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The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World Paperback – 7 Sep 2006
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"One of the most important books on modern warfare in the last decade. We would be better off if the United States had a few more generals like him." --"The Washington Post Book World" "An impressive and absorbing work of military analysis. . . . Smith is the Clausewitz of low-intensity conflict and peacekeeping operations. . . . He brilliantly lays bare the newfound limits of Western military power." --"The New York Times Book Review" "It is hard to overstate the devastating nature of this book as an indictment of almost everything the West has done in recent years, and is doing today." --"The Sunday Telegraph""A closely argued, searching textbook on strategy and the efficient use of military power in the post-Cold War era."--"The New York Times"
About the Author
General Sir Rupert Smith is one of the most senior international practitioners in the use of force. In his forty year career in the British Army he commanded the UK Armoured Division in the 1990-91 Gulf War, was GOC Northern Ireland, commanded the UN forces in Bosnia in 1995, and served as Deputy Commander of NATO. All of this experience informs his book. He retired in 2002.
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Top customer reviews
Smith has excellent credentials: He is a retired general who commanded the UN forces in Bosnia in 1995 and has served as Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. Furthermore, he has clearly done his research for the book properly, and presents many real-world examples throughout the book. Through his examples and arguments, Smith concludes that most states are viewing conflicts through the paradigm of industrial war, and concludes that this leads to an inefficient use of military force. Smith identifies several factors present in many modern conflicts which make the conventional paradigm of industrial war less useful, for example that in many modern conflicts, the enemy is non-state and hard to identify as a cohesive group, and that many modern military operations are set in the context of political goals which are considerably more complicated than simply the defeat of the enemy military forces. He discusses how military intervention should change based on these observations.
All this is interesting and obviously relevant, and provides the fundament for an interesting book. However, the book has a major drawback. Put bluntly, it is simply very long-winded, very academic, somewhat repetitive and often rather boring to read. Also, more than half of the book is basically a history book, discussing the Napoleonic wars, the birth of military theory, the world wars and the cold war, and it is not until page 267 (of 404) that Smith really begins discussing his paradigm in the context of modern conflict proper. This implies that if you are in fact looking for a book about "The Art of War in the Modern World", it will take a good deal of patience on your part before you find what you're looking for.
The ultimate theme of the book - how force can be used efficiently in our modern world - is interesting and important. But the nature of Smith's treatise of the topic unfortunately detracts from the quality of the book, and makes it unnecessarily hard reading.