7.4.1 The Utility of Military Force

A decision to use military force is a question of ‘realpolitik’ (  Politicians must calculate the cost and risk of such an undertaking.  Some of the some of the problems that they are likely to encounter in practice are described here. 

The Second World War was seen by the victorious allies as a ‘just war’, and it achieved its aims, but the nature of war has now changed.  Yuval Noah Harari’s summary of wars since then, Why It’s No Longer Possible for Any Country to Win a War, showed that wars have been less useful subsequently.  He argued that:

“perhaps our best guarantee of peace is that major powers aren’t familiar with any recent example of a successful war”.

He cited the “Russian success in the Crimea” as a possible exception – but that was a hybrid war, as described in the previous section (7.3.5), meeting little resistance.

In this section the focus is on whether an invasion can ever now be a viable policy option.  It is argued below that “success” is now hard to achieve, especially when using force in another country – such as the Western invasions of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan:

The weapons available are of limited usefulness, as they were mostly designed to combat another country’s armed forces and destroy military targets (

Asymmetric guerrilla warfare reduces an army’s chances of ‘winning’, because resistance fighters can inflict heavy losses on military targets without losing many of their own people (

It is difficult to conduct war against a dispersed opposition amidst the civilian population (

There are problems in occupying an invaded country: resistance forces know that the invaders will want to go home after a while (



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This is a current page, updated since publication of Patterns of Power Edition 3a.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/741a.htm.