7.4.1 The Utility of Military Force

When considering the use of military force, politicians have to decide whether or not they will achieve their objectives by doing so.  A war can be costly, in economic terms and in the harm inflicted on people, and it can be unpopular – particularly if it is not seen as a ‘just war’ (4.3.5.5).

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 Western invasions of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan:

  • The weapons available are of limited usefulness (7.4.1.1).
  • Asymmetric guerrilla warfare reduces an army’s chances of ‘winning’ (7.4.1.2).
  • It is difficult to conduct war amidst the civilian population (7.4.1.3).
  • There are problems in occupying an invaded country (7.4.1.4).

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