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The Utility of Force, by Rupert Smith - Essay Example

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This essay explores the book “The Utility of Force” as an important because it revisits the key ideas that underpin modern warfare. The author is a very senior British serviceman who has experience of diverse conflict arenas including Northern Ireland, the 1991 Gulf War, Bosnia, and Kosovo. …
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The Utility of Force, by Rupert Smith
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Download file to see previous pages The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are examples of this kind of situation: military forces engage with some civilians in protection of other civilians, and there is no clear understanding of where the boundaries are or how to tell the one group from the other. In effect the insurgents have managed to negate the technological advantage of Western military might by shifting the battle to their territory on their terms. They refuse to present a consistent target, but instead pick out the location, type and context of each skirmish, often winning public relations battles by forcing the opposing troops into situations where civilians are bound to become involved. The traditional military leader would plan for an engagement and an end result, but so much of modern so-called “peacekeeping” does not allow this clean approach. Smith describes the situation of the UN involvement in Bosnia, in which some 20,000 lightly armed troops were stationed between two warring factions but not allowed to use force as “strategically unsustainable and tactically inept” (Smith,2006, p. 6). Against this background, it is not surprising that Smith pleads for a radical re-think on the part politicians, diplomats and international lawyers on the rationale for the use of force in the modern world. Too often it seems that politicians resort to invasions and pre-emptive attacks simply because they have run out of ideas on the diplomatic front and do not know what else to try. Once engaged in these manoeuvers it is then very difficult to find an honourable exit. If there is no clear goal, then it is hard to claim any kind of victory, and this rather messy engagement scenario is increasingly becoming the norm for modern international forces. The most useful part...
The researcher recommended this book as a textbook for academic study, because it gives a useful insight into the changing face of modern warfare, and the reasons why so many campaigns seem doomed to fail before they even start. There is a full index, which allows the reader to pick out information on particular conflicts. It is also useful for the general reader, because it is written in a matter of fact and clear manner, with few technical terms. All in all this book is an excellent description of the way that global politics has changed since the two World Wars. Large scale military action cannot ever be used quite in that same way again, since it has finally been recognised that wars do not resolve problems that are ultimately caused by factors that are political and economic. Globalisation has ensured that countries are more closely interlinked than ever before, with the result that military planning needs to be conducted in tandem with non-military planning at every step. If there is one main message that Smith leaves the reader with in this book it is this: most current military personnel have been trained for a war they are not fighting. In other words, the point of the book is to highlight the mis-match between all the traditional military training modes and the reality of engagements in the twenty-first century. Boundary struggles between political and military personnel, and the confusion of layers of multi-state bureaucracy make it very difficult for any coherent plan to be worked out that is flexible enough to deal with fast-moving events on the ground. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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