Book Reviews


From Parameters, Autumn 2004, pp. 143-73.


In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat. By Rick Atkinson. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2004. 319 pages. $25.00. Reviewed by Martin Blumenson, author of Heroes Never Die and other works.

Rick Atkinson, who has won Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and for history, was one of almost 800 reporters and photographers, some of whom represented foreign news organizations, who were embedded with military units during the 2003 war in Iraq. Atkinson was with the 101st Airborne Division, a distinguished outfit which no longer fights in airborne fashion but rather, with 256 helicopters and 17,000 soldiers, in the air assault mode. His tour of duty lasted not quite two months, from 26 February to 15 April. He spent much of his time with the division headquarters, specifically with the division commander, Major General David H. Petraeus, and came to know both his principal subordinates and his boss, Lieutenant General William S. Wallace, the V Corps commander.

In the Company of Soldiers, modestly called a chronicle, is much more than that. It is a brilliant and vivid account of what Atkinson experienced. It is a lively narrative of the perceptions of a skilled observer. It is a report, he says, of “how war is waged in an age when wars are small, sequential, expeditionary, and bottomless.”

In the first 100 pages, describing Atkinson’s travel from Fort Campbell to Kuwait and his stay there before the war started, he introduces his readers to and acquaints them with the landscape, the weather—the awful dust—and the present-day Army. Each war has its own language, and Atkinson relates today’s soldier talk and graffiti. He tells us what soldiers wore and carried in their pockets and what their equipment was. Different as these are from earlier combats, one thing, according to Atkinson, remained the same: “The soldiers kept their humor, their dignity, their honor, and their humanity.”

The bulk of the book is concerned with the division’s entry into the war and its remarkable advance to Baghdad. The enemy was largely inept, but also, on occasion, deadly. American combat power included “a stunning array of weapons, technological innovation,” plus well-trained and well-motivated soldiers.

The division participated in three major battles along the way, at Najaf, Hilla, and Karbola. Two maps at the beginning of the book show clearly the division’s route. Atkinson listened to General Petraeus’s conversations during the battles. He also heard some of what Petraeus and Wallace, the corps commander, discussed during the fighting. And he watched and listened as brigade commanders directed the actions. Although Atkinson was under enemy fire and although his comments on the combat he saw are interesting and exciting, his exposition is hardly a clear overlook on how the commanders on all levels resolved the problems that arose. The art of leadership in this case remains vague.

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At the end of the war, after three weeks of warfare, the division had lost 125 Americans, “an admirable economy,” Atkinson says. He found that the US military “had again demonstrated that it was peerless among world powers.”

The division had fulfilled three of four missions. It had marched to Baghdad, it had neutralized the enemy, it had overthrown (with two other Army divisions, a Marine Corps division, and a British division in Iraq) Saddam Hussein. It had failed to prevent chaos afterwards because virtually no attention had been given to this duty before the campaign. Atkinson paints a dismal picture of the wholesale looting by the inhabitants. Liberation turned into indigenous plundering.

Atkinson opens his book with two thoughts: Why did Sergeant First Class John W. Marshall of the 3d Infantry Division die? And how is the American involvement in Iraq going to end? These two questions bother the author throughout his work. The first comes from his discomfort on why the United States went to war. The second emerges from the liberation that turned to the occupation of a hostile population. A brief Afterword on what happened after he departed expands on these two matters.

Finally, what sort of book is this—history or journalism? According to academics who lived around 1900, the writing of history stopped with the French Revolution a hundred years earlier. What transpired since then was the province of journalists. The necessity for distance or perspective is the distinguishing element of historical writing, for it helps to ensure objectivity. Atkinson himself worried about this in a talk published in the Journal of Military History (April 2000). He says there are three genres of writing—journalism, instant history, and true history. His latest book, he says, “is drawn overwhelmingly from what I saw, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt.” That would seem to make it journalism or instant history. Yet he constantly deepens his portrait of the war in Iraq by using secondary sources on Iraq’s past. What he has written is contemporary history, if the term is not altogether an oxymoron. Contemporary history has become quite respectable in the last half century. Its difficulty is the removal of self to the extent possible. The suspicion lingers that the author identified himself too closely with his hosts. Despite this, Rick Atkinson has produced a wonderful read.


America’s Inadvertent Empire. By William E. Odom and Robert Dujarric. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2004. 285 pages. $30.00. Reviewed by Dr. Andrew J. Bacevich, Professor of International Relations, Boston University and author of The New American Militarism, forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

To the motley collection of recent books devoted to describing and assessing the prospects of the American imperium, this volume adds remarkably little. Let me amend that: America’s Inadvertent Empire does possess a sort of perverse value. It exemplifies the sort of wishful thinking and superficial analysis that may yet do our fragile empire in. An apt subtitle might have been, “What, Me Worry?”

After grudgingly acknowledging the existence of empire (ascribing it to happenstance and sheer dumb luck rather than the conscious pursuit of global power), William Odom, a retired general and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute,

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and Robert Dujarric, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, turn quickly to extolling the American empire’s many sterling attributes. The core of the work is, in essence, an exercise in chest-thumping.

Thus, the reader will learn here the following: that the United States is far and away the world’s dominant military power; that the American economy is in a class by itself—dynamic, entrepreneurial, setting worldwide standards of corporate governance; that the American system of higher education is the envy of all; that US leadership in science and technological innovation is unquestioned; that whereas other developed nations face an imminent demographic crisis, the population of the United States continues to grow and promises to remain relatively youthful; and, finally, that the American media and American mass culture permeate the entire world and exercise unparalleled influence. In sum, “the magnitude of American power,” the authors write, “is truly staggering.”

Not only is US preeminence beyond dispute. It also lies beyond challenge. American power is “so overwhelming that no other state or potential coalition of states can reasonably hope to counterbalance it.” Truth to tell, no nation of consequence has much interest even in making the effort. As Odom and Dujarric see it, “opposing the American empire does not pay.” What pays, the constituent parts of the empire have learned, is playing by American rules.

Here lies the genius of the American approach to wielding its unprecedented power. Because American rules are based on what the authors call “Liberal institutions”—not democracy, but the rule of law and respect for private property— the American imperium is a win-win proposition. Indeed, since all nations throughout the developed world today recognize the superiority of liberal institutions, the American empire is in effect the American republic writ large. The present-day international order, the authors write, manifests “an inchoate constitutional character deriving from America’s constitutional philosophy.”

Nor should the United States worry that holdouts in the dark quarters beyond the developed world might pose a future challenge. Since those holdouts do not subscribe to liberal institutions, they are doomed to perpetual insignificance.

China offers a case in point. Looking at the century ahead, the authors scoff at the prospect of the People’s Republic becoming a great power. “China is not an emerging economic giant,” they state flatly. After all, “To be rich a country needs Liberal institutions.” Since China lacks such institutions, it cannot be rich, ipso facto. In a bracing display of ethnocentrism, they go so far as to declare that China couldn’t develop liberal institutions even if it tried. Why not? Simply because China “is not a Western society.”

Nor are the authors willing to get all worked up about the ongoing unpleasantness known as the “global war on terror.” Strategically, Odom and Dujarric insist, the attacks of 9/11 “did only minor damage.” Even if employing weapons of mass destruction, terrorists “can be no more than painful nuisances. They do not even rival ordinary crime or drug trafficking in the United States as problems.” As an aside, the authors observe that “the United States, by any legal definition of terrorism, has been among the largest sponsors of terrorist organizations since World War II,” as if to suggest that it’s bad form for Americans to be complaining about Osama bin Laden.

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How long will the empire last? Barring incredible ineptitude at the top, “the answer has to be for a long time, perhaps several centuries.” External threats “cannot destroy American hegemony. Americans, however, can do so.” The key to preserving the Pax Americana is to expand even further our military edge and then use it to police the status quo. Give up on promoting democracy abroad: it won’t work. Forget about encouraging development in the Third World: it’s a waste of money. Quit looking for some overarching concept to guide US grand strategy: prudent management is all that we need to perpetuate our advantages. We’re six touchdowns ahead: play it safe.

This is sheer malarkey.

Like it or not, we are indeed an imperial power. But matching our very real strengths are challenges and vulnerabilities that receive from Odom and Dujarric at the very most a passing nod. We do have an extraordinary military establishment. But it is too small for the imperial burdens with which we have saddled it. We do have an economy that provides us (at least many of us) a lifestyle of extraordinary material abundance. But the basis of that abundance is profligacy—deficit spending, spiraling trade imbalances, nonexistent savings, and expectations of consumer credit without limit. Possessing a paltry two percent of the world’s oil reserves, we consume one out of every four barrels of oil pumped out of the ground—coming for the most part from the dark quarters that Odom and Dujarric treat as insignificant, but which policymakers have decided we must incorporate into our imperium. We export a “lifestyle” that many people do find compelling—with as many others judging it deeply repugnant and even blasphemous. And we face an immediate challenge that is not “terror” but radical Islam, its adherents caring not a whit whether or not it “pays” to take on the Crusader State.

Worry? Yes, we ought to. Or better still, we should ask ourselves whether this empire of ours really serves the interests of the American people.


The Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet. By James Mann. New York: Viking Press, 2004. 426 pages. $25.95. Reviewed by Richard Halloran, formerly with The New York Times as a foreign correspondent in Asia and military correspondent in Washington, who writes about US and Asia relations from Honolulu.

James Mann, a longtime news correspondent in Beijing and Washington, gets right to the point in this thoroughly researched and incisively written book that could gainfully be read by everyone who wants to know how the Administration of President George W. Bush fashions its policies in foreign affairs and national security. In his introduction, Mann says that when the President and his senior advisers on the nation’s security posture took office in January 2001, this was no ordinary transfer of power from a Democratic to a Republican government or even a continuation of earlier Republican regimes. Rather, he writes: “They represented an epochal change, the flowering of a new view of America’s status and role in the world. The vision was that of an unchallengeable America, a United States whose military

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power was so awesome that it no longer needed to make compromises or accommodations (unless it chose to do so) with any nation or groups of countries.”

The President’s advisers called themselves the Vulcans, after the Roman god of fire, and were a team of a half-dozen veterans of Washington, all of whom had personal ties going back 30 years. They included Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and the President’s National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice.

Mann, who spent 20 years with the Los Angeles Times, calls them “the military generation” whose wellspring was the Pentagon, all having earlier served there— Cheney and Rumsfeld as Secretaries of Defense, Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Wolfowitz as an Undersecretary of Defense, and Armitage as an Assistant Secretary of Defense. “Even Rice,” Mann writes, “had started her career in Washington with a stint at the Pentagon, working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Note that President Bush himself is not a Vulcan. His experience in foreign policy was so limited before coming to the White House, Mann asserts, “He was obliged to rely to an extraordinary extent on his advisers for ideas and for information. He could not have made decisions if the Vulcans had not laid out the choices.”

“The decision to invade Iraq,” in Mann’s analysis, “encapsulated virtually all the key elements in the Vulcans’ views of the world.” The author defines five such elements:

It began with their belief in the centrality of American military power. “No other military operation,” Mann says, “could better have demonstrated the thirty-year rise in American military capabilities or the extent to which the United States had come to rely on those capabilities as America’s principal tool in dealing with the world.”

The war against Iraq “reflected the Vulcans’ belief in America as a force for good around the globe,” Mann writes. “They portrayed Iraq as merely the first step in an effort to spread democracy throughout the Middle East.”

The author pointed to “the Vulcans’ extraordinarily optimistic assessment of American capabilities.” He says: “They had been arguing for thirty years that America was not in decline and that it had vastly more power in reserve for international affairs than others believed.”

“The decision to invade epitomized the Vulcans’ reluctance to enter into agreements or accommodations with other countries,” Mann asserts. “It was, in their view, far better to have few or no allies than to make a deal that would constrain America’s freedom of action overseas.”

And, in an element pertinent to policy on China, the most serious issue for the United States in Asia, the Vulcans drew on the experience of defeating the Soviet Union in the Cold War: “America would build up its military power to such an extent that it would be fruitless and financially crippling for any other country to hope to compete with it.”

The first draft of the Pentagon’s 1992 defense guidance articulated that principle. After it was leaked and stirred a bit of controversy, the draft was rewritten to suggest the need to “shape the future security environment.” Iraq, Mann says,

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provided “a classic example of what that concept meant. The internal logic was simple. Terrorism had emerged as America’s principal security threat; terrorism arose primarily in the Middle East; therefore ‘shaping the future security environment’ meant transforming the entire politics and social fabric of the Middle East.”

After it was published in March 2004, Mann’s book appeared to have been overshadowed in Washington by journalist Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack, an account of the decisions to invade Iraq. That’s rather too bad, as Mann’s thoughtful and calm book does much to explain the wider vista of President Bush and the Vulcans who guide him on matters of national security.


The Iraq War. By John Keegan. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. 254 pages. $24.95. Reviewed by Dr. Jeffrey Record, Professor, Department of Strategy and International Security, Air War College, and author of Bounding the Global War on Terrorism and Dark Victory: America’s Second War Against Iraq.

Days after the fall of Baghdad to US-led coalition forces in April 2003, the eminent British military historian John Keegan, in an op-ed titled “Saddam’s Utter Collapse Shows This Has Not Been a Real War,” declared that “Saddam’s war plan, if he had one, must be reckoned one of the most inept ever designed. . . . [It] ignored every rule of defensive warfare.” Keegan went on to note that the only serious resistance offered was not by Iraq’s military forces, but rather by “the Ba’ath Party militia, effectively a sort of political Mafia equipped with nothing more effective than hand-held weapons.”

Keegan remains mystified by a war in which most Iraqi regular forces, without a pretense of putting up a fight, dissolved into a general population that initially seemed remarkably indifferent to the Anglo-American invasion of their country. Was the coalition invasion of Iraq, he asks in his new book, The Iraq War, “really a war at all?” In hindsight we know that unexpected and ongoing insurgent violence in post-invasion Iraq has cost the coalition much more blood and treasure than that expended in the three weeks it took to drive the old regime from power. Conviction that Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) would be a Middle Eastern replay of France’s liberation in 1944 was always a self-serving fantasy; a preventive American invasion and occupation of an Arab heartland was certain to attract insurgent and terrorist responses. The real war came after, not before, the fall of Baghdad.

Mystery continues to surround Saddam’s strategy. Did he expect his regular forces to fight the way Keegan believes they could have, or was their disappearance and the subsequent insurgency the real game plan? Understandably, no account of the war has yet satisfactorily answered this question, but Keegan has nonetheless written a highly readable, insightful, and richly contextual account of the Iraq crisis and war of 2003. Though Keegan’s military assessment of the war lacks the thoroughness and analytical rigor of Anthony H. Cordesman’s The Iraq War: Strategy, Tactics, and Military Lessons, his book properly embeds OIF squarely within the contexts of Iraq’s past, the nature and ambitions of the Saddam Hussein regime, the strategic legacy of the First Gulf War, and above all the Bush Administration’s neoconservative policy re-

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sponses to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Unlike many operational military historians, Keegan is very much at home at the intersection of history, politics, and strategy. He knows the war did not end with the fall of Saddam, and he pulls no punches in condemning the Pentagon’s perfunctory planning for post-Saddam Iraq.

Keegan also does justice to the exceptional quality of coalition war planning and operations, though only a third of the book is devoted to them. Especially noteworthy are his judgments on the comparative strengths and weaknesses of US and British forces for the Iraqi war and occupation tasks and his account of the masterful British acquisition and exploitation of intelligence in rooting out the Ba’athist infrastructure in Basra. The author concedes American superiority “at the highest level of modern military performance,” but argues convincingly that the British, by virtue of greater patience and long imperial experience (including operations in Northern Ireland) are better at counterinsurgency, especially in urban warfare settings.

Nor does Keegan hesitate to comment about what he regards as significant differences between the US Army and Marine Corps and their respective performances in Iraq. He is clearly more impressed by the marines, believing that the Marine Corps is internally less divided by branch than the Army, that marines “all join together and train together and are marines before they are infantry, armour, or artillery.” Keegan even slams West Point, saying of General Tommy Franks that perhaps “because he had not been through the rigid processing of West Point, he has an inquiring mind, an ability to think on his feet and a remarkable freedom from the doctrinaire approach so often characteristic of the products of Sparta-on-the-Hudson.”

The Iraq War has significant weaknesses. It contains no bibliography worth the name and no documentation at all, though Keegan acknowledges two postwar interviews with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and one superficial semi-interview with General Franks. Nor does the book hint at, much less discuss, the acute war-plan tensions between the transformationists at the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Army planners at Central Command, especially over the issues of force size and the sequence of deployment and war initiation, topics first covered in depth over a year ago by the New Yorker’s Peter Boyer and Knight-Ridder’s Joe Galloway.

Moreover, though the book harshly questions neoconservative ambitions for America in the Middle East, it dodges the critical strategic issue of the Iraq War’s relationship to the global war on terrorism. If, as the 9/11 commission and other expert opinion have concluded, there was no collaborative relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and therefore no link between 9/11 and Iraq, then how is Operation Iraqi Freedom strategically justified as the central front in the war on terrorism?

Finally, in his assessment of the First Gulf War, Keegan declares that General Norman Schwarzkopf’s operational plan “worked perfectly,” an especially odd conclusion for a military historian, as if any war plan ever did or could work perfectly. In fact, the unexpectedly swift Marine Corps advance into Kuwait was not attended by an accelerated slamming of the “left hook” door behind the retreating Republican Guard, about half of which escaped Kuwait to save Saddam Hussein’s regime from destruction at the hands of a Shiite rebellion.

John Keegan’s writings are always worth reading because they are so readable and because he is widely and deservedly regarded as one of finest military

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historians of our day. The Iraq War is no exception, though it is not among Keegan’s best works and is unlikely to compare favorably with more comprehensive and informative forthcoming military-insider books on the war, such as the one now being researched and written by Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, who in 1995 published The Generals’ War, the definitive military account of the 1991 war against Saddam Hussein.


The Boys’ Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-45. By Paul Fussell. New York: A Modern Library Chronicles Book, The Modern Library, 2003. 184 pages. $19.95. Reviewed by Dr. Henry G. Gole (Colonel, USA Ret.) author of Road to Rainbow: Army Planning for Global War, 1934-1940 and a frequent Parameters reviewer and contributor.

Paul Fussell gives fair warning: “The universal catastrophe that was the Second World War can be merely hinted at in this little book.” Then he demolishes with acerbic brevity the military romanticism current in American popular literature and film. The veteran of close combat is profoundly offended by the feel-goodism found in works such as The Greatest Generation, The Good War, and the cheerleading of Stephen Ambrose. “There is nothing in infantry warfare to raise spirits at all, and anyone who imagines a military ‘victory’ gratifying is mistaken.” Fussell’s academic reputation is as a scholar of 18th-century English literature, and his scathing critique of American culture in our time is collected in three books of essays among the 15 books he has written and the several he has edited. He is a many-sided curmudgeon, and, above all, a de-romanticizer of war.

Fussell takes no prisoners. “Rumination” best describes The Boys’ Crusade, his return to events still vivid to him after 60 years. The author relentlessly illustrates the conditions that produce the fatal screw-ups that are so much a part of war, particularly infantry combat. Of the fratricide in July 1944, as strategic bombers killed friend and foe alike, he notes sardonically: “Tourists prowling around the COBRA area should not waste time looking for a memorial to the boys killed by the bombing error. There is none.” The deception plan to conceal the time and place of D-Day, called “Fortitude,” required the bombing of innocents. The missed chance at Falaise to destroy the enemy resulted in recriminations and accusing finger-pointing among allies. Fussell questions the need for the bloody fighting in the Heurtgen Forest, a place that denied the US Army its strong suit, mobility and speed. A lieutenant there wrote: “We were cut to pieces. This division as now constituted is not the old 28th. All new men. The old are mostly dead.” Casualty rates in rifle companies of 100 percent, 200 percent, and more from June 1944 to May 1945 were too frequent. An infantryman notes: “Nobody gets out of a rifle company. It’s a door that opens only one way, in. You leave when they carry you out, if you’re unlucky, dead, or if you’re lucky, wounded. But nobody just walks away. That was the unwritten law.”

Amateurs led unskilled boys. The replacement system ensured that new guys died before the old guys knew their names. Prisoners of war and soldiers attempting to surrender were gunned down by both sides. Americans were shocked by

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the emaciated living and dead found in concentration camps. Infantry boys “hate” (Fussell’s word): officers, especially phonies granted officer rank and beautiful dress uniforms without having to undergo the usual price of painful infantry training; the French of all types who were distinctly snotty toward their saviors; and anyone to the rear of the infantryman.

The author says “conscious sloppery” was “the Conscript’s Revenge,” a way of saying: “I’m not really a powerless part of an institution so unfair, stupid, and silly as the army. I’m still the careless boy from Winnetka that I used to be, and I’m determined to be my own boss. Screw you all.”

This book is a savage attack on comforting illusions about war. The author is appalled by the readiness of the public to accept myths rather than “facts” presented by participants. The author says in Doing Battle, his autobiography, that innocent Boy Fussell, age 20, was ill-treated and damaged by the Wehrmacht in 1945. His ill treatment was a shrapnel wound, from which his body recovered. His platoon sergeant was killed, from which his soul has not recovered.

Your reviewer highly recommends this book and all of Paul Fussell’s work to the readers of these pages with this caution: Beware. The contents of these books were not prepared by a historian. The author is a prose stylist of high intelligence, a bitter man who wants to drill you right between your eyes. He lost his soul in a German forest 60 years ago.


A Declaration of Interdependence: Why America Should Join the World. By Will Hutton. New York, London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003. 319 pages. $27.95. Reviewed by Norman Kass, foreign policy analyst, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Senior Director, Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office.

With an unrelenting drumbeat, Will Hutton’s A Declaration of Interdependence offers its readers a stinging indictment of conservative public policy as the cause of an outbreak of socio-economic and political ills currently gripping America. A columnist for the British Observer, Hutton marshals an impressive array of empirical data to lend heft to his overarching (and, at times, over-reaching) premise: that America’s traditional values of basic decency, fair play, and generosity, especially toward those least able to fend for themselves, have been badly besmirched through obsessive pursuit of self-interest and material well-being by conservative political figures, like-minded intellectuals, and their venal followers.

From Hutton’s perspective, the past three decades have been a time when America has essentially abdicated her social responsibilities. This repudiation of the coveted social contract that remains near and dear to European civilization has brought with it a number of disturbing consequences, both for America’s frayed social fabric and for her role in the community of nations. Domestically, the greatest damage has been inflicted on the American dream of upward mobility, equality of opportunity, and material comfort, which has been all but shattered. Rising poverty levels, widespread educational underachievement, and a growing imbalance in income distribution are cited as among the most serious casualties of an inept and in-

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different public policy devoid of the liberal values and governmental activism to which Hutton remains so deeply committed.

Implications of this conservative maelstrom for America’s place on the world stage are no less foreboding. Policies now emphasize unilateralism and America-centrism, to the detriment of forging inclusive pacts based on shared interests and values. Worse yet, America’s tilt away from government as the primary vehicle for social good seems to be gaining momentum right in the author’s homeland, raising the specter that England, too, may one day abandon its enlightened past and, willy-nilly, drift mindlessly toward the same misguided value system that Hutton is so eager to expose and discredit. In fact, by the author’s own acknowledgment, his book was written to correct what he perceives as unwarranted criticisms of sound European values and exaggerated characterizations of the United States as “a paragon of all the virtues.”

As a monograph steeped in social commentary, Hutton’s Declaration benefits from an extensive bibliography. The work is well-written, the chapters logically arranged, and the style one of wit, insight, and an indisputably partisan and generally glib tone. Occasionally outlandish observations add a certain flair and entertainment value to a work that has its share of didactic pronouncements. Witness, for example, Hutton’s discussion of the American prison system, the one area, he muses, where “conservatives consider public spending legitimate.” Elaborating further on his views, Hutton bemoans the fact that the United States boasts the world’s highest incarceration rate. Imprisonment results in a denial of voting rights for millions of convicted felons. Since, we are told, prisoners in Florida constitute seven percent of potential voters and since, he avers, most of them would vote Democrat, Hutton draws the inescapable conclusion that their removal from the electoral process was a “key reason” for George Bush’s victory in that state and for the ultimate outcome of his presidential race. No one has ever said that social commentary has to be non-partisan.

It is noteworthy, however, that a work which is so probing and unambiguous in its critique of social and political issues should be so sparse, if not barren, in its treatment of what is one of the major factors shaping current political realities in American society: the constant threat from international terrorism and the effect which it has had upon national priorities and the policies designed to further them. One resounding illustration of Hutton’s avoidance of national security concerns surfaces early in the work, where he summarizes (and disparages) the “economic summit” held in Texas in August 2002.

Lamenting that the Bush Administration has “squandered” the budget surpluses passed along by its predecessor, Hutton blithely cites increased defense spending as one of the principal profligates. In so doing, he displays what can only be called the “Rip Van Winkle syndrome,” failing even to note that a spike in defense outlays is all but unavoidable as America gears up for an open-ended engagement that is draining not only for the capital it consumes but for the personal hardships and sacrifices it imposes. The persistent absence of any serious discussion of defense-related issues makes Hutton’s work less than complete and adds fuel to partisan feuds over whether liberal commentators fully consider the scope of legitimate security issues as a determinant of public policy.

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For those ready to endure a candid portrayal of some of the woes keeping utopia from America’s shores, Hutton has produced a thoughtful and often jarring exposÚ. A readership focused specifically on the nation’s security, however, would not divine much that is either insightful or of immediate value.


Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry. By P. W. Singer. Ithaca, N.Y., and London: Cornell University Press, 2003. 330 pages. $39.95. Reviewed by Lieutenant Colonel Michael H. Hoffman, USAR Ret., an attorney with 25 years of experience, civil and military, practicing in the field of international and operational law.

This lucid, pioneering work examines important new twists in the changing landscape of 21st-century warfare. While other emerging elements of modern warfare (transnational terrorism, operations other than war) have received much well-deserved attention, the onset and growing impact of a network of private military vendors lags far behind. Corporate Warriors more than meets the need for a comprehensive survey of this new commercial niche and its implications for policymakers and the military profession.

The author identifies businesses providing military services as Privatized Military Firms (PMFs.) His most notable single contribution to future discussion about these organizations is a taxonomy that distinguishes them from historically familiar mercenary units. He argues that their structure, capacities, and relationship to state contractors makes them considerably more robust than mercenary organizations, not to mention considerably more important to the future of warfare and international relations.

Though easily read, this book is not an easy read. It covers a lot of ground, requiring a serious investment of time and reader involvement. The book was written with three audiences in mind: the academic community; general readers; and civil, military, and humanitarian policymakers. Of the latter, Singer writes, “Many even deal directly with the firms on a contractual basis. It is worrisome that both real and potential clients, and even those charged with regulating the industry, still operate in a relative void of information and unbiased analysis.” This reviewer also considers Singer’s work to be well worth the attention of audiences not specifically identified in the text: military planners; judge advocates who need to determine where PMFs might fit in the existing law-of-war framework; officers who might deploy with or encounter PMFs in the field (an increasingly plausible deployment scenario); business and war correspondents; attorneys and risk managers who advise PMF clients; and military professionals considering a second career who want to consider the vocational and philosophical dimensions of this option.

Historical perspective is essential to the understanding of new battlefield actors. Part I of the book offers such a perspective. “Privatized Military History” reviews the rise, triumph, and decline of private military forces up through the 19th century. A follow-up chapter offers an explanation for the proliferation of PMFs at the turn of the 21st century, arguing that they can be understood as part of a world-

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wide trend toward privatization of government functions, with commercialized military services marking the most striking manifestation, and with the meltdown of the Cold War standoff generating a climate where such services are in high demand.

In Part II, the author presents his case that PMFs transcend the operational and political constraints that characterized mercenary organizations in the 20th century. He contends that PMFs furnish sustainable, high-impact warfighting, advisory, and logistical services sometimes matching the operations and capabilities of state military forces. He makes his case with studies supporting the argument that PMFs fall into categories of military provider, military consultant, and military support firms.

In Part III the author sets out a number of political, operational, legal, and ethical issues that he finds surfacing with the growth of PMFs (e.g. the risk of military adventurism, erosion in political oversight of military operations). Readers will draw their own conclusions regarding the gravity and likelihood of the numerous scenarios presented in this section; the author performs an important service in developing them, however, and they should be considered by a wide range of stakeholders.

No work of this scope will ever meet all expectations, and a few limitations should be noted. The book is based on a wide range of sources, those in print primarily journalistic accounts that track the growing impact of PMFs and monographs touching on specialized facets of this industry. Though most footnotes lead to such sources, usefully for anyone who wants to investigate further, the reader is left to surmise how the author’s own experience and numerous interviews (which seem to have played a large part in his research) shaped the views presented. The author has taken on a very large subject and had to cross a number of professional boundaries to develop this study. Specialists may sometimes differ with the author on elements relating to their own fields (as did this reviewer on certain legal points). Having been forewarned of this, readers would find it profitable to put such concerns aside, should they arise, in order to benefit from the strategic perspective that the book offers.

Changing patterns of warfare will likely generate a steady stream of new challenges for at least another generation. PMFs have been overlooked to a surprising degree, given their importance in fast-changing operational settings. With the publication of Corporate Warriors, the PMF role in shaping such events should be less likely to take anyone by surprise.


The Influence of Air Power upon History. By Walter J. Boyne. Gretna, La.: Pelican Publishing, 2003. 448 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Dr. Tami Davis Biddle, Associate Professor of National Security Studies, US Army War College.

Anyone who knows Walter Boyne would not be surprised to find that he chose for the title of his latest book, The Influence of Air Power upon History. A prolific writer on air power topics, a former head of the National Air and Space Museum, and a founder of Air & Space magazine, Boyne might well think of himself— at this point in his career—as a kind of air power successor to Alfred Thayer Mahan. But the title of the book is the only real connection to the Mahanian oeuvre and legacy: besides tipping his hat now and again to the great god of seapower, Boyne

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largely ignores him. Instead, Boyne’s book is a sort of canter through the history of air power—and an idiosyncratic one at that.

The author tells us in his introduction that “the present work is intended to look into the development of air-power philosophy over its history by examining the theory and practice of air power as demonstrated not only in war, but also in politics, diplomacy, technology, and mass culture.” The phrase “to look into” is apt, since the book is mostly a series of observations and assertions about events—and most all of those events have to do with war and warfighting. There is no very systematic discussion of air power as a political or diplomatic tool, and there is no very rigorous analysis of the evolution of technology and its impact on aviation. (Most of what the reader receives about technology is embedded in Boyne’s descriptions of the capabilities of various aircraft.) And, despite a promising opening in the introductory pages of the book, Boyne does not really follow through on his promise to address air power and mass culture. In his brief effort to articulate a theory of how air power affected the development of military thinking in different states, Boyne proffers a list of “five factors” that determine “the success or failure” of “air-power theory.” Oddly this list, again idiosyncratic, says nothing at all about the geopolitical situation of the states he discusses.

Boyne is a capable writer, and the book is undoubtedly intended for a wide audience. The author has broad experience and knowledge of aviation and its history. Even if the book has no guiding thesis or argument, it has value as an individual collection of ideas offered up by someone who has lived part of the history. But if the book is intended, as well, for scholars of aviation and air power, then it is problematical at least. For a volume that runs to 400 pages (including an appendix), Boyne includes only 12 pages of notes. Most of the time we simply do not know the sources he draws upon to make his arguments and assessments. That’s okay, perhaps, for readers who are looking only to be casually informed about air power: they may well be satisfied by Boyne’s background and claim to expertise. But it’s not okay for scholars who are looking to do rigorous analysis. Those readers need to know the sources of Boyne’s arguments and assessments in order to be able to compare them systematically against those made by other authors. All of academic scholarship rests upon a foundation of accountability—and that accountability is manifested in the careful documentation found in footnotes (or endnotes). This essential standard is expected—and appropriately so—by modern scholars.

The book poses other problems for scholars as well. Nowhere in its pages do we see evidence that Boyne has digested some of the best recent work in the realm of aviation history. On World War I and the interwar years, for instance, there is no sign of the excellent monographs produced by Neville Jones, George Williams, Malcolm Smith, or John Ferris. On World War II there is no trace of Ronald Schaffer or Michael Sherry; Richard Overy’s more recent works do not appear. On Vietnam he mostly brushes aside the arguments of Mark Clodfelter (without describing or citing them adequately), and does not consider Robert Pape at all. He concludes that Vietnam represented a “misuse of air power, ” but his analysis does not adequately treat the strategic and domestic influences (both US and Vietnamese) that shaped the course of the war.

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Boyne repeats some old myths: he gives visionary status to Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, the commander-in-chief of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain; he implies that Sir Arthur Harris brought city bombing to Bomber Command; and, with respect to Tet, he argues that the American press “gratuitously handed [North Vietnam] a propaganda victory that ultimately decided the outcome of the war.” He is both inconsistent and off the mark in other places. For instance he argues that with respect to World War II, Trenchard “had little real effect upon events.” But he later describes Trenchard’s legacy as having created: “a sense not only of superior capability, but one of superior moral worth, that pervaded the RAF, and gave it such high morale and dashing elan.” Trenchard, in fact, had a very real effect upon the events of World War II: by under-appreciating the rigorous analysis, technological sophistication, and attention to detail that is required for successful long-range bombing, he helped to create an interwar RAF that was woefully ill-equipped to fight, and that would suffer serious losses—and deep morale problems—in the early years of World War II as a result. Boyne leaves out some of the most important influences on the development of American doctrine for strategic bombing, and—with respect to the interwar RAF—argues: “What was not given sufficient consideration was that as modern as the German Luftwaffe was reputed to be, there was no way that it could have delivered a ‘knockout’ blow even with repeated attacks. There were simply too few aircraft, and too many targets for this to happen.” The author’s interpretation here is both oversimplified and overly reliant on hindsight. The early mistakes—and later successes— of the RAF’s intelligence assessments of the Luftwaffe have been described authoritatively, and in thoughtful detail, by such scholars as Wesley Wark and Sebastian Cox.

For a work intended for a broad audience, Boyne’s book—strangely—contains no illustrations other than the photographs on the dust jacket. Many individual air power theorists, air commanders, and pilots are mentioned in the text, but none is made to come alive on the page. Some general readers may find Boyne’s book a useful introduction to the subject, and will welcome his detailed knowledge of the aircraft he discusses. But scholars and teachers looking for a general history will be better served by Charles Gross’s American Military Aviation: The Indispensable Arm, or by John Buckley’s Air Power in the Age of Total War.


Beyond Tiananmen: The Politics of U.S.-China Relations, 1989-2000. By Robert L. Suettinger. Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2003. 556 pages. $39.95. Reviewed by Dr. Andrew Scobell, Professor of National Security Affairs, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College.

This volume is the most recent in a flurry of fascinating histories of US-China relations in the late 20th century. Beyond Tiananmen may not be the most compelling or dramatic account of this tumultuous relationship, but it is certainly the most authoritative and thorough. Other books written by journalists such as James Mann (About Face), Patrick Tyler (A Great Wall), or academics such as David Lampton (Same Bed, Different Dreams), are well worth reading, but none of them offers the wealth of detail and level of insight that Robert Suettinger provides.

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This book is very much an insider account by a career national security analyst. Suettinger witnessed many of the events he writes about or was, at the very least, privy to the inner workings of the administrations of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Refreshingly, this insider account comes without any apparent ax to grind, and Suettinger provides a remarkably evenhanded account. Moreover, the author’s insights and firsthand detail are reinforced by extensive research in print sources and by interviews with key US players on China policy.

Suettinger sets out to highlight the role of domestic politics in driving the relationship both in the United States and China, and in this endeavor he succeeds quite admirably. However, one deficiency with Beyond Tiananmen, as with the other books listed above, is a serious asymmetry in the coverage of bilateral relations. While the reader gains an enormous amount of knowledge about China policymaking inside the Beltway, considerably less detail is provided about similar dynamics in Beijing. This is attributable to the fact that researchers are afforded such limited access to Chinese decisionmakers, and publications on many topics are severely restricted. As a result, analysts have little choice but to engage in informed speculation. In fairness to Suettinger, he makes a noble effort to address the imbalance. Indeed, in this reviewer’s opinion, he does a better job of reading the Chinese tea leaves than any of the other accounts mentioned above.

Despite this, one stereotype that the author perpetuates is that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the ultimate bastion of ultra-nationalism, Chinese xenophobia (including rabid anti-Americanism), and conservatism. Of course, there is often a significant kernel of truth embedded in a stereotype, and this instance is no exception. Suettinger tends to attribute the Chinese military with being largely responsible for a good number of harsh changes in Chinese policy. This reviewer is not convinced that the evidence warrants quite such a negative and severe picture of the PLA. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile keeping in mind that soldiers in any country tend to be more staunchly nationalistic and hardline on matters of national security than the population at large. In any event, what is beyond dispute—and what Suettinger makes very clear—is that significant numbers of Chinese leaders, analysts, and ordinary people—both civilian and military—harbor deep suspicions and considerable distrust about the United States, particularly regarding US intentions vis-Ó-vis China. Events such as the accidental bombing of China’s embassy in Belgrade in 1999, the EP-3 airplane incident two years later, and US military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq in the ongoing Global War on Terrorism fuel these suspicions. And to a considerable extent these suspicions are mirrored in the United States.

But what Suettinger’s commendable effort to peel back the layers of secrecy does is to highlight the civil-military divide as a key fault-line in Chinese politics. His strong coverage of the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989 and its aftermath, for example, serves to underscore the centrality of the PLA. In the first instance it was the military that preserved the Communist Party’s monopoly on political power by crushing dissent in the streets of Beijing. In the second instance, it was a cabal of senior generals who seemed to be laying the groundwork to dominate political power after Deng Xiaoping’s death. One of Deng’s most important acts in the early 1990s was to ensure that a core of these senior military leaders—two brothers, Yang

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Shangkun and Yang Baibing—were quickly forced into retirement. This act permitted Deng’s designated successor, Jiang Zemin, who had no military experience or base of support in the PLA, the opportunity to establish himself in power and the time to build up his credentials with, and supporters in, the armed forces.

Beyond Tiananmen is an important reminder that despite the best intentions of policymakers and the skillful designs of strategists, foreign policy is more often than not greatly constrained by domestic political dynamics beyond their control. Nowhere has this been more so than with relations between Washington and Beijing since 1989. The mutual suspicions and complexities of bilateral relations evident in the first decade of the 21st century should ensure that the United States and China continue to live in interesting times.


No Room For Error: The Covert Operations of America’s Special Tactics Units from Iran to Afghanistan. By John T. Carney, Jr., and Benjamin F. Schemmer. New York: Ballantine Books, 2002. 334 pages. $25.95. Reviewed by Colonel Gregory Fontenot, USA Ret., former Commander of the Battle Command Training Program.

John Carney, with the help of Benjamin Schemmer, past editor of Armed Forces Journal International, has written an autobiographical account of the development and integration of special operations forces since the disaster at Desert One. Carney and Schemmer’s book is not the seminal history of special forces operations from Iran to Afghanistan, but it will be in the bibliography of that history when it is written. Written as a first-person account, No Room for Error really describes the culture wars in the Air Force, then among the joint forces, and finally within special operations forces as a whole. Evident from the start and explicit in the title, No Room for Error is really not about special operations forces (that term includes psychological operations and civil affairs soldiers) but rather about the guys who kick doors down.

John Carney and a handful of committed airmen together built the combat controllers and para rescue units that compose Air Force Special Tactics units. On the last page of the book, Carney notes with satisfaction that at the end of combat operations in Afghanistan they had grown “from a six man, ad hoc pickup team [to] an Air Force Group of seven squadrons.” Carney asserts that with help from a few key senior leaders, special tactics waged a long fight in the Air Force, among special operations units, and between the services to build a capability of which he is justifiably proud.

As one of the troops at Desert One who later led special tactics troops in several operations, including Grenada, Panama, and Desert Storm, Carney has an important story to tell in understanding the development of special operations and the growth and perhaps the eventual realization of joint integration. Joint operations, even in the relatively close-knit special operations community, proved difficult, in Carney’s opinion, throughout his career. Carney found that developing a special operations capability meant that everyone wanted to use it. The Air Force made it plain that if the other services wanted aircraft for special operations purposes, then they came with special tactics combat controllers. At the same time, not everyone in the Military Airlift Command shared Carney’s enthusiasm for special operations.

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Carney’s recollections are neither bitter nor smug. He is matter-of-fact in describing confrontations designed to assure his team a place at the table without denouncing those with whom he disagreed. He is candid, also, in bypassing opposition if required including using his coauthor as a co-conspirator on at least one occasion. The authors are honest too when describing the false starts Carney made and mistaken assumptions he had on what looked right as he developed the means to control air assets in special operations venues. What emerges is that Air Force special tactics units grew from a revolutionary idea by means of evolution. In short, Carney was never iconoclastic—he settled for less than he wanted in an effort to keep moving the special tactics forward, and along the way he learned how to command and develop the structure required to support special operations.

Carney’s integrity is particularly evident when recounting Grenada. By no means could Grenada be construed as a success from his vantage point. But Carney and his colleagues in other special operations units generally learned from limited successes and missteps alike.

John Carney and Ben Schemmer deliver a well-told story focused on colorful and interesting people who do very dangerous and meaningful work. No Room for Error is a compelling story that drives home the difficulty of special operations and the special qualities of those who commit themselves to that kind of service. The fact that No Room for Error also contributes to understanding the trials and tribulations of developing Air Force special tactics units is a bonus.


China’s Use of Military Force: Beyond the Great Wall and the Long March. By Andrew Scobell. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 299 pages. $65.00 ($23.00 paper). Reviewed by Dr. Mel Gurtov, author of Pacific Asia? Prospects for Security and Cooperation in East Asia and Professor of Political Science and International Studies, Portland State University.

In this very solid book, Andrew Scobell seeks to apply insights from strategic culture and civil-military relations to explaining five instances of the use of force—two of them in domestic political crises—by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). While one may quibble about the claim of theoretical novelty, there is no gainsaying the book’s comprehensiveness and scholarly value. Scobell has done his homework in a number of ways, including deploying a variety of theoretical approaches, using the latest academic writings, and supplementing all this with Chinese materials and interviews.

China’s Use of Military Force supports the findings of most specialists that Beijing has been prudent in responding forcefully to what its leaders—military and civilian—judge to be national-security crises. From whatever analytical angle one may approach the issue—civil-military relations, strategic culture, or military organizational culture—Scobell concludes that the PLA “tend[s] to be no more hawkish than Chinese statesmen,” and sometimes less so. In all cases except Taiwan in 1995-96, the paramount PRC leader controlled decisionmaking, a finding consistent with other recent works on policymaking that involved domestic issues with in-

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ternational implications. Even over Taiwan, while the PLA was “out in front” on using force, the way it was employed—chiefly, to intimidate Taiwan—was apparently a consensus decision.

In broader perspective, this reviewer found particularly worthwhile Scobell’s suggestion that today’s PLA leaders may look at the world in ways not very different from, say, US military leaders. That is, both conceptually and behaviorally, the Chinese military (and the army most of all) is cautious when it comes to advocating force but, consistent with realist politics, is prepared to use it when perceived threats seriously challenge national interests. This is not the PLA of Mao’s or even Deng’s era, Scobell reminds us; it is likely to continue modernizing and becoming more assertive. But those trends should not be confused (as advocates of the “China threat” do) with uniformity of view and belligerent behavior.

In the end, Dr. Scobell hasn’t really made a theoretical breakthrough either in explaining past PLA behavior or predicting how the PLA will behave in the next crisis. It would, however, be unreasonable to expect that he could, first, because of the paucity of information available on the inner circle of national-security decisionmaking and, second, because exactly what gets interpreted as a crisis is always a matter of politics, not science, in China or anywhere else. Furthermore, how the PLA leadership distinguishes between a domestic security crisis and an international one—and how the one may affect the other should they occur simultaneously—is another variable, one that (in light of the PLA’s involvement in ethnic unrest and drug trafficking) probably will grow in importance.

That said, the author has demonstrated just how important it is to use all available tools to decipher China’s conduct. He has produced the admirable, multidimensional study he set out to write. It probably will not persuade those who persist in believing that a rising China is (or will be) an aggressive, expansionist China. But for the rest of us, it is a welcome contribution to the dispassionate analysis of a subject that is going to stay controversial for a very long time


Lincoln’s Constitution. By Daniel Farber. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. 240 pages. $27.50. Reviewed by Colonel Thomas W. McShane, Director, National Security Legal Studies, US Army War College.

The war on terrorism compels Americans to revisit core beliefs. What defines democracy? How do we balance liberty and security in times of danger? Are we a nation of laws or of men? In Lincoln’s Constitution, Daniel Farber, a law professor and author or coauthor of five previous books on law and public policy, examines a defining event in American History—the Civil War—and critical decisions made by President Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln is both revered and reviled. His place in history is secure, but actions he took almost 150 years ago remain controversial. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, raised an Army to fight secession, and ordered American citizens to be tried by military tribunals. These actions resonate with us because of recent events: the Patriot Act’s expansion of police power; the global war on terrorism; and the impris-

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onment of suspected terrorists without trial. Arguably, today’s crisis pales in comparison to that facing the nation in April of 1861, or as Farber says, “To call the Civil War a constitutional crisis is almost a misuse of words, like calling Pearl Harbor a military setback.” Farber’s study reveals enduring truths and important precedents that we can apply to current problems.

Farber reviews the big themes underlying the Civil War: the nature of sovereignty; secession; presidential power; the nature of individual rights; and the rule of law. They help us evaluate Lincoln’s actions in context. On balance, Farber concludes, Lincoln acted in accordance with Constitutional principles and exercised incredibly good judgment while facing unprecedented challenges. Three examples illustrate Farber’s analysis: the President’s call for troops, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the use of military tribunals.

When President Lincoln called for volunteers to increase the size of the regular Army (unlike his call-up of the militia), he assumed a role normally reserved to Congress, like the power to declare war. It meant spending funds that Congress hadn’t appropriated. Since Presidents lack spending authority, Lincoln’s action was of doubtful constitutionality. Under the circumstances, however, it was necessary to preserve the Union and was later ratified by Congress when it reconvened in August 1861. Farber reviews the legal debates and issues surrounding secession, including the doctrine of state nullification and the great debates involving Calhoun, Webster, and Jackson. He concludes that secession was unconstitutional and therefore the President could take appropriate action, including military force, to prevent it.

Farber calls the Emancipation Proclamation “an extraordinary use of executive power.” While freeing slaves in the Confederate states was consistent with Lincoln’s expressed views on slavery (“a house divided”), the Constitution and court decisions, particularly the Dred Scott case, regarded slaves as property. Emancipation had enormous economic and political consequences. On the other hand, emancipation was consistent with customary laws of war, which held enemy “property” subject to confiscation to further war aims. Addressing claims that emancipation usurped congressional authority, Farber concedes that Congress possessed concurrent power to legislate emancipation, but never exercised it. This, he emphasizes, differentiates emancipation from President Truman’s seizure of steel mills during the Korean War. In that case, the Supreme Court held, Congress had expressed its intent to regulate the industry by legislation, preempting presidential action.

Lincoln has been criticized for curtailing individual freedoms—including freedom of speech and the right to habeas corpus—and the use of military tribunals. His actions brought him into personal and professional conflict with Supreme Court Chief Justice Taney, who declared Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus illegal in Ex Parte Merryman, a decision Lincoln essentially ignored. Taney remained vocal in his opposition to Lincoln’s exercise of emergency power, and he extracted a measure of revenge (the case was decided after Lincoln’s assassination) in Ex Parte Milligan. Milligan, a Confederate sympathizer from Indiana, was implicated in a paramilitary conspiracy, tried by military tribunal, and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court justices voted unanimously for Milligan, some because Congress had not authorized tribunals, others because they found tribunals unconstitutional. To-

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day Milligan stands for the proposition that US civilians must be tried by civilian courts if open and operating. This reasoning, Farber says, supports the use of tribunals in occupied areas of the South, where civilian courts could not be expected to try southerners for rebellion or other offenses against the federal government. Milligan and its progeny, including the Nazi saboteur cases and German and Japanese tribunals following World War II, are frequently cited today for various positions for or against proposed military tribunals for terrorists.

This book illuminates current debates. Farber blends historical research with a pragmatic view of the Constitution, written in language non-lawyers will understand. Readers may not agree with everything he says, and critical thinking is encouraged. He criticizes quasi-religious reverence for the Constitution and Bill of Rights, regarding them as living documents open to interpretation by succeeding generations facing new challenges. Rights are not absolute, he says, but must be constantly weighed against the survival of the state and societal values. He concludes with a chapter titled “The Lessons of History.” Farber admires Lincoln and reminds us that character counts and that it counts even more in perilous times. Individuals make a difference. Yet Farber is a firm believer in the rule of law. He says that Lincoln never regarded himself as above the law and stood willing to face the consequences of his actions. Speaking of the choice between the rule of law and the rule of men, Farber says, “At least in a time of crisis, maintaining the ideals of the rule of law depends in a crucial way on the character and courage of a society’s leaders.” It is a lesson for our times.


Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea. By Robert K. Massie. New York: Random House, 2003. 865 pages. $35.00. Reviewed by Captain Steven W. Nerheim, USN, Senior Navy Representative, US Army War College.

When my Royal Navy friends are spinning sea stories, like as not someone will call out “swing the lamp.” Robert K. Massie’s densely woven work contains a sea story of gigantic proportions, but this very readable book provides much more in the bargain. The author has captured a side of the Great War too often neglected by our predominantly Euro-centric, land-focused approach to that conflict. This is a compelling, comprehensive analysis of naval warfare at the strategic and operational levels of war. The ever-present ghost of Lord Admiral Nelson is joined by the shadows of Jackie Fisher and Alfred von Tirpitz as influences on the actions of Admirals Jellicoe, Beatty, Scheer, and Hipper and the decisions of their respective governments.

All the familiar tales are told, along with some not so frequently rehearsed. From the Royal Navy’s frustrating chase of Goeben and Breslau in the Mediterranean, to the roundup of the German raiders in the South Atlantic and Pacific, and from Cornel to the Falklands, the Royal Navy’s actions in 1914-15 shaped the situation on the high seas, rather expensively in ships lost and reputations dimmed, to leave Britannia ruling the waves. When the ground campaigns had staggered into tactical stalemate on the western front, the war at sea provided the only remaining opportunity to exercise strategic influence. The resulting decisions for (and the political and personal re-

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percussions of) a chain of these opportunities are clearly laid out as they were grasped, each in their turn: the naval expedition to force the Dardanelles; the quest for a decisive naval engagement; the German decision for unrestricted submarine warfare and the American entry into the war that it provoked.

The British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet sought a decisive naval engagement for nearly two years. The strategic tensions which accumulated as plans to engineer a fleet action matured are reflected in Massie’s vivid descriptions of the individual shipboard tensions in the final moments before the Battle of Jutland was joined in May 1916. Clausewitz’s “fog of war” was present at Jutland, and was strongly augmented by the real fogs, the real mists, and the quirky conditions of lighting so prevalent in the North Sea. Effective, accurate gunnery, a Royal Navy hallmark from the time of the Napoleonic Wars, would disappoint here. The traditional British gunnery edge was lost to superb German optics and was offset by superior German ship design and construction that enabled excellent damage control through extensive shipboard compartmentalization by limiting both progressive flooding and the spread of fires.

There was no shortage of British failures in the conduct of the Battle of Jutland. Ashore, these ranged from the inadequacies of individuals on the Admiralty staff to the intelligence failures of Room 40. At sea with the Battle Cruiser Force, Beatty adhered to Nelson’s maxim to “Engage the enemy more closely,” closed his counterpart German cruisers, and ceded the advantage of his longer gun ranges and greater speed. Jellicoe, in his turn, missed an opportunity to place the entire Grand Fleet between the High Seas Fleet and its bases behind the minefields of the German bight. This failure is largely attributable to the utter failure of his subordinate flag officers and captains to provide timely position reporting—the timeless saga of moving information from those who have it to those who need it. But at the end of the day, responsibility devolves upon the commander at sea, and Jellicoe had missed the fleeting opportunity to deliver a decisive victory in Trafalgar-fashion.

But did it matter? Contemporary debate raged, and in some lifestyle-challenged circles continues to rage, over who “won” at Jutland. The Jellicoe-Beatty rivalry unmasked in the wake of Jutland exceeded even the acrimonious and all-too-public feud between the American Admirals Sampson and Schley that had expanded Spanish-American War hostilities into the popular press and naval professional journals. Adherents of both Jellicoe and his rival Beatty (not to mention their supposed shared opponents in the German fleet) keep the discussion alive. This reviewer, for one, comes down solidly on Jellicoe’s side. By preserving British control of the sea, the Grand Fleet achieved both Jellicoe’s stated intent and the remit of his fleet. By what other standard can strategic success be defined? But such is the nature of sea power theory and the character of war on the borderless seas.

As the likelihood of a fleet rematch receded after 1916, the reapplication of economic pressure by blockade and unrestricted submarine warfare shaped the strategic processes of both naval belligerents and narrowed the options of the remaining major neutral. Massie explores the German calculus among creating and capitalizing on a one-front war, strangling Britain with unrestricted submarine warfare, and potentially precipitating American entry. The naval side of World War I be-

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came, as would the next, a struggle of small ships pitting destroyers and trawlers against submarines to preserve or to destroy the transatlantic lifeline. As in 1939-43 there were never enough escorts on the one side, never enough submarines on the other. As commander of the Grand Fleet, Admiral Jellicoe displayed a well-placed concern for the threat of underwater weapons (mines and torpedoes) to his dreadnoughts. With the implementation of unrestricted submarine warfare, that concern would transcend the tactical threat to his battle fleets and become a strategic threat to the survival of Great Britain. Ultimately the construction of sufficient escorts, the implementation of convoys, and the entry of the United States assured the transatlantic passage of munitions, stocks, and troops in sufficient numbers to shift the balance on the western front.

Massie captures, whole and alive, the strong personalities of giants at war and reveals political infighting as vicious as any running gun battle at sea. Britain’s pre-war First Sea Lord, the dedicated sailor Prince Louis of Battenberg, became an early and unfortunate sacrifice to political expediency owing largely to his Germanic origins. Winston Churchill, arguably with more cause, was sacked as First Lord of the Admiralty after an attempt to force the Dardanelles degenerated into the bloody Gallipoli Campaign. Jackie Fisher’s resignation as First Sea Lord accompanied in the mix of Gallipoli. The ultimate succession of Jellicoe by Beatty at the Admiralty owed much to the political intrigues of the otherwise unfaithful Mrs. Beatty, but that, as Rudyard Kipling might have said, is another story.

While this book stands well alone, it is really the concluding volume of Massie’s earlier Dreadnought, and thus focuses on the role of the capital ships. My fellow destroyermen may see this as coming at the cost of a fuller discussion of the anti-submarine campaign that dominated the last years of the war, but the tactical story is well told elsewhere, and Massie gives the strategic issues a full hearing.

In short, Massie leaves no loose threads. His research and his narrative are complete and accomplished, and you’ll not need to wonder whatever became of X, Y, or Z. Through footnotes or scarcely noticed departures from his narrative, Massie concludes virtually every tale. While occasionally the book could benefit from more and richer maps, these are readily found elsewhere. The indexing is adequate, but this book ought not be used in the manner of an encyclopedia. T. E. Lawrence remarked in the introduction to his Seven Pillars of Wisdom that he “had never used the index of a book fit to read.” By that measure, none is required here. If you seek a robust appreciation of naval strategy in World War I, this is a book “fit to read.”

Oh, and by the way—Swing the Lamp!


Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. By Walter Isaacson. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. 590 pages. $30.00. Reviewed by Captain Thomas A. Rider, Instructor, Department of History, US Military Academy.

The last several years have seen the resurgence of biographies and other historical works focused on America’s founding generation. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, and others

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have all appeared as the subjects of recent biographical studies, while works such as Joseph Ellis’s Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation have sought to examine the interaction of these figures in the birth of the nation. This trend might denote a backlash against some professional historians who have for the past several decades emphasized the common man’s role at the expense of more prominent political and military leaders. It seems only too obvious, however, that to understand significant historical events, one must evaluate the people most responsible for bringing about those events. In this vein, Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin: An American Life delineates Franklin’s indispensable role in the forging of America.

Isaacson, a veteran journalist, has served as the managing editor of Time magazine and the chairman of CNN. His journalistic skill is evident through his clear prose and comprehensible style. This book is a pleasure to read and should be readily accessible to anyone with even a basic understanding of early American history. At the same time, professional historians will appreciate Isaacson’s meticulous research and familiarity with both the primary and secondary literature related to Franklin and 18th-century America. Particularly impressive is Isaacson’s evaluation of Franklin’s writings across the spectrum of his life from those penned as a young Boston apprentice in the 1720s under the pseudonym “Silence Dogood” through his petition advocating the abolition of slavery shortly before his death. While Isaacson presents this study of Franklin primarily as a chronological narrative, several themes worthy of detailed discussion permeate the work.

As previously suggested, the book emphasizes Franklin’s indispensable role in the creation of America. While most Americans are vaguely acquainted with the inventor of bifocals or the man who flew a kite to discover electricity, only a work as comprehensive as Isaacson’s fully conveys the debt which this nation owes Benjamin Franklin. Keeping with this theme, the book’s subtitle, An American Life, refers to how Franklin saw himself as an “American” and advocated unity among the colonies decades before the threat of British aggression forced most Pennsylvanians, Virginians, and New Yorkers to put aside their parochial interests and forge a single nation. Isaacson also reveals Franklin’s vital and singular efforts in such momentous events as the repeal of the Stamp Act, the Declaration of Independence, the American alliance with France in 1778, the eventual peace treaty with Great Britain in 1782, and the development of the United States Constitution. In each case, Isaacson compellingly argues that Franklin did not simply participate in these events but played an essential role in their outcome.

Readers of this book will also gain a firm appreciation for the complexity of the man who was Benjamin Franklin. According to Isaacson, Franklin exemplified the Enlightenment in America and typically exhibited a rational and pragmatic approach to morality, business, politics, and life in general. These characteristics served him well as a diplomat and advocate of compromise, but Franklin occasionally abandoned the pragmatic and rational approach when advocating for issues to which he had an emotional attachment. Franklin abandoned his Puritan upbringing and most connections to organized religion in favor of his own moral code, which emphasized frugality, industry, and good works. Throughout his life, however, he inconsistently applied and practiced this code. Additionally, Franklin sought the

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company of surrogate families during his many trips throughout the North American colonies, Great Britain, and France while sometimes showing indifference and even coldness to his own wife and children.

While the aforementioned themes should be readily apparent to anyone who reads this book, members of the US Army and the defense community will also appreciate and garner insight from Franklin’s long career as an emissary to foreign governments. Works of history rarely offer ready-made lessons to be blindly applied. However, in this era where cooperation with foreign militaries and civilian authorities has become so important, Isaacson’s portrayal of Franklin as a colonial agent and minister to France should stimulate further thought on the makings of effective diplomacy.

 More significantly, this book should spur professional soldiers to reaffirm their attitudes concerning selfless service. While Franklin was far from perfect, he always sought to live a life useful to others. In this he excelled. As a young businessman he established a volunteer fire company and the American Philosophical Society. Upon retiring from business he served in colonial government, organized militia units for Pennsylvania’s defense against the French and Indians, and played an instrumental role in establishing what would eventually become the University of Pennsylvania. In the ten years before the American Revolution, Franklin lobbied in England to try to avert war. During his absence from home his wife died, and for his troubles he was publicly humiliated by Britain’s solicitor general. When a breach with Britain became unavoidable, Franklin, then in his seventies, served as a congressional delegate and diplomat, risking his life and the estrangement of his son, who remained loyal to the crown. As Isaacson demonstrates, Franklin continued trying to live a useful life in service to his country even while on his deathbed in 1790.

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life is an outstanding book by any measure. Like its subject, the book is not without fault. The author’s suggestion that we can credit Franklin with the emergence of an American, middle-class character proves much more difficult to substantiate than Franklin’s indispensable role in certain key events. When it is weighed in the balance, however, the reader will find it a useful and enjoyable work. I highly recommend this book to both the soldier-scholar and to the average American.


Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam: Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife. By John A. Nagl. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 2002. 272 pages. $81.95. Reviewed by Lieutenant Colonel Raymond A. Millen, Director, Regional Security Affairs, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College.

As the title suggests, this book compares and contrasts the British approach to counterinsurgency in Malaya with the American approach in Vietnam. As a unifying theme, John Nagl constructs a learning model for military institutions (how well they apply lessons learned and adapt to dynamic conflict environments) and examines the performance of the British and American counterinsurgency strategies. In a practical sense, this model has little military application for counterinsurgency warfare and is, at best, of interest to political scientists.

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Nagl provides a cursory background on insurgency warfare theory, starting with the Spanish insurgency during the Napoleonic wars and its influence on Clausewitz’s and Jomini’s writings. Nagl correctly points out that Clausewitz’s “remarkable trinity”—commonly construed as the people, the army, and the government—is just as applicable to insurgency warfare as it is to conventional conflict.

Nagl overreaches, however, when he argues Jomini’s influence on American military thought. Specifically, he erroneously avers that battles of annihilation, with the destruction of the enemy army as the primary military objective, are purely a Jominian concept. Clausewitz explicitly maintains that the “destruction of the enemy forces is the overriding principle of war, and, so far as positive action is concerned, the principal way to achieve our object.”

This egregious overstatement undermines Nagl’s initial assertion that the origin of the American debacle in Vietnam was due to a US Army predisposition to conduct battles of annihilation. Fortunately, his chapters on Vietnam are more balanced as he explores other explanations for the American failure (the influence of World War II and Korea on that generation of American senior officers, US Army resistance to President Kennedy’s approach to insurgency warfare using Special Forces, and a stubborn determination to elevate military objectives at the expense of political objectives).

The influence of Clausewitz on Mao Tse-tung’s theory of revolutionary warfare is instructive in that the role of the people in supporting an insurgency becomes essential. The most pertinent aspect is the understanding that the indigenous population provides the security (cover and concealment), intelligence, sustenance, recruits, and other resources for the insurgent not just to survive but to flourish. Nagl ends this chapter with five principles of counterinsurgency, providing, like the principles of war, a formulaic approach. Nevertheless, Nagl correctly concludes that the people are the center of gravity in insurgency warfare—a point that cannot be overemphasized.

The next chapter attempts to explain why the British and American approaches to insurgency differed so remarkably in Malaya and Vietnam. Nagl reflects that the British experience with managing the Empire permitted them to remain flexible and adaptable to the changing nature of conflicts. The Americans, on the other hand, became so enthralled with battles of annihilation as a result of World War II and the Korean conflict that they regarded insurgency warfare as an anomaly and, even if it did take place, thought insurgents could be easily defeated by conventional forces.

To an extent Nagl’s premise has validity, but it suffers from his cherry-picking the evidence. The British adapted well in Malaya, but they greatly bungled the insurgency in Northern Ireland. The American effort in Vietnam lacked a coherent and adaptive strategy, but the counterinsurgency strategy during the Korean conflict (albeit not well known) was quite effective. Nagl’s premise would be stronger had he focused more on the military and political leadership to explain the different approaches rather than stressing systemic or organizational flaws.

The two chapters on the Malaya insurgency and Britain’s successful counterinsurgency strategy are quite informative. Interestingly, the British flailed about during the first three years of the insurgency (1948-1951), attempting to destroy the

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insurgents with large military sweeps and to isolate the inhabitants from the insurgents with the strategic hamlet concept.

During this period, the British failed to inflict substantial losses on the insurgents and alienated the inhabitants by indiscriminate destruction and killing. In fact, the insurgency gained strength and expanded its hold on the population to such an extent that the British counterinsurgency effort was on the verge of failure.

The turnabout came in 1952 when the British concluded that the key to the counterinsurgency strategy lay in enlisting the help of the people. In abstract, the British placed the political future of Malaya in the hands of Malayans, ensuring the main ethnic groups were included. The British empowered the indigenous police forces (though headed by a British police commissioner) with the army in a supporting role, and launched a sophisticated propaganda campaign to explain their policies to the people and to undermine the will of the insurgents.

The eventual granting of independence of a free Malaya in 1957 represented a milestone for the success of the British effort, even though the actual insurgency lasted until 1960. The example shows that a successful counterinsurgency campaign might last years, but if conducted intelligently it need not result in a burdensome military effort or excessive financial expenditures.

The two chapters on the American experience in Vietnam also validate the efficacy of the British model. The primary error of the American strategy was in not recognizing that the Vietnamese people were the key to success. Instead, the primary US focus remained on killing guerrillas and North Vietnamese regulars. No real effort was made to enlist the help of the inhabitants, and the detrimental and repressive policies of the successive Republic of Vietnam governments alienated the citizenry.

Certainly, a number of American officers and British advisors provided powerful arguments for a shift in strategy, and the success of the US Marine Combined Action Platoon (CAP) program as well as the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) program demonstrated that a shift in strategy was possible and could be effective.

The author states that military systemic and cultural biases stymied attempts to create a winning strategy. These flaws greatly diminished the potential power wielded by the military and political leaders—almost making them appear to be victims of the system. For a number of reasons—many of them parochial—the stewards of the Vietnam War strategy chose to ignore the tenets of counterinsurgency warfare. Clearly, the military and political leadership refused to subordinate the military objectives to political goals.

Large military and civilian casualties, destruction, and over-optimistic and unrealistic military assessments eroded the support of the American people, dooming a sustained counterinsurgency. The primary lesson garnered is that counterinsurgencies are long-term efforts, requiring patience and a strategy that protects the people and ensures their involvement in the political process.

Despite minor flaws, John Nagl’s book is a valuable asset for identifying key aspects of a successful counterinsurgency strategy. Lessons from the Malaya insurgency and the Vietnam conflict should be beneficial for American political and military leaders.

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The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels. By Michael Watkins. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2003. 253 pages. $24.95. Reviewed by Dr. Richard Meinhart, Associate Professor, Defense & Joint Processes, US Army War College.

This management book, apply titled as it identifies critical success strategies leaders should apply in their first 90 days at almost any hierarchical level, is certainly a welcome addition to the literature. The focused nature of the book’s ten chapters will definitely appeal to leaders who believe in a structured approach when executing their new responsibilities, whether those are the result of a promotion within their organization or a transfer to a new company. Since anecdotal vignettes of leaders’ practical experiences introduce many of the straightforward, no-nonsense approaches to identifying ways for success or not falling into unrecoverable errors, this book will also appeal to those who perceptively learn from the lessons of others.

The author focuses on accelerating a new leader to reach the “breakeven” point, a position defined as where the leader is contributing to the organization rather than consuming the organization’s time and energy. It is simply the point where the new leader adds value to the organization. Consequently, the book focuses on accelerating a successful leader to the breakeven point within 90 days rather than the expected 180-day period managers generally believe is needed to reach this point. In today’s results-oriented and fast-paced environment, reducing the transition time for new leaders can be very important to ultimate success, a view the author reinforces by his frequent use of the word “accelerating.”

Watkins uses more of a qualitative versus a quantitative research approach to identify ten different areas to focus on during a leader’s transition, although he does include some statistical data to illustrate key points. The data add credibility to the approaches and strategies the author recommends. Each of these ten areas is explained in a separate chapter, with the first three chapters focusing on promoting yourself, accelerating your learning, and matching strategy to situation. In this way, a leader is encouraged to be more introspective to first understand oneself and the upcoming challenges with the new position before making decisions that are externally focused. The next three chapters address making important decisions to secure early wins, negotiating success, and then achieving alignment with the strategy, structure, systems, and skills of one’s organization. The author then discusses the importance of building your team and creating coalitions with others in your organization to establish the early foundations for success. The book’s last two chapters are on keeping a leader’s balance in a new position and then, perhaps the most long-term strategy, having a leader accelerate the development of people within his or her organization and becoming a force in the growth of subordinates.

This book’s main strength is that Watkins recognizes managerial situations as having different challenges and opportunities that require different strategies. Hence Watkins divides leadership transitions into the following four distinct categories: startup (getting a new enterprise off the ground); turnaround (putting a troubled unit back on track); realignment (revitalizing an existing enterprise that is

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heading into trouble); and sustaining success (taking a successful unit to the next level). These four distinct categories are fully introduced in Chapter Three and then applied to the approaches discussed in the other chapters, so the strategy matches the situation. In addition, while the book is relevant for leaders at all hierarchical levels within an organization, a point noted in the book’s subtitle, the value a reader places on approaches covered in each chapter can differ depending on his or her position and experience.

The book’s principal weakness is its somewhat methodical and checklist approach. For example, at the end of each chapter is an acceleration checklist, which varies from three to seven items. While this checklist summarizes key points a reader needs to take from the material covered, at times it seems too simplistic and unneeded. The text, which frequently uses lists, tables, or numbered points to convey the author’s main points, is sufficient—having another checklist at the end of each chapter is simply overkill.

Overall the manner by which the material is discussed is reminiscent of the 1996 best-selling book by John Kotter, Leading Change. Some of Watkins’ ten chapters, particularly those associated with securing early wins and creating coalitions, are also part of Kotter’s eight-stage process for creating organizational change. However, the focus of Watkins’ book is clearly different, as it more directly identifies techniques for new leaders to place in their leadership tool kit and use as the situation warrants.

The First 90 Days is relevant to senior members of the defense community whether they are military or civilian, because many of these leaders often change positions in a two- to three-year cycle. The dust jacket recognizes this defense attraction, as one of the people highly endorsing the book is a colonel in the US Army, who believes the book’s material will accelerate one’s learning and transition. This reviewer strongly agrees. While leading an organization is a long-term proposition, our “results now” society places additional pressure on new managers to make the right decisions to either move their organization forward or at least not have it digress early on during a transition. Michael Watkins’ book is easy to read and comprehend, and it is highly recommended, for it can help a leader to ask the right questions, be more organized and introspective, and feel more confident when transitioning to a new leadership challenge.


How Democracies Lose Small Wars: State, Society, and the Failures of France in Algeria, Israel in Lebanon, and the United States in Vietnam. By Gil Merom. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 295 pages. $65.00 ($23.00 paper). Reviewed by Dr. Stephen Blank, Professor of National Security Studies, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College.

According to the author, democracies lose small wars because the requirements of winning them ultimately prove to be morally and politically beyond what critical domestic constituencies are willing to accept. In these wars the most politically relevant elites create a normative difference between what the government

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feels it has to do to win and what they consider acceptable policy for a democracy. Ultimately, or at least in the cases brought forward here, the governments involved, stymied by protracted war and rising unrest at home, resort to measures that endanger the democratic nature of their own regimes, at which point the majority rises up and essentially unseats those responsible for the failed strategy.

To advance this theory the author cites three wars which certainly ended in failure and in a domestic crisis of democracy in each of the three states analyzed: France, Israel, and the United States. In the concluding chapter he attempts to make his theoretical findings policy-relevant. As an Israeli scholar, he naturally is concerned to use those theoretical and comparative findings to advance an argument which he feels is policy-relevant to Israel’s current war of counter-terror against Palestinian terrorism. Thus Merom’s book attempts to exemplify the comparative method in the study of small wars and be relevant in the spheres of both theory and policy.

In support of this thesis Merom brings forth a number of interesting and potentially useful ideas and insights in his case studies. But ultimately neither the thesis nor the policy lessons he seeks to impart are convincing. Although the author admits he is focusing on the state-society nexus in warfare and not on strategy, the book is remarkably one-sided in its choices of examples and is methodologically unsound. To begin with, not all democracies lose small wars—e.g. the British in Malaya, Northern Ireland, or Cyprus. Nowhere does he explain why this is the case or account for that phenomenon. Second, neither is Israeli society, much to Merom’s chagrin, willing to renounce the tactics that brought it military victory if not strategic and political victory in the current Palestinian terror war. Third, not only democracies lose small wars. Moscow’s performance in Afghanistan and twice in Chechnya is nothing to write home about. (However, the Afghan war and the first war in Chechnya ultimately produced levels of domestic unrest that might have strengthened the author’s observations on state-society relations.)

These omissions are ignored throughout. From the outset the choice of examples is skewed to create a tautology, since these democracies failed to achieve their war aims or lost the war for reasons that support Merom’s belief. But this failure of methodology pales before the fact that a book about three of the most researched wars of our time is utterly innocent of any discussion of strategy. Democracies and governments in general do not lose wars, small or otherwise, because they are democracies, but rather because they apply faulty or deficient strategies which lead to an ultimately intolerable prolongation of the war. It is this prolongation of the war because of bad strategy and policy that facilitates the rupture between state and society, not the phenomenon of the war in and of itself. This distinction is apparently lost on the author.

Abundant evidence suggests that getting the strategy right does not put intolerable strains on the government in question. But instead of examining the underlying strategy, whose failure reveals the dynamics in the state-society relationship, Merom simply ignores this dimension of warfare. As a result the analysis is unconvincing. After all, if a government wages war with sound strategy and public support, it will not falter even if intellectual and media elites find the strategy or policy

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to be unacceptable. Moreover, if the strategy is sound, there is reason to believe an insurgency can be broken within a reasonable time, e.g. the Philippine insurgency of 1899-1902 or the Soviet Union’s victories over various insurgencies during the first 50 years of its reign.

While Merom provides interesting insights about the state-society relationship, this book cannot be taken seriously as explaining why democracies lose small wars. Ultimately it is like watching Hamlet without the prince—the players have their entrances and exits but we do not gain understanding or insight because we are watching what amounts to a dumb show. Ultimately the field remains open for better analysis and for better theory as to how democracies succeed or fail in wartime, particularly in small wars.


Terrorism, Afghanistan, and America’s New Way of War. By Norman Friedman. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2003. 360 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Captain Matthew J. Morgan, Fellow of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society.

Norman Friedman has written an excellent book that seamlessly moves across the three topics that his title advertises. His analysis begins with an account of the 9/11 attacks and the events leading up to and following that terrible day. I was reluctant to rehash these events in reading Chapter 1, and many Americans, intimately acquainted with 9/11, may feel the same way. However, the first chapter was a very engaging read, pulling the reader into familiar events and illuminating many aspects of the attacks and their aftermath with which readers may be unfamiliar. The next chapters, recounting the recent history of terrorism and the American response, were especially interesting, as the release of the book was in time for controversial testimony to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9-11 Commission). Friedman covers systemic problems in the national counterterrorism apparatus and is particularly critical of the restrained response of the Clinton Administration during the 1990s.

After his discussion of terrorism, Friedman transitions to an exposition on Afghanistan. This section of the book is also compelling and well-researched, describing the Taliban regime as a “terrorist-sponsored state” that was essentially ruled by Osama bin Laden. These chapters reveal the large number of foreign terrorists and the significant degree to which they influenced the internal workings of Afghanistan. This sets up nicely for a transition to the war in Afghanistan, where Friedman describes a much more active and instrumental role of al Qaeda Arabs in the Taliban resistance than many Americans might realize.

The final portion of the book covers in detail the last item in the title series: a new American way of war. The book, written shortly before the American invasion of Iraq, makes some incorrect predictions about similarities between Afghanistan and Iraq. Friedman’s observations nonetheless provide valuable insights into modern warfare as exemplified by Operation Enduring Freedom. Several themes emerge. First, coalition warfare is of extraordinary significance to augment the limitations of power projection. The coalition forces to which the author alludes are

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not our British and Australian allies (although he describes these as well), but more significantly the indigenous military forces that joined the fight, specifically the Northern Alliance. Second, naval platforms provide mobile bases for reconnaissance and air support, although there are serious logistical complications that follow. This point is significant on a political level because it reduces the possibility that neighboring countries can have veto power over the campaign. Friedman writes that this maritime access was “probably decisive” in Afghanistan. Third, network-centric warfare and precision munitions were dramatically successful (indeed, this is a major similarity with the Iraq war). Finally, Dr. Friedman is sympathetic to the “neo-cons” of the Bush Administration, arguing the central benefits of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the war on terrorism. (And he presciently did not emphasize the presence of weapons of mass destruction.)

While the book has many strengths as a whole, there are some flaws. At some points, the author relied on secondary sources even when making controversial or unexpected claims. An example of this was connecting Iraq to 9/11 by pointing out that the Iraqi military went on high alert immediately before 11 September. If this is true, deeper inquiry into the source and more analysis should be provided; if it is unreliable, then it should be omitted. There are other examples of this pattern. More problematic is a reference to a “secret study” in June 2001 that has no endnote, leaving the reader uncertain whether it is a government (presumably American CIA or military) study, whether the classification is secret or the study was conducted covertly (or both), and how the author knows of the study (firsthand or secondhand) to indicate whether it is a trustworthy assertion (presumably the author trusts it since he includes it). Finally, the book suffers from some editorial oversights and typographical errors, including a reference to the ejection of “UN weapons inspectors in 1988,” instead of the correct year, 1998.

Overall, I recommend the book to senior members of the national defense community. The flaws mentioned above are minor details, and these slight imperfections are outweighed by a very strong and well-written analysis that contributes in a timely way to our ongoing professional forum on the war on terrorism.


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Reviewed 17 August 2004. Please send comments or corrections to usarmy.carlisle.awc.mbx.parameters@mail.mil