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The Art Of (Asymmetrical) War

I've read a lot of the books out there covering the FUBAR that is the war in Iraq. Overwhelmingly, they point again and again to the fact that war

I've read a lot of the books out there covering the FUBAR that is the war in Iraq. Overwhelmingly, they point again and again to the fact that warfare strategies were being designed by members of the administration that had no military or combat experience whatsoever and those with experience, were pushed out or aside.

This weekend, I borrowed a book, The Utility of Force, from a friend by a former UK/NATO general who posits that no war, as it is currently defined, is winnable. Here's the review from the Independent:

At least twice in his military career, in Bosnia in 1995 and Kosovo in 1999, (Rupert Smith) was in a position of high responsibility, having to act on behalf of governments that had wish-lists aplenty but no serious strategy. He has now produced a work whose obvious message is: "We must educate our masters."

The Bosnia experience is crucial to understanding Smith's world view. In early 1995, he was sent to besieged Sarajevo as the commander of the disparate and dispirited UN forces charged with carrying out a variety of mainly humanitarian tasks in the midst of a vicious war. His masters on the UN Security Council had no plan for stopping atrocities or ending the war. Nor did Nato.

This drift and indirection offended Smith's distressingly logical mind. As the dreadful events of that year unfolded, he was one of a few who quietly worked on deploying force in such a way as to protect the remaining "safe areas". On 29 August he turned the UN key for Nato to use force against the Bosnian Serb Army.

The Kosovo War in 1999 was similar and also different. This time, Rupert Smith was Deputy Supreme Allied Commander in Nato, having to try to make strategic bricks from the incredibly thin straw of the Western governments' preposterous belief that a few days of bombing would rapidly lead Serbia to abandon its domination of Kosovo.

From these experiences, Smith has drawn the conclusion this book encapsulates: modern war is "war among the people". This does not mean that outside force cannot be used, but that its use has to be discriminate, and based on a clear understanding of the nature of a conflict, and a well-conceived strategy for achieving a goal. He is incontestably right in this conclusion.


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