Book Review Monday

Makers of Modern Strategy and Makers of Ancient Strategy

These two books are an essential part of any library for understanding warfare, strategy, and politics.

They are often standard texts for strategy and policy classes and offer a number of unique and insightful essays on the political use of force through the ages.

The 28 essays in Makers of Modern Strategy cover from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. It would be fortunate to update the book from its 1986 publishing date, but as a set of historical case studies, these essays are really timeless.Of particular note are the essays on Clausewitz and Jomini which really show how these two early military strategic writers were influenced by the Napoleonic Wars.

The set of essays covering World War II are also really outstanding. In particular, the essay on German strategy during both World Wars does an excellent job of showing how the German General Staff never had a good plan in either war for fighting on two fronts.

The 10 essays in Makers of Ancient Strategy offer historical insights into the enduring nature of warfare and offer an ancient perspective on modern strategic insights. Although each essay is really well written, it is clear that Prof Hanson directed these essays to the current issues facing the United States in the current military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. This makes the book seem a bit contrived and not as timeless as the earlier volume, but it is fascinating to see how Alexander dealt with nation building or the counter-insurgency tactics of the Romans.

Although each volume stands alone, they are much better as a set. The timeless issues of ends, ways and means; the political-military relationship in war; and even the strategic issues nuclear weapons and deterrence are just as relevant today as they when our ancestors dealt with them.

Keep in mind these volumes are for the serious student or reader. If you have no clue who Clausewitz or Jomini were or what blitzkrieg is, prepare to do a little extra research. Dare I say, Wikipedia could be your friend if you need some additional background.

But the effort is well worth it. These books are fine additions to any political science or history major seeking to understand warfare, and the interaction of politics, strategy and conflict.

**The FCC now requires book reviewers to disclose the following. Book reviews appear regularly on this website. The books I review on this site I freakin' purchase myself (I get Christmas cards from Jeff Bezos) or get from the library. So all opinions are my stinkin' own and if you don't like them then go read something else like Bill Clinton's memoirs  or somesuch tripe.