In This Review

Asymmetrical Warfare: Today's Challenge to U.S. Military Power
Asymmetrical Warfare: Today's Challenge to U.S. Military Power
By Roger Barnett
Brassey's, 2003, 183 pp

If the United States can threaten force only in terms that the political marketplace can bear -- in line with international law, moral precepts, the sensitivities of allies, and a determination to avoid casualties -- then how can it practice deterrence against contemporary enemies that take advantage of these constraints? This to Barnett is the challenge of asymmetrical warfare today, which he believes can be overcome only by a readiness to transcend these constraints, accepting the full nastiness of war while seeking to bolster deterrence by improving strategic defenses. The argument is vigorous and challenging, although Barnett provides few grounds for supposing that political and military leaders will adopt as robust an approach as he would wish. More seriously, he does not adequately address the role of alliances in isolating enemies nor the question of whether America's enemies will really adopt the appropriate asymmetrical strategies he fears -- inflicting maximum harm on noncombatants and civil society.