A Vision So Noble

HOME > WAR IN THE MODERN WORLD > UTILITY OF FORCE 2

Going to war in the 21st century (continued)


The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World
(General Sir Rupert Smith)

'A main lesson to be learned from the Vietnam War, as indeed from all the wars and conflicts described in this book, is that it is rarely possible to predict the outcome, especially on the basis of the known forces that entered it, or their inventories.... both the French and the U.S. forces were considered superior to any fielded by North Vietnam, yet both ended up defeated.' (pp.240-41)

"the opponents must be considered in relationship to each other not just as inventories but also ... as dynamic bodies, each with imaginations, resources and above all a will to win." Paraphrasing Foucault: "power is a relationship, not a possession. The power of a military force is composed of ... the means--both men and matérial; the way they are used--doctrine, organization, and purpose; and the will that sustains them in adversity." (p.242)

'The will to win is the paramount factor in any battle: without the political will and leadership to create and sustain the force and direct it to achieving its objective come what may, no military force can triumph in the face of a more determined opponent.... However, as one enters the arena of the tactical battle, these [strategic] objectives appear all the more distant and relative. In battle men fight to kill before they are killed, and for objectives they think are worth losing their lives for." (p.243)

"great effort will be made by both sides to conceal this information [about means, method, and will] from the other, by any means. For once at war ... the adversaries do not have to play by the same rules."

Amongst the people

"It is with these [Cold War] weapons and armies that we now go into conflict ... organized to fight industrial wars whilst engaged in war amongst the people." (p.271)

"battle is an adversarial activity with an enemy, and that enemy is not inert, waiting for us to attack him [with the exception of Saddam Hussein--twice!] and falling in with our plan. He is a very alert and sentient opponent, who seeks constantly to foil our plans and do unto us that which we would do unto him--and worse. Nonetheless, in our approach to modern conflicts we persist in the unspoken assumption that our opponent, and in particular the people amongst whom he operates, will conform with our plan and share our idea of the future condition.... Failing to respect the existence and use of his free creative will ... is to set yourself up for defeat.... In fighting amongst the people the enemy is deliberately choosing to keep the level and nature of the conflict where our advantages of numbers and equipment are neutralized. He develops his operation precisely upon the lines established in the antithesis to industrial war: creating disorder, advancing his cause by very public acts (propaganda of the deed), and by provocation testing our willingness or ability to act or causing us to overreact (strategy of provocation.)" (p.278)

'our operations have become increasingly timeless: they go on and on.' (p.290)

Before Napoleon, 'the warring armies could not fully commit to the definitive fight since, lacking a system of cheap manpower such as conscription and given the expense of matérial, they could not afford to replace their forces. These issues have once again become relevant in our modern times, for different reasons but to the same effect: we fight so as to preserve the force.' (p.294)

'The IRA, who see themselves ... as an army, have been very careful to operate below the threshold of the utility of the British army's weapons systems, and the army, in turn, has been careful not to introduce those systems into the Irish theatre. Infantry battalions are reorganized before deployment, and the [weapons] company ... is re-roled as a rifle company whilst the numbers in the surveillance and reconnaissance units are increased.' (p.302)

'we are engaging in conflict for objectives that do not lead to a resolution of the matter directly by force of arms, since at all but the most basic tactical level our objectives tend to concern the intentions of the people and their leaders rather than their territory or forces.' (p.308) 'it is the vision that is in need of change rather than operational scope or nomenclature.' (p.309)

'The new enemy does not have a formed or or formal army. He may have operatives throughout a land, but he cannot operate at the theatre level.... we must see all his operations as "local": there is no manoeuvre of forces, no design for battle and no immediate connectivity with an operation elsewhere. Each engagement is particular unto itself ... but connected together through a nervous system by an overarching political idea.' (p.331)

'A "rhizomatic" command system operates with an apparently hierarchical system aboveground, visible in the operational and political arenas, and with another system centred in the roots underground: the true system.' (p.332)

'the militaries of our states ... must learn to use ... the weapons and training of industrial war ... to achieve a new outcome.... we are living in a world of confrontations and conflicts rather than one of war and peace....' (p.374) 'there is an acceptance in many circles that we now conduct operations rather than wars, but we still expect [our militaries] to deliver a definitive military victory ... that will resolve a political problem.... There is no understanding that we live in a condition of continuous confrontation and conflict ... and that even if military action is on a big scale, and even if it is successful, the confrontation will remain, to be resolved by other means and levers of power.' (p.375)

'in our modern conflicts, dealing with the cvilian population is directly associated with the objective and is a primary, not secondary, activity.' (pp.396-97)

'we do not need to create a whole stack of new models and scenarios in which force and accompanying agencies could be used--in other words, replace the rigid paradigm of industrial war with another rigid set of options. Instead, we need to think of the campaign as a whole ... as one confrontation in which conflict has a role...' (pp.398-99)

'there is no specific technical solution for war amongst the people.' (p.411)

'Finally, we must develop the confidence to grant authority to those we send to conduct these complex operations commensurate with the responsibilities laid on their shoulders. Not the least of these responsibilities is the expectation on the political level that they will simply get on with things on the ground, regardless of their suitability to the job, the relevance of their mandate, or their lack of knowledge of the other forces with whom they are to collaborate.... This confidence will come only with the selection and training of the right people, and achieving this on a multinational basis will be difficult to do and will take time.' (p.414)

'For it must never be forgotten: war no longer exists. Confrontation, conflict and combat undoubtedly exist all around the world and states still have armed forces which they use as a symbol of power. Nontheless, war as cognitively known to most non-combatants, war as battle in a field between men and machinery, war as a massive deciding event in a dispute in international affairs, industrial war--such war no longer exists. We are now engaged, constantly and in many permutations, in war amongst the people. We must adapt our approach and organize our institutions to this overwhelming reality if we are to triumph in the confrontations and conflicts that we face.' (p.415)

Buy this book at Amazon.com