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

5 Star, War & Face of Battle

Utility ForceOne Major Recommendation, March 30, 2008

Rupert Smith

Edit of 20 May 2007 to drop one link (reduntant to Master Gray) and add instead General Zinni’s book on waging peace, our counterpart to the author of this book in terms of intellect, morality, and strategic gravitas.

I defer to the other reviewers on the bulk of the book. It can and should be required reading for some time to come.

Here is the one recommendation in the conclusion that really matters, and I paraphrase:

FROM THE BEGINNING, the national interests and desired outcomes must be considered by a fully integrated team of military and civilian experts with deep strategic, historical, cultural, geographic, and related knowledge, and the use of force must be planned in the context of the desired OUTCOME. The same and related teams must plan for the peace and see the entire program through to the desired END.

This is of course sensible, and not what the Americans did. General Shinseki’s correct appreciation was over-turned by Paul Wolfowitz, a world-class liar living in a fantasy world. General Zinni was called a traitor. General Gavin was dismissed early because Haliburton was not done looting, and preppie Paul Bremer sent in to lose another $20 billion.

Here are other books I recommend, beginning with those from British authors that I consider as remarkable as this one:
Modern Strategy
The Battle for Peace: A Frontline Vision of America’s Power and Purpose
Intelligence Power in Peace and War
Very Special Intelligence: The Story of the Admiralty’s Operational Intelligence Centre 1939-1945
The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command
A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change
High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them
The Future of Life
Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Third Edition
The leadership of civilization building: Administrative and civilization theory, symbolic dialogue, and citizen skills for the 21st century

I imagine General Patraeus will have his own book one day. It’s a pity all the flag officers (both US and UK) drank the kool-aid and let Cheney and his merry band of liars and dim-wits destroy the US Army first–for the price of a good tea, any one of us could have told them the lesson the British Army and other Armies have learned since time immemorial: it takes a big war force two years (for slow learners, five years) to re-learn counter-insurgency–by the time they do so, they have been hollowed out and neither the force nor its equipment is suitable for big war absent a complete re-build–but then, that would be the logical “end state” for Dick Cheney and the military-industrial complex: the White House has gotten the outcome it wanted, never mind blood, treasure, and spirit nor international legitimacy, the insolvency of the nation, and the deepening recession. For those that “matter,” the profits have been properly banked in Dubai and elsewhere. So the final lesson from General Smith’s book is this one: the planning must be open, public, and endorsed by national referendum. The utility of force, in my view, can no longer be entrusted to elites–the case must be made to the public, and only the public may validate the utlity of force. Mind the gap….