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The British Experience in Iraq, 2007: A Perspective on the Utility of Force
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLL FORT LEAVENWORTH KS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED MILITARY STUDIES
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Recent years have seen the United States, the United Kingdom, and other coalition nations enmeshed in protracted, complex, and intense campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Resilient and highly adaptable opponents have operated asymmetrically, and amongst the people, to negate the technological superiority of the West counterinsurgency COIN has been the norm. Progress made has been hard won, consuming considerable resources and testing national will. Despite the achievement of often rapid and spectacular tactical military successes, the desired political dividends have been slower to materialize and are scarcely commensurate with the investment of national blood and treasure. This has led some to question the utility of military force, and the mood in several Western capitals seems increasingly wary of further stabilization campaigns abroad. This sense of caution is reinforced by the global economic downturn and its associated fiscal challenges, which have encouraged retrenchment in public spending, especially in defense budgets. It would seem timely, given this context, to reflect upon the utility of force. Following Clausewitzs reasoning, the utility of force rests on its instrumentality in achieving a desired policy goal. This monograph contends that this involves controlling, to a sufficient degree, the adversarys policy choices, which depends on changing attitudes, and thence behavior, in a way favorable to our interests. The monograph examines the purpose and dominant characteristics of military force and highlights the conditions that must obtain if military success is to be translated into political advantage in the contemporary operating environment COE. It uses the British campaign Operation Zenith 2006-2007 in Basra, Iraq, to illustrate some of the challenges involved. It concludes that, despite the complexity and frustrations of Iraq and Afghanistan, armed force retains utility in the COE, as long as certain conditions are met.
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