From Parameters, Spring 2000, pp. 142-65.
Go to Spring issue Table of Contents.
Go to Book Review Index.
The Book of War: 25 Centuries of Great War Writing. By John Keegan. New York: Viking, 1999. 492 pages. $34.95. Reviewed by Dr. David Jablonsky (Colonel, USA Ret.), Professor of National Security Affairs, US Army War College.
John Keegan's anthology of war writing covers 25 centuries, from the Peloponnesian War to Desert Storm. In a sweeping but concise introductory essay, Keegan outlines how the collection is designed to illustrate contrasting military traditions over the centuries. But as he has demonstrated in many of his previous writings, Keegan is also interested in the human dimension of combat. As a result, what also emerges is the universality of experiences and emotions over the ages, whether it is Xenophon's account of his thousand-mile retreat out of Persia with 10,000 Greek warriors or Ernie Pyle's description of small-unit operations after the Normandy landing. Both themes--the differences in military cultures and the similarities in the human reaction to war--are captured in this fine collection.
Keegan uses a variety of sources for his selections, all usefully listed with full citations in the order of presentation at the end of the volume. There are narratives by historians after the events such as Andrew Wheatcroft's analysis this decade of the 1453 fall of Constantinople. The majority of selections, however, come from eyewitness accounts, whether in the form of letters (the Zulu Wars), immediate reporting (The New York Times on the Nagasaki bombing), or memoirs (Robert Graves on the Western Front). In some instances, Keegan skillfully weaves themes together from different sources. Thus the experience of being wounded is described by Ernest Hemingway in a revealing letter to his family detailing the 227 wounds he received from an Austrian trench mortar on the Italian front in World War I. To this is added George Orwell's description of a rifle wound in the Spanish Civil War and John Clubb's account of a facial wound from artillery on the Western Front: "I could feel something long lying loosely in my left cheek, as though I had a chicken bone in my mouth. It was in reality half my jaw, which had been broken off, teeth and all, and was floating about in my mouth."
Part I of the volume consists of 23 selections that cover an enormous period from the Greek heroic age up through the 18th century. Keegan provides continuity for the selections by means of extremely effective individual introductions that capture the theme of wars between different cultures, in which tribal or personal honor or religious duty might influence a recourse to war as much as the political or economic motivation that marks the modern era. This technique allows him to move smoothly and logically over the centuries from the earliest accounts of warfare to a description of the horse-and-gun culture of the North American Plains Indians. Particularly noteworthy selections range from the classic 5th century B.C. realist-idealist debate in Thucydides' Melian dialogue to an account of the final war against Muslim possessions in 16th-century Spain--the latter, as one eyewitness testifies, conducted by the undisciplined army of Phillip II: "Never in all my life have I witnessed such botchery, such disorder, such chaos . . . or come across a soldiery so cowardly, so greedy." Along the way there are riveting descriptions of the conflict between Muslims and Christians in the Mediterranean and a particularly memorable account by a French knight, describing the death of chivalry at Agincourt.
In Part II, Keegan's focus initially is on the warfare of regular armies in the 19th century--an age of established standing military forces with similar technologies and military cultures. But the drive for Empire also bought many of these armies into conflict with vastly different military cultures from India to Africa. Against these opponents, as Keegan demonstrates in 23 selections primarily based on the British experience, military technology did not always prevail.
The selections from British wars on the continent are particularly rich. The two entries from Sergeant William Lawrence's experiences in the Napoleonic wars wonderfully illustrate the Hobbesian world of the British lower ranks. This theme is continued in selections dealing with a private's description of the Battle of Waterloo (effectively complemented by Wellington's eyewitness official account); an enlisted view of the deprivation and family separation that accompanied service for the Empire; and a soldier's account from the Crimea detailing the lack of supplies and medicine while enduring the ordeal of a Russian winter. Farther afield, Keegan introduces a unique view of the battle of Gettysburg by an officer of the Coldstream Guards attached to the Confederate high command as an observer. Equally effective are Custer's letters to his wife describing his movements just prior to Little Big Horn and her account of the very small world of frontier garrison life. Keegan ends Part II with Sir Henry Newbolt's poetic paean to public school and Empire, "Vitaï Lampada," nicely set against the background of Zulu and British eyewitness accounts of the British disaster at Isandhlwana and the victory (11 Victoria Crosses) at Rorke's Drift, in which the British soldiers did, as Newbolt exhorted, "play up! and play the game."
Two major themes are represented in the 43 selections in Part III: the dominance of technology and the continued importance of the warrior spirit in 20th-century wars. The selections for World War I are varied and effective. Accounts of the Western Front range from Ernest Rommel's infantry perspective to the reaction of a British liaison officer at the French disaster of the Nivelle offensive. The tensions associated with trench warfare are captured particularly well in the description by a British company commander at the Somme of the problems associated with the 12-day cycle of front-line service, rest behind the lines, return to support or reserve lines just behind the front, and finally relief of a front-line unit. Other selections, such as Compton Mackenzie's account of the Gallipoli campaign, are useful and colorful reminders that the Great War was a global conflict. And one in particular, an eyewitness account of the British campaign in Southern Persia, has strong links, as Keegan points out, to the skirmishes in that area of Alexander's forces two millennia before.
Selections from the interwar years on the Russo-Polish War and the Spanish Civil War accentuate the turmoil of this period. In contrast, there are also the more mundane concerns of the British peacetime army, eloquently captured in John Masters' reminiscences of his early days in the Gurkha Rifles and in an enlisted man's account of recruit training in the Life Guards, the object of which, Keegan emphasizes, "was to produce a perfectly turned-out soldier who could ride, care for his horse, perform mounted drills, and obey orders without question." And even after war begins, there is the so-called Phony War in the West, well depicted in a humorous description by a British officer on duty in France prior to the German attack of 10 May 1940. The fatuous essence of this Sitzkrieg is starkly emphasized by the next selection containing the absolute and resolute defiance of Winston Churchill in his first BBC address to the British people as Prime Minister.
Many of the World War II selections return to the technological theme. Progress in manned flight is captured in the reconstruction of banter by RAF pilots during aerial combat. In terms of the sea war, there is the description of an attack on a German U-Boat by the commanding officer who survived to write about the encounter but was killed on a subsequent patrol. The most fascinating account is a description by a former code-breaker at Bletchley Park of the successful decryption of the German Enigma ciphers that produced what Churchill called his golden eggs. The selection captures the spirit of camaraderie as well as the complexity of the Enigma technology in this "long running" chess tournament. Finally, Keegan addresses the ultimate in new technology in the eyewitness report of the Nagasaki bombing by a New York Times reporter, who watches the atomic cloud develop and spread, "struggling in an elemental fury like a creature in the act of breaking the bonds that held it down."
Part III ends with two entries from the Vietnam conflict and one from Desert Storm. But here the continuity of the volume fails. Warfare in the post-World War II era is simply too complex. Where, for instance, against the backdrop of the Cold War, are the selections from the Chinese civil war, the Korean conflict, the Malaysian campaign, and more from Vietnam that would serve to illustrate the different cultural approaches to such concepts as limited war, counterinsurgency, and wars of national liberation? The gap is too large to be covered by descriptions of "tunnel rats" in Vietnam, of the US evacuation of Saigon, and of British special forces operations in Iraq. There is a sense of hurried compilation in this section that is not present anywhere else in the collection. This minor defect notwithstanding, The Book of War is an enthralling and valuable anthology that serves as an important reminder in this age of precision munitions that while approaches to combat may differ between cultures and change through the centuries, war remains a bloody human endeavor that brings out the best and the worst of mankind.
The Greatest War: Americans in Combat, 1941-1945. By Gerald Astor. Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1999. 1,033 pages. $39.95. Reviewed by Martin Blumenson, author of The Battle of the Generals and other books.
For the period from Pearl Harbor, where the war started officially for the United States, through the drop of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, which did much to end the conflict, Gerald Astor conducts us through the global struggle by telling us, for the most part in their own words, what many Americans did and thought as they were caught up in combat on all their fronts in all their theaters of operation.
The record is striking. The soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines quoted at length but never too long by Mr. Astor were no less unpretentious than brave. Their reports of their heroic behavior are understated, as though they seemed hardly to understand the import of their activity. They appeared to be unaware of how courageous they were. Most of them were doing what they considered to be necessary to get the job done, that is, to overcome the enemy and return home. Their performances run the emotional gamut from cold and unfeeling to what might be called battlefield madness.
"No one," Stephen E. Ambrose has said, "does oral history better than Gerald Astor." The remark is entirely apropos. What Astor has generated in this book is excitement. Showing what it was like to engage the enemy while being targeted by him, he has brought to life the place where hostile confrontation occurs.
The military people involved in combat or battle or at the cutting edge of warfare are relatively few. They are the ones who are most at risk, and, according to the veterans cited by Astor, they fight and try to dispatch their adversaries in order to avoid being killed themselves. It is a messy business, whether it happens on land, on or under the sea, or in the air. In the main, it is an individual and intensely personal endeavor.
Interest in World War II has shifted considerably to the human element, to what actually happened to those directly participating in combat. The arguments over grand political aims, strategies, logistics, organizations, operations, and the like have retreated from the spotlight, perhaps because the differing interpretations have worked themselves out. Now, what is vital is what the warrior saw and felt, how he acted, and what went through his mind. Letters, diaries, oral histories are notoriously inaccurate on dates, places, time frames, but they impart flavor and they reveal ordinary activities and fragmentary incidents of human beings in harm's way.
That is where Gerald Astor's book is so strong, so effective, and so absorbing. It is a genuine tour de force.
The setting of Astor's story is chronological. He follows the progression of the war. He also provides context for the individual exploits he presents. His explanations are simplified, yet altogether faultless. For example, how the Allies came to be involved in North Africa is a complicated event; Astor's description of the circumstances is short, sweet, and to the point, all that is needed to understand the role of the individual fighters in the subsequent campaigning.
Where oral histories abound, there is ample coverage in Astor's book. Where no record exists or where the archives are skimpy, there is less said. As a consequence, there are gaps, no doubt unavoidable, in the narrative. Papua, for one, is omitted. The Rapido River crossing has a single quotation and that one from a senior officer who sums up the operational difficulties and errors. There is little on the Italian campaign above Rome and on the invasion of and subsequent advance in southern France.
Two omissions must be noted. First, the extreme danger of the merchant mariners, particularly on their runs to the Soviet Union and especially when they carried cargoes of gasoline and ammunition through enemy-controlled waters, deserves mention and more. Second, the absence of maps is a serious deficiency. A few, very few, would have sufficed.
Despite Mr. Astor's brilliant text and breathless pace, the book is, I am sorry to say, too long. World War II was the greatest war, the largest single event of the century, but Astor's story becomes repetitive. It is hardly possible to read all the pages in a single sitting. They must be taken in relatively small doses.
Finally, in the last chapter, aptly entitled "After Action Reports," Astor tries to sum up the meaning of his work. What manner of men--and let us remember the equally heroic female nurses--were these Americans? His discussion of this and other matters, including his reflections on leadership (though I think his portrait of General Patton is warped), is, as always, stimulating and down to earth.
My compliments and congratulations go, with great admiration, to Gerald Astor.
Guardians of Empire: The U.S. Army and the Pacific, 1902-1940. By Brian McAllister Linn. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997. 343 pp. $39.95. Reviewed by Richard Halloran, a former military correspondent of The New York Times who lives now within 20 miles of Pearl Harbor.
After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed before Congress that it was "a day which will live in infamy" for what the Japanese did. With the benefit of hindsight and the excellent scholarship of Brian McAllister Linn, that date might also be called "a day that should live in disgrace" for what the Americans failed to do.
In "Guardians of Empire," Linn shows that US military commanders began visualizing a Japanese attack on Hawaii as far back as 1907, shortly after Japan defeated Russia in a war that ended in 1905. Believing that Japan was on the move in competition with the European and US colonial powers in Asia, Army and Navy officers started to scan US vulnerabilities in Hawaii and the Philippines, both recently annexed territories of the United States.
Linn, who grew up in Hawaii and is an associate professor of history at Texas A&M, carefully traces war plans and strategic gaming from then on. "Long before Pearl Harbor," he writes, "the threat of attack by enemy aircraft had found its way into all defense discussions." A planning board in 1920 said, "There are some places in the Hawaiian Islands from which an enemy might launch a surprise air attack on Pearl Harbor." A senior Army officer in 1931 concluded that "the most probable form of hostile attack on Oahu in the early stages of a Pacific war would be a sea-air raid intended to destroy or damage naval installations there." By 1934, one estimate said Japan could concentrate 324 airplanes to attack Hawaii. A survey of Hawaii's defenses in 1937 found that a surprise attack would come in "powerful, driving air raids against the installations and personnel of Pearl Harbor and our airdromes."
A year before the Japanese attack, Linn continues, the Army commander in the Hawaiian Department, Major General Charles D. Herron, "predicted that carriers would approach at night, launching their airplanes to strike the naval base at dawn." (Herron was off only by little more than an hour, the attack commencing at 0755 on a Sunday morning.) To counter the expected assault, Linn says, Herron asserted that "the defenders must establish an extensive long-range reconnaissance patrol and an efficient early-warning communications system."
Linn piles one piece of evidence on top of another to show that US commanders all but knew when Japan would strike and all but failed to take the most elementary precautions that any second lieutenant or ensign would have known to take, like putting out sentries and deploying frigates on a picket line. Never mind the theories of grand conspiracies in Washington or the ambiguity of warning messages or any of the other twists and turns that fill the voluminous literature on Pearl Harbor. The hard fact, as Linn finds so persuasively, is that US commanders in Hawaii had seen the attack coming for nearly 35 years and still got caught unprepared.
Why? "Contrary to popular belief," Linn argues, "the Japanese attack did not catch soldiers unaware. Indeed, the Army was like the boy who cried wolf. For years it had foreseen both the threat and its own inability to ward it off. The history of the Pacific Army is, in many respects, a history of why the obvious did not happen--of why sensible precautions were omitted, why prescient solutions died stillborn, why evident protective measures were ignored--as Sherlock Holmes astutely noticed, why the dog did not bark."
Beyond those frustrations, Linn contends, was "the protracted inability of Hawaii's Army and Navy commands to develop joint defense policies." He says, "Both Army and Navy commanders consistently cited their own service missions as precluding cooperation, but complained when the other service did likewise." This led, he concludes, "to a disastrous complacency that the other service was responsible for filling the gaps in the defenses."
The narratives of events leading up to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and invasion of the Philippines are the most compelling passages in a thoroughly researched and clearly written book with a much wider focus and longer perspective. Linn sets out five themes. He seeks to illuminate the tensions between those who saw the defense of American possessions in the Pacific as a primary mission for the Army and those who gave priority to continental defense. Second, the author examines the tactical challenge of how the Army was to defend distant, weak possessions against a strong and aggressive regional power. Third, were the Army guardians of empire there to protect US territories from external aggression or to control the people of the Philippines, where the United States had fought a fierce guerrilla war, and the people of Hawaii, of which a large minority were of Japanese ancestry? As it turned out in World War II, those suspicions were unfounded in both places, but in fairness the Army didn't know that in the early days of its Pacific duty.
Linn says, "The army's inability to trust the very people it was supposed to protect led to a fourth problem: how to utilize local manpower without risking an uprising." Last, the author notes that perhaps the dominant theme "is the disparity between military policy and its practice, between what plans call for and what can actually be accomplished." In a summation with which many Army officers surely will agree today, Linn writes: "It may be argued that a policy that lacks the means of achievement is no policy at all."
Indeed, throughout this sometimes understated book, perceptive military readers will find much that might apply to their own battles, whether in the jungles of Vietnam, the balmy environs the US Army Pacific at Fort Shafter or the Pacific Command in Hawaii, or the mazes of the Pentagon. Plus, it's a good historical read mercifully free of academic jargon.
Future War: Nonlethal Weapons in Modern Warfare. By John B. Alexander. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999. 244 pages. $23.95. Reviewed by Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry, USA Ret., First Vice President and Program Manager, MPRI.
The end of the Cold War has resulted in changes to the National Security Strategy and the National Military Strategy of the United States. Although the change has seemed comparable to the swing of the compass needle from North to South, perhaps it is really more a fluctuation of the magnetic needle of the security compass in tentative, somewhat uncertain directions. We are trying to determine our own role in a world of political and military instability where no other major powers are superpowers and evolving nations are attempting to bring political and economic order out of uncertainty in a search for security.
We live in a world somewhat comparable to that period between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II, when nations embraced the idea of peaceful coexistence and ignored the threats of fascism and communism, thus setting the stage for World War II. It is a fact of history that this period was also characterized by political instability that led to smaller but significant military actions throughout the world--for example, the Italian-Ethiopian War of the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, the Japanese involvement with China, and others too numerous to mention.
The end of World War II again saw a rash of minor wars such as the war in Korea, the excursion in Panama, the Iraqi aggression on Kuwait, and of course the involvement of the United States in Southeast Asia. Recently, we have seen the involvement of the United States in Somalia, Haiti, Kurdistan, and the Balkans. These latter commitments can be called humanitarian missions, peacekeeping missions, or whatever term may be attributed to the US involvement, but they are far below the level of conventional war, much less the nuclear threshold. While the threat of monolithic communism has been exorcised, leaders of rogue states have empowered their nations with capabilities that remain a serious threat to the United States. The growth of terrorism and the potential for chemical and biological warfare present serious concerns.
How do we cope with conduct by the leaders of small states or terrorist bands seeking to inflict grievous harm on our friends or ourselves? These attacks are far below the level that requires a retaliatory conventional response. A nuclear, chemical, or biological response by us is out of the question for both political and military reasons. Nevertheless, there must be some way by which we are afforded a shield that deters and discourages excursions of madness against us.
Over the past 20 years, a small band of brilliant soldiers and scientists has explored the theory and possibilities of nonlethal weaponry and tactics that provide a plausible doctrine and method of operations with great promise in providing solutions to these quandaries. Perhaps the most articulate spokesman for this discipline is Dr. John Alexander, a retired US Army colonel who has been an ardent conceptualist and exponent of this interesting subject. He has written extensively on nonlethal weapons and has led countless symposiums and discussions over the past two decades with high government leaders. He is, without a doubt, the leading authority on the subject. His latest book, Future War, is bound to provide thought-provoking ideas in the strategic, operational, and tactical employment of this panoply of weapons.
To be sure, the employment of nonlethal weapons is a controversial subject. The arsenal of nonlethal weapons boggles the mind when one considers electromagnetic, acoustic, psychological and information warfare, chemical warfare, biological warfare, methods of imaginative physical restraint, and weapons of less than bone-shattering impact.
We have all seen pictures of starving humanity, desperate for food, rioting for subsistence. Conventional attacks under such circumstances border on the unthinkable. Riots by immature students incited by professional agitators but sufficiently threatening to bring down institutional order constitute another type of activity calling for some sort of response well below the employment of conventional force (witness the Kent State incident in our own country). In this book, Dr. Alexander provides many examples of the proposed uses of nonlethal force for instances such as those. Dr. Alexander posits three factors that he believes make the development of nonlethal weapons essential for our time:
Dr. Alexander reviews many instances in which the use of nonlethal weapons might have produced substantive results with reduced or minimal violence in quelling the disorder. He then reviews the various technologies that provide the means of nonlethal warfare and follows this with a variety of scenarios ranging from peace support operations through technical sanctions and strategic paralysis as well as hostage and barricade situations. The last part of his fascinating book, and perhaps the most interesting, addresses the controversies over the use of nonlethal weapons. He discusses the limitations of nonlethal weapons and the strategic implications of their use. He recognizes that there is opposition to the use of such weapons as well as legal issues that prohibit their use.
What Dr. Alexander has done is to present a well-rounded and logical explanation of the issues involved in this fascinating subject. Every military professional, whether he approves or condemns the concept, should avail himself of the information in this book if he is to discuss the matter seriously and with any degree of professional competence or expertise. We have not heard the end of the subject of nonlethal warfare. Perhaps we have scarcely opened the door of the subject and a discipline that is challenging and controversial. It is an interesting fact that the Army has not raced to embrace this subject with enthusiasm. On the other hand, the Marine Corps has pursued the idea with more than a little interest. Perhaps this is just another example of the interest of the Marine Corps in any matters involving the employment of violence. It would appear that the other services should be equally interested in the applications of nonlethal technologies.
The book provides a provocative, thoughtful consideration of a means of warfare that surely will become more and more prevalent in the immediate future. It behooves every professional military scholar and practitioner to study this fascinating and erudite presentation of a little-known strategic and operational tool that could mean the difference between eventual military and political victory or defeat.
The Second Nuclear Age. By Colin S. Gray. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1999. 191 pages. $45.00. Reviewed by Dr. Stephen Cimbala, author of Coercive Military Strategy and other works.
In The Second Nuclear Age, Colin Gray attempts to put into focus the role of nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War world and beyond. His argument is that nuclear weapons will remain significant into the next century over a broad spectrum of strategy and policy issues. So, too, will nuclear deterrence matter in the future, but here Gray issues a specific warning. Although nuclear deterrence will still be important in the next century, deterrence is less predictable and more susceptible to failure. Deterrence, according to Gray, was never a very deterministic process to begin with. It depended upon the will of the opponent who was the object of deterrence as much as it did upon the skill of the deterrer. Deterrence was, in the best of times for nuclear strategists of the Cold War years, an uncertain gamble.
The absence of a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union does not prove that deterrence was secure during the "first nuclear age" from 1945 to 1989. Gray admits that we have insufficient knowledge of many Cold War crises to resolve the issue whether deterrence worked or did not. Despite his argument that deterrence was and remains basically unreliable, Gray contends that overall the US approach to nuclear force planning and Cold War strategy "retains solid merit for the future" and that the "nuclear strategic enlightenment of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s continues to appear to have been emphatically correct on the basics of nuclear lore." The apparent inconsistency in the two positions (unreliable deterrence but a reliable body of nuclear strategy) is resolved by his argument that strategy is basically about doing, not just thinking, and that both thinkers and policymakers during the Cold War coped about as well as they could with nuclear technology and the Soviet challenge.
Although some of the logic of nuclear strategy might be transferable across time and space, the grammar of strategy in the "second nuclear age" must change for US and allied policy planners. The world without a Soviet Union is a potentially unipolar military environment favorable to the United States. US nuclear capabilities help to support that uniquely favorable military position within a transitional, and somewhat open-ended, international system. Gray acknowledges the enthusiasm in US and other Western defense circles for the "Revolution in Military Affairs" (RMA) that is expected to produce exceptional US competency in high-tech conventional weaponry based on information principles. But he cautions that cyberwar and precision strike cannot lead us into a post-nuclear age for the foreseeable future. Nuclear weapons have certain strategic missions to perform in the second nuclear age that cannot be supplanted by cyberstrike.
Gray enumerates these nuclear strategic missions as: (1), to represent a nuclear strategic force posture judged as appropriate for the world's only global military power, for its effect upon general deterrence; (2), to discourage and/or offset aspiring nuclear peer competitors; (3), to extend nuclear deterrence to protect allies and friends from coercion or attack; (4), to provide specialized warfighting capabilities against high-priority targets, such as deeply buried or hardened weapons of mass destruction (WMD); and (5), to serve as insurance against the possible failure of US or allied conventional forces. These judgments about nuclear missions are related to his arguments about the main differences between the first and second nuclear ages: (1), deterrence is less reliable now than it was during the Cold War; (2), there is no nuclear peer competitor at present for the United States; (3), the United States has military preeminence in conventional forces; and (4), counterforce capabilities may be demanded by exigent circumstances in regional conflicts or in other situations.
The author has little regard for START or for arms control regimes in general. He contends that the United States and Russia do not have an adversarial political relationship and, therefore, toting up the nuclear balance between the two sides as if the Cold War were still in progress is strategically irrelevant. China, not Russia, is the potential peer competitor for the United States in the future, at least regionally in Asia if not globally. A possible "third nuclear age" of US-China bipolarity in the next century cannot be ruled out. Gray is open-minded in his thinking about the future of the international system, however, and he acknowledges that many futures are possible, or even plausible. Because of this uncertainty about the geopolitical environment in the next century, and for other reasons, the author recommends that the United States maintain a nuclear arsenal of large size, diverse composition, secure command and control, and flexible response capabilities.
Gray is in danger of being misread on the last point. Some readers will no doubt regard this proposal for continuing a formidable US nuclear deterrent into the next century as Gray's version of a nuclear freeze: a floor beneath which cuts in nuclear weapons should not go. Accept his argument or not, Gray's reasoning on this point is strategic. The United States will have unique responsibilities for global engagement, opening the door to many possible military commitments and deterrence challenges. Absent a highly competent US nuclear deterrent, regional aggressors might coerce a US ally with their own nuclear weapons or inflict conventional military defeat on that same ally. For the obvious reasons not an enthusiast of nuclear proliferation, Gray argues that a strategic perspective on proliferation of WMD must be selective. It matters who has weapons and what they intend to use them for.
This study will be of serious interest to military professionals, scholars, policymakers, and to other close students of military history and political science literature pertinent to security. Although short in length, it packs plenty of punch: Gray is characteristically thought-provoking and engaging even when the reader is in strong disagreement. I recommend reading this book along with Paul Bracken's Fire in the East (Harper Collins) and Keith Payne's Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age (University Press of Kentucky).
Battling the Elements: Weather and Terrain in the Conduct of War. By Harold A. Winters, Gerald Galloway, William Reynolds, and David Rhyne. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. 293 pages. $35.95.
Military Geography for Professionals and the Public. By John M. Collins. Washington: Brassey's, 1998. 435 pages. $32.95.
Reviewed by Dr. Kent H. Butts, Professor of Political-Military Strategy, US Army War College, and former Associate Professor of Geography at the US Military Academy.
Geography is the essence of the military art. The landscape of the earth does not determine the behavior of the great captains or even small-unit commanders, but it affords them opportunities that, if wisely used, can lead to victory or relative advantage. Geography provides the canvas on which military leaders must work to create their art. Knowledge of geography is thus indispensable to strategists, planners, logisticians, and commanders, yet there are few resources available with which those involved in the management and application of landpower may systematically acquire this knowledge.
Although the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at the US Military Academy has taught a mandatory core course in Physical Geography and Terrain Analysis since the early 1980s, this course does not reach the majority of newly commissioned officers. There is no Army-wide basic course, Command and General Staff College course, or Army War College core course that teaches military geography. For these reasons, it is gratifying indeed to witness a resurgence of publisher interest in the subject. These two books provide valuable personal resources with which military readers can dramatically increase their practical knowledge in this vital element of the military art and enjoy doing so.
That it has taken so many years to publish these quality military geography texts is a function of two watershed events in the 20th-century history of the US geographic community. The geographic literature of the interwar years was replete with geopolitical concepts based on social Darwinism. The state was viewed as a living organism that either grew in vitality and size or withered, to be subsumed by more vital, dynamic states. To some authors, borders became shifting zones of assimilation.
When the German geographer Karl Haushofer dedicated his academic skills to justifying Hitler's expansionist vision, many geographers felt shame; and in the postwar period, many of the best US geography departments strongly discouraged students from the study of geopolitics and the application of geographic concepts to military issues. The experience of the Vietnam War reinforced and hardened this antimilitary bias.
The second event to discourage the development of military geography was the onset of the quantitative revolution in the social sciences. In geography, regional studies and military geography were portrayed as unscientific, and geography departments aggressively hired and granted tenure to those with quantitative skills of an economic or social orientation. However, as memories of the wars began to fade and the relevance of geography's contributions to national and international affairs was increasingly questioned by university presidents and national leaders, men of vision emerged who saw the value of geography to world politics and the military element of national power. These books are a product of this trend.
The Winters book, Battling the Elements, resulted from a convergence of talents and ideas during the early 1980s in what is now the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering of the US Military Academy. Under the leadership of Brigadier General Gil Kirby and Colonel John Garver, the department had a strong military geography program. When Garver left to become the chief cartographer of The National Geographic, he was followed by Brigadier General Gerald Galloway, who turned the physical geography course into a mandatory advanced terrain analysis core course that addressed the role of physical geography in warfare. The distinguished physical geographer Dr. Harold Winters joined the department as visiting professor in 1982, bringing an outstanding publication record and the desire to study military history. While at USMA, Winters focused on "the relationship between warfare and geography with special attention to environmental factors in combat." Over the next three years, Winters, Galloway, Colonel Bill Reynolds (who headed the department's physical geography courses), and David Rhyne drafted and polished the present book.
Battling the Elements is an excellent book and an important addition to the library of serious students of the military art. Terrain, weather, climate, soil, and vegetation are the backbones of physical geography. If the topics sound dry and textbook-like, you'll change your opinion when you read the book. The authors bring these essential battlefield variables to life with a myriad of operational examples spanning much of military history. They weave a tapestry of important battles from geographic variables that motivates the reader to seek out other battles for intellectual examination of their geographic underpinnings. It is the authors' ability to stir the reader's interest in the physical geography of war that is this book's key strength.
The great captains seem to know inherently how to use geography to their advantage, as Flaminius learned at Lake Trasimene when Hannibal creatively used the morning fog to obscure his cavalry. The cavalry attack from the unseen hills, thick with fog and vegetation, pinned the Romans to the lakeshore in one of Hannibal's most complete victories. The great captains learned their craft from thoughtful mentors, their own experience, and the study of warfare. Their thoroughness in preparation and attention to the geographic elements allowed them to avoid the remorse of folly, such as that felt by Lieutenant General Sir Lancelot Kiggell who, upon observing the terrain and mud of Flanders, remarked, "My God, did we really send men to fight in that?"
Each chapter of Battling the Elements begins with a clear description of the chosen element (or elements) of physical geography. These elements are then tied directly to historical examples of battles or campaigns illustrating their significance. The correlation is bolstered with maps, photographs, and schematics. Each chapter's conclusion elaborates on the comparisons made in the chapter's historical examples, such as Chapter Five's use of The Wilderness and Ia Drang Valley to examine the effects of vegetation on battle. However, the book might have taken a further step to offer general principles from each chapter that would be applicable to theater-level planners.
Like America's First Battles, by Charles Heller and William Stofft, the book's purpose is to ensure that US military leaders are prepared, fully understanding the need to include the geographic elements in military planning and operations. The authors succeed splendidly, giving us a text that is well written, educational, multidisciplinary, and interesting. It would make an excellent gift or acquisition for one's military library.
Battling the Elements is the type of book that one wants to read sitting in a wood-paneled den where he or she can reflect on the history of the military art and its geographic imperatives. In contrast, John Collins's Military Geography for Professionals and the Public is the kind of book one wants to zip into a waterproof bag, throw in a rucksack, and take to the field. The military geographic equivalent of a medical handbook for home self-care, this is a superb textbook on military geography that will be the basis for numerous courses and could in fact heighten the entire military community's awareness of the great variety of geographic variables that influence the military element of power.
The book is sponsored by the Association of the United States Army, and its cover carries glowing praise by Generals Vessey, Meyer, Gray, Welch, Admiral Zumwalt, and former Secretary of Defense Jim Schlesinger. Its foreword is written by Lieutenant General Richard Chilcoat and its preface by General John Vessey. With all that, one would expect Military Geography to be one of the best military geography textbooks in existence. It is. With Military Geography, Collins has left a legacy to the military education community.
John Collins's distinguished military career began with his enlistment as a private in 1942 and ended with retirement as a colonel 30 years later. In 1967-68 he was Chief of the Campaign Planning Group in Vietnam. After his military retirement, he began a second career as a defense specialist with the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, where he wrote widely on defense issues, including many books and major Library of Congress publications. More recently he accepted a research position at the National Defense University, availing himself further of the functional, regional, political, and military talent so concentrated in the Washington, D.C., area. With excellent support from the NDU Library and technical support from a myriad of subject-matter experts, Collins took two years to write this present work, an expansive, encyclopedia-like text.
Collins's book is military geography writ large. He defines military geography as "a geographic specialty that concerns all physical, cultural, and other environmental influences over military policies, plans, programs, and combat/support operations at all levels in global, regional, and local contexts." If this amalgamation of topics seems unusually broad for those familiar with the traditional definitions of military geography, then one should be patient--and read Collins's book. His definition of military geography touches on physical geography, cultural geography, political-military geography, and area analyses. Thus, he covers not just geography in the conduct of war but the political, social, and cultural variables that lead to conflict and their implications for regional stability. This juxtaposition of variables is instructive and valuable, particularly to young officers whose experience in global affairs and understanding of strategic issues may not be as well developed as their understanding of company-level operations.
In each of the topical areas Collins has conducted extensive scholarly research, listed a wealth of references, and called upon subject-matter experts to review his work and ensure that the salient points are included. As a result, in each chapter he is able to explain the importance of the topic to US national security, relate the topic to the interests of the military community, and provide a summary of key points that elaborate the particular issues to which the military community should pay close attention. The text is generously supported with illustrations, photographs, and tables that clarify geographic points, social variables, and the distribution of natural resources, among other aspects. Collins helps the reader travel the breadth of military geography from space operations to the environmental terrorism of the Gulf War, always providing a clear understanding of how each topic relates to the application of the military element of power. The value of this book is that it introduces topics that are often neglected by military strategists and provides sufficient depth to educate readers, while whetting their appetites for more complete exploration.
The authors of both of these books are to be praised for educating their readers on the topic of military geography and for furthering its perceived importance among the military leadership and academic communities.
Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. By David M. Kennedy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 858 pages. $39.95. Reviewed by Lieutenant Colonel Alan Cate, a former history instructor at the US Military Academy.
Accepting his party's nomination to run for a second presidential term in 1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt concluded his address to the convention with these words: "There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny."
The crucible of that destiny was the Great Depression and World War II. David M. Kennedy, a gifted historian and writer, has crafted in Freedom From Fear a superb account of these extraordinary years. In relating the tale he captures nothing less than the emergence of modern America. Economically, he explains how the nation--whose citizens suffered 17 percent unemployment throughout the Depression decade and a third of whom FDR characterized during his second inaugural as "ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished"--accomplished the production miracle of World War II and positioned itself on the cusp of the greatest sustained material and consumer boom of all time. In terms of foreign relations, Kennedy portrays the breathtaking transition from isolationism to global engagement and dominance. Most profoundly, he highlights a fundamental and lasting shift in our political culture produced by the Depression and the war--our heightened expectations about the role of government in our lives.
The book is replete with keen insight and interpretation. For instance, Kennedy dispels the mythology surrounding the "roaring twenties" as a period of supposed universal prosperity. He demonstrates that it was much more than Jazz Age speakeasies, flappers, and a soaring stock market. It was a decade of grinding poverty for many, especially blacks, immigrants, and farmers, the latter comprising 30 percent of American workers in 1920. He casts Herbert Hoover--the man whom none other than a young FDR in 1919 judged as best suited to be president--as a progressive and discovers many New Deal antecedents in Hoover's efforts to cope with economic and social disaster.
Kennedy also provides a measured assessment of the New Deal. He rejects equally critiques from unreconstructed leftists who attack the "conservative achievements of liberal reform" and from conservative cranks who labeled it unbridled socialism (the American Socialist Party leader Norman Thomas, a contemporary of FDR, supposedly once remarked that the New Deal carried out the Socialist platform--on a stretcher). Where many have described, and faulted, the New Deal's improvisational nature and FDR's own meandering style--Hoover called him a "chameleon on plaid"--Kennedy discerns "a more coherent pattern than is dreamt of in many philosophies." For him the New Deal's dominant theme was the search for "security," pithily described by one of FDR's intimates as "a better life for all Americans and a better America to live it in" and even more succinctly by FDR himself as "a country where no one is left out." Kennedy concludes that the New Deal left substantial legacies such as Social Security, as well as key structural reforms in such sectors as banking, housing, and labor law. Less tangibly, but just as striking in Kennedy's view, FDR's politics of hope preserved democracy in an era when either communism or fascism seemed to be the wave of the future. His voice gave most Americans a badly needed psychological uplift and sense of purpose that helped them weather the Depression and prepared them for the titanic struggle just ahead.
From an America mired deep in depression throughout the 1930s, Kennedy asks, what did the world's democracies have to expect and what did the dictators have to fear? He illuminates the politics and culture of isolationism, outlining FDR's domestic and diplomatic maneuverings to overcome it, including the proclamation of the "Four Freedoms." Two of these, freedom from want and freedom from fear, flowed naturally from the New Deal quest for security. Kennedy's comprehensive treatment of the war artfully weaves battlefront and homefront. In describing how the war was planned, fought, and concluded, he portrays America's grand strategy as the product of circumstance, military and political necessity, and compromise. He sees the Manhattan Project as a microcosm of how the United States waged World War II, noting that "only the Americans had the margins of money, material, and manpower, as well as the undisturbed space and time" to develop the atomic bomb.
Indeed, the American experience of war was both profound and unique. Foremost, "military Keynesianism" brought full employment and emphatically ended the Depression. Between 1941 and 1945 the federal government spent $321 billion, in constant dollars more than twice what it spent in the entire period from 1789 to 1940! The war devastated the economies of all the other major belligerents; Kennedy shows it rejuvenated ours. United States GNP more than doubled between 1940 and 1944. Our British and Soviet allies, to say nothing of our German and Japanese foes, all required their citizens to make do with less. Only Americans enjoyed both guns and butter, consuming more than they ever had before. The author of the definitive account of America's World War I homefront experience (Over Here, 1980), Kennedy exhibits a similar mastery of the war's beneficial domestic impact in tracing fascinating regional, demographic, and social transformations. And he notes a remarkable paradox: despite the fears of liberals, the war brought about, indirectly in many cases, more real, progressive social change than the New Deal.
For over half a century, America's "greatest generation" has recalled to advantage those heroic times of Depression and war--the exhilarating sense of purpose and community they felt in surviving hardship and smashing monstrous tyranny. Freedom From Fear is history on the grand scale, deftly blending the storyteller's art with judicious analysis in chronicling this watershed period. Kennedy makes plain the role of material factors and determinants, but never overlooks the importance of contingency. People, ideas, and choices matter most, not vast, impersonal "historical forces," in this unsentimental but eloquent book.
Honor Bound: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1961-1973. By Stuart L. Rochester and Frederick T. Kiley. Annapolis: US Naval Institute Press, 1999. 728 pages. $36.95. Reviewed by Brooks E. Kleber, Ph.D., retired US Army historian and a prisoner of war in World War II.
With the exception of Japan's miserable treatment of its prisoners of war in World War II, the subject of prisoners of war (POWs) has been largely ignored in popular and historical coverage of 20th-century wars, until Vietnam. This omission was not for lack of information or numbers. World War I saw 4,120 American POWs, while the total for World War II was over 130,000. North Korea took 7,140 POWs, but press accounts were generally limited to Korean attempts to indoctrinate Americans and the difficulties of handling rebellious North Korean prisoners held by Americans.
In America's longest war, the number of US prisoners in Vietnamese hands was only (comparatively speaking) 771, of whom 113 died in captivity. So what caused the emergence of interest in the lives and fate of American prisoners in the Vietnam conflict? There are several reasons: the length of the war; Vietnam's extreme cruelty in the treatment of American prisoners; the rising tide of American anti-war sentiment as the conflict continued, accompanied by visits of American anti-war extremists to North Vietnam; and, perhaps most telling of all, the merging of the fate of American POWs with the negotiations to end the fighting.
Honor Bound is a long, well-researched book written by historians working under the auspices of the Historical Office of the Department of Defense--Stuart Rochester and Frederick Kiley. The project was supervised by Chief Historian Alfred Goldberg, who, the authors claim, presided with the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job. The book is wonderfully complete, containing such ancillary features as detailed drawings of the many POW camps and appendices with POW statistics for most of our 20th-century wars. It also contains a list of North Vietnamese prison camps, a catalog of all US personnel captured in Southeast Asia during the period 1961-1973, and a useful bibliography, index, and notes. There is a multitude of individual photographs of the POWs, which I found myself studying as I read of their exploits.
Organizationally, the history begins with the POWs of the Viet Minh (1946-1954), continues with those of the Viet Cong in South Vietnam, and concludes with POWs in the series of camps in North Vietnam. Appropriately inserted within this structure are chapters on specific prisoner of war problems: the need for and methods of communication; the emergence of prisoner leadership; Vietnamese attempts at politically seducing and psychologically breaking the prisoners; description of the many camps; the individual stories of prominent POWs and some of the less well-known; and the terrible nature of the torture.
We learn too of the vast difference between prison life in the North and that in the South. In the North, prisoners generally were officers (aviators), while the prisoners in the South were mostly enlisted infantrymen. Prisoners in the North were placed in established, nominally permanent camps, while those in the South moved from one transient encampment to another under the most primitive conditions.
Many modern-day heroes are covered--Jeremiah Denton, James Stockdale, Robinson Risner, George "Bud" Day, and John McCain, to name only a few. McCain, a current Senator from Arizona and US presidential candidate, was badly injured upon capture. He faced the additional ill luck of being the son of a Navy four-star admiral, a fact his captors knew.
One of the wandering nomads of the South was Marine Captain Donald Cook, captured in 1964. He and a small band of fellow prisoners were kept constantly on the move. He died in 1967 of wounds and disease. Later, several of his group wrote glowing tributes about Cook's bravery and leadership. One letter was sent to the Marine Corps Commandant. Even with emphasis from the highest levels, an award for Cook remained in administrative limbo until 1980 when his widow finally received her husband's Medal of Honor. Four other American prisoners of war received this highest of honors. In addition to Cook, Lieutenant Lance Sijan received his posthumously. The other three included Navy Commander James Stockdale and Air Force Majors George Day and Leo Thorsness, the latter honored for exploits before his capture.
Army Lieutenant Nick Rowe was another Vietnam prisoner in the South. Captured in 1963, Rowe, like Cook, was part of a small group being pushed pell-mell through the back country until one day in 1968, while his captors were eluding an American gunship, he escaped. He came home a hero and for a while occupied himself with public speaking and politics. Returning to the Army in 1980, Colonel Rowe was killed in the Philippines by communist guerrillas. He once made this statement about a valorous comrade, Captain Humbert Versace, who had died in captivity: "He followed the code of conduct to the letter, and he was executed because of it. . . . They got nothing from him but we lost a fine officer."
Religion is a subject of great value in the life of POWs but rarely gets mentioned. After his release, Denton explained that "those not subjected to the prisoner of war experience may have trouble understanding how real was the presence of God to most of us." The tapping exchanges between prisoners usually ended with GBU for "God Bless You." On the other hand, Lieutenant General John Flynn in 1988 told a National War College seminar "that there were atheists `who also did well' and that love of country, family, and their fellow prisoners were equally powerful [as] sustaining and inspirational forces."
What about black American prisoners of war? One report listed 72 black servicemen dead or missing; seven of these were officers. A later tabulation indicated that 54 depicted as missing probably died in combat. Air Force Major Fred Cherry was the highest ranking black prisoner of war. When captured in 1965, the badly injured Cherry was placed in a cell with Navy Lieutenant (j.g.) Porter Halyburton, a white Southerner with a thick accent. Mutual distrust was soon dispelled and Cherry credited Halyburton with saving his life by feeding and caring for him.
A few words about the bad and the good among the prisoners. There always seemed to be a small group who responded to the Vietnamese. They were known as the Peace Committee or PCs. Navy Commander Walter Wilber and Marine Lieutenant Colonel Edison Miller were two of the highest ranking PCs who remained unrepentant to the end. Both faced postwar charges of mutiny and collaboration which were eventually dropped. The two officers retired with administrative letters of censure and lasting disgrace.
And the good group? John Flynn, David Winn, Norman Gaddis, Chuck Boyd, James Stockdale, Jeremiah Denton, Robinson Risner, William Lawrence, Robert Fuller, and Robert Shumaker were among a score who would attain flag rank. Chuck Boyd was the only POW who would become a four-star general, and Douglas Peterson recently returned to Hanoi as our first Ambassador.
Throughout the book the authors maintain an evenhanded approach, but a willingness to address sticky subjects. Regarding the postwar controversy over MIAs, the authors remark, "The final accounting to this day continues to occupy hundreds of analysts as well as a swarm of polemicists and opportunists."
Finally, a light note. An Air Force captain was shot down 98 days before his eventual release, but received reimbursement for only 88 days of "substandard quarters and subsistence." With true bureaucratic consistency, officials explained that during his first ten days of evading capture, he had no quarters or subsistence whatever, and thus they could not have been substandard!
Jeremiah Denton, as he stepped from the plane onto the tarmac at Clark Field, remarked that "his countrymen could not have imagined how perplexed and remarkable was the journey behind the homecoming." Obviously not, but Honor Bound is the best glimpse of that journey a layman will ever get.
Coercive Inducement and the Containment of International Crises. By Donald C. F. Daniel and Bradd C. Hayes. Washington: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1999. 272 pages. $14.95 (paper).
The Politics of Peace-Maintenance. Edited by Jarat Chopra. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998. 145 pages. $35 ($15.95 paper).
Reviewed by Colonel James S. McCallum, USA Ret., Professor of National and International Security Affairs, US Army Peacekeeping Institute, Center for Strategic Leadership, US Army War College.
What the international community understood as peacekeeping during the period 1940-1970 changed substantially in the 1990s. In the early 1990s, the traditional peacekeeping roles of separating belligerents and monitoring cease-fires began to give way to more challenging and complex multidimensional peace operations--or "peace support operations" in NATO terms. Peace operations in Cambodia, Somalia, Angola, Mozambique, Liberia, El Salvador, Rwanda, Haiti, and Bosnia forced the international community to undertake development of new procedures, guidelines, and doctrine. The results were decidedly mixed, and the UN's subsequent reluctance to authorize new missions has given both practitioners and scholars time to reflect on what new guidelines, procedures, and doctrine are needed. These two books offer civilian and military practitioners the conceptual grounding for guiding strategy in what appears to be a gradual upswing in peace operations at the decade's end.
Both books draw on the increasingly obvious fact that missions of this type are not going away. Indeed, the UN Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK), NATO's Kosovo Force (KFOR), and the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) are exactly the kinds of missions these two books address.
Coercive Inducement, after succinctly tracing the evolution of peacekeeping, poses the question that faced the international community at the end of its missions in the early 1990s: Is there a middle ground between traditional peacekeeping and peace enforcement? Peacekeeping emphasizes consent, impartiality, and the use of force only in self-defense, while enforcement operations take sides, as in Korea, the Congo in the 1960s, Operation Provide Comfort in 1991, and the trade embargo enforced against Belgrade from 1992 to 1995. The authors offer a well-reasoned and detailed middle option that they call "coercive inducement." Its focus, in the authors' words, "is on getting one's way through the employment of military forces as opposed to using force per se. It aims to persuade rather than seize or to bludgeon, and it must form part of a concerted campaign involving a variety of means--politico-diplomatic, economic, hortatory, as well as military--to influence behavior."
The strength of Coercive Inducement is its conceptual development of this middle option by contrasting it with peacekeeping and enforcement. It offers seven principles and associated operational guidelines for planning future coercive inducement missions, drawing on four case studies of Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, and Haiti. The case studies give the reader a useful perspective on how coercive inducement was or was not used effectively in these missions. The cases are well-researched, and the authors have done an excellent job of presenting ample mission background so that the specific examples of the use of force are seen in their proper context.
While Coercive Inducement focuses on the potential stick--the use of force--that may be employed, it does acknowledge that the use of force must be part of a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach. This same larger, overarching concept is the essence of The Politics of Peace-Maintenance, edited by Jarat Chopra. Peace maintenance envisions the use of carrots and sticks by the intervening international community acting with political authority exercised by the mission in a domestic context and guided by the principle of harmonizing the efforts of the numerous international actors and agencies that intervene. (For a complete historical development of the evolution of political authority as well as two case studies of peace maintenance in Somalia and Western Sahara, see Peace-Maintenance: The Evolution of International Political Authority, by Jarat Chopra [New York: Routledge, 1999].)
In The Politics of Peace-Maintenance, Chopra tells us that peace maintenance is "the overall political framework, as part of which the objectives of diplomatic activities, humanitarian assistance, military forces, and civilian components are not only coordinated but harmonized. The concept provides a link between the strategic and operational levels of command and control, and constitutes the exercise by the international community as a whole of political authority within nations." Following a short, tightly developed opening chapter describing peace maintenance, the book then offers six chapters by separate authors, chosen for their expertise in their fields, to explore the following aspects of peace maintenance: establishing political authority, organizing civil administration, reestablishing law and order, asserting humanitarianism, providing military security, and the matter of imposing external authority over the local population. A final chapter presents an overall critique of the concept as well as specific critiques of the other chapters.
The Politics of Peace-Maintenance is a groundbreaking articulation of elements that have worked in the 1990s, although all the elements have not been present in one mission. Its strengths are its focus on developing the operational guidelines, principles, and doctrine to guide practitioners who will lead these missions in the future. The concept of an integrated strategy with someone in charge will resonate well with military readers, but it will raise the skeptical question of whether such a concept is an unattainable ideal. Chopra addresses different degrees of control that may exist in different operations, ranging from governorship--administering the territory--to assistance--acting as an independent advisor to the existing government. Most promising, however, is governorship, as exists with the Kosovo and East Timor missions now under way, where UNMIK and UNTAET are in charge of administering their respective territories.
Together, both books give the reader a well-reasoned conceptual framework on how to think about peace operations, as well as solid guidance on what the next level of guidelines, principles, and doctrine should be to make this framework useful to the international peacekeeping community. They do not contain the final word, but they offer a great deal that is useful as we evolve toward a mature understanding of this complex and difficult endeavor.
NATO Transformed: The Alliance's New Roles in International Security. By David S. Yost. Washington: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1998. 432 pages. $19.95. Reviewed by Dr. Thomas-Durell Young, author of Multinational Land Formations and NATO: Reforming NATO's Military Structures (Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 1998).
This review will begin with an admission: Talking heads that babble on that NATO has become an anachronism have become a rather personal bête noire. Indeed, what is truly tedious is to attend seminars and conferences where (alleged) "experts" on NATO deliver forth complaining how the Alliance has not changed since 1990, is no longer relevant to the international security environment, and on ad nauseam. Surprisingly, such "cognoscenti" rarely ever mention the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, the Planning and Review Process of PfP members' defense plans, the development of the Combined Joint Task Force concept, the fact that three former adversaries are now members and others are eager (if not desperate) to join, let alone mentioning the ongoing the NATO operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina (IFOR and SFOR) and, more recently, the undeclared war against former-Yugoslavia. For such an irrelevant organization suffering from profound stasis, one certainly finds its headquarters rather busy these days.
David Yost, either intentionally or unintentionally, has written an irrefutable reply to the uninformed, anti-NATO chattering class. Professor Yost finds NATO alive and well and as relevant as ever to European security. That said, it would be a mistake, however, to assume that Professor Yost has written an uncritical and facile defense of the Alliance. Rather than being a blind paean in praise of the Alliance, NATO Transformed accomplishes splendidly two important tasks. First, the book documents exhaustively how the Alliance has been transformed since the end of the Cold War, providing the reader a comprehensive review and analysis of every significant change in the Alliance since then. For example, the discussion and analysis of the debate surrounding membership expansion is one of the most detailed and complete descriptions I have read.
Second, Professor Yost has dared to confront one of the most difficult conceptual issues confronting the Alliance today--namely, how the Alliance can maintain its core function, collective defense (under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty), while at the same time becoming increasingly engaged in collective security missions (non-Article 5 operations). It should be understood that there is no historical precedent for a collective security system founded on an existing alliance. In other words, the actions required for both cannot be pursued simultaneously.
Yost writes, "NATO remains an instrument of collective defense [yet] it has been transformed into a vehicle for collective security activities on an ad hoc and selective basis in the Euro-Atlantic region." The issue of what NATO is and aims to become should not be an idle question of interest only to academics and theorists. Conceptually, politically, and legally, the Alliance will have to confront this question of its identity as it addresses three fundamental questions raised by the book:
Yost puts forth the thesis that these are attainable. He argues that the solution to this conundrum is to adopt a two-track approach. Collective defense must remain the raison d'être of the Alliance (inter alia to forestall any move on the part of nations to renationalize defense policies) while at the same time "seeking to deepen cooperation and transparency in security matters and to contain the risks inherent in emerging or ongoing rivalries." Indeed, the author's reply to Kissinger's observation that there is no historical precedent for such a system among sovereign states is persuasive and provides an excellent conclusion to this work.
To be sure, the book will find its critics. Some will likely complain that too much attention is paid to Wilsonian and Kantian concepts of collective security. Given the centrality of this question of how NATO manages its collective defense orientation while engaging increasingly in collective security missions, such criticisms are off the mark in this reviewer's perspective. An understanding by practitioners of theory has its place, especially in this particular moment in the Alliance's history.
Ideally, this work will find its way into graduate-level seminars for years to come. More important, those headed for their first posting to a NATO headquarters or office dealing with NATO would profit from having this book; it will become an essential reference to understanding a rather complex organization which has limited historical memory. Finally, credit is due the US Institute of Peace, not only for publishing this work, but for including an extensive index (alas, a rarity these days), thereby making the work even more useful to practitioners and scholars alike.
Night of the Silver Stars: The Battle of Lang Vei. By William R. Phillips. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1998. 179 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Dr. Henry G. Gole (Colonel, USA Ret.), whose service with Special Forces included two tours in Vietnam with the 5th Special Forces Group.
Consider the cast of characters, the tactical situation, and the actions taken to relieve the defenders of the Special Forces (SF) camp at Lang Vei after they were overrun on the night of 6-7 February 1968, as reconstructed by William R. Phillips following seven years of exhaustive research.
The forces were more "Terry and the Pirates" than standard US military. Twenty-four Special Forces soldiers led and paid the motley crew of Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) mercenaries: Vietnamese and Montagnard, the latter from two tribes, Bru and Hre. Chinese mercenaries (Nungs), Rhade Montagnards, and Australians would later play a part, as would Special Forces soldiers of SOG (Studies and Observation Group, a classified organization). Add to this already diverse group the 33d Royal Laotian Elephant Battalion (which got in the way after crossing into Vietnam, which later refused to join the battle, and whose soldiers in fact clambered over wounded to board evacuation helicopters); some 6,000 US Marines at Khe Sanh; and Marine tactical air, inclined to bomb anything not stamped USMC. (Previously over 100 tribesmen in the Bru hamlet of Lang Vei died as the result of a Marine air attack in January 1967. This event required considerable effort on the part of the SF team to retain the services of these indigenous people.)
Lang Vei is located in the northwestern extremity of the former Republic of Vietnam, just south of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) that divided North from South Vietnam. Laos is nine kilometers to the west, and Khe Sanh 12 kilometers to the east. Route 9, running east-west and crossing from Laos into Vietnam, was part of the enemy's main supply route popularly called the Ho Chi Minh trail. It ran directly along the camp's northern perimeter. One of the camp's primary missions was to provide early warning for Khe Sanh, the huge base and airstrip manned by US Marines in 1968. The precariousness of the remote camp was well known--old Lang Vei had been overrun earlier--and because of this the Marines at Khe Sanh had been tasked to respond to any future attacks.
The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) departed from the norm and introduced tanks in their initial attack. The defenders of Lang Vei responded heroically but were quickly overrun, destined to fight alone in small groups. Even the command bunker came under ferocious attack by flamethrowers and tanks which literally parked on top of the bunker. Testament to the tenaciousness and valor of the 24 US Special Forces soldiers were the awards of one Medal of Honor, one Distinguished Service Cross, 19 Silver Stars, and three Bronze Stars for Valor.
Despite "specific orders to be ready to rescue or reinforce the Green Berets at Lang Vei with two rifle companies, either by ground or helicopter assault," Marines only a dozen kilometers from Lang Vei failed to respond. The responsible commander explained, "I couldn't see risking 1,000 Marines because, honestly, if I thought there was a chance they could get there I would have tried it, but I don't think there was."
Special Forces soldiers saw it differently. SF units immediately prepared to relieve Lang Vei. Project Delta (an elite SF reconnaissance unit) volunteered to jump en masse, but the offer was rejected. The mobile strike force (MIKE) commander in Da Nang (Major Adam Husar), rounded up "a rogue's gallery composed of Chinese Nungs, Rhade Montagnards, some former Viet Cong called Chieu Hoi, two Australians, and three Americans. The major quickly loaded his men into trucks and headed for the Da Nang air base. This mixed bag of armed ethnic troops with their diverse uniforms presented a problem in just obtaining entrance to the air base during such a tense time." The confusion continued unabated. The Khe Sanh runway was shut down, so Husar put the MIKE force (some 150 men) on a C-130 transport aircraft and landed at Quang Tri--the closest place to Lang Vei the C-130 could land. However, the force was unable to hitch a chopper ride the remaining 90 miles to Lang Vei, and the angry and frustrated band returned to Da Nang.
The SOG commander in Da Nang, whose normal mission was putting teams into Laos, ordered his people who occupied a corner of the Marine base at Khe Sanh to relieve Lang Vei and get the survivors out. Major George Quamo told Master Sergeant Skip Minnicks (his NCO in charge), "I don't think we're coming back, but I can't leave those fellows over there. I'm going over there and try. I'd like you to ask for volunteers." The SOG troops quickly responded to this appeal and volunteered. One of the volunteers was Command Sergeant Major Richard E. Pegram. Minnicks, concerned about team integrity and aware that Pegram was unfamiliar with the team's field standard operating procedures (SOPs), asked the senior man not to come. Pegram allayed Minnicks' concerns, "I'm going in there as a grunt. I'm going in there as a private. I'm going to carry a rifle. You're going to tell me what to do." Because of the ad hoc manner in which the force was hastily assembled, it isn't clear precisely how many of the 40 men who participated in the rescue were US. More than ten and less than 20 is the best estimate author William Phillips could provide. In any event, they fought bravely and got those individuals still alive out of Lang Vei.
Phillips draws a conclusion: "In the annals of US forces in combat, Lang Vei and its heroic defense must forever hold a place." That may be so, but until his telling of this story, Lang Vei, like so many of the tactical engagements of the war, was forgotten.
This story is dramatic and deserves reading by any true student of the war in Vietnam. Regrettably, while told lovingly, it is not told well. Drawn to the task by the experience of his cousin, Specialist Fifth Class Daniel R. Phillips, a Special Forces soldier listed as missing in action at Lang Vei and later presumed dead, the author fails to present an unbiased accounting. There is strong need for editorial help to organize the story, clarify the jargon and acronyms, shift tabular material to an appendix, and to provide a map showing the location of the camp relative to major points of reference (DMZ, Laos, Khe Sanh, and the South China Sea). But there is a larger issue. The author, a former Marine, must have felt a great degree of embarrassment as a result of the Marine reaction to the plight of the Special Forces soldiers. A reinforced regiment of Marines sat and watched as 40 SF-led men performed a perilous rescue mission specifically assigned to their unit.
The GI Offensive in Europe: The Triumph of American Infantry Divisions, 1941-1945. By Peter R. Mansoor. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas, 1999. 346 pages. $35.00. Reviewed by Colonel John A. Bonin, Director of Army Planning, US Army War College.
In The GI Offensive in Europe, Peter R. Mansoor joins the recent cohort of historians who have sought to provide a corrective for the much-slighted US Army at the hands of earlier historians who either praised the Germans or severely criticized the American units and leadership. Mansoor, an active-duty Armor officer with a Ph.D. in history, previously served in the Department of History at West Point and currently commands a division cavalry squadron. In his book Mansoor builds on the previous works of several other alumni of that department such as John Sloan Brown's Draftee Division, Michael Doubler's Closing with the Enemy, and Keith Bonn's When the Odds Were Even.
Mansoor seeks to provide a more comprehensive approach to the subject of "American combat effectiveness." He defines this as "the ability of a military organization to achieve its assigned mission with the least expenditure of resources (both material and human) in the shortest amount of time." He also breaks down the variables encompassed by combat effectiveness as human, organizational, technical, and endurance. Mansoor's examination focuses on the evolution of combat effectiveness in the standard American infantry division that formed the bulk of the Western Allied forces of the European Theater during World War II. He declines to analyze either airborne or armored divisions, not to slight their achievements but rather because there has been less disagreement regarding their quality. Mansoor's attention to the non-elite general purpose divisions of the US Army is a welcome change from the recent historical emphasis on an army's numerically insignificant but elite formations to the neglect of the army's true foundation, its standard tactical formation.
The mobilization and precombat training of the Army for World War II and especially its 67 infantry divisions serve as the foundation for Mansoor's analysis. He succinctly describes the difficulties General George Marshall and Lieutenant General Lesley McNair faced in expanding the number of divisions, organizing and equipping them, finding officers to lead them, and solving the training challenge "that infantrymen have no counterpart in civilian life."
Most of the book is a quick and readable account of the Army's 48 infantry divisions that saw combat in North Africa, Italy, or Northwest Europe. Mansoor objectively describes many tough lessons American divisions learned in their first and subsequent battles with seasoned German units in North Africa and Sicily, battles that "uncovered serious weaknesses in joint and combined training, and small-unit leadership." He believes that this combat experience was crucial to the later success in Normandy, and "probably saved the Allied forces from a catastrophe had they invaded France in 1943." The Normandy invasion was the most complex undertaking executed by the Army in World War II, serving as the internship for the Army against a desperate Wehrmacht no longer in its prime. The subsequent operations across France to the Siegfried Line, while not always demonstrating the American generals' expertise at the operational level of war, did vindicate the decision to employ 90 divisions, though by a narrow margin. These battles of attrition showed the ability of the standard infantry divisions to accomplish their missions while maintaining combat effectiveness despite continuous fighting, frequently without the usual Allied advantages of materiel or air superiority. After succeeding in the critical test of the Battle of the Bulge, the Army's infantry divisions reached the zenith of their power and effectiveness as they exploited their earlier lessons in an "American Blitzkrieg" leading to final triumph.
Mansoor believes that the Army succeeded in World War II due to the development of effective combat organizations that could not only fight and win battles, but which could also sustain that effort over years of combat. He argues that battle experience and an inevitable, if flawed, individual replacement system were key to the transition of the standard American infantry division from an untested organization to a fighting unit capable of closing with and destroying the enemy on a sustained basis. In making this argument, Mansoor is persuasive in dealing with both Russell F. Weigley's contentions about the organizational problems of American infantry divisions and S. L. A. Marshall's assertions regarding the ineffectiveness of individual infantrymen. He concludes that it remained for the defeated Germans and their apologists to perpetuate a flawed theory that the United States had blundered to victory by throwing mountains of materiel at the superior but hopelessly outnumbered forces of the Wehrmacht.
Though his book is of high quality overall, Mansoor fails to adequately discuss the impact of separate infantry regiments or to make use of the excellent works by John Wilson of the Center of Military History. Wilson's volumes in the Army Lineage series--Armies, Corps, Divisions, and Separate Brigades (1987, rpt. 1999) and Maneuver and Firepower: The Evolution of Divisions and Separate Brigades (1998)--provide useful organizational histories of divisions. Additionally, Mansoor neglects the impact of the 53 separate infantry regiments active during World War II, 13 of which served in Europe. For example, to emphasize the risk taken in the decision to employ 90 divisions, Mansoor alleges that the 106th Infantry Division was so completely devastated in the Bulge "that American leaders decided not to reconstitute the division." However, the Army did reform the 106th, as well as the 92d Infantry Division, in 1945 using two separate infantry regiments for each division.
The GI Offensive in Europe is well worth the attention of readers interested in the organization and training of an army for war, and it provides as well compelling arguments in support of the US Army's combat effectiveness and role in winning World War II.
In our Winter 1999-2000 issue, we erred in stating that Lynne Rienner is the publisher of the book Security Cooperation in the Western Hemisphere: Resolving the Ecuador-Peru Conflict, edited by Gabriel Marcella and Richard Downes. The book was published in 1999 by the North-South Center Press at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Fla. It is distributed by Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, Colo. The error was ours, not the reviewer's. -- The Editors.
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Reviewed 1 February 2000. Please send comments or corrections to firstname.lastname@example.org