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The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World
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The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  366 ratings  ·  30 reviews
"War no longer exists," writes General Sir Rupert Smith, powerfully reminding us that the clash of mass national armies, the system of war since Napoleon, will never occur again. Instead, he argues in this timely book, we must be prepared to adapt tactics to each conflict, or lose the ability to protect ourselves and our way of life.

General Smith draws on his vast experien
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published January 16th 2007 by Knopf (first published September 29th 2005)
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Jansen Wee
Excellently written, very readable, and timely too. General Rupert Smith takes the reader the relevant tracks of early modern military history to demonstrate present societies' fixation with the interstate, industrial war model. He also illustrated the parallel development of the war of the people, which has also made itself felt in the same period, and through the wake of the Second World War, the Cold War, and enjoys a stronger currency today. He advocates that force, when used, must be of the ...more
Rupert Smith's "The Utility of Force" is part of a growing number of books that looks at the practice of peacekeeping and counter-insurgency, topics that seem to get more newspaper coverage than book-length treatments.

Smith, who had previous experience commanding the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, ponders about why conventional forces are pretty useless in counter-insurgency and peacekeeping missions, and examines what change of thinking is needed in the employment of force (as opposed to depl
Aug 03, 2008 James rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in military issues or national security
One of the most far-sighted and at the same time down-to-earth studies of modern warfare I've ever read; General Smith is brilliant, and I would like to have served with him (wrong country's military, though, as he's British.)

If it is possible to take a stance on war that is simultaneously humane and ruthless, utterly pragmatic and deeply moral, this book illuminates that philosophy.

The author traces the evolution of how people have thought about and fought wars from the beginnings of history un
Oct 20, 2007 Louis rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: thoughtful about the use of the military, and how to deter massacres
Shelves: military
General Rupert Smith (UK, Ret.) wrote this after reflection on 40 years of service, including UN duty in the Balkans. The theme of the book is that the nature of conflict has changed, and those who think about the use of national power (diplomatic, information, military, economic). Smith identifies 6 major trends:

- The ends for which we fight are changing
- We fight amongst the people
- Our conflicts tend to be timeless
- We fight so as not to lose the force
- On each occasion new uses are found for
Professor Mary Kaldor of LSE has chosen to discuss Rupert Smith’s The Utility of Force on FiveBooks as one of the top five on her subject - War , saying that:

“… This book is really the transition from Clausewitz and Walzer to today. He explains that the era of industrial war, of Clausewitzian war, is over, that war is not fought by soldiers against other soldiers any more...There is no distinction any more between combatant and non-combatant – war is amongst the people, against the people. Cla
War can't be separated from politics. General Smith agrues that with the shift to asymertical wars, or "wars among the people" as he called it, that has taken even great significance. And yet, we still try to fight wars and prepare for wars between two countries.

Why I started this book: I checked out a digital version from the library.

Why I finished it: Sheer stubborness. This book was so hard to me to plow through, something about the style of Gen. Smith's writing stopped me in my tracks. The c
This is a very clear analysis of the low intensity conflicts that we tend to get involved in now. It also traces very well the history of the older paradigm of nation-state, military industrial complex driven total war which still dominates our thinking even though it is very unlikely to recur.

Coincidentally just after reading this I took a short lecture course at SMU on the topic of Modern Total War and the professor, who had developed his ideas over a lifetime starting with a PhD on the Austri
Michael A.
If you want to know why UN interventions appear to lack utility of force this book will help. Are coalitions-of-the-willing the solution? This book will explore what they lack. Are Governments spending taxpayer money wisely on Defence & Security? All this and more is explained in the book with recent examples, in a thoughtful, carefully argued way.
Definitely a breath of fresh air in the military analysis space.
Excellent book on how present-day military force should be used and not be used. Although less of practical book, it shows what considerations are made on the political but also on a macro and meso level of the military about if, when and how force should be applied.

To me, as a Dutchman, it is also interesting to read the British stance on (at least part of) the Yugoslav (Serb-Bosnian) war and the drama of Sbrenenica.
Gerard Walsh
Interesting piece. Claims that military forces are built, equipped and trained to fight conventional set pieces of past conventional wars and are not suited to the typical interventions in which they are used today, generally to secure rule of law under which other generally political objectives can be achieved. Good background material for thinking about foreign interventions whether unilateral or UN backed.
Patrick Shrier
One of the more clearly and insightful book written in recent discussing military doctrine and the usefulness and appropriateness of the use of military force in international relations. An excellent book.
Wayland Smith
A bit dry and academic at times. This is largely about the changing uses of the military in the modern world. There's some good history and political theory here, and the author does have the unique perspective of having been a commander on some UN missions. General readers might not want to wade through the 400 plus pages, but there are some interesting ideas and theories here.
I use this book as the basis for a couple of introductory lectures in my Media & Terrorism course. He does a great job of describing the history of "interstate industrial war" and contrasts that with "war amongst the people" -- the kind of insurgent wars that we fight today -- and the only kind the U.S. has ever lost. And we've lost several of them.
A bit pedantic at times, but Gen. Smith has the experience and brains to go off on his own without me complaining too much. Gives a concise overview of industrial warfare and how things have changed since then, as well as good recommendations on future courses of action.

Interesting read for military historians
Lim Winston
Interesting book that depicts the modern warfare with great personal insights from the military commander (the author) himself. Using Clausewitz's trinity to describe any confrontation or conflict needs the support of people, army and government to have the advantage.
Міля Байрачна
A brilliant idea put forth in a very densely written, dry book. If you can get through it and still grasp the underlying message, good on you, you have done what most probably have given up on. This book is for the very tenacious.
Great concise history of the evolution and history of Western warfare. (Also good for helping secondary ed. history teachers frame themes for unit planning...)
Another must read for anyone in the military and/or strategist. I would highly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in history.
This is a very interesting book. If you pay attention you will notice the 9 principles of war and how leaders used them to be successful.
Robert Nash
Excellent! Can not recommend high enough. I don't agree with everything Smith says, but his analysis is crisp and well considered.
so far it is what I have expected. the author draws from over 40 years of military experience. should be a good book.
Kirk Bower
Interesting look at the change of strategy in the military world. Gives a new perspective on our current engagements.
If you would like to understand the thought processes behind military actions in this day and age, read this book.
Luís Fonseca
Oustanding book! A must read by all the military as well as all the civilians interested in the subject.
Mike Nicholson
Jan 31, 2011 Mike Nicholson marked it as to-read
Was told that the author butchered "paradigm" and his assumptions are wrong.
Dec 12, 2010 Steven added it
Author gives a through insight into UK counterinsurgency techniques.
Next time I play a war game, my opponents better watch out.
Interesting read, better than expected.
good read
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General Sir Rupert Smith retired from the British Army in 2002. His last appointment was Deputy Supreme Commander Allied Powers Europe 1998-2001, covering NATO's Balkan operations, including the Kosovo bombing, and the development of the European Defence and Security Identity.

Prior to that he was the general Officer Commanding in Northern Ireland, 1996-1998; Commander UNPROFOR in Sarajevo, 1995; t
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“Armed conflict is a human condition, and I do not doubt we will continue to reinvent it from generation to generation.” 0 likes
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