The continuing influence of military history on strategy....

It is often humorous and exasperating to hear that military history is dead...or my other favorite..."Well if soldiers and politicians study war, won't that make them more liable to use force to solve problems?"  which is nearly as stupid as saying, "If doctors study cancer, won't that make people sick?"

This new book, courtesy of my wonderful literary compadres at the New York Journal of Books, where my excellent review is now posted, shows what should be obvious to anyone who observes human nature in action.  War, like disease, is part of the human condition, and whether you call it war, insurgency, terrorism, or Bob, the use of force to compel someone to do your will (darn, where have I heard that phrase before?) OH, yea, my man Karl, 200 years ago, is not likely to fade away.

Now, as I said in my more formal review, this book is not for neophytes, or members of the Obama Administration.  It is a manly book for manly historians, and if you don't know who Clausewitz, Jomini, Douhet, Liddel-Hart or JFC Fuller are, best to go grab your copy of Dreams of Our Fathers.  If you have read Clausewitz at least three or four times, then dive right into this baby, and you won't be disappointed.

Sir Hew Strachan is an eminent World War One historian..I know because I have the first of what he intended to be a trilogy on that epic conflict and it is a DOOR STOP.  1200 pages of goodness...oh yea, like Shelby Foote or Rick Atkinson (two of my favorite authors), Sir Hew set out to chronicle  WWI in excruciating detail before 9/11 broke out.

This book, written for practitioners and serious students of war and strategy is a collection of essays and talks given by Sir Hew and now edited and integrated to discuss how, in his opinion, the US and the West in general have bollixed up strategy since the end of the Cold War.  His brings up a lot of excellent points about the influence of nuclear weapons on strategy after 1945, the rise of "small wars" and how those present different and unique challenges for military and political strategy makers, and the overall mistaken notion that technological gadgetry actually creates a "revolution in military affairs."

This last idea is probably the most disconcerting to Western militaries obsessed with drones, sensors, satellites, and smart bombs.  War is a human endeavor fought between infinitely adaptable adversaries who will inevitable react in unanticipated ways to having JDAMs rain down on them from afar.   The ability of low-tech adversaries like the Taliban and Lebanese Hezbollah to defy conventional military "defeat" at the hands of their technological betters should be a stark and abject probie slap to Western military leaders and politicians (are you listening Barry O?) that believe a few drone strikes can defeat knuckleheads willing to stick explosives up their butt to blow up an airliner.

Unfortunately, the self-imposed restraints imposed by Western liberal democracies often prevent satisfactory conclusions to the numerous "small wars" and "low intensity conflicts" (two terms Sir Hew is not fond of) because politics and world opinion prevent the sort of World War 2 total solutions used to bring Nazi German and Imperial Japan to the surrender table.  I mean seriously, if the US Navy decided to end the existence of Somali pirates, it would take about 48 hours, make a little more rubble in Somalia (not that you could tell) , but would likely kill a lot of "innocent" people, who no doubt are happy to live off the largess provided by the pirates.  This of course would bring howls of outrage from the UN, MSNBC, and the NAACP, therefore, we just watch movies about pirates like Captain Phillips.

BUT I digress.  Sir Hew covers a wide range of topics and spares no criticism on either side of the Atlantic.  His views are controversial, although they shouldn't be to any serious student of history, and offer a great deal of food for thought.

I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to review this book, since most books by Cambridge Press are very proudly priced (although Amazon has the paperback for a pretty good discount).  Well researched and footnoted, it would make a worthy addition to any serious library of strategy, right next to your copy of On War and The Influence of Sea Power Upon History.