Progress. The only positive byproduct of human existence beyond basic procreation. The Number One Catalyst? War. War has been, and probably is, the biggest driver for technological innovation ever. Most advancements have been directly or indirectly involved in ending lives as efficiently as possible, or preventing it from happening.
America spends God-knows how much on Defence each year. Their prototypes are an estimated ten to fifteen years ahead technologically of anything in service today. Think about the state of your household tech in the Eighties compared to now and imagine how gucci their kit is now.
The sad thing, leaving aside the necessity of having to have weapons in the first place, is that the effectiveness of a weapon has NOTHING to do with technology. You could invent a time machine, go forward to the point just before weapons are abolished, buy the most advanced weapon available, bring it back, and it can be rendered completely useless by the lack of the will to employ it (ignoring the possibility of it ceasing to exist, depending on your understanding of the joys of time travel).
First World society has evolved to the point where “jetting off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man” does just not cut it with the folks with the votes. So all this expenditure on clever bullets and so forth is kinda pointless. America knows this only too well. After Vietnam, it knows that wars are won at home, with the hearts and minds of the people who pay for it. Get the public onside and you can do anything. Hell, you can ignore the UN if you feel like it.
And all these technological advances are designed to combat any enemy that does not exist. For example, designing bullets that can penetrate ceramic armour which they only invented themselves last week and which no-one else has had a chance to buy / steal yet. Basically, they’re designing weapons to fight other First World powers, of which there aren’t any, at least not militarily.
The enemies of the First World are not kevlar-clad laser-guided super-soldiers with an IQ of 120 and a Masters in International Relations, toting 200 IQ points worth of processing power in their fanny packs. They are barely-educated, poorly fed tribespeople with Religion at their side and an AK on their back who are pissed that some foreign infidel has deemed their way of life to be a threat.
The mere act of attacking first-generation enemies with fifth-generation weapons inevitably means that the tech-level of your enemy is increased, because, like Star Wars, the designers never envisage the possibility that a guy with a rifle could possibly shoot one bullet down a small tube and make the whole thing go boom, and everything that didn’t go boom can and will be used against you in a warzone near you soon.
Take Afghanistan; the only instance of a country bombed forward into the Stone Age. Even before George’s “Global War on Terror” tour hit town, they had been fighting the Russians not that long before, using weapons supplied to them by the CIA and bits and pieces of busted Hind helicopters.
If the recent history of warfare is anything to go by, fighting fire with fuel-air explosives ends in defeat. Trying to kill a guy in a cave in Afghanistan by carpet bombing him with B-52s has been probably been as successful as it was when they carpet bombed guys in black pajamas in the South East Asian jungle. Although I haven’t checked with Sun Tzu on this, there must come a time where the level of force is so disproportionate that it ceases to be effective. Laser-Guided Smart Bomb + Politics = Pointy Stick.
Think of it like trying to kill a fly with the World’s Biggest Fly Swatter. Because it’s the World’s Biggest, the fly is small enough to fit through the gaps unscathed.
Or trying to shoot down a WW1 fighter with a F-15. Even if radar would pick him up, the guy would be on the ground enjoying an espresso before the Eagle Driver had gained enough space to turn around, lock on and fire before overshooting.
So if you want to defeat a low-tech enemy, you have to get low-tech, or try to employ your high-tech in a low-tech way, if your morals or political will can handle it. If you have to fight, you’ve already lost. But if you want to fight and can’t, you shouldn’t even play the game.