[T]he utility of military force is declining, as our experience in Iraq should have made clear. The control of territory matters far less than it did during the twentieth century because wealth, much of it in the form of human capital, is far more mobile. The Iraqi insurgency drew on the country’s density and its relatively modern communications structure to wage a highly effective, highly lethal low-cost campaign against the world’s most formidable military. Though the U.S. eventually triumphed, in a sense, the Iraq experience demonstrates that a strategy of clear, hold, and build in hostile terrain is astronomically expensive, and the benefits are almost always extremely limited.
(Photo: Libyans gather around the wreckage of a US F-15 fighter jet in Ghot Sultan, South-East of Benghazi on March 22, 2011 after crashing while on a mission against Moamer Kadhafi's air defences. The US Africa Command said the aircraft had experienced equipment malfunction over northeast Libya, adding that the two crew members had ejected and were safe. By Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)