Volume 88 Number 864 December 2006
METHODS OF WARFARE
Interview with General Sir Rupert Smith*
General Sir Rupert Smith served in the British Army in East and South Africa, Arabia, the Caribbean, Europe and Malaysia before commanding, as a majorgeneral, the British 1st Armoured Division during the Gulf War. As the first Assistant Chief of Defence Operations and Security at the UnitedKingdom Ministry of Defence in 1992, he was intimately involved in the United Kingdom’s development of the strategy in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 1995 he was Commander UNPROFOR in Sarajevo and in 1996–8 was the Officer Commanding in Northern Ireland. His final assignment was as Deputy Supreme Commander Allied Powers Europe in 1998–2001, covering the NATO operation ‘‘Allied Force’’ during the Kosovoconflict and the development of the European Security and Defence Identity. He retired from the army in 2002. Since 2006 he has been international advisor to the ICRC. His experience is shared to some extent through the words of his treatise on modern warfare, The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Penguin, London, 2005).
Is there a change in the paradigm of war? Yes, I believe thatin recent decades we have lived through a shift in the paradigm of war. What has happened is that in the past, in what I call ‘‘industrial war’’, you sought to win a trial of strength and thereby break the will of your opponent, to finally dictate the result, the political outcome you wished to achieve. In our new paradigm, which I call ‘‘war amongst the people’’, you seek to change theintentions or capture the will of your opponent and the people amongst which you operate, to win the clash of wills and thereby win the trial of strength. The essential difference is that military force is no longer used to decide the political dispute, but rather to create a condition in which a strategic result is achieved. We are now in a world of continual confrontation and conflicts in which
* Theinterview was conducted on 7 January 2007 in London by Toni Pfanner (Editor-in-Chief of the International Review of the Red Cross). 719
Interview with General Sir Rupert Smith
the military endeavour to support the achievement of the desired outcome by other means.
So you imply that the war/peace dichotomy is not relevant any more? Instead of a world in which peace is understood to be anabsence of war and where we move in a linear process of peace–crisis–war–resolution–peace, we are in a world of continuous confrontation. The opponents in confrontation seek to influence each, including with military acts. To be effective, these acts must be coherent with and allied to the other measures that affect intentions so as to gain advantage in the confrontation. You said that the period of‘‘industrial war’’ is shifting towards a ‘‘war amongst people’’. Is there still a potential that industrial wars will nevertheless occur? I am not saying that you won’t get big fights. The Yom Kippur War was an example of war amongst the people in that the Egyptian President Sadat was trying to alter the basis of the confrontation over the Sinai. It was still a big conflict with a lot ofcasualties. However, you’ve got to remember that there are weapons that can kill large quantities of people – WMD. The point about weapons of mass destruction is that mass destruction and ‘‘industrial war’’ largely ended when one could destroy faster than one could build. These weapons have been used since the end of the Second World War, not to impose one’s will by force but to change the will of theopponent. We talk of the deterrent effect; we’re aiming at changing minds. The new wars take place amongst the people as opposed to ‘‘between blocs of people’’, as occurred for instance in the Second World War. I am not saying that people were not killed in that war; they were, in their millions. But there was a clear division as to which side everybody belonged to and whether they were in uniform...
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