Utility of Force recommendation

Discussion in 'The Book Club' started by OldRedCap, Dec 31, 2008.

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  1. Have not seen any mention here and my search came back as null (but I am a mong at searching) but General Rupert Smith has written what I consider to be a first class book
    The Utility of Force is not a Wars what I won collection but is an analysis of how force is applied. It goes back into historical battles for examples. I quote the review at Amazon " Why do we try to use military force to solve our political problems? And why, when our forces win the military battles does this still fail to solve those problems? It is because the force lacks utility. From Iraq to the Balkans, and from Afghanistan to Chechneya, over the past fifteen years there has been a steady stream of military interventions that have not delivered on their promise for peace, or even political resolution. The Utility of Force explains this anomaly at the heart of our current international system. He has some firm opinions when he looks to the future - how it could be if Government would only listen.

    Edited one time by me to add the Times review which I forgot! Doh.
  2. I fully agree. I'm reading the book now. It is a very dense book, by that I mean that when you start marking the sentences you find important you quickly notice that you'll start marking practically every other one!

    Still, Smith uses clear explanations and good examples to make his point: When applying force, one (our political masters, that is) should apply the right sort of force for the purpose at hand. Modern day military forces are balanced towards highly mobile fully fledged open warfare between states.

    Modern wars are what Smith calls: "Wars amongst the people" between sides that are not always states. The purpose of the conflict, the aims that -the west- we want to achieve, our enemies and our friends and the non combattants in the warzone are all much less tangible. Therefore the whole affair needs to be rethought. This is what Smith refers to as "A change of paradigm".

    Big words for an NCO, I know. But in my opinion a book worth reading and understanding. Very much worth the effort!

    If only the policitical dimwits would take notice... It would make that the general wasn't preaching to just his own parish.

    If anyone else has read this book, even -especially?- when you thought it was rubbish, please tell us what you think.
  3. Mr Happy

    Mr Happy LE Moderator

    Are you telling me that force in Bos, Kos, FI and SL didn't deliver the results planned? Because I'm pretty sure they did!

    OR at least they did for us...

    I wonder if there are some holes in Gen RS's thesis?
  4. I haven't gotten as far as anything on Siera Leone and Kosovo yet. I think these two worked out pretty well. As did IFOR and SFOR in Yugo. But you cannot sit there and pretend that UNPROFOR was a good idea or that it got any results. Srebrenica and Gorazde ring a bell? The safe haven concept and the rules of engagement for the UNPROFOR forces were political compromises that made things impossible for the soldiers on the ground.

    Smith has a good remark on this. He says something along the lines of: "The most important feature of the UN strategy in former Yugoslavia is that there wasn't one..."

    However. When the dust settled in Kosovo and Bosnia, we left forces in place that are still there. So have these conflicts -and our participation in them- really ended? Do we have an actual result?
  5. Mr Happy

    Mr Happy LE Moderator


    the premise of the book, as per your OP is that Force doesn't solve anything. UNPROFOR demonstrates that no-force doesn't solve anything, and NATO and IFOR and SFOR prove that force does solve ills.

    Therefore, either Gen RS is wrong or your OP is wrong.
  6. Biped

    Biped LE Book Reviewer

    I've had this book for over a year, but for some unknown reason, haven't read it yet. Perhaps I will.
  7. Happy,

    You forgot the third option: You got it wrong. As the general makes clear -and which I mentioned here- Force in itself solves fukc all. It only destoys and kills. Force must be used to attain a clear goal. Either (total) defeat of an enemy, or to force the enemy to do something he wouldn't otherwise do. When force is used to reach such a goal it has utility. This utility is however limited.

    To stick to the Balkans: Unprofor was as you say so well: a No Force. It was toothless. It took lots of diplomacy to finally arrive at IFOR. IFOR and SFOR were not the result of military use of force. They were the result of diplomacy. We learned from this and a different approach was used in 1999 when KFOR entered Kosovo.
    It seems that lessons are also easily forgotten when you see the way Chad is being handled...

    BTW: Does OP mean Own Post?
  8. Mr Happy

    Mr Happy LE Moderator

    OP - Original Post

    You are honestly telling me that force always doesn't bring about the desired outcome? (Your OP). For TPLD's this is often true, for the UK I can't see how you can even think that..
  9. Didn't Sir Frank Kitson do this in the 70s
  10. I'm saying that force in itself -sending in an armed force to kill people and blow stuff up- does just that: It kills people and blows stuff up. What is needed is a clear goal that you want to achieve: Retake the Falklands, or defeat the German army and remove Hitlers' regime. When you just send people in without a clear mission with a clear end (the goal that has to be achieved) you get something along the lines of Unprofor. They'll just be standing around while the mess goes on.

    All examples where military force has been succesfully used, have been ones with a clear goal. When the goal hasn't been there you get things like Vietnam (the US version), and the Russian occupations of Chechnya and their operations in Afghanistan.

    The point isn't that force in itself doesn't work, the point is that military force has limited areas where it can be applied succesfully. It should only be applied in those instances.