In This Review

The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World
The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World
By General Sir Rupert Smith
Allen Lane, 2005, 448 pp

Up through his retirement as NATO's Deputy Supreme Commander Allied Powers Europe, Smith was one of the most outstanding contemporary British generals, closely involved with Northern Ireland, the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Bosnia, and Kosovo. His book is not a memoir but a reflection on his experience, backed up by a lot of historical analysis, with a focus on the transition from industrial war to "war amongst the people." The influence of Bosnia on his thinking comes through very clearly in one of the best chapters, for there he saw firsthand how the anxieties and vacillations of politicians could cause confusion in the execution of missions. At times, this book reads like a terse military briefing explaining to politicians the complicated world in which force is now being employed and the danger of configuring forces for wars that armies will not be called up to fight. The shift may not be as clear-cut as Smith suggests, and understanding the problems of contemporary war does not always mean that the solutions are obvious, but this book nonetheless deserves careful reading.