I'm looking for other expressions that describe "overwhelming force" as applied to the "shock and awe" American military doctrine or different kinds of asymmetric warfare.

Trivial sentence:

The empire attacked the rebel base with __________ (overwhelming force?).

  • 2
    "To some in the Arab and Muslim countries, Shock and Awe is terrorism by another name; to others, a crime that compares unfavourably with September 11." Feb 13, 2017 at 12:08
  • @Cascabel that's ok as a political comment and will not judge it one way or the other. I'm just interested in similar expressions that match the intended meaning of the phrase, everything else is out of scope
    – AZ.
    Feb 13, 2017 at 12:34
  • "massive firepower response" ?
    – Graffito
    Feb 13, 2017 at 12:44
  • @Graffito not a fan of it but feel free to add it as a response. you might get votes and even an accepted answer. and to explain why i find it a bit not suited is the fact that "response" implies some kind of defensive stance when the initial term is all about full blown attack (political motivation aside)
    – AZ.
    Feb 13, 2017 at 12:55
  • Although “ … with all its might” probably overstates it and even then doesn’t necessarily imply, as “overwhelming” does, that it was more than enough, you might consider it until something better comes along.
    – Papa Poule
    Feb 13, 2017 at 15:24

3 Answers 3


The first thing that came to mind to fill the blank in your example sentence was:
“ … with all its might.”

However, that phrase would probably be overstating the actual/literal extent of the attack and even so overstated, it doesn’t necessarily imply, as “overwhelming” does, that the power of the attacking force disproportionately exceeded that of the force being attacked.

Granted, your use of "empire” and “rebel [base]” in the example sentence would probably lead one to assume that “all the might” of an Empire would be more than enough to defeat/overwhelm “all the might” of a rebel base. As you say yourself, however, your example is not only just an example, but a trivial one at that.

All that to try to say that without the “clues” of “empire” and “rebel base,” attacking “with all its might” does not guarantee that the defender’s might is not equal to or even greater than that of the attacker.

I do, however, think that replacing “force” with the noun sense of “might” would be a good first step in finding a suitable synonym for “overwhelming force” and that combining "might" with the complete/thorough/extreme sense of “crushing” could overcome the problems with “all its might”:

The empire attacked the rebel base with [its] crushing might.

Might (from oxforddictionaries.com)
[mass noun] Great and impressive power or strength, especially of a nation, large organization, or natural force:
‘a convincing display of military might’

Crushing (from * macmillandictionary.com*)
1 complete and achieved very easily
a crushing defeat/victory
Complete and thorough: thorough, total, pure...

2 very severe
a crushing blow:
It’s a crushing blow for the president’s foreign policy.
Serious, severe and extreme: the nuclear option, serious, severe...

Here are two example uses of “crushing might” that seem to me to be synonymous, or nearly so, with “overwhelming force”:

“The coordinated assaults against Germany which had been fixed upon at Yalta went forward with crushing might.”
(from Churchill-Roosevelt-Stalin: The War They Waged and the Peace They Sought By Herbert Fei, via GoogleBooks)

“[We are rendered] helpless [and] paralyzed [with] the crushing might of the state … hurled against any man who refuses to accept the new Faith.”
(from Fictions of Power in English Literature: 1900-1950 By Lee Horsley (quoting Czeslaw Milosz from The Captive Mind) via Google Books)

  • 1
    Agree with "all it's might" not necessarily meaning overwhelming force. If the rebel forces attacked the Empire with "all it's might", it would hardly be overwhelming.
    – iMerchant
    May 14, 2017 at 22:03
  • @iMerchant That’s a great point and you mentioning it actually made me realize that “with all its might” is very (most?) often associated with unsuccessful (albeit valiant/all out) endeavors (“[tried] with all its might [but/in vain]”), which association makes it even less suitable as an across-the-board replacement for “overwhelming force.”
    – Papa Poule
    May 15, 2017 at 13:23
  • 1
    Also “crushing force”
    – Jim
    Jul 11, 2019 at 16:12
  • 1
    Crush is very a propos here since I think Tarkin says something like: “ This bickering is pointless. Now Lord Vader will provide us with the location of the hidden Rebel fortress. We will then crush the Rebellion with one swift stroke.”
    – Jim
    Jul 11, 2019 at 16:15

The empire attacked the rebel base with an iron hand/fist.


iron fist (also iron hand)

Used in reference to the exercise of power in an oppressive or ruthless way.

‘The participants expressed concern at the growing menace of terrorism across the globe and the need to put it down with an iron hand.’

  • Not sure that's really appropriate - iron hand/fist is normally applied to a broad policy rather than a single specific action.
    – Werrf
    Feb 13, 2017 at 14:11

My suggestion is overkill. One of its definitions specifically refers to weapons:

the capability to deploy more weapons, esp nuclear weapons, than is necessary to ensure military advantage

For example:

With MIRVs, a disarming first-strike could theoretically be launched with only a fraction of the available launchers and possibly with overkill.
International Encyclopedia of Military History

  • It's the difference between dominance and eradication.
    – Phil Sweet
    Mar 15, 2017 at 23:47

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