From Parameters, Summer 2000, pp. 133-61.
Go to Summer issue Table of Contents.
Go to Book Review Index.
A War To Be Won: Fighting the Second World War, 1937-1945. By Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000. 656 pages. $35.00. Reviewed by Colonel Len Fullenkamp, USA Ret., Professor of Military History, US Army War College.
When asked for a "best book" to read on any subject, most of us hesitate because the answer to that question generally requires a context. What is it about the subject at hand that interests you? If the subject is World War II one finds no shortage of "best books"--the choice all depends on one's specific interests. With A War To Be Won, Williamson "Wick" Murray and Allan R. Millett have added their military history of the war to my personal list of best books in several categories.
Whereas Stephen Ambrose has profiled the courage of the individual soldiers (Band of Brothers, Citizen Soldiers) and Gerhard L. Weinberg examined World War II strategy from a global perspective (A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II), Murray and Millett, two of America's premier military historians, have chosen as their focus military operations, the building blocks of military strategy. Making effective use of newly available archival and scholarly materials, the authors provide comprehensive, penetrating, and, most valuable for the serious student, critical analysis of the major operations of World War II and the admirals and generals charged with carrying them out.
Beginning with a summary of the origins of the war, the authors follow with one of the most interesting chapters in the book. Entitled "The Revolution in Military Operations," this chapter traces the evolution of the major belligerents' armies and navies from after World War I to the onset of World War II. Technology alone did not transform the static nature of war as it existed in 1914-1918 into the warfare characterized by maneuver and power projection that marked war on land, at sea, and in the air in World War II. The intellectual component of war--doctrine, the theories that govern the use of the military instrument of power--was revolutionized in the interwar years to varying degrees in Germany, Japan, Great Britain, and the United States. It was the combination of doctrine with the new or refined air, land, and sea technologies that transformed the face of war, as the authors make clear.
Carried along by strong writing that conveys a sense of clarity of purpose, the reader is taken chronologically, geographically, and thematically through the major operations of the war. War aims shaped by national policies set the context and broad national objectives. These then are linked by analyses of military strategy to the major operations of the war. From the German invasion of Norway, to the conquest of Western Europe, to the Japanese attack on the Philippines, Malaya, and Hawaii, to the final drives by the British, Americans, and Russians on Berlin and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, the book moves briskly through its analysis of how effectively the admirals and generals wielded their military instrument of power.
In addition to major operations tied to geography (such as Overlord, Barbarossa, the South West Pacific area, and so forth), there are chapters devoted to the Combined Bomber Offensive and the Battle of the Atlantic. Air power came into its own in World War II, and some believed with bombers alone Germany could be brought to its knees. The authors take the measure of air power as they guide the reader through the tangled web of arguments about how well it was used, or how it might have been used better. This sparkling tutorial on the evolution of the science and technology of air war is balanced with a sober tally of the cost in men and machines demanded by the gods of war while the wizards of doctrine sought to divine the secrets of war in the air. The same may be said for the chapter on the Battle of the Atlantic. Whereas aircraft carriers transformed war at sea in the Pacific, German submarine wolf packs shaped the war in the Atlantic. Surface warfare ships were important, but it was the submarine that threatened to strangle Great Britain by interdicting its lines of supply. Science (radar, depth charges, and the code-breaking discovery of Ultra) ultimately gave the edge to the Allies and resulted in the death of three fourths of the German submariners. Appropriately, the book concludes with reflections on the war's costs and consequences.
Woven into the analyses of major operations are numerous character profiles of key leaders, both political and military. Most readers familiar with the war will find agreement with the judgments provided in these sketches, although occasionally there are surprises. The reputations of MacArthur, Bradley, and Nimitz lose some of their luster. Less familiar and therefore especially interesting are the profiles of Japanese generals and admirals who commanded the major military operations in the Pacific, and those of the Russians who commanded the vast armies on the Eastern Front. Throughout, the critical analysis of personalities and military operations is balanced and objective.
Treatment of both theaters, Europe and the Pacific, is also well balanced and equally strong. Although the emphasis throughout is at the operational level of war, from time to time the authors provide descriptions of tactical events in instances where such actions contributed to or were instrumental in achieving operational success. For example, the description of German soldiers crossing the Meuse River at Sedan conveys the importance that the actions of a handful of soldiers at a critical moment can have on the outcome of a war. Indeed, had these soldiers failed in their river crossing, the authors tell us, it is not an exaggeration to say the entire German offensive in the West could have been stopped in May 1941, sending the history of the war spinning off in unknown directions.
Although the book is meticulously researched, the pages do not bristle with endnotes. Seldom does one find more than a dozen endnotes in a single chapter. However, in addition to a general bibliography, each chapter has its own selected bibliography to guide those seeking to learn more. Readers will find especially interesting the sections of the book concerning fighting along the Eastern Front. New archival materials, which have only become available in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, add rich detail to the authors' critique of Russian generalship and military operations at Kursk and on the final drive to Berlin. Most readers will find useful the appendices on strategic theory, doctrine, and technology. Finally, excellent maps and selected photographs complement the text perfectly. The maps distill an incredible amount of information (including dates, forces engaged, and directions of operations). Likewise, think of the most famous photographs of World War II (e.g., St. Paul's Cathedral wreathed in smoke), and you are likely to find them here. Equally interesting are photographs that offer refreshing and intriguing looks at familiar faces (photos of Eisenhower and Bradley come to mind).
With A War To Be Won, Williamson Murray and Allan Millett have made a significant contribution to the scholarship on World War II. Suggesting that any book is the definitive work on any subject places it at a very high standard. Murray and Millett make no such claim in this instance, but they could. This excellent operational history of World War II belongs on the bookshelf of every professional soldier, sailor, airman, and marine. It will serve equally well the professional who understands war and the student who seeks to learn about war.
The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War. By Robert D. Kaplan. New York: Random House, 2000. 184 pages. $21.95. Reviewed by Ralph Peters, author of Fighting for the Future: Will America Triumph? and a frequent contributor to Parameters.
Two articles towered above all the scribbling about strategy back in the 1990s. The first was Samuel Huntington's courageous and acute "The Clash of Civilizations," published in Foreign Affairs, a piece so original and useful it was hated instantly by academics. The second was Robert Kaplan's "The Coming Anarchy," which appeared in The Atlantic Monthly and was reproduced (illegally) by every military headquarters with a copy machine. Kaplan described a changed world even as that world was changing. Eyewitness knowledge shaped his work. He wrote clearly and forcefully of the rancid societies and endemic violence that made up the real "peace dividend." The article was a brutal, necessary foil to the thousands of ludicrous commentaries insisting that the Age of Aquarius had dawned at last (with the brightest sunrise expected in Russia, of course). Taken together, the Huntington and Kaplan essays identify our primary international challenges. Were we to lose every other work on political science and diplomacy produced during the last decade while saving those two, we would still possess the most useful strategic visions of our time. Broadly influential, the two works have shaped the thought even of those who have not read them.
Robert Kaplan has created a niche for himself as a sort of "strategic journalist," producing a series of often-splendid, always-interesting books on subjects ranging from the Saudis to suburbia, as well as a great deal of high-caliber travel writing in which the "caliber" is meant literally. He has gone where the diplomats dared not go, and has seen the results of the conflicts the Department of State struggles to confine within its preconceptions of how the world should, and therefore must, be. Within our military, his best-known book has been Balkan Ghosts, a prescient account of the region that has, again, swallowed Europe's self-satisfaction and left a great, stinking mass on the doorstep. Wonderfully readable, Balkan Ghosts was used widely in the US Army as a primer on southeastern Europe. The book served those in uniform well, despite its single flaw of relying too much on pro-Serb author Rebecca West, one of those British activists who over-wrote well, traveled in order to despise foreign lands firsthand, and hated anything remotely Germanic (Croatia, for example, as well as science and the arts). That single reservation aside, Balkan Ghosts was a marvelous book to read and a major accomplishment. The section on Romania was especially penetrating.
Kaplan's latest book, a collection of essays built on the firm foundation of "The Coming Anarchy," explores a broad, almost daunting range of interests. While the strategic environment provides the unifying theme, the angles of attack are wonderfully diverse. Every single piece--previously published or fresh--engages. At a time when so much "serious" writing is diseased with self-importance and leprous with footnotes, Kaplan never writes to impress us with his knowledge--he writes because knowledge is a joy to him and he is eager to share the pleasure. The book's subjects range from tribal slaughters to the folly of forcing "democracy" on populations as unready as they are volatile, from a brilliant discussion of the relevance of Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, through an appreciation of the us-versus-them insights of Joseph Conrad, to a steel-on-target essay on the pitfalls of peace. With a vivacity absent in writers who confuse quantity of data with quality of thought, he takes on the intelligence world, sugar-coated idealism, and Henry Kissinger. The only caution a reviewer must offer is that the reader should not rush through this book, which might be read in one evening. Place it on the bedside table (or near another prime reading location) and take it one accomplishment at a time. Savor the insights of an American original at a time when few other originals write anything but software.
This is a small book of large ideas, and it would be a disservice to both the author and his potential readers to attempt to summarize what Kaplan has already expressed as succinctly and accessibly as can be done. Suffice to say that this is a fine and worthy collection that lulls us with brevity only to haunt us with the tenacity of its arguments. No author or thinker--and Kaplan is both--is always right. But Kaplan has a track record the rest of us can only envy. Let theory rot in campus libraries. This is reality.
On Being a Superpower and Not Knowing What to Do About It. By Seymour Deitchman. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2000. 350 pages. $32.00. Reviewed by Jeffrey Record, Professor of Strategy, Doctrine, and Air Power, Air War College.
Credit Seymour Deitchman for giving readers early warning of his book's intellectual superficiality. On page 33 of his rambling On Being a Superpower he approvingly quotes Sun-tzu's line, "To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill." He then quotes Carl von Clausewitz's statement that "war . . . is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will." Deitchman's take on Clausewitz is that the Prussian believed "the planned use of military force in war is an essential element in advancing the national welfare, instead of an element in protecting it while we advance it in other ways." And, wonders Deitchman, "Can this country make the transition from thinking like Clausewitz to thinking like Sun-tzu?"
What is war if not an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will? Does Clausewitz's definition of war really make him a warmonger? What about situations where the enemy cannot be subdued without fighting? How would Sun-tzu have subdued Hitler? And what does it mean to move America from Clausewitz to Sun-tzu? With all due respect to the ancient Chinese military philosopher, his The Art of War bears poor comparison to Clausewitz's On War. As Colin Gray has noted, the former "provides cook-book guidance for statecraft," whereas the latter presents "a comprehensive theory of war." (As for manuals on statecraft, has Deitchman read Machiavelli's The Prince?)
Also consider Dietchman's declaration toward the end of his book that in NATO's war against Serbia, "a surrender on the ground was forced by air power alone, for the first time in history." Even the Pentagon's own report to Congress on Operation Allied Force declares that "other extremely important factors were at work in precipitating Milosevic's capitulation," among them Russia's diplomatic betrayal, increased ground attacks by the Kosovo Liberation Army, Milosevic's failure to crack NATO's political solidarity, and mounting evidence that NATO was moving toward consideration of ground combat options. NATO also relaxed its original terms for a cessation of hostilities. Moreover, Serb ground forces were not beaten, since NATO air power barely touched them. Air power always operates in a specific political context, and its strategic effects are determined by that context.
On Being a Superpower is descriptive and digressive rather than prescriptive and disciplined. It displays no analytical rigor or documentation. The book essentially serves as a vehicle for venting Deitchman's banal views on where the United States and the rest of the world are headed. Its only detectable theme is the need for a large hike in defense spending, but the reader is hard put to discover why. A case can be made for more military power, but Deitchman does not make it. He believes Joint Vision 2010 is self-evidently America's strategic Holy Grail.
Deitchman starts out postulating grim war scenarios for the 2010-2020 decade, but the scenarios are grim only because they involve a disarmed United States (i.e., defense spending projected at one-half of present levels) led by an exceptionally weak and befuddled woman (by coincidence?) President. Deitchman then looks at the world at large and discovers--gosh!--economic globalization, ethnic turmoil, failed states, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and China's emergence as a major power.
The United States may not be able to operate effectively in such an environment because it "is not the same nation that met the challenges of German, Japanese, and Soviet imperialism." The country has been spoiled by the great cultural revolution of the 1960s. Its citizenry is indolent, selfish, litigious, ignorant of scientific and technical issues, and--worst of all--unwilling to pay enough taxes to fund Joint Vision 2010. There is more: the political process has been corrupted by money and the media; freedom of speech and affirmative action have been taken to excess; the government can no longer keep a secret; journalism has descended to entertainment; and primary and secondary education has gone to hell.
Deitchman's talk-radio litany of his dislikes about American government and society is pointless. Is he suggesting America's unworthiness as a superpower? He moreover does not seem to grasp that his call for a 25-percent increase in defense spending to fund Joint Vision 2010 is politically unsustainable precisely because the United States no longer faces an external threat like those of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union.
His conviction that current defense spending portends future military disadvantage against America's next military peer competitor assumes lack of adequate strategic warning. Deitchman believes that China is the probable next competitor, but China is decades behind the United States economically and militarily. Additionally, the postulation of China as the next Soviet Union ignores the regional scope of Beijing's strategic ambitions, China's lack of allies, its critical dependence on the capitalist world trading order, and the sheer enormity of the economic and social challenges the Chinese face. Simply projecting Chinese annual GDP growth rates of five to ten percent for 20 or more years into the future is a notorious methodology and does not automatically add up to a hostile military peer competitor.
The burgeoning literature on the post-Cold War world and America's role in it brims with insightful and compelling works. On Being a Superpower is not one of them.
Fire in the East: The Rise of Asian Military Power and the Second Nuclear Age. By Paul Bracken. New York: HarperCollins, 1999. 186 pages. $25.00. Reviewed by Richard Halloran, former military correspondent with The New York Times.
Sometime between 1964, when China detonated its first atomic bomb, and 1998, when India and Pakistan tested their most recent versions of nuclear weapons, Asia entered what Paul Bracken calls the Second Nuclear Age. This could also be called the Era of Weapons of Mass Destruction, because several Asian nations have acquired chemical and biological weapons alongside or instead of nuclear weapons. And for some, the missile rather than the airplane has become the preferred vehicle for delivery.
Bracken, a political scientist and strategic thinker at Yale, has written a scary book. He asserts that many Asian nations have gradually procured modern, high-tech weapons but others are surging past that usual stage of military evolution into weapons of mass destruction. Defenses against them range from the inadequate to the unknown. The author writes, "Whether Asia, and the world, can contain the international dynamics unleashed by weapons of mass destruction will be the . . . great challenge of the twenty-first century."
In a billowing cottage industry of analyses of Asian military forces, Bracken's Fire in the East should cause defense ministers around the world to sit up. "The world is in a second nuclear age," Bracken writes, "an Asian nuclear age. It is a second age because it has nothing to do with the central fact of the first nuclear age, the cold war."
In Asian nations seeking weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Bracken says "the most important issue of the twenty-first century is understanding how nationalism combines with the newly destructive technologies appearing in Asia." He contends that Asians are acquiring WMD primarily as symbols of a modern nation. More than one Indian leader has justified his nation's nuclear blasts as evidence that post-colonial India was no longer subservient to the West.
Added to that are what Bracken calls "disruptive technologies," which have changed the nature of the game. "The ballistic missiles and atomic, chemical, and biological weapons coming to Asia are all disruptive technologies. They nullify Western advantages in conventional weapons." Biological weapons are the most insidious. These weapons attack the "vulnerable part of the Western spear, comprising trucks, parts inventories, repair shops, and air and sea transportation," Bracken says. "In Clausewitz's terms, biological weapons move the center of gravity of the battle from the front, where the United States has the advantage, to the rear, where it does not."
Even so, the author contends that "atomic bombs, because they offset the vast superiority of US conventional forces, are the premier disruptive technology at work in the world today." That may be especially so when they are in the hands of leaders who are pressed for action in religious and ethnic disputes. He argues that "national leaders could then be backed into a rhetorical corner--a dangerous place for people who have atom bombs at their disposal."
Bracken slips into what could become a racial minefield when he wonders whether Asian leaders would be quicker on the nuclear, chemical, or biological trigger than their Western counterparts. "There is a cultural divide here," he says, "not just a technical one." Unfortunately, the author does not seem to distinguish among Asian leaders nor among stages of economic, political, and military development. Generalizing may be especially dangerous. The question, however, is reasonable, given the long experience American and Russian leaders have had in nuclear war games and computer simulations. After close calls in the first nuclear age, they came to understand that no one would win a nuclear war. As former Secretary of Defense Harold Brown once wrote, after a nuclear exchange, the living would envy the dead.
Asian leaders have almost no way of knowing the consequences should they loose their weapons of mass destruction. "Badly designed command and control systems will find `threats' where none exist," Bracken says. "At the same time, they will not discern threats that do exist." He argues: "The shaky control of Asian nuclear forces increases the danger of accidental or unintended war."
Pointing to what Bracken calls the "primitive animosities," "irrational politics of rage," and "hot nationalist passions" of Asia, the outlook is unnerving. "The prospect that erratic organizations like the Revolutionary Guards in Iran will get their hands on modern weapons is, or should be, frightening."
For all his persuasive writing, Bracken's book has three shortcomings, none of them fatal: It is weak on Asian history, it is repetitious, and some assertions are left hanging without proof. He writes, for instance, that "for the first time in history, Asian states can attack one another's homelands." That overlooks the sweeping cavalry forces of Genghis Khan that rampaged across Asia, the repeated forays of Chinese armies into Korea or the thousand-year occupation of Vietnam, and the Japanese conquest of much of Asia between 1931 and 1945. In another case, the author says "nineteen Marine divisions carried the brunt of the fight against Japan." Six of those divisions were Marine, the rest Army. He also overlooks the role of land- and carrier-based air power, not to mention the submarines that cut Japan's lifelines.
Repetitions are repetitions and need not be repeated here. As for unproved contentions, Bracken writes, for example, that US "war plans during the cold war always called for much earlier nuclear weapon use in Asia than in Europe." There is no quotation or citation to back that up.
Even so, the critical question about this book is whether defense ministries and national legislatures will take it to heart and begin to devise defenses against weapons of mass destruction. Paul Bracken has given proponents of missile defenses solid arguments to support their cases. But the bureaucratic inertia in defense establishments is discouraging. It would be easier to build advanced tanks, warships, and airplanes than to turn a strategist's mind to the terrifying prospects of WMD or to wean military leaders away from weapons with which they are familiar. The cliché that generals all too often are preparing for the last war, after all, does have some truth to it.
White Christmas in April: The Collapse of South Vietnam, 1975. Edited by J. Edward Lee and Toby Haynsworth. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1999. 262 pages. $27.95. Reviewed by Dr. Lewis Sorley, author of A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam.
The editors, colleagues on the faculty of Winthrop University, have assembled a collection of interviews, supplemented by a few documents, relating to the last days of the Vietnam War. Their title refers to the plan to signal commencement of evacuation operations by broadcasting Bing Crosby's version of "White Christmas" over Radio Saigon.
"The final days of South Vietnam," say the editors in a brief introduction to the collection, "were characterized by chaos, tragedy, indecision, confusion, and bitter memories . . . . But in April of 1975, we also saw sacrifice, compassion, and a successful mission which saved the lives of over 100,000 endangered people."
The individual interviews reflect those aspects and more, ranging from accounts by key participants such as Tom Polgar, Bill LeGro, and Homer Smith to the recollections of average individuals caught up in the maelstrom. Some, such as Alexander Haig, use their time to restate old claims, in his case that it was the Watergate scandal which undermined President Nixon's ability to make good on commitments to respond with force should the North Vietnamese violate the terms of the Paris Accords. But Haig also describes his last-ditch efforts to persuade President Ford to act in the final days, predicting when Ford declined that he would in consequence be a one-term President.
Some interviews perpetuate misunderstandings and misperceptions, if not misrepresentations, that have for a quarter century impeded our understanding of the war. Tran Trong Khan, a former Viet Cong officer now serving as a counsellor in the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington, continues to insist that "one of the problems . . . Americans faced in . . . nation building in South Vietnam was the unpopularity of the Thieu government." Whatever the frailties of that government, time after time the people of South Vietnam demonstrated their preference for it over a totalitarian regime imposed by the North, including consistent refusals to provide the "general uprisings" repeatedly predicted by communist leaders and the self-imposed exile of a million or more boat people in the aftermath of South Vietnam's conquest.
Major General Homer Smith, last Defense Attaché in Vietnam, stoutly takes issue with certain other interviewees who suggest that the South Vietnamese had lost their will to fight. "Nothing," he maintains, "could be farther from the truth." Smith documents the progressive slashing of American funding for the South Vietnamese, and the austerity programs they worked out to continue to operate. "The reduction in ammunition use was heroic," he reports. "They did much better than we had any right to expect. But it was not enough." North Vietnam's forces, liberally supplied by their Chinese and Soviet patrons, simply overwhelmed the straitened South Vietnamese. Even so, Smith concludes, "I know of no case where a member of a regular unit of the South failed to fight when his family was safe."
Tom Polgar, former CIA Chief of Station in Saigon, reveals that the large-scale evacuation in the final days was essentially ad hoc. "Taking out Vietnamese in large numbers was never the American plan," he maintains, but that went by the board when it became clear that planning based on the prospect of an orderly exit, a negotiated exit, relied on a false premise. But planning for anything else had been impeded by a painful reality: "The idea that we are going to abandon South Vietnam to its fate was simply not within the policy ballpark," recalls Polgar. "We couldn't say it. And I think that many people couldn't even bring themselves to think it."
Richard Armitage, who served four tours in Vietnam, counterattacks Polgar, calling him "the one who let down the home team" with his reporting that there would be more time for evacuation and that an agreement for an orderly withdrawal could be negotiated. Armitage is also very straightforward in describing the lost opportunities of the war. "We had the sons-of-bitches on their asses and we let them go," he asserts.
Ambassador Graham Martin, a perennially controversial figure, is portrayed in starkly contrasting terms by a number of commentators. In a rambling and nearly incoherent account, Major General John Murray, a former Defense Attaché, refers to "Martin's steeped-in-lies testimony." Colonel Bill LeGro, acknowledging that he differs from Murray, is more charitable. "I think Martin genuinely wanted to do the best job he could," says LeGro. "He couldn't change things, anyway. It was a done deal. When we left in 1973 after the peace treaty was signed, the die was already cast. We weren't going to rescue Vietnam if it came under severe attack." Tom Polgar states his view succinctly: "If ever there was a good man who was the wrong man at the wrong place at the wrong time, that was Ambassador Martin." Said journalist Haney Howell of Martin: "He wasn't going to evacuate. He felt that he could pull off a political solution. That's where he was blind." Jack Brady's appraisal is more favorable: "Martin didn't suffer fools lightly. And he thought there were a lot of fools in Congress. I liked him." Stuart Harrington's view is at once the most compassionate and probably the most accurate: "Martin was fearful that if he commenced a visible evacuation, he would accelerate the fall of the country, thereby lose the country sooner, and thereby lose more people, possibly including Americans. So he was like a deer in the headlights."
Finally there is much to admire in accounts of expatriate Vietnamese now living in America. Mary Vu and her family were the first Vietnamese in Rock Hill, South Carolina. "Mary's Place" is a popular local restaurant. Her husband, a former helicopter pilot, is a supervisor for IBM. They have a stake in another business besides. Their two daughters are in college. "We are working very hard," acknowledges Mary Vu, "but we don't mind. We are helping our family in Vietnam. Helping the children go to school. We are happy every minute." Observes former congressional staffer Brady admiringly, "I don't think there has been a group of people who came into this country and became less of a burden and took care of their own people like the Vietnamese did."
Those whose testimony constitutes this book are under no illusions as to what caused the final collapse of South Vietnam--the Congress of the United States simply pulled the plug on our ill-fated ally. One of the most poignant accounts is that rendered by Colonel LeGro, a member of the Defense Attaché Office who wrote the final evaluation of South Vietnam's armed forces. Recalling the promises of continuing support America had made, promises that in the event went unredeemed, LeGro concludes, "We did a terrible thing to the South Vietnamese." All those interviewed, understandably traumatized by the outcome of the war, are by turns deeply saddened, angered, repulsed. "I came to almost hate us," recalled civilian maintenance specialist John Guffey. Their accounts provide, in the aggregate, a useful and worthwhile addition to the growing fund of more objective and less ideological treatments of what remains a controversial war.
Finally, the editors provide a brief list of recommended books, unfortunately omitting Olivier Todd's poetically beautiful and moving work Cruel April: The Fall of Saigon, one of the finest books yet written about any aspect of the Vietnam War.
Roots of Strategy, Book 4: Mahan, Corbett, Douhet, Mitchell. Edited by David Jablonsky. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1999. 533 pp. $19.95. Reviewed by Dr. Thomas B. Grassey, Professor and Editor, Naval War College Review, Newport, R.I.
The preceding three books in the Stackpole Roots of Strategy series presented Sun-tzu, Vegetius, De Saxe, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon (Book 1); Du Picq, Clausewitz, and Jomini (Book 2); and von Leeb, von Freytag, and Erfurth (Book 3). Book 4 shifts from the land to the sea and the air, with selections from four 20th-century "crusaders"--Alfred Thayer Mahan, Julian Corbett, Giulio Douhet, and Billy Mitchell.
The editor of Book 4 is Dr. David Jablonsky (Colonel, USA, Ret.), professor of national security affairs at the Army War College. His contributions to this compact volume comprise a 40-page general introduction, four half-dozen-page introductions to the individual sections, and of course the selections chosen to convey (in a hundred-some pages) the thought of each strategist.
For Mahan, Jablonsky offers the preface, introduction, and opening chapter of The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 (published in 1890). For Corbett, he gives all of Part I ("The Theory of War"), nine pages from Part II ("Theory of Naval War"), and 22 pages from Part III ("Conduct of Naval War") of Some Principles of Maritime Strategy (published in 1911). From the 1942 English translation of a compilation of Douhet's writings titled The Command of the Air, Jablonsky extracts a passage written in 1921 (Douhet's primitive version of Command of the Air), his more radical 1927 Command "almost in its entirety," and 26 pages from the 1928 "The Probable Aspects of the War of the Future." Not included by Jablonsky is "The War of ----," Douhet's most extreme pronouncement, written just before his death in 1930. Still, at nearly 150 pages, Douhet gets 50 percent more space in this volume than does any of the other three theorists. Finally, from Billy Mitchell's 1925 Winged Defense, which Mitchell called a "hastily compiled collection" of articles he had published in the Saturday Evening Post and testimony he had given to Congress, Jablonsky presents eight chapters, including "The United States Air Force Proves that Aircraft Dominate Seacraft," Mitchell's recollection of the 1921 Virginia Capes bombing tests.
The editor's introduction begins by acknowledging the ineluctability of change, and concedes that every strategist lives in a specific time stream. Finding the correct answers to the questions that constitute the essence of strategy--the matching of national (including military) means to national ends--requires properly calculating the interplay of present, imminent, and foreseeable objective factors (such things as force size, technology, personnel, communications, geography, training, doctrine, industrial potential, economic system, and natural resources) along with subjective considerations (such as alliances, political dynamics, and national will). "More often than not," Jablonsky writes, "these calculations will be wrong. What is equally important, however, is that strategic theorists have been at work asking the right questions, determining what can be jettisoned as ephemeral, what is of continuing validity, and how, in particular, the latter can be reduced to abiding principles." He wisely notes: "The significance of the four theorists represented in this volume lies not so much in the originality of their thinking, but in their being the first to assemble ideas, widely known at the time, into a collected, structured order."
But if we grant (for instance) that Mahan's 1890 view of the battle fleet and Mitchell's slightly later depictions of the power of biplanes are hopelessly outdated, not terribly original, and in many places plainly erroneous, how should we judge a book that brings us a sample of the writing of four such long-buried strategists?
The answer to that question has an internal and an external dimension. Internally, we should want to know: How good (interesting, important, representative) are the selections? How well are they edited? How valuable (informative, perceptive) are the editor's introductory passages? How usefully does the editor connect the readings to contemporary issues? By such measures Jablonsky has done exceedingly well. Given the responsibility of selecting from among the works of these four writers, he has chosen generally the best known and most sound of each, while allowing a glimpse into the more puzzling or radical positions they also held. (What is almost impossible to exhibit is the evolution of any one theorist's thought.) The general introduction is an extraordinarily useful discussion and comparison of Mahan, Corbett, Douhet, and Mitchell with respect to the environment in which they lived and wrote, the fundamental outlook they had toward the study of war and strategy (Mahan and Corbett accepted the utility of historical inquiry; Douhet and Mitchell explicitly denounced it, believing that their new instruments of war had broken, in Douhet's phrase, the "evolutionary continuity of the character of war"), their styles not just of writing but of reasoning and purpose too, the impact they had at the time (Mahan obviously being foremost), and the legacies we sense from each today. So rare is this kind of comparative overview of four major strategists, and so illuminating in a mere 40 pages, that very few strategists and teachers of strategists will not benefit from Jablonsky's erudition and thoughtfulness.
From an external view, this volume represents one approach to the education of strategists. Given the time constraints of a graduate semester or a War College curriculum, should students read Book 4's superb introduction and long selections from four famous theorists' works? Or should they read a series of fine essays written by first-rate scholars (as found, of course, in Makers of Modern Strategy edited by Peter Paret or The Making of Strategy edited by Williamson Murray, MacGregor Knox, and Alvin Bernstein)? Or, alternatively, should they read several dozen brief (ten-page) samples or excerpts from many theorists, ancient to contemporary (such as can be found in readers like Military Strategy: Theory and Application edited by Arthur Lykke and long used at the Army War College)?
Many arguments can be advanced for each option. For those who hold (with me) that advanced graduate students and educated military professionals learn the most from carefully reading a substantial portion of a primary theorist, David Jablonsky has performed a valuable service in assembling Roots of Strategy, Book 4 and in adding his very enlightening general and individual introductions.
Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers: Innovation in the US Army, 1917-1945. By David E. Johnson. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1998. 229 pages. $37.50. Reviewed by Lieutenant Colonel Alan Cate, HQ, XVIIIth Airborne Corps.
David Johnson challenges traditional interpretations of the Army's unpreparedness for World War II. He argues that more damaging than lean Depression-era budgets, and public and congressional apathy stemming from "isolationism," were the Army's own "intellectual and institutional deficits that exacerbated shortfalls in money and personnel." He traces these baneful tendencies back to the Army's self-examination in the aftermath of World War I. Clearly illustrating that the Army was a "learning organization" even then, both the War Department in Washington and the American Expeditionary Force in France conducted extensive "after-action reviews" to develop lessons learned and recommendations. Their conclusions reflected Army Chief of Staff Peyton March's declaration that wars were won "by men, munitions, and morale." This led to the Army's focus on reform in the arenas of manpower and industrial mobilization, not in harnessing new technologies to doctrine or tactics.
Preeminent among these new technologies were the tank and the airplane. Johnson relates the separate histories of these two weapon systems within the Army of the twenties and thirties. Somewhat curiously, even though the author makes clear his belief that by the eve of World War II the Army had got neither system right in terms of hardware or employment concept, it's equally clear--and perhaps disheartening for anyone interested in discerning here the "right" way to go--that tank and plane development followed diametrically opposed institutional paths.
The tank came initially under the infantry branch, a proponency it was later forced to share with the cavalry. The former viewed the tank as an element of infantry support; the latter concerned itself with protecting the role of horse-mounted troopers. (One of the more imaginative cavalry concepts, and a classic example of grafting a new technology onto old paradigms, was its proposal for so-called porteé cavalry, that is, mounts and their riders transported about the battlefield to their point of employment by motorized trailers.) Although some forward-thinking officers in both branches envisioned tanks as potentially decisive when employed in conjunction with other mechanized or motorized arms, deliberate stifling of debate in service journals by branch chiefs reduced the chances of any American Fullers, Liddell Harts, or Guderians to be heard. In addition to branch parochialism and conservatism, Johnson also points to the lack of a central agency to coordinate doctrine, R&D, and production as hindering armored development. War Secretaries and Chiefs of Staff elected to devote scarce dollars to manning the force as opposed to modernizing it.
Conversely, although they never got as much as they desired--a separate air force and vast numbers of aircraft--Army airmen, especially in comparison to any tank enthusiasts, were afforded considerable institutional freedom to pursue their vision and a significant portion of the Army's limited resources. As Johnson notes, some scholars have argued that real military innovation occurs only when prodded by a combination of civilian governmental pressure, industrial involvement, and the efforts of military mavericks. Great public and industrial interest in airplanes existed during the interwar years, and Billy Mitchell was merely the most visible and notorious of the air power advocates. In their various, semi-autonomous incarnations--Air Service, Air Corps, GHQ Air Force--Army airmen developed a doctrine premised on the belief that tight formations of heavily armed bombers would "always get through" to rain high-altitude, daylight, precision destruction upon strategically valuable targets. Largely neglecting pursuit, escort, or close support, they got the modern plane they wanted by the late 1930s, the B-17 "Flying Fortress."
Tests and experiments seemed to validate the Army's doctrinal and technical choices. The famous Louisiana Maneuvers and similar exercises just before the United States entered World War II apparently proved the value of "fast," undergunned tanks, along with supporting equipment such as the 37mm antitank gun and the concept of tank-destroyer units, all of which proved unsatisfactory in actual combat. Similarly, airmen were convinced by such exploits as the sinking of old, stationary, undefended German battleships by Mitchell's bombers. Even secondhand analysis of the opening acts of the war failed to persuade everyone to reexamine their beliefs--there were some who thought Polish cavalry had been improperly employed in 1939, as had correct bombing doctrine by the Luftwaffe in the skies over Great Britain in 1940.
The final section of Johnson's book treats the World War II experience of American tank and air forces. Most striking here is Johnson's depiction of the insulation of high-level commanders from the manifest inadequacies of American doctrine and equipment. Thus the commander of 8th Air Force was assuring the chief of Army Air Forces, General Hap Arnold, of the bombing efficacy of his unescorted B-17s and B-24s, and of their ability to shoot German fighters out of the sky, well into 1943, before the catastrophic American loss rates finally sunk in. General Eisenhower was similarly convinced of the high quality of the M4 Sherman tank until newspaper accounts detailing NCO and junior officer disagreement caused him to query his subordinates in the spring of 1945. Only then did he learn of the clear superiority in armor, armament, and even maneuverability of the heavy German models.
Of course, what unfailingly brings about change and adaptation is the crucible of war. The air forces introduced high-performance, long-range escort fighters. American tankmen developed tactics to compensate for their machines' inferiority. And even though Johnson believes otherwise--citing the St. Lô carpet-bombing fratricide disaster that killed and wounded hundreds of GIs during the Normandy breakout--American units generally were successful in integrating close air support and ground maneuver.
In sum, Johnson's nicely researched and well written study is much more than an interesting account of tank and airplane development during the interwar years. Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers is a fascinating intellectual and cultural history of the interwar Army with intriguing implications for our own day. What really constitutes a "revolution in military affairs"? What causes a military to implement radical change? Are militaries even capable of significant change without substantial outside stimuli? Do "advanced warfighting experiments" unambiguously point the right road to the future? Even if they ultimately disagree with Johnson's historical verdict that the pre-World War II Army failed to do "the best it could under austere conditions," readers of this uncommonly good book will want to ponder these and similar questions.
Soissons 1918. By Douglas V. Johnson II and Rolfe L. Hillman, Jr. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999. 213 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Rich Yarger, Ph.D., Chairman, Department of Distance Education, US Army War College.
In the bigger picture, the Battle of Soissons is the main effort by the Allies in the Aisne-Marne Offensive, 18 July - 5 August 1918. The July struggles, including the German offensive and the Allied counteroffensive, are often referred to as the Second Battle of the Marne. This battle is the strategic turning of the tide, where Ludendorff loses the initiative and the war in reacting to Foch's surprise offensive. Four nations and eight American divisions participated in the grand offensive. At the point of the spear in the main effort by the French 10th Army, the US 1st and 2d Divisions led the way. Soissons 1918 is the story of this battle and an analysis of the American Expeditionary Force's ability to fight by analyzing the performance of these two divisions.
This book can be read on several different levels and should appeal to a number of different readers. First, it is the most detailed and descriptive account of the battle to date--not an easy accomplishment given the scarce and widely scattered documentation of the engagement. The authors appropriately use French, US, and German sources to reconstruct the events of the battle. On a second level, the authors provided a succinct and compelling analysis of the battle. Setting the battle in the appropriate context of the overall counteroffensive, Johnson and Hillman offer an insightful interpretation of the senior commanders' intents, the ebb and flow of the battle, and the complexities of coordinating battle operations among allied forces and different combat arms. While providing excellent insights into multinational operations and Clausewitz's friction and fog of war, the central focus of the book is an analysis of divisional-level performance in the AEF. The authors extrapolate this analysis to draw conclusions about AEF leadership and performance in general, and, in turn, provide insights into warfare writ large.
As complex as this methodology is, it works--but the reader will find himself thumbing back and forth through the text to confirm his understanding. This "thumbing" is entirely appropriate because Johnson and Hillman conclude that the AEF, itself, was a learning organization and guide their readers through the learning process by the organization of the book. Clearly these authors possess a thorough understanding of war and warfighting, and Soissons conveys this knowledge to the reader.
AEF divisional performance was hampered by a lack of preparation as a result of Foch's emphasis on surprise, poor multinational coordination, a lack of maps and reconnaissance, a lack of training and rehearsal, and the near-term replacement of American commanders. But the real story for the AEF at Soissons is the American struggle with command and control. Here the authors open the window on a continuing issue in the American way of war: From where can the commander best command and control the flow of the battle? Where is the nexus of information flow and ability to influence the action for the engaged commanders? Johnson and Hillman do not answer the question for today, but their analysis of the role of American leadership at Soissons appropriately frames the issues and suggests areas for contemporary study.
With Soissons the reader feels that he is a participant in the battle as it teaches its lessons in command and control--command style, communications, and experience. The organization of the book serves the reader well. The authors introduce the battle with a strategic and operational-level overview that brings the reader up to the time of the battle. Of particular note is the first chapter's summary of the state of the AEF going into the battle. This summary provides the basis for the assessment of AEF training and command and control. The book has ample maps, and they are essential to understanding the flow of the battle. Helpful appendixes provide the Order of Battle for the forces engaged and the organization of an AEF division. Serious students and researchers will be encouraged by the detailed notes and lengthy bibliography. A judicious selection of photographs rounds out a complete picture of the battle.
Soissons 1918 is a very worthwhile read not just for those interested in World War I, but for any student of multinational operations and coalition warfare.
Democracy at the Point of Bayonets. By Mark Peceny. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999. 254 pages. $55.00 (cloth), $18.95 (paper). Reviewed by Dr. Robert H. Dorff, Professor of National Security Policy and Strategy, US Army War College.
In its "paradoxical practice of imposing self-determination through military force," the Clinton Administration is actually following a "century-long American tradition." From the Spanish-American War through Haiti (in the early 20th century) and the Philippines, to Japan and Germany following World War II, to El Salvador, and to Haiti (again) and Bosnia in the closing decade of this century, the United States has frequently sought to promote democracy "at the point of bayonets." Why? And why has the United States at other times failed to promote democracy, even using military force to prop up authoritarian regimes?
That is the two-sided question Mark Peceny sets out to answer in his interesting and insightful study of US military interventions. Peceny accurately observes it is insufficient to address only one side of the question--why the US chooses to promote democracy--without simultaneously accounting for the many cases when it chooses not to do so. A good answer must explain both sets of decisions, and Peceny provides a pretty good answer.
The story begins in the murky theoretical world of international relations and the realism-liberalism debate. Realists argue that the United States pursues security-related interests. Proponents of liberalism argue that the United States pursues not interests but liberal-based values. Therefore, policymakers and some analysts find it tempting to offer up the simple synthesis that "proliberalization policies serve both American ideals and interests." Unfortunately, according to Peceny, this "all good things go together" synthesis fails to account for precisely those instances in which the United States has pursued illiberal policies, or when it has pursued "liberal reforms even when policymakers believed such reforms could harm US security interests."
Peceny argues that the answer lies in the two different decisionmaking paths that accompany decisions to promote democracy during US military interventions. The realist security argument best explains initial decisions by presidents to intervene. As long as presidents can keep the decision locus in the executive branch, such security considerations are likely to prevail over value considerations. Congress, on the other hand, both feels more pressure from US "liberal culture" and is more responsive to it. So, presidents find that "liberal ideological attacks from the Congress often compel them to shift policies, despite the fact that they think proliberalization policies might harm US security interests." Even presidents who wish to abandon proliberalization in response to a changing security environment may find they cannot do so in the face of congressional opposition. Consequently, the explanation for the paradoxical US behavior lies in the interaction between security interests and liberal values as it plays out in the institutional context of domestic US politics.
Peceny lays out most of this argument and his approach in the first two chapters. The second chapter includes a broad quantitative analysis of the question and related hypotheses. While some readers may find this treatment interesting, the historical case studies in the following chapters will probably interest a broader audience. They include the McKinley Administration's handling of Cuba and the Philippines, the Kennedy Administration and Vietnam, Reagan and El Salvador, and finally the Clinton Administration approaches in Haiti and Bosnia. Of particular interest to the policymaking community today may be Peceny's overall conclusion that the historical tension between these two paths has today largely disappeared. The relatively low level of international threat to US security interests creates a permissive environment for the pursuit of liberal goals. The absence of an anticommunism imperative for forging consensus leaves liberal internationalism as the most likely tool for building a domestic consensus behind an activist foreign policy. The result is that "the present era is likely to involve consistent US support for democracy during intervention."
Some readers will find this book too heavily steeped in the "academic" side of the debate, and the author does little to woo the less academically inclined reader. From yet another review of the realism-liberalism debate, to the stylistic tendency to restate excessively his arguments, hypotheses, and conclusions, Peceny occasionally tries too hard to make the book even more academic. Even the methods employed seem at times designed more to impress the scholarly community that the author can employ some modicum of quantitative analysis than to arrive at clear, scientific-based conclusions. But to the non-methodologists in the audience, the historical case studies more than make up for the relatively brief foray into the contemporary world of quantitative social science.
Overall, this is an important book that should interest both scholars and practitioners who wrestle with issues of democratization and military intervention. The quantitative analyses may be of less use to practitioners and not altogether convincing to social scientists, but they serve a purpose. The historical cases are of more enduring value. Peceny's overall conclusion--that, on the whole, US military interventions coupled with proliberalization policies have led to successful democratization--provides optimism about contemporary efforts in Haiti and Bosnia. However, his corollary conclusion, that it is much more complicated than simply "democratizing at the point of bayonets," sounds an important cautionary note and points our attention to other critical factors in the successful promotion of democracy.
Black Hawk Down. By Mark Bowden. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1999. 386 pages. $24.00. Reviewed by Dr. Henry G. Gole (Colonel, USA Ret.), a frequent Parameters reviewer and contributor.
Mark Bowden has written a mesmerizing account of combat at its ugliest, the 15-hour series of gunfights in Mogadishu, Somalia, 3-4 October 1993. Eighteen American soldiers died, and some were ignominiously dragged through dusty streets by a mob. The reader is put in the small force of Americans "struggling to stave off panic and stay alive" while pinned down overnight in an African city.
Bowden reports that General Colin Powell said such a minor engagement "in Vietnam would not have even warranted a press conference." But the fight in Mogadishu is important precisely because America's recent military past has been filled with the "small change" of soldiering, and the future promises more of the same. To those who have experienced near-death up close and personal, the distinctions separating "skirmish," "battle," and "campaign" are the vocabulary and lexicon of scholars, staff, and armchair generals. Black Hawk Down captures the dynamics of close combat, the nuances that distinguish elite formations, and the high price paid for human error at both soldier and command levels.
The author believes that he had "the best chance any writer has ever had to tell the story of a battle completely, accurately, and well." He may be right. Veracity and intensity are the products of extensive interviews with participants in the fight, soldiers who wanted to tell their story to a man introduced by the father of one of their comrades killed in the battle. Interviews are enhanced by "a treasure of official information": videotaping from a variety of platforms and hours of radio traffic recorded during the battle and later transcribed. Bowden cross-checked the memories of participants with the real-time technical data--a technique unavailable to Herodotus, Ernie Pyle, and S. L. A. Marshall--to compose a convincing account of desperate combat. His drama adheres to the Aristotelian unities of classical tragedy by focusing on one plot in a life-and-death matter that takes place within 24 hours.
Bowden, like Michael Herr in his excellent Vietnam reporting in Dispatches, says the soldiers "remarked again and again how much they felt like they were in a movie [italics in original], and had to remind themselves that this horror, the blood, the deaths, was real." These remarks have interesting training implications for the imaginative use of film in preparing troops for the shock of close combat.
Misadventure in Somalia probably began with the black flies shown on television, the flies landing on Somali children with bulging eyes and distended bellies and evoking a desire to "do something" about the too-visible human suffering. The United States dispatched troops. The "something" became a snatch operation on 3 October 1993 in the heart of Mogadishu. A warlord leader of a clan picked a fight with the United States. Intelligence indicated that clan leaders were to meet in the target building. The decision was made to behead the beast. Delta Force operators would pull off the snatch of clan leadership from that building; Rangers would fast-rope from helicopters to isolate and secure the objective area; a ground convoy of trucks and Humvees would dash through the city, pick up the friendlies and their prisoners, and return them to the safety of the airfield where the US troops were housed. It would take about an hour before the troops would finish the Sunday afternoon on the beach.
But things turned bad. A trooper missed the rope and fell 70 feet, requiring medical attention and evacuation at the critical beginning of the operation; communications to a Ranger chalk (a team) were interrupted as the soldier with the radio burned through commo wire connecting headset to radio by inadvertently pinching the wire between his glove and the rope during descent; some Rangers mistook Delta Force men, called D-boys by the Rangers, for Somalis and fired at them; Somalis with guns, intermingled with the unarmed, including women and children, engaged the US troops; other Somalis, instead of fleeing, flocked to the scene of the action; masses of humanity blocked the convoy; tires and debris burning at almost every street intersection were brushed aside, cleared by hand, or circumvented by taking detours; vehicles got lost in the maze of look-alike streets, destroyed buildings, smoke, fire, and confusion; firing of automatic weapons into mobs composed of armed and unarmed people nauseated American soldiers, but butcher or be butchered was the reality of the man-made Hades.
Then a chopper goes down. Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart and Master Sergeant Gary Gordon, Delta men, ignoring almost certain death, lay down their lives in an effort to get the wounded pilot out before a crazed mob gets to him. Another bird goes down. Relief convoys are constantly harassed and ambushed as they stagger through the moonscape of Mogadishu at night. Allied troops either fail to understand or are reluctant to go into harm's way. All the while the friendly forces pour automatic fire into mobs threatening to overrun them. Reading the book is an adrenaline rush; being in the midst of the horror show left permanent scars on participants, many of them since returned to civilian life.
The Delta Force men emerge as super soldiers in the eyes of the Rangers, the author, and this reader. They are creative, cool, brave, professional, and enormously skilled. It is possible that they have their equal in a handful of elite foreign formations, but few have their track record of demonstrated operational excellence.
The Rangers are excellent shock troops: fit, brave, proud, and disciplined. Their élan is admirable, but their conviction that any task can be accomplished by trying harder is ill-founded: it just ain't so. Bowden's insights into the essence of Delta men and Rangers is worth the price if admission.
The lack of a nail did not lose the battle, but it did cost lives. Troops left night optical devices in base camp (in the soldier's unending quest to lighten his load). They wouldn't be needed for an operation expected to be wrapped up before dark. The Rangers thus violated two of their own dicta: "Don't forget nuthin'," and, "If it's small and light, take two."
Finally, it pains your reviewer--as it pained the author--to note loss of American lives that can be attributed only to the much-admired commander of the friendly forces engaged, a responsibility he accepted. Sufficient forces were available--backup to the backup--but they were not leaning forward. They took precious time to prepare to relieve friendly forces in desperate trouble. The buck stops with the commander who didn't have them at a higher state of readiness.
Your reviewer highly recommends this excellent book to the general reader and military professional alike.
Dictionary of Contemporary Chinese Military History. By Larry M. Wortzel. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999. 376 pages. $95.00. Reviewed by Dr. Andrew Scobell, Research Professor of National Security Affairs, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College.
This work provides an accessible and comprehensive reference volume of modern Chinese military affairs. The focus is on the 20th century and on the communist era in particular--the period since the 1920s when the Chinese Communist Party was established (1921) and the People's Liberation Army was founded (1927). Important events and terms in pre-20th-century Chinese history also are included. Thus alongside entries on the "Korean War" and "People's War" are entries on the (First) "Opium War" (1839-1842) and the "Self Strengthening Movement" (launched in the 1860s).
The book's strengths are its conciseness and single-volume format. Readers should keep in mind that this is a dictionary, not an encyclopedia, a ready desk reference rather than a scholarly tome to be painstakingly footnoted. The entries provide generally good summaries of the topic but should not be regarded as definitive.
The primary failings are those of unevenness and omission. The number and type of sources listed at the end of each entry provide the best indication of these. For example, the entry on the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989 is extremely good and lists five sources, all studies of this specific topic. By contrast, the entry on Deng Xiaoping, while competent, cites only two sources, neither of which is a full-length treatment of Deng. And key works go uncited. For example, the entry on the Wuhan Incident neglects to list the most thorough publicly available account of the most significant episode of 1960s Cultural Revolution violence. Thomas Robinson's 1971 China Quarterly article continues to be the best treatment. Moreover, the entries on Deng, Mao Zedong, and Zhou Enlai all neglect to cite even one of the many biographies that have been written in English. The entry on Marshal Nie Rongzhen does not reference his memoirs (although these are listed in the bibliography at the end of the book). Moreover, this biographical entry neglects to mention that Marshal Nie was the director of Beijing's nuclear weapons development program and does not cite the classic account of this, China Builds the Bomb (although this 1988 study by John Lewis and Xue Litai is listed in the bibliography).
Readers also should be alerted to two other unmentioned but extremely valuable reference works that deal extensively with military affairs in post-1949 China. For the contemporary political-military dimension of the PLA, one should consult Michael Swaine's The Military and Political Succession in China (RAND, 1992), and for the earlier period of the People's Republic of China, one should peruse volumes 14 and 15 of the Cambridge History of China (Cambridge University Press, 1987, 1991).
One also notices a number of factual and typographical errors, but these weaknesses are not fatal. Rather, the author should be commended for accomplishing almost single-handedly (there are contributions by Vance Morrison, Susan Puska, and David Reuther) what he set out to do--provide a one-volume, ready reference on contemporary Chinese military affairs for the layman. Among the noteworthy features of this work helpful to the uninitiated are a comprehensive and very readable introduction to China, a note on the various romanization systems, and a selected bibliography.
In short, this ready reference is a welcome resource for students of contemporary China. One hopes it is only the first edition; subsequent editions could update entries as needed, correct typographical errors, and rectify some omissions. In the final analysis, the most significant drawback to the volume is beyond the author's control: the hefty price tag of $95. Sadly The Dictionary of Contemporary Chinese Military History will likely be limited to the reference sections of the libraries of research institutions rather than the personal collections of interested individuals.
Chinese Negotiating Behavior: Pursuing Interests Through "Old Friends." By Richard H. Solomon. Washington: United States Institute of Peace, 1999. 224 pages. $14.95 (paper). Reviewed by Colonel Susan M. Puska, Director of Asian Studies, US Army War College.
This book provides a concise and relevant guide for anyone in government or the private sector who deals with the People's Republic of China (PRC). Richard H. Solomon, a former member of Henry Kissinger's National Security Council China team, brings an insider's perspective to the secretive, high-level, and extraordinarily personalized negotiations that laid the foundation of US-China relations in the Three Communiqués of 1972, 1979, and 1982. Mastery of the basic lessons revealed in these cases should be mandatory for all US officials who are entrusted with shaping, guiding, and executing national policy with China today. Further, since any interaction with the Chinese involves relentless negotiation, even after agreement, organizations can benefit from close study of these cases.
Solomon's historical examples clearly illustrate his argument that the Chinese "conduct negotiations in a distinctive, but not unique, manner consisting of a highly organized and meticulously managed progression of well-defined stages" that can be learned. Solomon argues that the Chinese negotiating process begins with opening moves, when they establish a relationship with a friendly counterpart (the "old friend"), establish a favorable agenda, and press for commitment to principles. This is followed by a period of assessment, when the Chinese will protect their own position while striving to completely expose that of the other side. In this phase they will apply pressure tactics and employ facilitating moves to maintain advantage, such as seeking a partial agreement that delays resolution of differences on which the Chinese do not want to compromise. During the next phase, the end game, the Chinese will either come to agreement, reserve a position, or abort negotiations. In the final phase, implementation, they will press for strict implementation of the agreement as they interpret it, while making additional demands.
A core argument of Solomon's study is the central importance the Chinese attach to cultivating "old friends" to promote Chinese national interests. The examples in this study painfully reveal how effectively the Chinese negotiators bested their American counterparts. Employing a wide variety of strategies described in detail by Solomon, the Chinese effectively manipulated "old friends" among the US policy elite, such as Henry Kissinger, to promote and protect Chinese objectives. They even succeeded in influencing the choice of the US interlocutors, regardless of their official position. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State George Schultz, and National Security Advisor Richard Allen, for example, were all pushed aside with the help of rival US officials when the Chinese concluded they could not adequately cultivate these officials.
One particularly disturbing legacy of these early negotiations that haunts US policy to this day is the One China Policy. Solomon argues that the 1972 Shanghai Communiqué cleverly balanced America's Beijing-Taibei (Taipei) dilemma when it specified that "the US acknowledges (renshidao) that all sides on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States does not challenge that position." In 1977, however, the Chinese boldly distorted the record to their advantage during a meeting of Kissinger, Vance (who was replacing Kissinger), and Huang Zhen, when the latter deftly rephrased the wording to a de facto US recognition that "Taiwan is only a part of China." Kissinger, who authored the Shanghai Communiqué, failed to correct Huang. By 1979 when the communiqué to normalize US-PRC relations was issued, the wording of this fundamental point was modified to read "the United States of America acknowledges the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China." With this opening, the Chinese solidified their distortion of the record when they translated "acknowledges" as "recognizes" (chengren).
Solomon is quick to qualify that "the Chinese are not superhuman in their capacity to manage a negotiation to their country's advantage." He argues that their tactics can both be learned and countered, but one is hard-pressed to find examples of US negotiating success in this book. (One hopes these remain buried in the still-classified portions of the 1985 study.) The only clear success mentioned in this book occurred during the Reagan Administration's negotiation of the Third Communiqué on arms sales to Taiwan in 1981-82. During these negotiations, the United States set a deadline of 11 January 1982 to finalize the communiqué, which would be jointly issued in February on the tenth anniversary of the Shanghai Communiqué. In response, the Chinese tried to use this deadline to pressure concessions. But the Reagan Administration, to its credit, allowed the "deadline [to] pass rather than reach an undesirable agreement, ultimately trapping the Chinese in a time deadline." The Third Communiqué was subsequently issued on 17 August 1982.
Although Solomon's study does not illustrate many examples of effective US countermeasures, he nonetheless argues that US negotiators can develop effective counterstrategies to negotiate with the Chinese if they follow fundamental rules. These rules include: know the substantive issues cold; master the past negotiating record; present your position in a broad framework; know your own bottom line; be patient, don't get trapped in time deadlines; develop bureaucratic and political discipline; minimize media pressure; analyze the PRC internal political context and the negotiating style of the official interlocutors; develop a negotiating strategy; and apply tactics to counter Chinese negotiating ploys. Solomon laments that US negotiators in recent years have failed to follow these basic rules to develop an effective strategy before entering into negotiations with the Chinese. He cautions that "the absence of an adequate counterstrategy is likely to elicit an attitude of disparagement or scorn [by the Chinese] for a feckless negotiating counterpart," a situation that could unwittingly promote Chinese misperceptions of US intentions and national will.
Even though Solomon's examples are taken from the early record of US-PRC negotiations, their valuable lessons are still relevant to US-China relations today in two respects. First, as Chas W. Freeman, Jr., former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, cogently states in his interpretive essay at the end of this volume: Solomon's "conclusions have lost none of their force and utility. He succeeded brilliantly . . . in capturing the durable essence of China's distinctive national negotiating style," which can be studied to develop more effective US negotiation strategies.
Second, these examples provide an important glimpse behind the negotiations of the Three Communiqués, which form the basis for US-PRC bilateral relations today. The outcome of highly secretive and personalized negotiations that were incubated in a Cold War context of Soviet containment, these agreements failed to anticipate the democratic transformation of Taiwan in the 1990s. As the US-PRC-Taiwan dilemma develops in the 21st century, with the PRC growing increasingly impatient for reunification, these communiqués may prove to be an increasingly anachronistic and troublesome negotiation legacy.
The Lexus and the Olive Tree. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1999. 394 pages. $27.50. Reviewed by Colonel Joseph R. Cerami, Chairman, Department of National Security and Strategy, US Army War College.
Journalist Thomas Friedman has been the foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times since 1994. Reduced to one sentence, his best-selling book is about the new era of globalization: "Globalization as the one big thing--a systemic, worldwide shaping force." Friedman provides a guidebook to explain the tensions between the new paradigm of "globalization" and the "old power politics/Cold War" model. He also provides his thoughts about the US role in managing these new forces shaping domestic politics and international relations. Friedman's book extends and criticizes other major commentators' writings on the emerging international environment: Fukuyama (end of history), Kaplan (coming anarchy), and Huntington (clash of civilizations). In Friedman's view, all three underestimate the continuation of the state's power, the importance of global markets, the extent of technological diffusion, the rise of networks, and the spread of global norms. Friedman views globalization as an inexorable integration of the nation-state, markets, and technology to a degree not witnessed before in history.
Friedman bases his analysis on insights and wisdom gained from his personal and professional journey. This journey has taught him to be what he calls "a 6-D reporter," understanding the connections between politics, culture, nation-state, finance, technology, and the environment. His approach draws on two overarching frameworks: grand strategy and systems thinking. He writes of the importance of grand strategy, quoting from Paul Kennedy and John Lewis Gaddis's essay on educating the next generation of American strategists in a broad-based curriculum: "The dominant trend within universities and think tanks is toward ever-narrowing specialization: a higher premium is placed on functioning deeply within a single field than broadly across several. And yet without some awareness of the whole--without some sense of how means converge to accomplish or to frustrate ends--there can be no strategy. And without strategy there is only drift."
Using his 6-D perspective, Friedman describes several of the key causes of continuing conflict and instability in inter- and intra-state relations. He writes that world affairs today can be viewed essentially as the interaction of the old (the olive tree) and the new (the Lexus). The olive tree represents what roots and characterizes us in terms of individual and communal identity (family, community, tribe, nation, religion, homeland). The Lexus represents the drive for material betterment (sustenance, improvement, prosperity, modernization). "The challenge in this era of globalization--for countries and individuals--is to find a healthy balance between preserving a sense of identity, home, and community, and doing what it takes to survive within the globalization system."
The author devotes several chapters to report in detail on the emerging forces and trends shaping the international environment. As a self-described "tourist with an attitude," Friedman invents some catchy titles to describe them: the golden straitjacket (free-market economics as the only ideological alternative); the electronic herd (information-age stock and bond traders); DOScapital (imperatives for nation-states to develop free markets, macroeconomic policy, and rule of law to enable long-term governance); globalution (the herd's forcing the "wisest" leaders to develop their governing capacities through transparency, less corruption, a free press, and democratization). He even goes on to prescribe the "eight habits of highly effective countries."
From a security perspective, Friedman elaborates on his column regarding the Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention: "No two countries that both had a McDonald's had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald's." He asks a key question: "To what degree does a country, by plugging itself into today's Electronic Herd and putting on the Golden Straitjacket, restrict the capacity for war-making by its leadership?" For answers he looks to several classics: from Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Law--that increased trade and commerce lead to peace; from Norman Angell, The Grand Illusion (1910)--that modern life and industrial economies lead to peace; and from Thucydides--that nations go to war for "honor, fear, and interest." In Friedman's view, Thucydides still rings true, but the costs are greater in the era of globalization. He concludes that "Globalization does not end geopolitics." Globalization increases constraints, and it raises incentives for not making war; it "increases the costs of going to war in more ways than in any previous era in modern history."
Friedman notes that the United States "excels in the traditional sources of [military] power" and possesses the "willingness to use that power against those who would threaten the system of globalization--from Iraq to North Korea." He continues: "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the US Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."
Friedman outlines the emergence of leadership from new "big-think strategists" such as Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin, not from the Secretary of State or Defense. Strategic leadership, in Friedman's new era, requires a multidimensional global vision and structures to shape and stabilize international relations. The way to be effective as strategist is to move "back and forth among the economic, national security, political, cultural, environmental, and technological dimensions--assigning different weight to each in different contexts." If economics is to be the engine powering the United States and its allies into the next century, then it remains to be seen if the leaders of US economic institutions can take on the complex challenges and new roles and requirements for shaping international relations and synchronizing US policy in all dimensions.
Trying to describe and analyze current events and predict the shape of things to come is a tall order. Friedman provides a provocative view in a book that should be read by policymakers and strategists. The Lexus and the Olive Tree provides an important perspective on the emergence of nontraditional forces and trends in the new century. For now, let's give him credit for naming the post-Cold War era. The roles of the United States in the world and of traditional Cold War security institutions and leaders continue to be reassessed. It remains for strategists to continue the debate and more clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the armed forces, our security structures, and leaders in the era of globalization.
Ukraine and Russia: A Fraternal Rivalry. By Anatol Lieven. Washington: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1999. 182 pages. $19.95.
Ukraine and European Security. Edited by David E. Albright and Semyen Appatov. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999. 288 pages. $65.00.
Reviewed by Robert W. Pringle, Patterson School of Diplomacy, University of Kentucky.
Following the abortive August 1991 putsch, Ukraine became independent after centuries as an appendage of Imperial Russia and 70 years as a republic of the Soviet Union. Few Americans then or now realize that Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe (only Russia is larger), with a population of over 50 million and the second largest military force on the continent, again after Russia. After a decade of independence, Ukraine's role in Europe's security architecture is obscure: is it to be a future member of NATO, absorbed into a rejuvenated Russia, or embroiled in civil war and ethnic conflict?
Anatol Lieven, who has written an excellent study of Russia's first Chechen war, believes that none of these predictions of Ukraine's future reflects the realities of post-Cold War eastern Europe. Ukraine, he maintains, will remain poor well into the millennium. It has suffered even more graphically than Russia in the post-Soviet period from corruption, pseudo-reform, and abysmal management. Lieven believes that the best future for Ukraine, Russia, and even NATO is a long-range entente between Kyiv (formerly Kiev) and Moscow, arguing that the economic and political ties forged during the Soviet period mandate a "fraternal rivalry." Efforts by NATO to woo Kyiv, he argues, could destabilize both Ukraine and Russia, leaving the West with a dependent and divided ally, as well as an isolated, chauvinistic, and nuclear-armed Moscow. One of his key conclusions is that "Western policymakers should not . . . try to turn the Ukrainians in an explicitly anti-Russian direction, and talk of a Ukrainian `buffer state' should firmly be rejected. First, because it is unnecessary, since Russia is not a threat to Europe. Second, because this could threaten Ukraine's own ethnic peace."
In David Albright and Semyen Appatov's collection, the 18 essays address Ukraine's position in post-Cold War Europe from regional and political-military perspectives. The essays were drafted for a November 1996 conference for American, Western European, and Ukrainian scholars and diplomats at Odessa; some, but not all, have been revised.
Unfortunately, none of the volume's authors comes to grips with the state of economic drift and corruption which threaten Ukraine's independence. The Ukrainian contributors dispute the optimistic Western judgment that the end of the Cold War benefits eastern Europe, arguing instead that the collapse of the Soviet Union has created instability in eastern Europe, and that Ukraine now sits on "a fault line of a likely geostrategic split in Europe." Americans, Western Europeans, and Ukrainians do, however, agree with Lieven's conclusion about NATO enlargement: two Ukrainian academics insist that a Ukraine courted by NATO "could find itself in a security vacuum between two poles of power, with assurances instead of allies and/or legally binding security guarantees. Its strategic vulnerability would also be greatly enhanced by inevitable pressure from Russia, which possesses economic and political means of exerting leverage."
The two volumes make valuable contributions to our understanding of Ukraine. Lieven's book is gracefully written and solidly based on historical research as well as his recent assignments as a journalist to Ukraine. It provides a graphic picture of the critical ethnic, socioeconomic, and political issues dogging Ukraine. Albright and Appatov's collection provides far more detail about Kyiv's developing relationship with Moscow, and about the national security debate smoldering within the new Ukrainian elite. Of the two books, Lieven is recommended for any personal library of seminal works on the Commonwealth of Independent States, while Albright and Appatov--which is $45 more expensive--belongs in all libraries.
Joshua Chamberlain: The Soldier and the Man. By Edward G. Longacre. Conshohocken, Pa.: Combined Publishing, 1999. 365 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Dr. J. Boone Bartholomees, Jr. (Colonel, USA Ret.), Dwight D. Eisenhower Chair of National Security and Strategy and Professor of Military History, US Army War College.
Does the world need another biography of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain? Edward G. Longacre, a recognized Civil War scholar, decided it did. He thinks even the best of the Chamberlain biographies tend to mythologize the man, turning him into "a pristine example of all that is good about America." Longacre is especially suspicious of the accepted portrayal of Chamberlain's personality and motivation. He decided to provide "a more rounded, more inclusive, and more objective portrait of Chamberlain as a soldier and human being." Longacre succeeds in his attempt, although in the final analysis his interpretation of the Maine general differs little from those of previous authors on the significant issues. We find that Chamberlain's marriage was less ideal than often portrayed, that the motivation for his service was perhaps more base than he claimed, and that he had an ego and was not averse to embellishing a good story. None of that really changes our understanding of the man or his career.
The most significant deviation Longacre makes from the accepted Chamberlain story is his account of the 20th Maine's actions on Little Round Top at Gettysburg on 2 July 1863. Besides debunking several personal anecdotes from the fight, Longacre takes on four of the fundamental interpretations of that famous action: the origin of the decisive bayonet counterattack, its execution, its result, and the significance of the defense. Longacre believes Chamberlain did not order the bayonet counterattack; that the attack was not a right wheel but two diverging and uncoordinated attacks; that Chamberlain captured fewer Rebels than he claimed; and that the action was not as important as often portrayed--that is, failure by the 20th Maine would not have been catastrophic.
Whether Chamberlain ordered the attack or it happened spontaneously makes little difference. Chamberlain probably ordered the charge as he claimed. That others did not hear the order and responded to the forward movement of the line is equally probable. Longacre's interpretation of the execution of the counterattack is actually easier to believe than Chamberlain's account, since the complex maneuver the general described would have been difficult on a parade ground and virtually impossible in combat. Still, the 20th Maine captured prisoners from the 4th Texas. To do so, at least a portion of the regiment had to execute some form of wheeling maneuver, since the Texans were attacking the main part of Little Round Top to the right of Chamberlain's position. That the 20th Maine outnumbered its Alabama opponents and captured fewer of them than Chamberlain estimated makes its defense less fantastic but no less courageous.
As to the significance of the defense, Longacre contends correctly that had Oates's exhausted troops beaten Chamberlain they could not have beaten the rest of Vincent's brigade on Little Round Top or the follow-on Union units that later reinforced the hill. However, if we change one fact in history we must allow them all to change. Vincent's brigade might have panicked when the remnants of the 20th Maine, followed by howling Rebels, streamed into its position from the rear; the Confederates attacking the front of Little Round Top might have redoubled their effort had Oates made an appearance on the crest. The arrival of follow-on Union troops might easily have been offset by Confederate reinforcements from Devil's Den.
Despite Longacre's contention, the loss of Little Round Top would have been decisive--not because Confederate artillery there would have flanked the Union line, but because Confederates there would have cut off the mass of Union troops in the Wheat Field. With Little Round Top (and portions of Culp's Hill on the other flank) in Confederate hands, Union withdrawal from the Gettysburg position would have been the only prudent course of action. This is important not as an argument in Civil War history, but to point out one pitfall of any attempt to de-mythologize historic figures--it is easy to go too far. Thankfully, Longacre is very careful in his examination of Chamberlain and such excess is rare. Longacre does not assert positively what he cannot prove. He likes Chamberlain and does not try to strip him of his acclaim or denigrate his accomplishments. Understandably, in the final analysis Longacre has to conclude that Chamberlain was an extraordinary man.
So, did the world need a new biography of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain? The answer is yes. Longacre provides insights into Chamberlain as a man to offset the god-like image that he has recently acquired. He does so compassionately and based on thorough research. He points out where his interpretation differs from the traditional. Chamberlain's fans may not like everything Longacre says, but overall they will find this a significant contribution to the scholarship on the Maine general.
Kosovo Crossing: American Ideals Meet Reality on the Balkan Battlefields. By David Fromkin. New York: The Free Press, 1999. 176 pages. $21.00. Reviewed by Colonel Steven P. Bucci, Ph.D., former Defense Attaché in Tirana, Albania.
In Kosovo Crossing, David Fromkin provides a first-rate, thinking-person's primer on three subjects: America's role in the Balkans, contemporary Kosovo, and today's key policy debate, "When, where and how should we intervene abroad?" This sounds like a tall order for a short book, but Professor Fromkin pulls it off masterfully. While not purporting to be an exhaustive study of any of these subjects, the book provides the data and analysis for readers to travel through the maze of issues surrounding NATO's first "war."
David Fromkin is a distinguished scholar of both history and international relations. That sort of tag line normally means the author writes with great length, and even greater obfuscation. Fortunately, in Fromkin's case, neither is true. Kosovo Crossing is short, clearly argued, and extremely readable. The well-paced writing moves from one subject to the next without bogging down, and without confusion. Few books written so soon after an event achieve this combination of clarity and insight.
The book is also well organized. Fromkin begins with a short prologue laying out his argument and identifying where US policy may be going in the future. The opening chapter begins in Kosovo early in this century. This provides the insights of that remarkable Englishwoman, Dame Rebecca West. She set the standard for Balkan scholars, and her observations on power and goodness in the Balkan context provide the pivot point of the book. She notes that when a nation has the power to make real changes in the world, it probably lacks the idealism to change it for the good, and when a nation is sufficiently altruistic, it seldom gathers enough power to make a real difference. It seems to be America's destiny and curse to try to disprove this assertion.
The succeeding chapters are grouped in three sections. The first section traces the tension of idealism vs. interests in American history from its time as a relatively powerless nation to the apex of its power in the post-Cold War era. Throughout this excellent summary, Fromkin repeatedly shows how national leaders struggled to balance the drive for power with the impulse to strong altruism. The strain comes to a head in the Kosovo intervention. Fromkin next shifts gears and begins a historical survey of the Balkans. In just over 60 pages, he raises and deals with the contentious historical issues of this troubled region. If you know anything about the Balkans, you can appreciate this feat. If a reader has time for only 60 pages of reading on Europe's most active hot-spot, I would strongly recommend chapters 8-16 of this book.
The remainder of the book is a solid analysis of how these two historical streams collided in a destitute little place, and what resulted. I do not agree with Fromkin's critique that the United States and NATO took the action for purely humanitarian reasons, with no strategic interests at stake. While there was clearly a humanitarian need, there was also an overriding interest driving NATO's action. This was the threat to Europe's stability posed by the various nations acting independently and therefore at odds with one another in dealing with Serbia and Kosovo. Fromkin provides the quintessential argument for the "no interests" school of thought. Regardless, he forces the reader to look at the implications for the United States and the West, not just of Kosovo, but of all such interventions. He does not resolve the dilemma, but brings it into sharper focus.
The world today has more "Kosovos" than the experts care to consider. They will not easily go away, and most will probably grow in intensity and danger. The United States, with its shrinking assets (or at least a shrinking willingness to use them) has its altruistic tendencies challenged to their limits. Can the United States intervene in situations that do not involve strong security interests beyond its "obligation" to humanity? Should it intervene, even if it has the ability? What are the limits of US power? These questions frame the greatest challenge the United States faces today. The military should participate in this debate. Military readers may think they do not need to deal with these thorny policy issues, but Fromkin challenges that notion and so do I. All US national security professionals, and particularly the military, ought to grapple with the tension between the use of power and altruism. The decisions will ultimately rest with our civilian masters, but we owe them our best advice.
This book is superb. It provides the reader with a wealth of knowledge in an extremely small package. Reading Kosovo Crossing is an efficient and effective use of time and effort. If you want more information than is found in books two to three times the length, better analysis than you will find on any op-ed page, and the correct identification of the most difficult policy challenge facing our nation, read this book. Otherwise you will miss a rare opportunity to learn, grow, and engage in a critical debate.
Digital War: A View from the Front Lines. Edited by Robert L. Bateman. Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1999. 256 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Colonel Gregory Fontenot, USA Ret., former Commander of the Battle Command Training Program.
Following the national press and contemporary articles and books on the military, it is hard not to reach the conclusion that somehow we have reached the end of history. Since Desert Storm pundits have predicted a "paradigm shift" in the way that war is waged, one in which the principles of war and perhaps even soldiers will become obsolete. First the Tofflers in War and Anti-War argued that the world and soldiers were on the cusp of an information age that would produce changes on the level of those produced in the Age of Industrialization. In fact, they argued that information warfare, or rather knowledge-based warfare, would be the way of the future.
But the Tofflers are not alone; scores of books and articles describe the Revolution in Military Affairs the pundits contend is under way. Some go so far as to argue that ground combat will become superfluous and that small strike forces pinpointing targets for distant platforms will be the only contribution from the ground. These forces, linked by satellite to precision or brilliant systems, will target enemy infrastructure and command and control. The resulting attack will wholly collapse resistance, and a few ground troops will arrive to hoist the flag--end of the war.
Digital War examines one aspect of this coming age of information- or knowledge-based warfare from the perspective of serving soldiers. The authors attempt to anticipate the logical results of "digitizing" the ground forces, both Army and Marines. To achieve this end the editor, Robert L. Bateman, a history instructor at West Point, has rounded up the usual suspects, including several officers already well known for thinking outside the box, sometimes to the discomfort of their seniors. None is afraid to state his mind and all are thoughtful. Among them are John Antal, Dan Bolger, Bob Leonhard, Doug MacGregor, and Don Vandergriff. Perhaps less well-known to the active force are Mike Pryor, a Guardsman and Microsoft professional, and Ed Offley, a journalist. The collected authors have written several books and a number of articles on everything from maneuver warfare to redesigning the force.
Bateman announces the purpose of this fascinating anthology quite clearly. The authors wish to include the Army and Marines in the debate about the effect of digital systems in our ground forces. They point out that their effort is different from others in print. Specifically, "Unlike any other book currently available, this set of prognostications [about the future of warfare] is not written by academics or members of a think tank." Though Bateman perhaps makes too much of the muddy-boots credentials of his colleagues, his point is well-taken. Why should the debate on the future course of warfare, or at least ground combat, be conceded to people who will in any case not wage war now or in the future?
Digital War is well worth reading, particularly now. Since Kosovo our aviator friends are in full cry that airpower alone won there. They are rather less specific about why, despite the technical advantages enjoyed by the NATO air forces, they could not destroy either the Serbian air defenses or the Serbian ground forces. Neither do they explain how the air campaign against Serbia differed, in any way that matters, from the strategic air campaign in Europe during World War II. Kosovo demonstrates that we have not yet reached the end of history, just as Bosnia and other hotspots have done. In any case, Digital War is timely because it is well past time for the Army to consider the implications of digital systems not only in the near term but in the future.
The authors do a first-rate job in arguing several sides of the question. Bob Leonhard wants to get on with it, arguing convincingly that the Army has been too conservative and too much tied to "attrition" models of analysis. John Antal, on the other hand, contributes a captivating novella on a high-tech operation gone badly wrong. Antal's fictional account demonstrates that third world opponents only just in the industrial age can adjust to information technology and even defeat it. Consider the Serbs and their SA6 batteries or the Somalis in downtown Mogadishu. Dan Bolger stakes out a middle course, but notes direly that if we do not get this right we may find that "a nimble teenager with a rusty Kalashnikov may blow gory holes in our putative starship troopers."
None of the authors is a "neo-luddite." They just do not accept the notion that technology alone is the answer. Doug MacGregor argues that fundamental organizational changes in how we fight must occur not only to take full advantage of digital technology, but also to assure that we integrate the joint fight to reap the benefits of combined-arms effects at the joint level. MacGregor asserts that functional or component organization of joint task forces fails the litmus test of maximum effectiveness. Rather than service functional lines, MacGregor believes in the future we must organize along operational functional lines. To MacGregor this means that instead of Army and Marine force headquarters we might see a single headquarters called Close Combat, under which everything that contributes directly to the close fight would respond to a single close combat commander.
Mike Pryor and Don Vandergriff address separate aspects of preparing the ground forces to become digital. Pryor focuses on important training issues, while Vandergriff waxes very nearly vitriolic about the Army's officer personnel system. Vandergriff's thesis is that producing the right officer corps is as important as producing the right materiel systems. Vandergriff argues that the Army personnel system will not produce the kind of officer corps the Army will need to use these systems effectively. Vandergriff's thinking on the matter of officer development merits careful consideration.
Ed Offley reminds us that if the services are taking advantage of digital technology, so are the media. Satellite communications and easily portable information technology, ranging from video to palm-top word processing, will assure that the services cannot restrict access and control the media. The implications of media access to commercial imagery nearly as good as that available to the military may well complicate matters for commanders in the field. Offley stipulates no strategy but does describe clearly the possible landscape.
Robert Bateman does a good job of bounding this eclectic discussion and setting clearly the parameters of the debate that the authors hope to engender. Digital War is a first-rate anthology on warfare in the future and what ground forces need to consider in preparing for it. The authors are provocative and stake out positions that merit further discussion.
Go to Summer issue Table of Contents.
Go to Book Review Index.
Go to Parameters home page.
Reviewed 10 May 2000. Please send comments or corrections to firstname.lastname@example.org