It’s all about context

Speaking to General Rupert Smith today he told me about the key idea behind his new co-authored book, The Age of Insecurity. Essentially, for Rupert, policy-makers and war strategists spend too much time applying ‘textbook’ tactics, ignoring the fact that these approaches are no longer valid because the context in which conflicts are fought are no longer the same. As such, implementing ‘lessons from history’ can have potentially catastrophic outcomes. Indeed, a key strategy for terrorist networks in the early 21st century has been to alter the context in which conflict takes place so that traditional military means are no longer effective.

It struck me that these ideas resonate with some of those which Nassim Taleb applied to the finance industry in Black Swan. It will also be interesting to see Rupert’s ideas compare to those of Philip Bobbitt in Terror and Consent, in which Bobbitt argued that the West needs to radically re-think the way war is conceptualised if the threat of terrorism is to be met. In any case, it promises to be a fascinating and worthy follow-up to his 2007 hit, The Utility of Force.

International Affairs & Security