The Art of Command in the Twenty-First Century: Reflections on three Commands

David Richards

in The Oxford Handbook of War

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199562930
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

The Art of Command in the Twenty-First Century: Reflections on three Commands


Typically, twenty-first-century military operations are asymmetric; that is to say, they do not involve clashes with similarly armed opponents. They can be stabilization, counterinsurgency, or humanitarian operations, where the adversaries or trouble-makers can include insurgents, terrorists, sectarian or tribal militias, warlords, criminals, or a mixture of all of these. Such operations are different from either conventional war between symmetric opponents or traditional peacekeeping where the aim is to separate the sides and act as a neutral arbiter. They are different from conventional warfare because they are asymmetric; they do not involve set-piece battles and they require a range of non-military instruments. On the other hand they are much more robust than traditional peacekeeping and troops have to be ready to engage in hard military action at the tactical level where necessary. The nature of command has also changed in the twenty-first century. As is the case in all contemporary large organizations like corporations or governments, the person at the top can no longer take it for granted that orders will be automatically transmitted down through a vertical chain of command.

Keywords: military operations; armed opponents; counterinsurgency; symmetric opponents; peacekeeping troops; command

Article.  6158 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; International Relations

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »