Friday, January 02, 2009

The futility of force in "generational" conflicts

Far from an exercise in precision fire power and deterrence, Israel's bombardment of Gaza simply fuels the flames of conflict

by Robert Fox | Guardian (UK) Jan. 2, 2008

...Four years ago General Rupert Smith produced a ground-breaking book called The Utility of Force about the future of warfare. He suggested that warfare is undergoing a paradigm shift from the industrial hi-tech conflicts which run from the age of Napoleon to the end of the last century. We will now see less formal "generational" conflicts which are not constricted by time, and are fought by ragbag militias and guerrilla gangs tooted in the civilian community. These are ingredients of what he calls (borrowing a Maoist phrase) "wars among the people".

This kind of thinking proved pretty unpalatable to a lot of the old and bold of the military class, among them most of the current British top brass. Inevitably the cynics in the ranks rechristened the book "The Futility of Force."

Smith himself would agree with them. His prime example of the open-ended "war among the people" is the contest between the Israelis and the Palestinians where he sees the Israelis always resorting to tactical short-term fixes while ignoring the needs for a long-term strategy.

The notion of the futility of force is an epitaph and awful warning on the past decade, the years of the military adventures of Tony Blair and George W Bush, from Kosovo to Iraq and Afghanistan. Force in itself can deliver very little, as the campaigns in Gaza and Afghanistan seem to prove. Force only works if the aim is destruction and occupation of whole countries and communities. It cannot win the epidemic of drug production and consumption, nor change at a stroke the hearts and aspirations of tribes, villages and nations.

The addiction to force, whether against Hamas in Gaza or the Taliban in Afghanistan, results in the opposite to its perpetrators' intentions. It is the fuel to an open-ended conflict which threatens to outrun the lives of most of the current leadership.


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