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General David Petraeus: We must be coldly realistic over the use of force - Telegraph


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Given the understandable desire to minimise our commitments, we will have to place a greater emphasis on security assistance, to enable others to meet their own challenges. Along these lines, it would be wise to recognise that an ounce of prevention will often be worth a pound of cure. And that, in another observation from my days in Iraq, “money is ammunition” – something equally true at a strategic level.

TE Lawrence famously observed, “Do not try to do too much with your own hands.” A light footprint is desirable whenever possible. Indeed, it is typically the right approach – except when it is wrong. And in those cases, policymakers need to be forthright in determining our interests, our options, and ultimately our actions.

We have, during the past decade, developed very experienced leaders who have learnt a great deal about irregular warfare. Our armies have transformed themselves into organisations that foster a culture of innovation and demand unprecedented levels of adaptability, initiative and courage. These qualities must be preserved and protected.

Small wars will continue to span a wide spectrum of political violence. Some fanatical enemies will remain marginalised from their populations. But at the opposite end will lie enemies heavily embedded in the fabric of their host population, forcing that nation – and possibly us – to adopt a more comprehensive and therefore more costly approach to win the peace.

Over the coming years, Britain and America’s superiority in defence and security must be maintained to safeguard our interests, and those of the international community: in fact, we should not only reaffirm the value of Nato, but expand ties between its members, to strengthen our economic power. Our enemies will typically attack us asymmetrically, avoiding the conventional strengths that we bring to bear. Clearly, the continuation of so-called “small wars” cannot be discounted. And we should never forget that we don’t always get to choose the wars we fight.

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