War amongst the people

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War amongst the people is the term used to denote that the ability of nations to employ force with utility has declined in the face of a new paradigm:

the reality in which the people in the streets and houses and fields - all the people, anywhere - are the battlefield. Military engagements can take place anywhere, with civilians around, against civilians, in defence of civilians. Civilians are the targets, objectives to be won, as much as an opposing force.[1]


General Sir Rupert Smith (UK) coined the term. He is the former deputy commander of NATO (DSACEUR); his career roles include acting as the UN commander during the Bosnia conflict, as the commander of the UK forces during the first Gulf War, and a number of years commanding UK forces in Northern Ireland. He uses the term 'Industrial war' to describe the method of warfare that nations have employed and perfected since the days of the Napoleonic Wars. He asserts that in the face of enemies that fight among the people the utility of such an approach is compromised with the result that we are now seeing in conflicts such as the Middle East, parts of Russia, and formerly, parts of the Balkans that move from confrontation to conflict in cycles that do not have definitive end points.

In this context, those organisations that we today term as terrorists are in fact the proponents of modern warfare. The challenge to the established nation-states is how to counter such threats.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, General Sir Rupert (2005). The Utility of Force. Allen Lane. ISBN 0-7139-9836-9.