7.3.2 Military Interventions in Other Countries

Military interventions in other countries for security purposes might be pre-emptive strikes, or to help friendly governments and groups. 

Such interventions are not intended to acquire territory.  Unless they are explicitly authorised by the UN Security Council, they rely upon a trial of strength rather than upon a governance framework – so this book classifies them as Ungoverned Power.  They are examples of realpolitik (, and they are invariably seen by the target country as acts of war.  Such adventures have a very low success rate.

As described in the following sub-sections, those who make military interventions in other countries can take on different degrees of risk to themselves, and there are varying consequences:

●  Deployment of an invasion force (, as America has done on numerous occasions since the Second World War, inevitably incurs casualties in the invading force.  An article in foreignaffairs.com, Why Force Fails, summarises its dismal record:

“American soldiers have been deployed abroad almost continuously since the end of World War II. The best-known foreign interventions—in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq—were large, long, and costly. But there have been dozens of other such deployments, many smaller or shorter, for purposes ranging from deterrence to training. Taken as a whole, these operations have had a decidedly mixed record. Some, such as Operation Desert Storm in 1991, which swept the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait, largely succeeded” – but that last example was an intervention made with UN approval, so it does not qualify as ungoverned force.

●  Air-strikes made from a distance ( rarely incur casualties by the invader, but they can harden opposition by the target country and its allies.

●  The use of unmanned drones ( is increasing as they become cheaper and more sophisticated.  The attacker doesn’t incur any casualties, but there are almost inevitable civilian casualties that radicalise other people and make the entire strategy counterproductive.

These tactics are listed in a sequence of a diminishing risk of incurring casualties, and they can be used in any combination.  Their effectiveness is questionable (, since the backlash can be bigger than the original problem.



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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/732.htm