Imagine that there are two nations at war, but fighting is limited to a small section where their nations border each other. Travel is "conventional", forces from one nation can block the other from deep incursions by placing themselves in the path.

Now suppose that both nations develop a miraculous transportation technology, completely changing the dynamics of war. Each nation can instantly transport a large army to almost any point in their enemy's territory - including their capital city.

After the initial shock of adjusting to this development, would warfare increase or decrease on aggregate? Are there any periods in history where analogous developments took place, and what happened?

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    $\begingroup$ Nice Question. Is there a primary motivation for this war? Is it over resources, religious differences, political ideologies, or are we only to assume that both nations wish to destroy each other at all costs? $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2014 at 1:32
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    $\begingroup$ I think it might also depend on the nature of this transport? It sounds from the question like you are talking about some sort of group transport (i.e. is only fesible for large groups of people), but does it also apply to individuals? Can you give a sense of how expensive the transport is? $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2014 at 1:41
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    $\begingroup$ @congusbongus - I would say "resources or 'they're different'", personally. Humans can be very xenophobic. $\endgroup$
    – Bobson
    Sep 17, 2014 at 2:30
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    $\begingroup$ You say "...can instantly transport a large army...", but can them instantly transport any other thing, like a nuclear bomb, a biological weapon, a single assasin or some tons of sulphuric acid? And, is this transport "from here to anyplace (wizards's teleporting)", "from here to anyplace and viceversa (Star Trek transporter)" or "from anyplace to anyplace (God's wish)"? $\endgroup$
    – Envite
    Sep 24, 2014 at 23:53
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    $\begingroup$ I'd say that the first civilization that discovered such power will transport their most powerful bomb into the royal/presidential bedroom around midnight, thereby winning the war, this will discourage open warfare (relying on brute force) and encourage guerilla tactics and espionage (less strength, more mind tricks) $\endgroup$
    – Raestloz
    Oct 2, 2014 at 9:45

10 Answers 10


This feels like a cop-out answer to me, especially on a world-building site, but I'm going to say that there's no way to answer this. Let me explain:

First of all, either the technology is discovered/learned by both sides at effectively the same time (on military timescales), or it wasn't.

If it wasn't, then whichever side got it working first would use it to win the war... unless that side didn't have sufficient forces to delay the invaders while simultaneously transporting an invasion force to inside the enemy capital's defenses. That lack could be due to manpower, geography, or a specific limited resource. Anything where taking troops off of the front would cause the front to collapse. However, assassination suddenly becomes a viable option even for a lone operative transported into place.

If they do have sufficient resources to open the new front via teleportation, they can make either targeted strikes on the enemy government/leaders, or send in a general occupying force to force a surrender.

If it was close enough to be simultaneous, then there's the next decision point: Either both sides know the other has (or will soon have) this technology, or they don't. If they don't know, then expect to see the "if it wasn't" tactics carried out by both sides, and whoever is first, will probably be the victor. If they're both aware of each other, it gets very interesting, and you can start drawing parallels to the Cold War.

Basically, each side has the ability to launch a devastating attack on the other, even if it means they are also destroyed. Depending on the leaders involved and the reason for the war, both sides may choose this option (or one may choose it, triggering the other to choose it), which will then, depending on whether the citizenry martyrs the dead leaders or goes "whew, we're done with war" either end the war or lead to renewed hostilities in revenge.

If neither side chooses to be the first to act, they'll start using the threat of being able to do so to negotiate. Since each side is equally vulnerable, the most likely outcome is a ceasefire along the current border, while each side tries to come up with some sort of defense. This is very much what happened with nuclear arsenals during the Cold War - neither side wanted to trigger open hostilities, but each kept trying to maneuver for advantage in other ways.

In short, there's just too many variables to give a simple "increase" or "decrease" answer. It depends on how simultaneous it is, the relative strengths of the ground forces, the willingness of the leaders to order assassinations of their opposites, the will of the population to keep fighting even after a leader is assassinated, and just how quickly each side can act.

  • $\begingroup$ So if one side gains a decisive advantage then they quickly defeat the other side, otherwise it results in a cold war-like standoff? Sounds like in both cases the long-term outcome is peace. $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2014 at 3:18
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    $\begingroup$ @congusbongus - There's the third option where what could be a cold war never chills, either because one side doesn't want to calm down or because neither do. Then the war continues, and will probably get more intense as each side tries to pick off the leaders of the other, or destroy their ability to teleport, and the citizens keep enlisting/aiding their side. Eventually, both sides may end up too devastated to continue fighting, although I wouldn't necessarily call that "peace". $\endgroup$
    – Bobson
    Sep 17, 2014 at 3:22
  • $\begingroup$ "cold war" is not exactly "peace"... $\endgroup$
    – o0'.
    Oct 22, 2014 at 8:22
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    $\begingroup$ There is another possibility. If the tech were easily reproducible after the initial exposure that would result in both sides holding it back. During WWII both sides independently developed Chaff, however, neither side deployed it, for fear of it being used against themselves. $\endgroup$
    – Aron
    Nov 30, 2014 at 9:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Flotolk And then the nations will come up with a bunch of situations that aren't "technically" warfare, or technologies that are just different enough from the banned one to be legally ambiguous. You know, like with the Geneva conventions. $\endgroup$
    – KSmarts
    Mar 17, 2015 at 18:01

Several factors that come into play here:

  • Element of surprise / reaction times. If whoever has the element of surprise is most likely to win a conflict, then yes, it would increase the frequency of warfare and conquest. Until reaction times to these sorts of assaults were improved, such that the element of surprise were lessened, this would remain the case. This is why the marines in the Aliens franchise use motion detectors: once the aliens get within visual range, they make quick work of marines. Similarly, it may be that your teleportation technology requires a large energy build-up in order to teleport any sizeable complexity or mass of troops. This may mean that it could be detected by opponents before it happens.

  • Cost. Finance is about managing risk; this includes financing wars. If the proposal looks good, the risk of being struck at first is high, and ethics are not in question, then a quick, first strike may be justified.

  • Level of paranoia. This again relates to the general level of ethics in the world (c.f. adherence to institutions like the Geneva Convention). If paranoia is high, then yes, it is highly likely that lethal first strikes would become commonplace.

  • Centralisation / deployment concentrations. If attacking capitals became commonplace, societies / nations would become more decentralised. It may also serve to decouple military administration further from civil administration. If an opponent aims for your heart, have more than one. This also leads to forces being deployed according to the risk factor inherent in not defending a particular facility.

If there were time to adapt societies to these tactics, you would end up with highly-compartmentalised, cell-based territories, probably consolidating resource gathering, manufacturing, residence, and military capabilities if not into the same cells, then into very tight localities of cells. This would make for nations that are most resistant to damage. Of course even this assumes no use of large area-of-effect weapons like nuclear weapons or excessive air power; if these are factored into the equation, then you would likely have scattered, self-sufficient compounds, or mutually-reliant compounds which would teleport supplies between them. Even in this case, it's likely that you'd end up with a hybrid approach -- scattered bunches of cells, such that every locale had compartmentalisation built in.

Then again if you consider the possibility of teleporting immediate-detonation nuclear weapons into enemy cells, you end up with armageddon in any case... a gross simplification is that whoever has the most cells, develops the necessary technology first and has the energy available to use it, wins. It's bedlam, because it's a case of hair-trigger timing if multiple nations gain the same technological capabilities around the same time.

More than anything else, could a technology be developed that could prevent teleport materialisation, even if only within a limited space? The high likelihood is that this would be the next arms race, just like Star-Wars-type programs were in late 70s and early 80s. Interception / interdiction would be the game changer.


Most of the answers above have dealt with this question in regards to the idea of using it as a conventional weapon, but none of them have yet mentioned that instantaneous transportation would also be a fantastic defense. You could, for instance, use it to move your citizens and all of their goods out of harms' way, so that when the other army does arrive, they arrive to a completely empty settlement. This could create a sort of "hide and go seek" or "chase" dynamic, as they must try to work out where you went in order to conquer you, and you could come back at any time, once you're properly prepared to take them. You could likewise use such a town as a baited trap, safely removing the bait and inserting the army/weapon of death as soon as it is sprung.

Likewise, an army appearing near one base means that another base has just suddenly lost a whole lot of men, making it very vulnerable to attack. If you have spies capable of instantly teleporting to you and informing you which base is now low on men, you can ship your people and your army out to take that location while the other army sits around wondering where you got off to.

In the end, you'd probably wind up with patchwork territories around certain key points, instead of continuous nations. The land between these points would become inconsequential to both trade and war, so it would remain largely untouched (unless you decide to use one as an escape route/hiding place/staging ground), while those few cities of interest would change hands a lot.


If your army travel faster and can attack locations the enemy does not defend it will win. It´s as easy as that.

In the Art of War Sun Tzu said:

Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field.

One interpretation of that is: If you choose the battleground, you Win.

If you can choose where to be for your offence or defense you can build your strategy around that fact that you know about the battlefield and your troops layout and the enemy doesn't.

Also: In history on the battlefields the fast units like cavalry were a hard hitting Weapon because it could hit everywhere.

In Modern Times:

  • Paratroopers in WWII. Jumped somewhere where the Germans were not defending. Make a big mess out of the land behind the front and the beaches.
  • The War in Iraq (the first weeks). The infantry weren't used much because the war was way to fast moving after the Iraqis troops were overcome, only airstrikes won this first time (as far as the media broadcast it in Germany).

In future Times like it is Questioned here: With instant traveling, like teleporting, it will be still the same. If you teleport, say 500 troopers to one location, beat the targets in the area in the first few minutes and teleport away. The Enemy did not have enough time to report the teleport location before the damage is done. Defending against teleporting Troops is almost Impossible.

Example for warafair with teleportation out of the Warhammer 40K Universe:

Main article of the Lexicanum about teleportation.

All mayor races have their different ways to teleport. But if on one specific Battlefield only one Race has the technology available, the fights are mostly very short.

In the novel "Soul Drinker" is the only mentioning that a teleportation tactic failed. After teleporting weaker forces right into the battle zone they got slaughtered.


In Open War affair the faster army wins by out maneuvering the slower, if the general staff uses the technology by hand in a smart way.

Only If you fight against an Invisible Enemy, in a guerrilla war, speed is not important.


This technology would be extremely powerful. Being able to project instant military force in any area is something beyond even modern military technology today. The sudden development of this weapon on both sides of a conflict might be akin to a Cold War situation, depending on the ethos of the societies.

For example, you could draw parallels between this technology and the nuclear arms race. Each side might test the limits of the technology without risking full-blown use (in fear of instant retaliation). This could escalate tensions dramatically, ending in a catastrophic war, or a detente after societal maturation (as was thankfully the case in the Cold War). I guess the answer to your question lies in many more specific factors, such as how bitter the conflict is, how much risk is tolerable to the militaries and political factions of each side, etc.


Depending on how the transportation works, it could also be used in an attack way: Instead of transporting your troops somewhere else, transport the enemy's troops somewhere else, so they are out of way (if having no moral hesitation, it could also be a place where they'll instantly die, like on the ground of the ocean, in an active volcano, or in space). The same way, also their infrastructure could be easily destroyed. No need to go to a bridge to destroy it, not even the need to teleport dynamite there to explode it; just teleport the bridge itself away.

Against such sorts of attacks, there could however exist a shielding technology. That would, of course, then also shield against normal troop transports. So you'd be back to a classical arms race, transporter technology against shielding technology.

  • $\begingroup$ Seriously, I wouldn't teleport an army when I could just teleport a bomb. The war would be over very quickly. $\endgroup$
    – Telastyn
    Sep 22, 2014 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ Why go to the hassle of making a bomb and then teleport it, if the very same teleporter can make the same damage directly? $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Sep 22, 2014 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ I'm presuming that the teleporter looks like a Stargate in that it needs some fixed machinery to teleport things. If it's more like a Star Trek transporter, then you're right - just beam the enemy country into space and be done with it. $\endgroup$
    – Telastyn
    Sep 22, 2014 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ A Stargate-like transporter would probably not be useful for sending bombs to the enemy because the enemy will not do you the favour to put an exit port right into their critical buildings or places. Indeed, even for troop transports the enemy's ports would probably be not very useful because the enemy would surely keep their exit ports secured. Basically, the ports would just be yet another border. $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Sep 22, 2014 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ I said look, not act. I perhaps should have clarified. $\endgroup$
    – Telastyn
    Sep 22, 2014 at 20:19

The fact that one side will quickly win is not (historically) sufficient to prevent wars occurring, even if neither side is certain which side it is that will win.

It could reduce the chances of war, since the most volatile situations are when one or both sides are certain they will win (and have motive to fight, of course). I think these teleporting armies will introduce strategic uncertainty. But I don't think there's any reason to suppose that it must reduce the chances.

This is not necessarily a situation of mutually-assured destruction (although you write in further factors to ensure that it is, if you want the result to be a cold war). It's quite possible that one side will believe itself able to launch a decisive attack, and weather any counter-strike that occurs before it disables the enemies' ability to teleport and/or muster large armies. This is especially the case in the long term, it's much harder to maintain a huge standing army 24/7 ready to teleport than to maintain an ICBM ready to launch as in our own Cold War. I can see a war occurring simply because one side's logistics or economics gives the other side an opportunity for an unanswerable surprise attack.

If nothing else, though, this capacity could make wars shorter simply because there's no limit to the force you can bring to bear (as there is when dealing with fortifications). There's nothing to limit the rate at which those who are going to kill each other, get on with it.

Once someone wins, their main goal will be to keep out of others' hands the ability to teleport an army. Depending on the technology it might not be possible to prevent them teleporting, in which case you'd have to keep them demilitarised at almost all costs. If the victor achieves this then you can certainly argue that imperial repression is "less warfare": there may still be significant casualties but fewer pitched battles. The losing side might not feel that it's any better off under this Pax Imperialis than it was fighting a distant war on its borders, at least not unless any obvious economic benefits kick in, but it's still peace of a sort.

Analogous historical situations? Nothing very close springs to mind unless you do have MAD, because frontier defence has been such an important part of real warfare. The development of aerial bombing by plane and rocket meant that, between 1918 and 1939, the major powers developed a completely new ability to put tonnes and tonnes of high explosive into each others' capitals far behind the frontier. This didn't prevent the Second World War, but I suppose you could think about whether it had a long-term effect separate from the effect of nuclear MAD. I don't know the answer, although I rather suspect that for example the Korean and Vietnam wars would not have happened, certainly not in the form they did happen, if the "locals" had the capacity for conventional (non-nuclear) bombing in London, Paris and Washington.

Going back much further, consider a small, low-tech "warring tribes" situation. Territories are small, fortifications aren't really all that good with the exception of prepared caves, hillforts, and suchlike. A walled border you can't man doesn't do nothing but it doesn't do a whole lot. I'm not sure whether by "almost any point" you mean "except for a few special protected locations", but if so this comparison has relevance, I think. You can't literally teleport anywhere, but if your enemy's territory is only a day's travel across, then you can put such fighting force as you have almost anywhere very quickly. Warfare is neither constant nor particularly rare in such societies historically, and I think prevalence is based on social and economic factors that determine how willing people are to launch an attack more than the fact that everyone is relatively vulnerable all the time.

Another possible comparison is guerilla warfare. It's asymmetric, but it has the property that both sides can move around the territory and in principle attack almost anywhere, there is no frontier. To over-simplify, at any given moment one side doesn't attack because it doesn't know where the other side is, and the other side doesn't attack because it's weaker, has no safe place to muster, and doesn't want excessive losses. Any local change to these factors results in localised combat, so combat is locally intermittent but might well occur somewhere every day.

For another asymmetric example, consider the way that Vikings terrorised England and parts of France for 250 years or so. They didn't teleport of course, but certainly delivered force unpredictably at speed well beyond their "borders". They would simply appear unannounced in a village or abbey, take everything of value, and leave. The English fought back at varying times with varying success, and Wessex had a reasonable try at maintaining a standing army spread throughout its territory to react to raids, but nobody was able to take the fight to the enemy. The Vikings had much of England at some points, lost English territories at others, and many settled and assimilated. It was not a peaceful time.

Ultimately they won all of England, if you count the Normans as Vikings-in-exile ;-)


The extent to which a teleportation technology ends up being a stabilizing or destabilizing influence would depend a great detail on its abilities and limitations. If a transport operator can send anyone or anything basically anywhere after scanning around the intended destination, and can likewise retrieve almost anyone or anything from basically anywhere, that operator would have nearly unlimited power unless there were some limits on the who/what and where. It is unlikely that two or more people could have such power simultaneously unless either (1) they trusted each other very well, or (2) the abilities of the transporters were limited in such fashion that one couldn't simply take out the other.

For a story involving transporters to be interesting, it should make clear to the reader what abilities the transporter does or does not have. For example, a transport might take the form of matched pair of rings which warp space so as to connect their interiors, but which must be manufactured together and physically conveyed to anyplace where they might be used. If it was easy to detect the whereabouts of such warping, but hard to interfere with it, teleporters might be more useful on defense than offense: without teleportation, the only way for a country to guard against a concentrated attack on any point would be to have all points be sufficiently protected to resist a concentrated attack, but a defensive teleport network would resist the effectiveness of an attack. Note that the if attackers could conceal their troop movements they wouldn't need teleporters to concentrate their forces, since they could spend as much time as they needed to concentrate their forces before launching their attack. Note that if a country managed to get a teleporter behind enemy lines, that could facilitate an overrun of the enemy, but if teleporters were easy to detect, smuggling teleporters might be difficult.


Using it to wage war is pretty silly unless it's a war of genocide.

You'd put your armies in places that had to be defended and then just sit still. The chance of being caught out & ambushed (unless the teleportation is at-will for huge numbers to anywhere) becomes even greater, because any intel on your enemies forces regarding location and intent is entirely useless.

The best use would be for targeted assassinations, don't let your enemy know you have it, then attack their generals, war cabinet, royal family etc with death squads.

Teleport into their Treasury adnd back out again with all the loot and hide it somewhere random.

Armies are still armies, if you teleport your army into combat with theirs, it's still just a fight and in warfare soldiers can rarely see their enemy for long before combat starts anyway, for them it wouldn't be all that different.

So, it would be much the same. High up folks who thought they could get away with it, would send people to their deaths fighting for "freedom, liberty and the other guy is an asshole" and people who didn't think they could get away with it..wouldn't.

The vulnerability conferred upon leaders would make pretty much every war a guerrilla war though, and the technology would thereafter be strictly controlled by anybody with the power to do so, cause it would be a clear and present danger to that power.


This is worldbuilding, so technically, the "correct" answer should be "whatever you wish to have as a result". It's your story and your world, so noone's going to stop you.

But since you are asking, i'd like to throw in my five cent.

How do you win a war?
Easy question? I don't think so. Think WWII. the french were thoroughly defeated, and they surrendered. Yet in the end, they won the war. The germans surrenderered. But have they lost? The nazis have (and thanks to all that made that possible!), but there must have been a few honest and upstanding germans, and at least some of them won. In a way.

Or take Vietnam. Or Iraq. I think it is debatable who won the war. Those who didn't survive lost it, that much is pretty certain, but the rest is left to discussion.

It used to be "common wisdom" that the side that loses it's capital has lost. But why is that so? It's just a convention. And it only works as long as at least a huge majority accepts that. The same goes with surrendering, peace treaties and whatnot. It works because people accept it.

Of course there is always a way to win a war without dispute, and that is complete genocide: if absolutely none of one side are left, a victory is hard to debate. Unless by philosophers, human rights activists, etc, that is...

So even if only one of both sides had the means to teleport, they would still need to make he other side accept defeat. And it doesn't get better if both have that tech.

A second, important thing to consider is: Why are wars fought in the first place? To rid your neighbours of their tyrant? To bring freedom and democracy? Possible... But more often than not it's a lot more about ridding your neighbours of the burden of possessing valuable ressources, or land, or both.

Remember, someone always wins in wars, and that's the people who invest in it, those who provide weapons, fuel, band-aids, you name it. No matter what the outcome is: They win.
How does that affect your original question: Your troops, even if teleported wherever they want to, are still not bullet-proof. A lot of them will not be too happy about being teleported, too. But transporting of ressources might be a lot easier.

If you want, your teleportation technology could revolutionize your world by facilitating transportation so that everyboy is busy exploring novel ways of making profit with that new tech that they even forget about fighting each other. Or it just speeds things up, and nature wins because humanity looses.

  • $\begingroup$ I want to expand on your last point, as you are the only one to mention the economics of it. Would teleportation remove the necessity of conflict by ushering in a golden age of economic prosperity? Obviously it depends on the cost of producing and using the technology and if it made publicly available. But it could help reduce GHG emissions by completely altering how transportation works, possibly make transportation cheaper and thus goods. Allow easier distribution of food and medicine to needy regions easier etc. It could be a mechanism of peace. $\endgroup$
    – Firelight
    Jun 13, 2017 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenDiMarco the conflicts are mostly about who gets to benefit from the ressources, and much rarer about transporting them, so no, it would not remove the motivation for conflict. Unless we talk about energy ressources, like oil and gas, since i assume this tech will allow cheaper transport (otherwise it wouldn't have any reasonable impact on transporting stuff). But i guess you will always find someone who's willing to risk other people's lives for their own profit. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Jun 13, 2017 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, more so on the energy angle. I think its important to consider the option of 'this military tech has revolutionized our world to the point of ending scarcity'. The conflict can revolve around those who wish to hold onto power even as some sort of utopian revolution unfolds and our heroes attempt to liberate this tech. But the end result could be peace. Depending on the mechanics of the teleporter of course. It might just as easily be a huge energy consumer that really has no viable economic use. Its just a troop/bomb deployer. $\endgroup$
    – Firelight
    Jun 13, 2017 at 15:24

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