From Parameters, Spring 1999, pp. 173-86.
The Next World War: Computers Are the Weapons and the Front Line Is Everywhere. By James Adams. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998. 366 pages. $25.00. Reviewed by Dr. Steven Metz, Research Professor of National Security Affairs, US Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute.
The US Army is the undisputed master of a mode of warfare that may be declining in strategic significance. No military is better at conventional state-on-state warfare where mechanized and armored units participate in combined arms combat. None can match the US Army at the type of operational art defined by corps maneuver and campaigns. But, as Edward Luttwak points out, strategy exhibits a paradoxical logic. Mastery is often fleeting, since only stupid enemies directly confront the primary strengths of a first-rate military. This has profound implications for the American Army. As Chief of Staff General Dennis Reimer admits, "Nobody is going to go against us tank against tank, soldier against solider." What, then, are the most likely security challenges the United States might face in coming decades? This is the question James Adams grapples with in The Next World War. His answer is information warfare.
Adams paints a picture of a schism within the US defense establishment between "traditional war fighters who see war as a relentlessly brutal exercise that will always require the deployment of large numbers of people and machines to take and hold land," and "the modernists who see war moving away from a fixed battlefield into a location that has come to be called cyberspace." To some extent, this is shaped by service. "While the Navy and Air Force are competing for Information Age roles and missions," Adams writes, "the Army continues to focus on traditional war." He contends (without much explanation) that information warfare will supersede traditional conflict, thus making organizations and individuals who refuse to change obsolete. He writes:
As the twentieth century drew to a close, the information revolution was harnessing the technology to produce and develop new weapons and systems that would transform the way wars would be fought in the future. For the revolutionaries, these new products presented real promise of radical new ways of waging war. The traditionalists were confronted with the reality of either embracing the new world or ceding the battlefield to other nations that felt less constrained by the lessons of ancient history.
To support this argument, Adams draws on a dizzying array of trends, events, problems, and issues, ranging from the debate within the US military over the significance of information warfare to a comparison of operations in Somalia and Haiti. Without a pause he marches through emerging technologies, such as nonlethal weapons and micro electro-mechanical systems, to the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure, with diversions into the topics like encryption, the function of the National Security Agency, French economic espionage, and hacker culture. Stylistically, Adams' approach mirrors that of Alvin Toffler, with topics and vignettes introduced in staccato succession with no time for full dissection. As a journalist he leans more toward riveting the reader's attention than making watertight arguments.
For the general reader the frenetic pace and scattershot approach are useful ways to make information warfare more accessible. They do, though, create some conceptual and analytical problems for security professionals who might read the book. For instance, Adams defines information warfare as anything involving coercion and computers. With a definition that broad, the contention that information warfare will dominate the future security environment becomes both irrefutable and nearly meaningless. It might make more sense to separate information warfare into three interrelated components: first, the role of information technology as an enabler of traditional-style military operations (e.g. the "digitized" Army); second, the psychological component of strategy, including technologically augmented psychological operations and the mobilization and sustainment of public support in an information-rich strategic environment; and third, strategic information warfare, in which a nation is attacked electronically. Of these, only the third would truly represent the revolutionary change that Adams talks about.
Strategic information warfare where cyberspace is the sole battlespace rather than a component of it would signal a sea change in the nature of armed conflict. But in this realm, Adams never really completes his argument. He does show that technology is providing individuals, groups, and states with the theoretical capacity to wage strategic information warfare. He also shows that the United States does remain vulnerable, in part because there is no historical experience to serve as the foundation for a defense. But he does not show that strategic information warfare undertaken with current technology will have the psychological effect that its proponents seek. Adams' argument about strategic information warfare is similar to those made by the early prophets of strategic bombing. World War II eventually proved that Douhet, Mitchell, and others greatly underestimated strategic bombing's complexity and the extent to which it must be part of a wider military campaign rather than something that is decisive on its own. In all likelihood, strategic information warfare would be similar. What is needed from analysts of information warfare is some sort of comprehensive psychological study to assess the effect that an attack might have. How might the American people react? How might American leaders react? How might allies react? How might opponents react? Strategy always has both psychological and technological components. Both must be understood if risk is to be measured and proportionate responses crafted.
If Adams' general descriptions were developed systematically they might suggest that an organization's effectiveness at information warfare will depend on three variables. First is the resources that it can bring to bear, whether money, time, or brainpower. Information warfare is certainly a mode of conflict where numbers alone are much less significant than in conventional combat, but resources are not irrelevant. The idea that a lone hacker with little more than a desktop PC and a modem can bring the United States to its knees is probably a myth. The second variable is the affinity of the organization for creative, fluid, and nonlinear thinking. As Adams points out, militaries are not known for this. The general assumption is that this will give nonstate participants in information warfare something of an advantage. The question is whether militaries and other state security organizations can compensate for their cumbersomeness and bureaucratic information flows by mustering greater resources than their opponents. If information warfare is the major threat to American security in the future, might it make sense to craft some radically new organization to deal with it? The third variable is the ethical and legal constraints under which an organization undertakes information warfare. Again, the assumption is that the enemies of the United States will be much less encumbered by ethical and legal issues. But, as Adams notes, some other states like China also seem less constrained. This again leads to the question of whether resources can compensate for the greater ethical and mental freedom of America's future enemies.
In the end, Adams has written a work which is useful but not complete. That is not an indictment. Symphony concerts often begin with a short musical piece like an overture that has a fast tempo and is relatively light before moving to the larger, more complex, and more profound parts of the program. This is the role that The Next World War may play in the development of information warfare. It was not intended as the final word, but an introduction. It ends with a brief survey of some of the key issues concerning information warfare, such as the debate over whether it will be stabilizing or destabilizing and whether legal notions such as sovereignty will have any meaning at all. Other issues, such as whether the US military can adapt without some sort of cataclysmic failure, are not examined. In general, readers who have not examined information warfare will find the book a useful beginning. To the extent that Adams makes information warfare accessible to a wider audience, he has performed a valuable service. But the real question is: What comes next? Information warfare probably is the security dilemma of the next millennium. Others must now move forward from surveys to comprehensive analyses, always sensitive to the interplay of technology and psychology.
The Company They Keep: Life Inside the U.S. Army Special Forces. By Anna Simons. New York: Free Press, 1997. 240 pp. $25.00. Rpt.; New York: Avon Books, 1998. 237 pages. $5.99 (paper). Reviewed by Colonel Henry G. Gole, USA Ret., who served two tours in Vietnam with the 5th Special Forces Group, one of them with MACVSOG.
UCLA anthropology professor Anna Simons tells us that she married the third Special Forces (SF) soldier she met. Research in Somalia got her a Ph.D., a husband, her first scholarly book, Networks of Dissolution: Somalis Undone, and, in due course, resulted in The Company They Keep. Academic preparation, status as a "military dependent," access to Special Forces in the field and in team rooms at Fort Bragg for a year and a half--and gutsy initiative--combined to produce a very insightful book useful to anyone who would understand SF as it really is.
This is not a fawning book. She dispels myth and hearsay, using her professional analytical skills to address the essence of Special Forces: the relationship between the confident, even cocky, individual trooper and the demanding basic Special Forces building block, the A-team, a relationship she captures perfectly as "standing out and fitting in."
Simons accepted olive green when she moved from Cambridge, Mass., to Fayetteville, N.C., but the objectivity and skepticism of Harvard crimson is evident in her exploration of a new and foreign culture. Thumbnail sketches of the heredity and organization of Special Forces are brisk, and her exegesis of the centerpiece of her book, the reconciliation of standing out and fitting in, is appropriately deliberate and full.
SF traces its roots to the 1st Special Services Force, a Canadian-American unit founded in 1942 and disbanded in 1945, to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) that controlled the Jedburgh teams dropped into German-occupied France, and to Detachment 101, which operated in Burma during World War II. The need for an American unconventional warfare capability resulted in the establishment of two heirs to OSS, the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947 and 10th SF Group in 1952. While the popular image of Special Forces is tied to Vietnam in the 1960s, they had been busy, but low-key, in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa before the Vietnam buildup.
SF has four distinct but related lines of work: (1) unconventional warfare, encompassing guerrilla war, sabotage, subversion, escape and evasion; (2) foreign internal defense, assisting a government to protect against insurgency--the flip side of unconventional warfare; (3) direct action, strikes, raids, ambushes, sabotage; and (4) special reconnaissance, learning the capabilities, intentions, and activities of an actual or potential enemy, or the disposition of a site. Civic Action to win hearts and minds goes hand-in-hand with unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense. It is most often performed by the medics and engineers who treat and heal people, find and purify water, build bridges, and otherwise produce specific tangible benefits.
The basic building block of SF--and its soul--is the operational detachment A, or A-Team, consisting of 12 men. A captain commands and a warrant officer is second in command. The team sergeant is the operations sergeant, and he has an assistant operations sergeant. Two each medics, engineers, weapons sergeants, and communications sergeants round out the team. The redundancy permits the team to be split into two equal wholes, should the mission so dictate.
Six A-Teams plus a headquarters constitute a B-Team, or company, and three companies plus a headquarters constitute a battalion. There are three battalions in a Special Forces group. As of 1998, there are five groups, one oriented on each of five regions: Europe, Africa and the Caribbean, Latin America, North Africa and Southwest Asia, and Pacific and the Far East.
"SF is about training, training to train, and training to train others," says Dr. Simons, appropriately stressing the fact that despite a deep bag of tricks the SF soldier is fundamentally a tough teacher. Her chapters on the Qualification Course and initiation via the field training exercise Robin Sage provide a clear insight into assessment, selection, and the demands of training before the trooper earns the right to wear the Special Forces patch and beret.
The excellent and comprehensive sketch of the big picture drawn by the author familiarizes the reader with the totality of Special Forces, but she is particularly deft in penetrating the A-Team to reveal what makes it tick. Convinced that the team is "an unsurpassed invention," she is unequivocal in asserting that "bonding is the one convention that must be upheld." It is bonding that makes it possible for men "self-confident just short of stubborn" and "self-possessed but not egotistical" to focus, compartmentalize, adapt, and conform. The willingness of proud men to subordinate themselves to the team produces absolute trust among them, trust that is projected to win over locals, showing them powerful, ethical, selfless, team-oriented people, "the very lack of which incites local fighting in the first place." Those qualities allow the team to help partisans, to topple a government, or to protect allies from insurgency. "Rapport is SF's stock in trade."
The author concludes that what ultimately drives, sustains, and commits Special Forces soldiers is the company they keep. Constant unspoken peer pressure informs the true believer that being a part of a hot team is as good as it gets. Your reviewer shares that view, believes it is what our young tigers want, and regrets that so few in our Army find the fulfillment described in this wise book.
Is the Holocaust Unique?: Perspectives on Comparative Genocide. Edited by Alan S. Rosenbaum. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1996. 222 pages. $35.00.
The Myth of Rescue: Why the Democracies Could Not Have Saved More Jews from the Nazis. By William D. Rubenstein. New York: Routledge, 1997. 267 pages. $25.00.
Reviewed by Lieutenant Colonel Michael H. Hoffman, USAR Ret., the International Humanitarian Law Officer for the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C.
Mass murder has emerged as a strategic objective in war. It has not always been that way. During the 1200s, when Genghis Khan's troops butchered their way into cities that had resisted their advance, killing was not itself the goal. Rather, killing was the methodology of calculated, grisly psychological operations. The message: anyone who resists our advance will meet a like fate. Murder and cruelty were the means to an end. In the 20th century, sometimes killing is the goal.
Counter-genocide operations have not yet worked their way into military science. This lag in military thought may stem from our recent penchant for a mixed legal and diplomatic strategy (criminal tribunals, political pressure) to counter crimes such as genocide and "ethnic cleansing," in lieu of a military one. Those who commit grave breaches of the laws of war and human rights should indeed be punished; however, recent experience suggests that while international courts can render effective justice, they will have little deterrent power. So far our armed forces have not been tasked to respond decisively to such threats, but that could change at any time.
Military leaders may have to plan and execute military operations to halt or prevent organized mass murder, slave trafficking, and other profound violations of international law. In expectation of such assignments the military profession needs to begin systematic study of the methodology behind such crimes. Is The Holocaust Unique?: Perspectives on Comparative Genocide and The Myth of Rescue: Why the Democracies Could Not Have Saved More Jews from the Nazis offer a beginning point.
Our present international legal standards derive from some of the harsh experiences described in these books, and they will inevitably be a factor when civilian leaders weigh the use of armed force. Therefore, these rules should be kept in mind by military practitioners. Genocide, as defined in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."
The other crucial legal concept to keep in mind is that of "Crimes Against Humanity." Such crimes were considered by the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II and were at that time defined to include "murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds." The concept of crimes against humanity continues to evolve. As defined by the UN Security Council resolution that first established the present International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, for example, the definition has expressly been expanded to include torture and rape. Such legal norms now loom larger in political thinking than at any time in history. Military and national security specialists need to know about these rules and give some thought to case studies that might explain them. Taking these legal definitions as a starting point, what would these books contribute to the insight of such practitioners?
Is the Holocaust Unique? includes eight essays that consider the Holocaust in relation to other catastrophic chapters in history, including the Atlantic slave trade, the massacres of Armenians in 1915, Stalinism and the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s, mass murder of native Americans, and the Romani genocide in World War II. There is also some thought-provoking though limited discussion of events in recent decades in Nigeria, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. The essays provide comparative, if occasionally overlapping, analysis.
Here and there the tone becomes unsettling (and in one essay thoroughly flippant) as the authors press their views on whether the Holocaust is a unique historical event. If the reader can get past this aspect of the book, the essays provide a useful starting point for considering the various forms that genocide and crimes against humanity might take. The essays are too broad in scope to offer a comprehensive analysis of any of the events described, but they do provide the basis to start looking for patterns.
The Holocaust is certainly unique in that it marks a conceptual breakthrough for the evil idea that mass murder is sometimes the end sought in itself. The memory of the Holocaust and the destruction of the European Jewish community seem to have become a template for those who contemplate like crimes elsewhere. The Myth of Rescue, written by a scholar who specializes in modern Jewish history, offers a comprehensive and iconoclastic look at the diplomatic, political, and military initiatives that were undertaken to assist Europe's Jewish population before and during World War II. The author argues, first, that the prewar response of Western nations was more humane and responsible than that previously attributed by historians, and second that the only workable strategy for thwarting genocide once war began was in fact to defeat Nazi Germany's armed forces in the field.
In six out of seven chapters the author concentrates on the diplomatic and political measures that were proposed or carried out for the rescue and protection of Europe's Jewish community. He concludes that little or nothing more along these lines could have been achieved to help them. In this respect, the book may be a useful cautionary tale for those who believe that nonmilitary remedies will resolve threats from those who have it in mind to commit mass murder.
Chapter four, "The Myth of Bombing Auschwitz," is the focus for most of Rubenstein's military analysis. He argues that given the intelligence data actually available to the Allies, and the state of military technology at that time, an attack on Auschwitz would not have succeeded in destroying or disrupting the process of genocide. As information is still coming to light about the scope of Allied intelligence on Nazi Germany's genocidal plans and operations, this part of the book should be read with particular caution. However, Rubenstein's arguments offer a very worthwhile challenge to the military reader. If you are tasked to destroy a death camp, or to harass and disrupt machinery of mass murder, how will you do that? Both of these books will be useful reading for anyone who might eventually have to answer that question.
Planning War, Pursuing Peace: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1920-1939. By Paul A. C. Koistinen. Lawrence: Univ. of Kansas Press, 1998. 432 pages. $45.00. Reviewed by Dr. J. Boone Bartholomees, Jr. (Colonel, USA Ret.), Professor of Military History, US Army War College.
I almost declined when the editor asked me to review Planning War, Pursuing Peace. I liked Paul Koistinen's previous volumes in this monumental series on US mobilization, but a book on interwar mobilization planning struck me as the history of a non-event. However, I was wrong--this is the history of a partial or stillborn event. Koistinen records in his typically thorough manner both the successes and failures of interwar procurement and industrial mobilization planning.
Preparedness advocates tried to institutionalize the hard lessons of World War I. The first step was the reorganization of the War Department in the National Defense Act of 1920. It strengthened the position of the Assistant Secretary of War and made him responsible for oversight of the supply bureaus--responsibility that included both current activities and long-term planning. A series of assistant secretaries used commodity committees to structure procurement planning. The committees basically carried on the work of the World War I War Industries Board in forming ties with important sectors of the nation's economy. As one would expect, the committees experienced varying degrees of success depending on the amount of emphasis given by the sponsoring bureau, the competence of the officers detailed to the task, and the maturity of the industries in question.
There was a complicated method of determining priority based on criticality and availability of the commodity, with lower priority commodities receiving little (if any) attention and the highest priority goods requiring detailed plans. Planning coordination was minimal--there was not even a standard procedure for determining requirements (eight different techniques competed at the outbreak of hostilities). However, the commodity committees were not a total failure. As a minimum, the best of the commodity plans provided useful information; in the most positive light, they allowed the department to rapidly and rationally commit procurement funds when budgets suddenly and dramatically increased as war approached. Professor Koistinen explores the work of the commodity committees in detail, acknowledging the successes and pointing out the failures of each.
Industrial mobilization planning was different. Virtually nobody wanted the military planning mobilization, but nobody else was willing or able to undertake the mission. Occupied with procurement planning, the department got into the subject slowly. Industrial mobilization planning between 1922 and 1928 was rudimentary at best. The first significant mobilization plan came out in 1930, and the first comprehensive one not until 1933. Subsequent plans increased in sophistication--the best were fairly detailed and included appropriate draft legislation. Unfortunately, the plans were not coordinated with war plans until 1937 and were often politically unacceptable, especially in terms of organizational, price control, and labor issues. The final and most significant plan of 1939 was actually a step backward in terms of detail (although it was reasonable and supportable) and died with the collapse of Roosevelt's War Resources Board before the end of 1939.
To flesh out the subtext of the development of the military-industrial complex that runs through the series, Professor Koistinen examines the activities of various civilian organizations and congressional committees involved with mobilization issues. Not surprisingly, he finds that investigations like that of the Nye Committee served to alarm American pacifists and isolationists.
Koistinen contends that interwar procurement and industrial mobilization planning refined knowledge of how to mobilize the nation's political economy learned in World War I. It "prepared the armed services for warfare better than had ever before been the case." Of course, any plan could make that claim in a nation that had never before attempted serious pre-war mobilization planning. The interwar planning effort provided essential information, contacts, and groundwork for the eventual mobilization process. The nation did not have to start from scratch as it entered World War II. Nonetheless, to find out how the United States actually did mobilize for the war, one will have to wait for the next volume in this series.
Chemical-Biological Defense: U.S. Military Policies and Decisions in the Gulf War. By Albert J. Mauroni. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 1998. 280 pages. $59.95. Reviewed by Colonel Charles L. Mercier, USAR, Commander, 2125th US Army Garrison, Ft. Bragg, N.C. Colonel Mercier previously commanded the 490th Chemical Battalion, and commanded the 907th Chemical Detachment (NBCE) in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
The Gulf War presented US forces with a credible chemical and biological threat for the first time since World War II. Fortunately, by the time Scuds were launched American soldiers were (chemically speaking, anyway) prepared. But we had been afforded the unusual gift of nearly six months to correct our shortcomings, an advantage we should not expect to see again. What led us to the level of readiness (or lack thereof) in our war with Iraq? Albert Mauroni attempts to answer this question in his book Chemical-Biological Defense: U.S. Military Policies and Decisions in the Gulf War.
Mauroni moves chronologically from the Chemical Corps' return from the abyss of dissolution and subsequent reestablishment in the 1980s through the frantic activities in late 1990 and early 1991 as troops went to war in the desert. He unabashedly presents the corps in a positive light, providing many details surrounding some of the significant problems and successes of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) preparations associated with the Gulf War.
One of those problems during Desert Storm was the shortage of battle dress overgarments (BDOs); if NATO had been expected to fight the Soviets (the most chemically capable force in the world), why didn't we have enough suits to fight Iraq? Well, Mauroni places much of the blame for this shortage of chemical defensive equipment (CDE) on decades of decisions by commanders to allocate operational funds to seemingly more useful repair parts than to CDE that would expire, they thought, without ever being used. Until 1990 they were correct. Compounding the problem, of the four contracts for BDOs that were awarded in August and September 1990, two were to experienced companies that couldn't quickly expand production and two went to inexperienced companies that encountered production difficulties; none of the four delivered any suits until January 1991. These explanations would have offered little comfort had the Warsaw Pact moved through the Fulda Gap, or had Saddam employed chemical weapons.
Excellent use is made of anecdotes in this book, and a lot of insight into our operations (both positive and negative) can be gleaned from them. For example, Specialist Frank Clark commented that "usually the all-clear was given only minutes after a Scud attack." This desire to remove masks entirely too quickly was a problem chemical troops had to contend with in many locations. I was repeatedly asked why I wouldn't give the "all-clear" after Scud attacks much sooner than I was doing. The queries stopped when I explained that the time required for a chemical agent to drift downwind to our site from the Dhahran airfield, coupled with the time to complete testing with an M256A1 kit (and then make a verification test) was approximately 43 minutes. An "all-clear" at our base, after a Scud detonation near the airfield, simply couldn't be given any sooner. Such prevailing misunderstandings of "things chemical" by non-chemical soldiers emphasize the need to deploy a chemical brigade headquarters for command and control of chemical units in the next conflict. Chemical battalions (the highest chemical commands deployed to the Gulf) simply do not have the muscle--nor the time--to fight and win battles over correct chemical doctrine with higher headquarters whose members sometimes seem to not have a clue.
Although I was generally pleased with the research that went into this book, I was disappointed in its coverage of the reserves. Reserve components contributed half the 10-man NBC teams, two-thirds of the chemical battalions, and almost half the chemical companies deployed in Desert Storm. Based on references in the Notes section of the book, only one Reserve officer was interviewed, and he, coincidentally, was a full-time civilian at the Chemical School. Mr. Mauroni states several times that reservists' NBC training was more lacking than was that of active component units. My experience is that such generalizations can't be made; a unit's level of NBC training depended on the commander's emphasis, not on whether the soldiers were active or reserve component. For example, an active-duty company commander approached me in Dhahran asking for several sets of BDOs for his soldiers because he had none. I asked how he managed to deploy with no protective suits, and he said that he originally had two sets for each soldier, but his NBC NCO had told him to throw them all away. The NBC NCO had found pinholes in the suits' wrappers and told his commander that the BDOs were useless once air got to them. I asked the captain to think about that statement for a minute; upon reflection, he said he was going to go back and shoot his sergeant. In any event, while interviews with reservists were lacking in this book, policy is rarely, if ever, made in the reserve components, and Mr. Mauroni conducted many interviews with personnel in the active component, where policy is generally set.
Mauroni covers Gulf War Syndrome issues very effectively. He discusses such possible causes as chemical agent exposure, endemic infectious diseases, and unexpected effects of chemical prophylactics. Of all the possible causes of Gulf War Syndrome, two are most probable: the first is the synergistic effects of pyridostigmine bromide (PB) tablets coupled with exposure to various forms of the insecticide DEET; the second is low-level chemical exposure. Mauroni provides convincing arguments against both Iraqi weapons employment and significant exposure from the destruction of chemical manufacturing and storage sites as likely causes. I concur with his conclusions. US forces expected the Iraqis to use chemical weapons, and everybody was looking for it. I received reports from many sources at all levels, none of which indicated that Iraq had used chemical agents. Mauroni collected detailed information about chemical production and storage sites (including pertinent weather information), analyzed it well, and determined it was not the cause of Gulf War Syndrome. Data and analysis concerning PB tablets and DEET were inconclusive, but they certainly have led me to think that this may have contributed to the medical problems.
Chemical-Biological Defense, U.S. Military Policies and Decisions in the Gulf War would be an interesting library addition for most Chemical Corps soldiers because of its insight into the policies driving NBC doctrine and operational readiness. I think Mauroni's analysis of Gulf War Syndrome gives his book a much greater audience, however. He debunks conspiracy theories and simply deals with facts and presents a logical analysis.
Wars of Imperial Conquest in Africa, 1830-1914. By Bruce Vandervort. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1998. 288 pages. $16.95. Reviewed by Colonel Dan Henk, Director of African Studies, US Army War College.
An eminently readable and useful treatment of the military's role in the European colonization of Africa? Surely that must be an oxymoron! Yet Bruce Vandervort succeeds in presenting an interesting, sometimes fascinating, account of conflict in Africa resulting from 19th-century European colonial encroachment. He offers insights from Africa's past which are relevant to its present, and to the low-intensity conflicts of the late 20th century. He does this with judicious selectivity, avoiding tedious detail, and making generally well-supported arguments as he refutes a variety of stereotypes. He endeavors to make the account useful to the Africanist scholar, and at the same time intelligible to the general reader--no easy task, but one in which he largely succeeds.
Vandervort sets out to "examine the origins and conduct of colonial warfare in Africa from the perspectives of European invaders and the African resisters, and in the process to demonstrate the impact upon the societies, political structures, and military theory and practice of both victors and vanquished." To do this, he consults the appropriate European sources, but also makes liberal use of African scholarship. In the process, he offers cross-cultural insights all too rare in many treatments of African conflict.
After an assessment of the general characteristics of pre-colonial African military establishments and the advent of European colonialism, the book focuses on selected conflicts during three periods: 1830-80, 1880-98, and 1898-1914. Vandervort finds in each period distinctive features of European involvement and African response, and searches for the strategic options of competing sides and the broad principles that account for the success or failure of the combatants themselves. He also furnishes sufficient environmental detail to hold the interest of the casual reader.
The book concludes with a brief assessment of "legacies" of the European colonial wars in Africa that continue into contemporary issues on the continent. These range from refinement of "small war theory" to the effects of military operations on subsequent African and European history. Here Vandervort seeks to connect the colonial wars and a purported "cult of violence" in contemporary Africa.
On occasion, the author gets the details wrong, particularly in describing small arms. For instance, he says that the German officers in East Africa "began receiving the Mauser Mark 98 magazine rifle shortly after its adoption by the German army in 1885." He probably meant the Gewehr-98 (or its carbine variants). But this firearm was not adopted by Germany until 1898. Such errors are annoying, though they do not fundamentally undermine his theses.
I would, however, challenge Vandervort's suggestion that the Force Publique, the colonial military establishment of the Belgian Congo, was a "genuine national institution" at the time of independence in 1960. The reality is that this force had from its creation been isolated and socialized for use in violent coercion of Congolese peoples. Congo's army is a direct descendant of the Force Publique. To this day, the citizens of Congo view their military with a mixture of loathing, contempt, and fear.
A more profound criticism has to do with the choice of examples in portraying African conflicts. Allowing for the need to be selective, his coverage is much better for French West Africa, Ethiopia, and southern Africa than for the huge mass of central Africa. For instance, the liberation war begun in 1896 by Zimbabwean peoples against the British South Africa Company and the white settlers in Rhodesia was a very long and bitter struggle in two main phases that ended in independence and majority rule in 1980. The Chimurenga is something of metaphor for the persistence and strength of indigenous anti-colonial sentiment. It also highlights the continuing importance of the metaphysical in African conflict: terror and spirit mediums played key roles in the 1890s and 1970s.
And although the author did address Belgian King Leopold's wars against the Congo Afro-Arabs, a better example of conflict in Congo probably would have been the decades-long struggle to impose Belgian rule on the Sala-Mpasu peoples. A cannibalistic people who live along the Katanga-Kasai border, the BaSala-Mpasu used their consummate knowledge of their forested natural environment to negate the technological advantages of the Force Publique into the 1920s. In this, they offer a good example of an African genius for asymmetric strategy.
Finally, the author's profound insights into colonial "legacies," could usefully have gone even further. He might have analyzed, for instance, the unfortunate implications for present civil-military relations in the employment of the colonial militaries both for internal law enforcement and for external defense.
These reservations aside, there is no other treatment of the subject of which I am aware that is quite like this book. It will please the student of colonial and military history, and should find an honored place as a classroom resource in African studies. This book should be familiar to military planners who concern themselves with contemporary African issues and with asymmetric threats faced by modern armies anywhere in the world.
The Ethics of War and Peace: An Introduction to Legal and Moral Issues. By Paul Christopher. 2d ed.; Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1999. 336 pages. $24.67. Reviewed by Dr. Martin L. Cook, Professor of Ethics, US Army War College.
This book provides a comprehensive and well-organized review of ethical and legal issues involved in the conduct of war. It provides a full historical account of the origins and development of just war thinking in the West from ancient Rome to present international law. It then applies the resulting legal and moral guidance to specific questions. Among the questions addressed are: the nature and extent of command authority for war crimes, the nature and limits of military necessity, reprisals, the obligations of military professionals in their nation's unjust wars, and specific issues regarding nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.
One of the great strengths of Christopher's approach is that, unlike many other volumes, it does attempt to separate ethical issues from legal ones. This is particularly helpful for a military reader, since it treats the laws of war as applications of underlying moral principles rather than merely as positive law. This also enables him to treat existing laws not merely as "givens," but as elements of an evolving tradition that attempts to protect fundamental moral principles.
Another strong point in Christopher's analysis is the discussion of the ancient roots of the impulse to limit war. His discussion of just war in pre-Christian antiquity is concise but excellent. One unusual dimension of his treatment of the historical development is that, unlike many other thinkers, he tends to view the Christian development of just war thinking (at least until Thomas Aquinas's recovery of Aristotelian rationalism in the 13th century) as a generally unhelpful detour. He clearly prefers the secular rationalism of the ancients and the recovery of a secular just war model with Grotius as the main tale, and the distinctively Christian elements (Augustine, in particular) as pernicious. This interpretation, while cogently developed, is somewhat idiosyncratic to Christopher and detracts from the book's utility as a standard introductory text.
Further in that regard, Christopher's interpretation of early (pre-Constantinian) Christianity is seriously flawed. He attempts to demonstrate that the New Testament does not espouse a pacifist ethic--a position that is shared by virtually no knowledgeable scholars of early Christianity. His discussion is hampered by a weak grasp of the apocalyptic mind-set of early Christianity. As a result, he tends to misread, for example, the famous passage of St. Paul in Romans 13 ("Every person must submit to supreme authorities") as demanding Christian support of the Roman state, including military service. Had Christopher been more familiar with the Christian literature of the 2d century (e.g., Tertullian's De Corona or Origen of Alexandria's Contra Celsum) he would have contextualized the New Testament teaching more accurately. The better telling of the historical tale is that the early Christian church was essentially pacifist, and that the conversion of Constantine (and thereby the nominally Christian leadership of the Roman Empire) changed the political circumstance sufficiently that acceptance of military service grew.
Another apparently small but significant error occurs in the discussion of military necessity. Christopher writes, "Any civilians directly involved in the war effort . . . such as those working in munitions factories or manning radar sites, are considered combatants and are subject to being attacked." What he means of course is that since the factories or radar sites are themselves legitimate targets, the civilians in them may justifiably be killed. But it is completely wrong to say they are combatants in the legal sense. Their deaths would be justifiable under the principle of double effect as foreseen, but unintended, consequences of legitimate military operations. If they were truly combatants, it would be legitimate to attack them anywhere at any time, not merely when they are at those locations, something the laws of war clearly do not permit. (There is the further problem of contractors or other civilians actually operating combat equipment or combat support equipment such as JSTARS aircraft, but Christopher did not mean to be addressing that here). This mistake is especially unfortunate, since being precise about the distinction between combatants and noncombatants is absolutely critical to clear thinking about just war.
One interesting line of argument Christopher develops concerns the moral obligations, if any, of sworn and serving military personnel to assess the justice of the wars they are ordered to fight (in just war language, to assess the jus ad bellum justification of the war). Virtually all scholars would agree that military personnel are entitled to give their government leaders a large benefit of the doubt that the wars they order are just. But one can certainly imagine situations in which the military person becomes persuaded to a moral certainty that a given war is unjust. In that circumstance many (and I) would say the military person is permitted (perhaps even morally obligated) to refuse to serve and accept the consequences. Christopher argues strenuously against this view. From the fact of civilian control of the military and the oath of loyalty to the Constitution, Christopher argues that military personnel have an absolute obligation to serve in "formally just wars"--i.e., wars commanded by constitutionally legitimate authority. Whether one agrees or not, this is a provocative and intriguing element of Christopher's argument.
In sum, Christopher's book is a good and comprehensive introduction to the moral and legal questions of war. I will quarrel with the accuracy of a couple of points, and would disagree with others, but I can recommend the book and welcome dialog about the points of disagreement.
1815 The Waterloo Campaign: Wellington, His German Allies and the Battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras. By Peter Hofschröer. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1998. 432 pages. $49.95. Reviewed by Colonel John R. Elting, USA Ret., author of Swords Around a Throne: Napoleon's Grand Armée.
Probably no campaign has inspired as many books in so many different languages as that of Waterloo. It is a gripping tale of what-ifs, might-have-beens, and blind chance. Wellington defined it exactly: "The nearest run thing you ever saw in your life." It also remains a frustrating study, befogged by myth and missing records.
Hofschröer's book is the first comprehensive English-language evaluation of the German contribution to the allied victory. His thesis is simple: "The Duke of Wellington, in pursuit of personal aims, did indeed deliberately mislead his Prussian allies into fighting a battle at Ligny on 16 June 1815 in unfavorable circumstances and in the knowledge that he could not offer adequate assistance, and that subsequent to this, he endeavored to mislead future students of the campaign by falsifying parts of the record."
The first part of this charge, though anathema to the Iron Duke's admirers, is not new among American historians. Beginning in 1892 with John Codman Ropes' The Campaign of Waterloo, the conviction has grown that Wellington did deceive Blücher--if not intentionally, then by a most unusual lapse in his see-to-everything-myself style of command.
The second part of Hofschröer's accusation--that Wellington thereafter attempted to conceal his actions by tampering with the evidence--will be argued. Yet the fact is that the Duke discouraged efforts to write a history of Waterloo, at least once bluntly stating that if the truth were told half of those "who have acquired reputation" would find that reputation in jeopardy.
Hofschröer backs his charges with literally exhaustive ("pitiless" seems appropriate) research in German and British archives. His orientation is frankly German, yet he manages a considerable impartiality; though a visceral sympathy for the Prussians pervades his text, he is frank in assessing Prussia's greed for territorial expansion, and Blücher's stupid attempt to pressgang the Saxon army into Prussian service. He gives a full description of Blücher's rather rag-tag army--much of it "raw levies capable of two basic maneuvers, going forward in a state of disorder or going backwards in a state of chaos"--and how Blücher made the best of those capabilities.
Hofschröer sets his stage carefully, reviewing the disputes among the victorious allies at the 1814 Congress of Vienna, disagreements that caused England, Austria, and the smaller states to join with defeated France to bridle Prussian and Russian expansion. Napoleon's return from Elba only suspended their rivalries.
Hofschröer traces the evolving allied plans to suppress Napoleon, and the struggle between England and Prussia to add the contingents of the smaller German states to their respective armies. To Prussia, that meant the probable future political domination of those states; caught with only some 35,000 British troops immediately available, England needed German auxiliaries for Wellington's army. (Hofschröer carefully describes those German contingents Wellington secured, and does full justice to the Dutch-Belgians.)
Behind this competition loomed a deeper rivalry. England's basic strategy was to keep any one power from dominating Europe. Having fought since 1803 to overthrow Napoleon, England was unwilling to see Prussia replace him. To maintain British leadership in European affairs it therefore was essential that Wellington have the major part in defeating Napoleon's new threat. His forces alone being too weak to be certain of victory, he would have to find a means, so Hofschröer reasons, to secure sufficient Prussian help to beat Napoleon while still making it appear to be an English victory.
This book's core is its careful account of the information on Napoleon's dispositions that reached Wellington and Blücher, and of the use they made of it. The volume and detail of that information are surprising and more complete than generally realized, giving them sufficient warning of Napoleon's attack. Both bungled; Blücher through ham-handed staff work, Wellington because he tried to guess Napoleon's intentions instead of considering his capabilities. Although warned early on 15 June (which he later denied) the Duke was caught with his army scattered across Belgium, ready for defeat in detail. Though his own concentration was incomplete, Blücher was willing to stand at Ligny. Wellington promised him support, knowing he could not make that promise good. (Whether, without that promise, Blücher would have attempted anything more than a rear-guard action, of course, is moot). But Blücher's stand, though it came close to disaster, did gain Wellington time to concentrate.
The first clashes on 15 June and the battles of Ligny and Quatre-Bras the next day are covered in detail. Hofschröer's explanation of Blücher's dispositions at Ligny completely refutes Wellington's claim that the Prussian lines were fully exposed to French artillery fire. His account, however, is based entirely on Prussian after-action reports; Quatre-Bras is described from Dutch-Belgian and German sources. This makes for lively ball-cartridge, bayonet-and-butt reading, but it is to be hoped that all readers will see Hofschröer's cautionary note at the front of the book, "These accounts are one-sided and not necessarily the whole story."
That one-sidedness is the book's major weakness. Hofschröer does note that "Vandamme, at the head of [Napoleon's] center column, started late, causing delays," but not that Vandamme was four hours behind schedule, thereby throwing the whole French offensive off balance. And he ignores D'Erlon's still-unexplained wanderings between Quatre-Bras and Ligny, which delayed Napoleon's final assault on Blücher for approximately an hour, thereby enabling the routed Prussians to escape under cover of darkness, to fight another day.
Hofschröer has provided adequate maps and orders of battle. There are time tables of events for 15 and 16 June; lists of messages sent and received and of unit locations; a summary of Wellington's correspondence for those two days; and biographical sketches of leading allied personalities.
This is a book for the serious student who already has a general knowledge of the Waterloo campaign. It is not quick reading; Hofschröer's often argumentative, sometimes repetitious style, combined with the detailed information he presents, requires concentration. Given that, his work is deeply rewarding. Hofschröer's second volume will be published in 1999 under the stimulating title: Waterloo: A German Victory.
Reviewed 11 March 1999. Please send comments or corrections to email@example.com