Technology in Times of War

By: Husam Yaghi

The military industry has historically been a significant driver of technological innovation and has played a key role in the development and adoption of new technologies. Therefore, technology has played a pivotal role in shaping the course of warfare, redefining strategies, tactics, and the very essence of combat.  From primitive tools like spears to the advent of nuclear weapons, technological developments have consistently transformed the battlefield. Not only the military arsenal, but also soft tools; such as, Internet and social media; which have further transformed the role of information in war. Before the internet era, news was controlled by governments and government-controlled media outlets. The internet has democratized news and has allowed the population to watch news live while others can report from the battle.

Technology has revolutionized the arsenal of warfare, introducing a wide array of sophisticated weapons and tools that have significantly enhanced combat capabilities. Precision-guided missiles, autonomous drones, and advanced communication systems are just a few examples of how technology has reshaped the modern battlefield. Armies today have access to satellite imagery, radar systems, and electronic eavesdropping capabilities, which provide real-time monitoring of enemy movements, terrain analysis, and tactical planning. This enhanced situational awareness enables armies to make informed decisions, coordinate their forces effectively, and anticipate their adversaries’ actions.

In recent years, the pace of innovation has accelerated, leading to a dramatic evolution in the way wars are fought and won.  In the pre-digital era, the flow of information during times of war was tightly controlled by governments and traditional media outlets. The advent of the internet and social media has shattered this monopoly on information, enabling anyone with an internet connection to share their experiences, eyewitness accounts, and analysis of events. News and propaganda were carefully curated to shape public perception and garner support for the war effort.  This access to vast information has sparked public outrage, increased pressure on governments to take action, and mobilized international support for the victims of war. However, social media also presents challenges, as it can be used to spread false information and propaganda, making it difficult to discern the truth in times of conflict.

During the Syrian Civil War, the Syrian Civil Defense (the White Helmets), utilized social media platforms to share videos and photos of their rescue operations and document the devastation caused by the conflict.

During Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the Ukrainian government used social media to provide updates on the conflict, mobilize volunteers, and coordinate defense measures. Ordinary Ukrainians also turned to social media to document the war, share their experiences, and seek support from the international community.

In the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict, both parties are leveraging the Internet and social media to shape the narrative in alignment with their respective interests. Notably, social media platforms are displaying bias by selectively blocking or suppressing content depending on their stance regarding the conflict.

Combating fake news, silencing, or blocking certain information, and holding social media platforms accountable, are essential steps in addressing the challenges and risks posed by technology in times of war. Ultimately, the responsibility lies with all of us to use these powerful tools responsibly and ethically, striving for a future where technology serves as a force for peace, understanding, and human rights; which could remain a wishful dream.

Disclaimer: “This blog post was researched and written with the assistance of artificial intelligence tools.”