare.
“The main threat is not missiles and tanks, it is the weaponisation of globalisation, and those elements of globalisation that have hitherto made us prosperous and secure: the mobility of goods, people, data and ideas.
“Secure borders, or living on an island, are no guarantees against the corrosive and intrusive effect of disinformation, subversion and cyber.
He told the Land Warfare Conference in London that traditional concepts of warfare were “increasingly redundant” and that peace and war were now “artificial and binary characterisations of a strategic contest that no longer exists today, but which still drives much of our policy.”
Gen Carleton-Smith said: “We need to focus on how to fight, not what to fight with and on how technology can improve our ability to operate in new ways rather than merely improving what we already do.
“If we can’t answer that question, there is still going to be a revolution in military affairs, it just probably won’t be to our advantage.”