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The Problem of Force: Grappling with the Global Battlefield

Simon W. Murden
The Problem of Force:  Grappling with the Global Battlefield
ISBN: 978-1-58826-649-1
ISBN: 978-1-62637-212-2
2009/233 pages/LC: 2009002535
"A sophisticated, impressive analysis of fundamental limits of US military power, contradictions in US foreign policy, and the mistakes committed in the War on Terror and the invasion and occupation of Iraq."—Choice

“This is a very important book.... Going beyond a simple critique of the conduct of the global war on terror, Murden provides a sophisticated analysis of the context and challenges facing the US.... an excellent resource for anyone interested in a deeper understanding of the contemporary security environment.” —Daniel Lake, SUNY Plattsburgh

“An incisive and timely analysis of the use and limits of force in the US global war on terror. Murden rightly focuses on the problems of postconflict stabilization and does an excellent job of exploring the critical tension between international support of reconciliation processes and externally imposed projects of state building.”—Theo Farrell, King’s College London


Why, despite indisputably superior military might, have the US-led military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq been so fraught with setbacks? Does it make sense in today’s security environment to use military force to achieve strategic objectives? How does the contemporary battlefield function? Addressing these questions, Simon Murden explores the contradictions inherent in attempting to combat global terrorist networks by intervening in complex, local social settings.

Murden proposes two approaches to better understand the nature of contemporary warfare: one focusing on the nature of insurgency and the other on the dynamics of intervention. Applying these approaches to the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan, he offers important conclusions about the shortcomings of US strategy in the global war on terror.


Simon W. Murden is senior lecturer in the Department of Strategic Studies and International Affairs at Britannia Naval College. He is author of Islam, the Middle East, and the New Global Hegemony.


  • Introduction.
  • War and Warfare in the Early Twenty-First Century.
  • Mapping Contemporary Insurgency.
  • Mapping Contemporary Intervention.
  • The Origins of the Global War on Terror, 1991-2001.
  • The War in Afghanistan.
  • Planning the Iraq War.
  • What Went Wrong in Iraq?
  • The Surge Experiment in Iraq.
  • Whither the Global War on Terror.