Over 18 years ago, the Israeli strategist and military historian Martin van Crevald opined in The Transformation of War that ‘Trinitarian War’ — wars waged by nation states against other nation states – was going to be become rare and that most wars would be waged by ‘Non-Trinitarian’ actors – a government, a people, or even a force (such as a guerrilla army fueled by narcotics) operating alone. Like most simple – but accurate – ideas, Crevald’s book was largely ignored. Now, General Rupert Smith of the British Army comments on recent history where van Crevald laid out a prediction.
The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Random House, New York, 2007) is a more ambitious thesis on the migration from interstate industrial wars to what the author calls ‘war among the people’. Given the sort of conflicts being waged these days, this isn’t a bad descriptor. General Smith’s problem is that, being an officer in a force designed for interstate industrial conflict, that armed forces as an institution aren’t that well adapted for today’s types of conflict; but that the utility of military force is far from over. This is hardly an original conclusion nowadays, but Rupert does guide his reader through to his conclusions like a hybrid academic and general staff officer would; irrefutably with every argument nailed down.