chapter  1
8 Pages


The Western armed forces that emerged from the Cold War had to face radical change in the strategic context, primarily the threats that they had been designed to face (Luttwak, 1996; Freedman, 2006). The process was further complicated by the lack of a clear new mission able to replace territorial defence and thus be the benchmark for strategic planning. First came the idea that the end of the Cold War had brought a ‘peace dividend’ that could lead to major reductions in personnel and overall budgets in the defence sector (Chan, 1995). As the idea gained ground, the era of humanitarian interventions, that is the use of military force to limit and bring to an end conflicts that caused massive civilian suffering, exhibited a new use of armed forces (Bradol, 2004; Kaldor and Salamon, 2006; Smith, 2006; Bellamy, 2009). The world – or at least the world with which the military must deal – changed again after September 11, when Western armed forces entered a period of full and continuous deployment. The interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, at least in a second phase, came to epitomize counterinsurgency as a key (possibly the key) mission that armed forces should perform (Nagl, 2005; Kilkullen, 2009). Now, with the sunset of counterinsurgency and the re-emergence of regional rivalries – from Eastern Europe to the South and North China seas – some commentators wonder whether the past twenty years and more of interventions and defence policies in the transatlantic alliance have been just a big ‘mistake’ driven by ‘flawed strategic assumptions’ (Brown, 2014).