War is a complex and chaotic business that persistently confounds the attempts of frontline forces, junior officers, field commanders, campaign commanders, policy elites, and others to understand what is happening amidst the smoke, noise, violence, and confusion.  This has not, however, stopped war’s many participants from trying to discern the ebbs and flows of battle and use whatever information can be gleaned to chart the most propitious path forward.  Information technology has always been a central component of this effort; as the Chief of the Prussian General Staff, Helmuth von Moltke, noted soon after the employment of the telegraph in battle, the goal of reliance on tools ranging from human and animal messengers to the most sophisticated, integrated satellite-based communications networks has been to improve a military’s ability to estimate and respond to the current and likely future combat situation.[1]

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The Diffusion of Military Power coverWhile knowledgeable observers rightly discounted the geopolitical significance of China’s launch of the refurbished Russian aircraft carrier Varyag last August, the event did underscore the salience of the topic of this H-Diplo roundtable. No student of international relations can be indifferent to the questions that Michael Horowitz addresses in Diffusion of Military Power.  Will China ultimately develop true carrier warfare capacity?  Why has U.S. supremacy in this area gone unchallenged for over half a century? How likely is it that China will emulate other aspects of U.S. military power? How many new nuclear powers are we likely to see?  Will Iranian drones soon patrol American skies? Horowitz develops and tests a bold structural- and material interest-based theory to explain the propensity of military innovations to diffuse through the international system.

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