Deliberation on Utility of Force in the Twenty-First Century

  • September 17, 2016
  • Lieutenant Colonel Robert S. White

Despite tactical dominance and technical battlespace awareness, the Unites States is not achieving the results its overwhelming military capabilities seem to promise. This is indicative of a failure in operational art caused by a misapplication of force and misunderstanding its utility when used for purposes not intended and ultimately ill-suited. The utility of force resides in its ability to achieve, to the appropriate degree, regarding the amount of force required and utilized, a military objective aligned to and nested within the greater political goal. To better engage today’s adversaries, our strategic leaders and military practitioners need to embrace a new paradigm regarding applications of military force as they formulate strategies, plan campaigns, and conduct operations in pursuit of national interests. By challenging the underlying assumptions regarding the utility of force, our leaders can properly address the current cycles of confrontation and conflict. Ultimately, other instruments of national power must be relied upon – and bolstered where necessary. The use of force can create at best a stalemate. Other levers of national power must be applied to achieve the desired endstate or policy objective.