Book Review: The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World; Strategic Insights: v.6, no.4 (June 2007)
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That recent decades have been a time of transition in military affairs is by now a tired cliche. However, despite the profusion of theorists that have attempted to explain, define, and label the changing mode of warfare, the nature of this transition remains a subject of heated argument. Earlier this year, former Deputy Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, General Rupert Smith of the British Army, offered his take on this subject in The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World. The premise of Smith's book is that industrial war, the model which emerged from the French Revolution and which predominated until World War II, has declined in relevance because of the advent of nuclear weaponry, increasingly successful insurgencies, and its own high cost, and has thus effectively ceased to exist. Smith's book is lucid, plainly written, accessible to non-experts as well as specialists, and richly illustrated with specific cases. However, the story it tells is familiar to students of the issue. (Martin Van Creveld made a similar case in his 1991 book The Transformation of War and subsequent works, to name but one example.) What really sets Smith's book apart from the crowd is his analysis of those events, and the theory of contemporary warfare he derives from them: namely 'war amongst the people.'
This article appeared in Strategic Insights (June 2007), v.6 no.4
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