(Dis)utilities of force in a postcolonial context: explaining the strategic failure of the French-led intervention in Mali

Eloise Bertrand, Tony Chafer, Ed Stoddard

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Employing the concept of ‘utility of force' and advancing a new counterpart – the ‘disutility of force' – this article explores why France's military intervention in Mali failed despite a major French material power advantage over the armed groups it was combatting. We explore how France’s military approach, unable to adapt appropriately to a changing context, not only failed to generate political utility in the form of a resolution to the conflict, but actually created disutilities of force that deepened it. This failure reignited postcolonial tensions that both increased the intractability of the conflict and made it harder to change course.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Intervention and Statebuilding
Early online date29 Nov 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 29 Nov 2023


  • Mali
  • France
  • utility of force
  • strategy
  • Sahel

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