/ Published May 19, 2020
Deglobalization and International Security by T. X. Hammes. Cambria Press, 2019, 263 pp.
Life’s primary constant remains change, and this aphorism remains as true for technological innovation as for biological life. T. X. Hammes again proves his skill in evaluating military innovation and change through his expert delivering of Deglobalization and International Security (see his earlier work The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century, Zenith Press, 2006). This new work evaluates how changing technology constitutes a fourth global industrial revolution based on converging areas whose sum equals more than the individual parts. Most recent trends consider increased societal interaction as a technological outcome, while this thesis explores the opposite view wherein the realized singularities emphasize regionalization. First exploring the various industrial revolution epochs, the text quickly moves to how technologies including renewable energy, three-dimensional printing, and artificial intelligence (AI) change how state and non-state actors interact. The work’s culmination showcases the author’s particular expertise through integrating global impacts with future US armed forces’ tactical and operational deployment options. As always, Dr. Hammes delivers an expert, concisely written, and well-thought-out piece regarding future directions for military operations. For anyone whose work regularly includes military acquisition, this section is essential reading.
Launching an investigation from the historical perspective, Dr. Hammes suggests in his research that humanity has moved through four separate industrial revolutions: steam, electric, digital, and on-demand or convergence. The fourth revolution never reaches a truly concise label during the work and instead incorporates features like AI and robotics, biosciences, 3D printing, clean energy, and materials sciences. Each on-demand field advance revolutionizes those that have come before, offering significant changes that alter outcomes as well as resource chains from a global to a regional focus. As an example, the ability to employ robotic workers with clean energy sources to support 3D printers when delivering new materials allows corporations to reduce global manufacturing distributions; more effectively use resources; reduce worker categories from unskilled labor to highly skilled engineers; and benefit from cheap, renewable energies to produce lower-cost robotic workers—continuing the cycle. Each change appears individually and in aggregate as Hammes discusses how each affects global expressions and attitudes before returning to military impacts.
While never settling on a fourth industrial revolution reference name as palatable as steam or electric, one might refer to this new revolution as on-demand, convergence, or singularity—the point where technologies integrate to create a whole greater than the individual parts. Hammes highlights the various pieces appearing through each technological area. Robotic trends are industrial robots assisting manufacturing and collateral robots aiding current practices, to include those AI algorithms influencing improved capabilities. Further, robotic and manufacturing trends demonstrating convergence are growing print-on-demand functions for not just text but also metal and polymer products driven by cheap, plentiful energy. Energy examples include cheapening oil production costs, resulting in increased natural gas production, and renewable solar and wind sources to create more available power than ever before. More cheap energy alleviates the number one human concern, shortening resource trains and improving food distribution. The overlapping discussion illustrates technological convergence through providing example after example to demonstrate how growth in one area improves overall outcomes.
Hammes next evaluates how convergence changes affect economic, development, and military possibilities. He uses Michael Porter’s Diamond model to assess trade changes as firm strategy, structure, and rivalry; factor conditions; demand conditions; and supporting industries. The model provides a stable framework to compare countries and industries. The most intriguing economic impact example discusses reshoring as factory and manufacturing jobs return home geographically from previous overseas locations due to lowered costs and shortened supply chains. Labor reshoring then changes to consider how low-skilled, high-volume activities previously centered in developing nations will disappear. This change will likely delay development with increasing tariffs to protect local industry and, as a result, further accelerate reshoring movements. Smaller, regional manufacturing centers lead Hammes to primarily consider military applications featuring nanotechnology such as carbon fiber hardening as well as land, air, and sea drone possibilities as the future. All drone options are further predicted to benefit from AI guidance as well as hypervelocity improvements like railguns, magnetically accelerated projectile weapons.
The last two chapters featuring tactical changes and US military force structure alterations are oddly positioned given the book’s early excellence. The second-to-last chapter reiterates the military impact’s hypotheses while the final chapter advocates moving the US acquisition structure from larger weapon systems to smaller and cheaper drones. Traditional scholarship characterizes future wars with three fundamental qualities: rapid resource attrition, compression of time and space, and increased information availability. Hammes sticks with these core areas as future operational concerns while including new features such as a loss of immunity to attack, tactically dominant defenses, and improvements to mass and mobility options. The most interesting new component must be the tactically dominant defense as one considers that, while any element can hide from any other through nanotechnology and distribution to alleviate attack, those elements may also be identified through a loss of immunity to attack as well as time and space attrition, making defense both preeminent and irrelevant.
Many excellent ideas appear throughout, and toward the end, Hammes admirably blends them into operational military viewpoints. While additional integration would have increased the book’s value, the subject matter remains sufficient to stand alone. Each item does appear separately but, while building on previous material, lacks true integration from a theoretical perspective. As an example, the nanotechnology discussion covers nanoexplosives, graphene compounds, and radiation-hardened circuits—all in less than two pages. Each topic here could extensively relate to power, robotic production, and even trade values but are just briefly mentioned. Later, nanotechnology appears as a reason drones will excel but without reference back to the integrated pieces. The sources are also excellent, meaning one could conduct additional follow-on research, but a tighter organizational outlook and focus would have improved messaging. As a final critique, Hammes might have highlighted some short reference point for the fourth industrial revolution as easy to remember as steam, electric, or digital provided for the first three revolutions versus listing all associated technologies every time.
Deglobalization and International Security offers an intriguing glimpse into a future technological convergence. The deglobalization aspect proves the most fascinating as most other scholars advocate for technology creating increased interconnection. Each chapter expertly explores dedicated principles by first introducing the material and then showing convergence options. Robotics, power, and AI possibilities are thoroughly covered, with individual case studies highlighting deglobalizing examples. The best chapters appear early, explaining technology and impacts, while later chapters veer toward military improvements. Technology will impact the future, and a fourth industrial revolution based on convergence could prove key. Hammes’s short, well-sourced book should be a must-read for anyone involved in international security. The military aspect may fall slightly short, but the book’s serious and thoughtful discussions about technological impacts and their deglobalizing influence are exceptional.
Dr. Mark T. Peters II, USAF, Retired
"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."