This chapter presents the analytical focus, scope of concern, and key definitions involved in analyzing state-initiated brute force. The analytical focus is on major twenty-first-century state-initiated internal and external applications of brute force. The scope of concern is global, covering both wartime and peacetime as well as human security, state security, and regional and global security, including both short-run and long-run military and political, economic, and social impacts. The key definitions are of brute force, force success, force effectiveness, and force legitimacy.
In the twenty-first century, global system transformation and national might misperception have led to a modern coercion conundrum. The global system setting sets the tone for acceptable tolerance norms, common practices, and constraints and opportunities surrounding brute force—political leaders who decide whether to apply force do not do so in a vacuum. Within this setting, these leaders often develop distorted views of confrontations, involving overblown expectations about coercive benefits. The modern coercion conundrum consists of five paradoxes: perplexing persistence, eroding effectiveness, military maladjustment, lessening legitimacy, and chaotic consequence.
This chapter examines major twenty-first-century external state-initiated brute force incorporating political stability threats. The ten cases are the American drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, American killing of Osama bin Laden, American invasion of Afghanistan, American invasion of Iraq, French intervention in Mali, Israeli destruction of a Syrian nuclear facility, Israeli invasion of Lebanon, NATO coercion in Libya, North Korean sinking of a South Korean ship, and Russian invasion of Georgia. Major powers (except North Korea) have tended to project force internationally. Each case includes the description of the force use, the purpose and rationale of force initiators and targets, force effectiveness, force legitimacy, and future prospects.
This chapter examines major twenty-first-century internal state-initiated brute force incorporating political stability threats. The ten cases of internal state force use are the Bahraini crackdown on dissidents, Chinese repression of dissidents, Egyptian repression of dissidents, Greek repression of dissidents, Indian repression of Kashmir separatists, Mexican coercion against drug lords, Myanmar repression of dissidents, Sudanese repression of dissidents, Syrian repression of rebels, and Thai repression of dissidents. Weaker governments (the strongest of which are China, Greece, and India) tend to use force domestically. Each case explicitly includes the description of the force use, the purpose and rationale of force initiators and force targets, force effectiveness, force legitimacy, and future prospects.
Carefully examining the state-initiated brute force case study outcomes reveals persistent patterns of success and failure. After flagging security dangers from overuse and underuse of force, this chapter identifies the conditions under which state-initiated brute force works best, highlighting standards from which deviations could be measured and comparatively evaluated to determine the wisdom of force use. Identified initiator and target attributes linking to successful outcomes merit much higher policy priority than common but low-impact force legitimacy concerns.
This chapter translates case patterns into policy advice for managing brute force. Broad guidelines emerge regarding brute force prior to its application: (1) considering broad implications, situating it within a wider range of influence instruments, and evaluating the full security repercussions of its application; (2) identifying coercive limitations, expanding open discussion about the restricted value of brute force, and framing it as a transitional local military solution; and (3) acquiring wide acceptance, pursuing when feasible multilateral approval and cooperation, and forestalling deterioration of regional and global state and human security. Specific recommendations emerge regarding brute force during its use, linked to force initiator attributes associating with success involving attainable purpose, credible commitment, unified resolve, and forward thinking. Brute force is situated in a very different place today than in the past, involving a far-from-ideal setting, a messy current global security challenge, and a resulting shrinking brute force role.