From Parameters, Summer 1999, pp. 148-66.
Fighting for the Future: Will America Triumph? By Ralph Peters. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1999. 210 pp. $19.95. Reviewed by Dr. John Hillen, Senior Fellow in Political-Military Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C.
If, while watching NATO's bombing campaign against the former Yugoslavia, one was to judge 21st-century conflict as a contest between Ralph Peters' future or Alvin and Heidi Toffler's future, Peters would take it in a first-round TKO. The sight of Serbian peasants dancing on the wings of a downed F-117A Stealth fighter/bomber while NATO's air armada failed to check the brutality of the conflict in Kosovo seemed a page out of Peters' new book.
Fighting for the Future is an updated collection of Ralph Peters' best nonfiction essays. Many of them appeared in the 1990s in Parameters. Every chapter challenges conventional wisdom and its purveyors without much sugar-coating. With a style that is at once elegant, abrupt, entertaining, thoughtful, direct, and always thought-provoking, Peters is a man who makes us think. His works are a desperately welcome addition to an Army whose intellectual currency is either the banal-field-grade-PowerPoint brief or the general-officer-series-of-platitudinous-puff piece.
Peters' future, to borrow a clever Marine PR phrase, looks more like Stepchild of Somalia than Son of Desert Storm. This is not to say that Peters fails to envisage or address classic interstate conflicts or high-tech futures--he does so with more clarity and insight than most high-tech "futurists." But his book, in its essence a warning, concentrates on those conflicts America is likely to misread and suffer for it. As Peters describes the conflicts that might flummox the United States,
Our enemies of the future will be enemies out of the past. As the US armed forces put their faith and funding behind ever more sophisticated combat systems designed to remove human contact from warfare, mankind circles back to the misbehaviors of yesteryear. Technologies come and go, but the primitive endures.
The military challenges that inhabit this future resemble the warlords, chieftains, ayatollahs, demagogues, gangsters, drug lords, and assorted thugs and bullies who today rule much of the world outside North America, Western Europe, and some parts of Asia.
Peters has little time or patience for the great crowd of foreign policy intellectuals who predicted after the Cold War that pluralistic democracies and free-market economies had triumphed as the social systems through which the world's people would guide their future affairs. As he writes,
Brotherhood-of-man platitudes have been consigned to the "ash heap of history" with even greater certainty than has Marxism-Leninism, but we, convinced of the all-conquering virtue of liberal democracy, still cannot accept the essential realities of human political behavior. The world has cancer, and we are in the denial phase. If you want to see the future, look to Cambodia, to Somalia, to Kurdistan, or to Yugoslavia, Angola, Tajikistan, or Georgia.
Peters has come to this grim conclusion because he believes powerfully in culture. Culture--the systems of belief, patterns of behavior, traditions, and values of societies--is the least understood and most powerful force in the international arena today. It drives people to act the way they do and confuses those naïve and ahistorical "multiculturalists" who ironically believe that while different, everyone ultimately is like "us." In Peters' view, the locomotive driving the future is what lurks in the hearts of men, not the technology they are developing or wealth they are creating. Those are merely behavioral by-products, not drivers. He takes the geopolitical premise of Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" and directs his analysis down to the level of the individual actors. Augustine believed that natural law exists not on paper but is "written in the hearts of men." So too Peters believes that much of the world will be ruled not by universal declarations or treaties, but by self-interested and many times ruthless men who respond only to what is in their hearts and their history. He is not necessarily a cultural determinist, but one feels that Peters does think culture can be fatal.
Peters' journey through the types of conflicts the United States will face in these environments is entertaining and instinctual. He tells us where, who, how, and why we will fight, but more important gives us the same analysis on those parties likely to be arrayed against the United States and why. Academics, whose tail he often pulls, would insist on a series of statistics, datapoints, trendlines, and footnotes to validate every one of his grand sweeps through this terrain, but Ralph will have no part of that. With a keen sense of cultural history, an unsparing and unashamed sense of judgment, and an Ambrose Bierce-like touch ("Literature is history with the truth left in." "Strategy is theology with the hope left out."), he jets us through the future at almost the same pace that marks his successful novels. He even has what I considered quite a surprise ending.
The reader will find much to debate with Ralph Peters about his interpretation of the past and his assertions about why that means what it does for the future. Therein lies the immutable value of Ralph's book. Preparing for that debate will force readers to study history, explore culture (in all its manifestations), and learn about people in order to take on the author. I cannot think of many recent military books that might have the same effect.
Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign: U.S. Army War College Guides to Civil War Battles. Edited by Leonard Fullenkamp, Stephen Bowman, and Jay Luvaas. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas, 1998. 482 pages. $39.95 cloth, $17.95 paper. Reviewed by Stephen W. Sears, author of Chancellorsville (1996) and Controversies and Commanders: Dispatches from the Army of the Potomac (1999).
This is the sixth in the series of Army War College guides to the campaigns and battles of the Civil War, and in many respects its subject, Vicksburg, presents a greater challenge to the guide editors than any of the other five. These other guides deal with battlefields well defined in place and time--Gettysburg, three days; Antietam, one day; Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg, ten days and one day, respectively; Shiloh, two days; Chickamauga, two days. By contrast, the Vicksburg campaign sprawled all across both the calendar and the landscape. It was initiated in December 1862 and concluded in July 1863, and the forces engaged saw action in Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and along a considerable stretch of the Mississippi River.
Yet Vicksburg offers a uniquely rich array of command and operational lessons to the professional soldier interested in (as the editors of an earlier War College guide put it) "broader questions about tactics, organization, leadership, unit cohesion, the use of terrain, and the application of principles that are fundamental to his profession." This guide, like its predecessors, takes inspiration from the old staff rides that pioneered in-the-field study of past battlefields in order to reinforce modern lessons. The Vicksburg campaign was U. S. Grant's masterpiece, and it remains today a masterpiece of the operational art. It merits the close study presented here, for its rewards are many.
The editors, Leonard Fullenkamp, Stephen Bowman, and Jay Luvaas, all presently or formerly associated with the Army War College, have had to take a somewhat different course with Vicksburg than that followed in the earlier guides in the series. The chief fascination of Vicksburg (and the chief rewards) comes from the operational part of the campaign that got Grant's army to the Mississippi citadel, rather than from the subsequent month-and-a-half siege that resulted in its capture. But that lengthy "approach" operation does not lend itself well to the staff ride technique. Part II of the Vicksburg guide, described as the driving tour for this operation, covers only 27 pages, and a lot of the terrain therein is a featureless, water-logged landscape lacking the interest of, say, Little Round Top at Gettysburg. To be sure, there is more of interest for the touring reader to see when finally, as Grant put it with quiet satisfaction, "I was on dry ground on the same side of the river with the enemy." Grant's brilliant dash from his Mississippi River crossing eastward to the Mississippi capital of Jackson, and then his thrust west that trapped Pemberton's Confederate army in Vicksburg--featuring Grand Gulf and Bruinsburg, and the fights at Port Gibson, Raymond, and Champion's Hill--are nicely traced for the tourer.
Part III of the guide is a 13-stop tour of the Vicksburg siege lines, done in these guides' usual thorough fashion. It consists of a running narrative by the editors interspersed with after-action reports by participants. (I confess that I regretted the lack here of a feature from earlier War College guides, a happy if antiquated leftover from staff ride days, that instructed one after parking one's vehicle to "dismount." Now the instruction is a prosaic "get out of your car.")
Part I of the guide is a long, 352-page account of the entire Vicksburg campaign, from start to finish, composed of after-action reports from the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies and memoirs by participants, notably Grant's Personal Memoirs. A good deal of the operational art displayed here by Grant is armchair reading, which presumes intensive map study. Alas, the maps in this section are quite uneven. The greatest failing is the lack of a map that shows, in proper context, the several complex engineering operations Grant attempted so as to put his army, as he said, on dry land on the Vicksburg side of the Mississippi. These repeated attempts that miscarried until he found the right course are the measure of Grant's genius in this campaign, and that course is hard to follow here.
Grant's Personal Memoirs forms a much-needed narrative core for this section of the guide, and his somewhat understated account fails to highlight what a daring, high-risk gamble he was taking when he cut loose from his supply line at Bruinsburg below Vicksburg and struck out for the interior of the state. The editors suggest some hometime reading before setting out for Vicksburg, and I heartily concur. Edwin Bearss' three-volume The Vicksburg Campaign is the standard reference, but for a shorter reading course I commend the Vicksburg section of Bruce Catton's biography Grant Moves South (1960), or Catton's account of the campaign and siege in Never Call Retreat (1965), the third and final volume of his classic Centennial History of the Civil War.
Honorable Warrior: General Harold K. Johnson and the Ethics of Command. By Lewis Sorley. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998. $39.95. Reviewed by Colonel Adolf Carlson, USA Ret., former Chairman of the Department of Distance Education, US Army War College.
Lewis Sorley's book Honorable Warrior: General Harold K. Johnson and the Ethics of Command offers welcome analytical insight into the character of an officer who, as Army Chief of Staff and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, numbers among the top Vietnam-era service leaders who have been harshly criticized by recent pundits. The motto of Harold K. Johnson's high school class might well express the prevailing theme in his life: "Built for character, not for fame." That character was a result of an adolescence of hard work and seemingly limited opportunity. If his life had stayed on its original track, the depth of that character might never have been revealed.
Tests of character would soon find Johnson, however. First, he was accepted at West Point, receiving an educational opportunity he otherwise might not have been able to afford. He was commissioned in the Infantry in 1933, in a depression-era Army in which it was still possible for officers to take courses in equitation. It was an army that did not reward ambition--one of Johnson's classmates calculated that, at the rate officers were being promoted, their class would be eligible for promotion to lieutenant colonel at age 124. Johnson was one of many officers who labored in obscurity to learn their trade in the United States and, later, in the Philippines. The greatest test of Johnson's character came after the fall of Bataan, when he was captured by the Japanese. Both his captors and fellow prisoners recognized his integrity, and his personal example was vital in keeping him and his colleagues alive.
After his release, Johnson seemed headed back to obscurity, because his prisoner of war experience disqualified him for career-enhancing assignments. Then the Army went through the trauma of the Korean War, during which officers of Johnson's character were badly needed. He commanded an infantry regiment in Korea, winning the Distinguished Service Cross. In Sorley's depiction, by the time of Johnson's service as DCSOPS in 1963 and Army Chief of Staff from 1964 to 1968, he was an officer whose innate decency had been forged into unassailable integrity. During Vietnam, this integrity drove him to do his level best to balance his obligations to the Administration and to the Army. If he fell short, it was not for a lack of desire to serve his country well, but as a result of institutional factors outside his control.
We on the eve of the 21st century tend to view the recent past with condescension. We describe as "unprecedented" the challenges of technological and institutional change that confront us. Sorley offers a view of the Army in the 1960s that was nothing like the stagnant, hidebound institution some believe it was. That Army had to deal with an expansion from 960,000 to 1.5 million soldiers and the conversion of its divisions from pentagonal to brigade structure. Along with growth and divisional reorganization, the Army had to field a new organization, Special Forces, and realize a new operational concept, airmobility. Racial unrest and antiwar riots required troops to quell civil disturbances. Looming over all, the Vietnam War confounded senior Army leadership with strategic conundrums and insatiable resource demands. Civilian leaders who spurned military advice, those whom General Johnson characterized as "intellectual prostitutes" and "a sorry lot of people," compounded these challenges. It is doubtful that today's Army leaders would willingly trade their problems for Johnson's.
In another review of this book (Assembly, September-October 1998), US Military Academy history professor Colonel Cole C. Kingseed criticizes Sorley for joining "an increasing chorus who find [General William C.] Westmoreland a convenient scapegoat for American failure to achieve a military victory." As Sorley portrays it, however, Harold K. Johnson's problems with Westmoreland involved more than matters of military judgment. In Westmoreland's 1976 autobiography, A Soldier Reports, he condones a deceptive argument for post-Tet reinforcement of American forces on the grounds of expediency:
Who among the civilians would appreciate a policy of exploiting the enemy's defeat, of reinforcing success? Having read their newspapers, who among them would even believe there had been success? Better to exploit their belief in crisis to get the troops, then argue new strategy later.
It is hard to imagine an officer of Harold K. Johnson's uncompromising integrity approving this kind of misrepresentation, regardless of the benefit.
The most vexing question Sorley raises is whether Johnson should have resigned to protest the President's manner of prosecuting the war. It is difficult to judge fairly. Given Johnson's background and the situation as he knew it at the time, it would seem he was programmed to do what he did (although he was extremely self-critical on this point). Johnson's character had been solidified in the days following Pearl Harbor when the Army was in worse shape than in Vietnam and pitted against a seemingly more formidable foe than North Vietnam. Further, had he resigned, he might have been replaced with someone of less moral conviction. Resignation must have seemed a defeatist choice, tantamount to abandoning his post. Johnson seems to fall into that category of leader Walter Cronkite (in his 27 February 1968 broadcast, revealing his loss of faith in the war) called those who "lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could."
At the end of the book, describing Harold K. Johnson's interment, Sorley tells us that he was "laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, side by side forever with those young soldiers whose early deaths had filled his eyes with tears." This passage works as a metaphor, but the Vietnam-era dead are not actually near Harold K. Johnson's grave. There is, however, a certain appropriateness in the place selected for his remains. He lies next to General of the Army Omar Bradley, and near the graves of Generals Earl Wheeler, Lyman Lemnitzer, and J. Lawton Collins. Nearby is General Max Thurman, his gravestone inscribed with the words that will always be associated with him, "Be all you can be."
Cemeteries are good places for contemplation, and this book as well provides ample material to contemplate. For anyone who has read it, the question hanging over Harold K. Johnson's grave is not why his generation of senior Army leaders performed so poorly, but whether under the same circumstances the current generation would have done as well.
Studies in British Military Thought: Debates with Fuller and Liddell Hart. By Brian Holden Reid. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1998. 287 pages. $45.00. Reviewed by Dr. Harold R. Winton, author of To Change an Army: General Sir John Burnett-Stuart and British Armored Doctrine, 1927-1938.
The continuing fascination that the period between World Wars I and II holds for soldiers and scholars has been accentuated by the end of the Cold War. The parallels between the interwar period and the present are obvious: new technology offered the promise for wars to be conducted with greater decisiveness and rapidity of information flow; shifting political, social, and economic currents created tremendous strategic uncertainty; and, especially in the case of Great Britain, this strategic uncertainty was reflected in the dilemma of whether to prepare for the relatively uncertain prospect of a major war or the much more certain prospect of minor conflicts. Brian Holden Reid, senior lecturer in war studies at King's College, University of London, and author of a wide-ranging analysis of J. F. C. Fuller's military thought, has compiled another work that gives us insight into the interwar period and Britain's two leading military thinkers of the period--Fuller and his intellectual compatriot B. H. Liddell Hart.
The anthology consists of 11 essays. Of these, five are focused exclusively on Fuller, ranging from his contribution to the theory of mechanized warfare to what Holden Reid argues was his foreshadowing of the dynamics of the operational level of war, an endeavor that Fuller described in the English vernacular of the day as "grand tactics." Only one of the offerings focuses specifically on Liddell Hart, an insightful and delicately nuanced examination of his relationship with T. E. Lawrence. The remaining five chapters offer comparative assessments of the two authors' approaches to subjects ranging from their attitudes toward fascism (Fuller quite pro, Liddell Hart decidedly anti) to their treatments of ancient warfare and the American Civil War.
Several themes are woven through the work. The first is that ideas do matter, particularly in times of military reform. Over and over again, Holden Reid's analysis of these two thinkers drives home the truism that military practice is fundamentally influenced by military thought and that any significant change in practice must, therefore, be preceded by a change in concept. The second theme is that the imaginative and informed study of the past is frequently, if not always, a necessary precursor to such conceptual modifications. Fuller's studies of Sir John Moore and Ulysses S. Grant, and Liddell Hart's analyses of Scipio Africanus and William Tecumseh Sherman, just to mention a few, nourished their development of ideas for fighting future wars. In an age in which gigabyte processing capacity frequently masquerades as the sole criterion of future military effectiveness, these are not bad examples to take to heart. A third theme is the powerful effect of personality. Despite (or perhaps because of) his brilliance, Fuller was so iconoclastic and obstreperous that he all but eliminated himself as a serious player in the British military reform movement. And Liddell Hart, though blessed with significantly better human interpersonal skills than his fulminating counterpart, had his own temperamental blinders, which most conspicuously came to the fore in the demise of his partnership with the reforming Secretary of State for War, Leslie Hore-Belisha. In short, although the subject of Holden Reid's work is the development of military thought between the wars, the ideas it contains are timeless.
This is in large measure due to Holden Reid's continuing maturation as a military historian, which is a product of both experience and temperament. For just over a decade, Holden Reid was resident historian at the British Staff College, Camberley (now unfortunately disestablished), where he served as the senior civilian instructor in the Higher Command and Staff Course, a school closely patterned on the US Army's School of Advanced Military Studies. Here he grappled with how military history could be made relevant to serving officers charged with developing the practice of late 20th-century operational art. The result is a sensitivity throughout these essays to the difficult but extremely important task of treating the past with the respect it deserves, while at the same time recognizing the absolute necessity of making such study pay off for the military professional in the present and the future. The reader is struck by Holden Reid's intellectual honesty, his willingness to alter his opinions when confronted by new evidence, and his refreshingly light touch with the essay as a form of thought and expression.
As with almost all books being printed today, this one is a bit on the dear side. But unlike many others, it offers good value for the investment of both time and treasure. If you enjoy good military history, if you have a serious interest in theory and doctrine, or if you are wrestling with how concepts can be developed that will help the armed forces deal with an uncertain future, this book is for you.
An Empire Wilderness: Travels into America's Future. By Robert D. Kaplan. New York: Random House, 1998. 353 pages. $27.50. Reviewed by Lieutenant Colonel Alan Cate, Commander of the 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment, Fort Jackson, S.C.
An Empire Wilderness is noted journalist Robert Kaplan's account of his personal voyage of discovery through contemporary America. His theme is that "the continued existence of the United States should never be taken for granted." Throughout his travels he conducts a running dialogue with himself as to what the future holds for our large, diverse nation. His glimpse through the veil reveals a continent where old-fashioned "blood and soil" patriotism is increasingly irrelevant, the so-called global economy makes for the only loyalties that count, and an internationalized culture reigns. In place of an indivisible republic, Kaplan discerns the emergence of both micro and macro fragmentation. On one end of the spectrum are city-states and regional confederations; on the other end--made possible by the "collapse of distance"--is the global interconnectedness among elites in their "urban pods," more closely linked in terms of interests, values, and tastes with each other than with the enormous underclass huddled miserably just outside the gated enclaves.
It's easy to offer up objections to Kaplan's vision; indeed, publication of excerpts in two separate Atlantic Monthly cover stories occasioned considerable debate and controversy. The most obvious criticism would be that he sees the dissolution of an America that never was. America is as much an idea as anything else; we've never had a "volk" or "fatherland." As the ward heeler has always known, "all politics are local," and the American story of immigrants and assimilation is much more complex than the civics text version of the "melting pot." Kaplan's sweeping generalizations, based on snatches of conversations overheard in diners, visits to malls, a Greyhound bus trip, and interviews with local eccentrics, are another source of consternation--few commentators would dare erect such far-reaching conclusions upon such an impressionistic evidentiary foundation.
Further, on the face of it, Kaplan's wanderings have not taken him through any uncharted territory. Americans would seem to have always faced daunting odds in identifying and holding themselves together as a nation. Geographic diversity and scale, our political origins as an alliance of states, and successive waves of immigrants represent significant potential for differences and divisions. Historians have known this for a long time and offered many interpretations. Baldly stated, some stress the unum, others the pluribus. "Consensus" historians point to underlying continuities and the things that have drawn Americans together, or at least kept them from splitting apart, such as a common, classical liberal ideology, social and economic mobility, and the safety valve of the frontier. Those holding an opposed view see sectional and economic conflict between progressive and conservative forces, and convulsive events such as the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the New Deal as the essential engines propelling our history forward.
It's hard to say where Kaplan comes out on all of this, although on balance he appears more focused on change and differences than continuity and consensus. His writing, however confusing and contradictory at times, authentically reflects the United States as a nation of inconsistency and paradox. Indeed, there is often an intimate connection between opposites in our society. For instance, our commitment to individual rights and opportunity, our devotion to progress and innovation, have resulted in incredible political freedom and economic vitality. These same traits also beget greed and crime, disrespect for authority and family breakdown, vulgarity and stress, and economic and social inequality. Put in starkest terms, two of our holiest tenets--freedom and equality--are diametrically opposed to each other. Perhaps most perversely, as sociologist Daniel Bell has observed, Americans embrace the oddest sort of conservatism when they extol the virtues of capitalism and the free market, since the practical result is a commitment to ceaseless change.
Kaplan of course is not the first to try to take it all in and make sense of it for himself and others. As with anyone essaying such a daunting subject, Kaplan quite self-consciously follows in the figurative footsteps of a certain 19th-century minor French aristocrat. Kaplan's road trip falls in a sort of Jack Kerouac meets Alexis de Tocqueville vein. But whereas Tocqueville's nine-month sojourn in Jacksonian America took place east of the Mississippi, Kaplan, himself an easterner who includes The Great Gatsby in his decidedly eclectic bibliography, deliberately conducts his exploration out West in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic roll on under the night. Kaplan's peregrinations take him from St. Louis to San Diego and from Mexico City to Vancouver, Canada, for it is out West that Kaplan believes America's transformation is most advanced.
What Tocqueville found most remarkable about the proto-capitalist, proto-industrial, ferociously democratic land he visited was the paramount importance of equality. His Democracy in America dwells at some length on the baneful effects that could spring from this passion for equality--overwhelming individualism leading to anarchy on the one hand, and the tyranny of the majority on the other. The only hope that Tocqueville saw was in the many public associations he encountered--churches, clubs, societies, and the like--which would prevent Americans from becoming too self-absorbed and withdrawn, while simultaneously mediating between the individual and a monolithic state. For his part, Kaplan traces a historical materialism where climate and geography dictate economics and institutions, which in turn shape culture. He discovers in our "fractured metropolises" that a strong sense of community has largely vanished and that, while the state has all but withered away, rampant consumerism has allowed many Americans to move beyond mere self-absorption to virtual self-obsession.
It's important to note that Kaplan does not subscribe to a vulgar "declinist" thesis with its warnings about "imperial overstretch," a notion that gained notoriety in the early 1980s and whose exemplar was Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. Certainly not a triumphal celebration of a coming universalism, neither is Kaplan's book a jeremiad or call to arms in the style of Pat Buchanan. Rather, he sees "not so much a dark vision" of our future as "a much larger, neutral gray vision," with some things to regret and others to welcome. His conclusion unconsciously--and oddly, for he offers no reason why it should be so--echoes Francis Fukuyama's thesis in The End of History where he proclaims, "The next passage will be our most difficult as a nation, and it will be our last."
An Empire Wilderness is a sprawling, fascinating travelogue, chock-full of insight and nonsense, trenchant analysis and maddening contradictions. All of this is a virtue. Endlessly provocative, it contains enough big ideas and issues to fuel endless history, economics, political science, and philosophy seminars. Military readers will especially be engaged by the book's opening chapter set at Fort Leavenworth and its coda treating a School of Advanced Military Studies staff ride to Vicksburg. Kaplan has written a stimulating, challenging work that ought to be read and discussed by all thinking Americans.
Over Lincoln's Shoulder: The Committee on the Conduct of the War. By Bruce Tap. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas, 1998. 324 pages. $39.95. Reviewed by Colonel Len Fullenkamp, USA Ret., coeditor of Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign and Guide to the Battle of Shiloh in the US Army War College Guides to Civil War Battles series.
When the founding fathers drafted the Constitution they divided powers among the branches of government. Foremost among the powers to be vested in the new government were the war powers. Seeking to ensure these powers were used wisely and in compliance with the wishes of the people, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and the others consigned to Congress the power to declare war and to the President, as commander in chief, the power to direct war, or so it seemed. As with so many other powers in the Constitution, the leap from written word to practice was greater than it appeared.
One school of thought believed that the involvement of Congress in the prosecution of war was limited primarily to paying the bills, while direction of the war effort, formulating strategy, and supervising campaigns was the duty of the commander in chief. Conversely, from the earliest days of the republic, there has been the contrarian view that Congress should play an important role in so vital an undertaking as war. James Polk felt the wrath of this latter group during the Mexican War, but not to the extent that Abraham Lincoln would during the Civil War. Shortly after the defeat of Union forces in the battle of Bull Run, Congress, no longer content to sit on the sidelines and watch the inexperienced Lincoln direct the war effort, convened the Joint Select Committee on the Conduct of the War. Dominated by radical Republicans, as they called themselves, the committee gained notoriety for its wide-ranging investigations. Through this committee, Congress sought not only to advise Lincoln on how to direct the war, but even to manage his military decisions.
In Over Lincoln's Shoulder, author Bruce Tap provides a history of the Committee on the Conduct of the War and its activities throughout the four years of the Civil War. Formed in December 1861, the Committee's first formal investigation examined the conduct of Brigadier General Charles Stone, who had presided over the defeat of Union forces in a minor engagement known as the disaster at Ball's Bluff, 21 October 1861 (see Parameters, Autumn 1993, pp. 96-104). The committee, chaired by Senator Benjamin F. Wade of Massachusetts, found Stone's generalship wanting and ordered him to be arrested and imprisoned. That he had been charged with deception and treason only thinly masked what many in the Army of the Potomac believed were the true reasons for his harsh treatment. Stone was meant to be an example to others: failure to discharge one's duties on the battlefield could have disastrous personal consequences beyond the loss of rank or reputation.
Lincoln too was put on notice that his direction of the war was going to have the withering scrutiny of a Congress impatient with failure. Unfortunately, the members of the committee had no more military skill or prowess than did the commander in chief. Congress wanted Lincoln to do something even if they themselves were unsure of what that something should be.
Over the next several years the committee investigated most of the major military defeats of the Federal armies, which, given the military records of these armies during the first three years of the war, kept the committee pretty busy. Even successful Union generals felt the wrath of the committee. George Gordon Meade, the Federal commander of the Army of the Potomac during the battle of Gettysburg, was harshly criticized for failing to crush Lee's army when he had the chance. Though he deflected most of the criticisms of the committee, Meade was haunted until his untimely death in 1872 with the sting and humiliation of what he deemed the outrageously unfair treatment he received at the hands of the committee. To this day, Meade's diminished reputation in the minds of many who study the war can be traced to the activities of the committee, demonstrating that even when exonerated the damage done by such processes lives on long after the facts are forgotten.
Tap clearly gives the reader to understand that it was not the generals that the committee sought to intimidate, but the President. Equally so, he makes it clear that Lincoln was not bullied by the committee despite its best efforts. As the war progressed, Lincoln's confidence in his role of commander in chief grew until he placed Ulysses S. Grant in command of all Union forces, believing he had finally found a general who could implement his strategy for ending the war. Ultimately, he directed the war as he thought best while deflecting or ignoring the worst the committee could do.
This excellent history of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War provides an instructive example of the work of congressional committees, leaving the reader to judge the merits for better or worse. In this case, a clearly partisan committee bent on the pursuit of a political agenda did little good. Fortunately, with so able an opponent as Abraham Lincoln it did not do too much harm. In one of the more ironic footnotes of history, among the minority party members of the committee was Democrat Andrew Johnson of Tennessee. He was to have his own taste of the work of congressional committees during his impeachment travails shortly after the war's end.
Readers familiar with other books touching on this subject, such as T. Harry Williams's Lincoln and the Radicals or Hans Trefousse's The Radical Republicans, will find in Bruce Tap's book new insights on the political direction of the Civil War. Given today's many peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations, the proper role of congressional oversight is a timely topic for consideration. Not infrequently will someone reading this book find thoughtful questions to consider as he or she seeks to understand the present through the prism of the past.
Facing My Lai: Moving Beyond the Massacre. Edited by David Anderson. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas, 1998. 237 pages. $24.95. Reviewed by Colonel Zane E. Finkelstein, USA Ret.
This very unconventional book on a conventional subject consists of edited transcripts of a gathering convened for three days in December 1994 on the Tulane campus "to reflect upon the [My Lai] massacre and related issues of war and atrocity." There are 30 listed participants: 15 professors; nine poets, novelists, and journalists; and six military professionals (one also a professor and one also a journalist). About half of the participants had been to Vietnam. This book reports on the meeting of the left and the middle: the doves and the eagles met; the hawks were missing. Missing were those who cheered Nixon's release of Lieutenant William Calley. Those who believed that Calley was innocent were not represented at this conference. Error has no rights?
The book, the editor states, teaches no lesson, preaches no sermon, proves no theory, but the participants "openly confront and analyze harsh facts . . . in a shared effort to heal both personal and national trauma." Perhaps. If the healing process consists of ripping the scab off a wound and liberally sprinkling salt into it, this is healing. I must be careful in saying this, because I have a great deal of respect for four of the participants: my friend of times past, Harry Summers; my former student, Bill Eckhardt; a former colleague, Hays Parks; and historian Stephen Ambrose. All the brothers are valiant and the sisters virtuous.
While a student at the Army War College in 1970, I represented our military establishment at a Society of Friends discussion in Philadelphia. A young man I had taught at West Point and who had resigned from the Army told a horrible and emotional story of a Vietnam atrocity equal in most aspects to that of My Lai, differing in quantity but not in quality. There was one highly relevant difference. He said it happened in the 1st Cavalry Division while I was its Staff Judge Advocate, and I knew it was a total fabrication. After the meeting I confronted him. "Colonel," he said, "your war in Vietnam is so bad that lying to stop it is justified." And the attack on truth continues.
Facing My Lai reports completely undocumented and unthinkable accusations that My Lai was not an aberration, but simply another operation, the American way of war, in spite of the evidence developed by Guenter Lewy in America in Vietnam. There are assertions that journalist Seymour Hersh was the moving force in exposing the cover-up, ignoring the important roles played by Robert Schweitzer, William Knowlton, John Hill, and William Peers together with William V. Wilson. There were also assertions that the war had no purpose, that free-fire zones, attrition strategy, together with search and destroy missions, constituted open season on Vietnamese. Of far greater significance, the generic Vietnam veteran is alleged to be an unbalanced, drug-addicted criminal, disillusioned about the war, his country, and himself.
A reviewer's task normally includes pointing out candidly a book's flaws. You have not the patience, Parameters the space, nor I the inclination to do so. However, a few things must be said. This book arrives at a near consensus that "the war had no objective." In truth we had one. National Security Council documents, Joint Chief of Staff red stripes, even the Pentagon papers, clearly state the purpose. Often paraphrased, yes, but our objectives were nonetheless consistent until the end: "To allow the people of South Vietnam to determine their political future free of force and the threat of force." We as a nation professed to believe that when freedom is attacked anywhere it is threatened everywhere.
"Free-fire zone" is also one of those terms that if repeated often enough will make folks dive under the coffee table and hide their heads. Only in Vietnam was political clearance required prior to placing fire on the enemy, that is, clearance from ARVN officials was required for all but clearly defensive fire except into a "free-fire zone." A free-fire zone, however, did not relieve the commander of his concurrent obligation to comply with the laws of war, operating authorities, and the rules of engagement. A free-fire zone authorized killing no one, at least not in the areas covered by the 1st Cavalry Division.
All this pales before the obscene insult to the young men and women of that generation who, responding to the call of democratically elected officials, donned the uniform and served in Vietnam. Drug usage at Camp Evans was less than in Berkeley. It was only in 1971 and 1972 that drug usage began to rise (75 percent of the users smoked pot), and over 90 percent of those who served had already come and gone. Only studies based on self-reporting by criminals show veterans with a non-representative crime and prison population rate. In every major study of Vietnam veterans where military records were verified, only an insignificant number of prisoners were found to be Vietnam veterans. We are offered an estimate "that during their lifetime more that half of all Vietnam veterans will have suffered some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder." Let's see, 2.6 million served in Vietnam, and about a million of them saw some combat or served where they could have been regularly exposed to enemy attack. Assuming--contrary to common sense, experience, and fact--that all of those exposed to combat experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, then that leaves at least 300,000 (half of the 2.6 million minus the million), most of them having lived in air-conditioned trailers in Saigon, who are now suffering from PTSD--mail clerks, statisticians, court reporters, and accountants. Amazing. Nor are Vietnam veterans undisciplined and disillusioned: 97 percent received honorable discharges and over 90 percent remain proud to have served their country. The statistical record has been collected in Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of its Heroes and its History (by B. G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley, 1998). The book Facing My Lai is an accomplice to the theft, willing or unwilling, but nonetheless an accomplice.
Former Secretary of State Dean Rusk has written, "I myself would hope that none of our men and women who served in Vietnam feel that they were engaged in a shameful enterprise. They served at the behest of constitutional authority, on issues perceived to involve war and peace and the survival of the human race. They have nothing of which to be ashamed."
You're right Mr. Secretary, we have nothing to be ashamed of, and neither this book nor others like it can make us bow our heads or shuffle our feet. Those who put freedom and democracy at risk by defying constitutional authority, by trying to make policy in the streets, and by attacking those who have been and remain willing to serve their nation are the ones who should be ashamed. Some of them appear in the pages of this book.
Should a military professional read this book? Only out of abject curiosity or to renew his contempt for those who would, even in discussing a tragedy such as My Lai, make truth a victim.
NATO on the Brink of the New Millennium: The Battle for Consensus. By Rob de Wijk. London: Brassey's Atlantic Commentaries, 1997. 176 pages. $39.95. Reviewed by Dr. Thomas-Durell Young, author of Multinational Land Formations and NATO: Reforming NATO's Military Structures, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 1998.
On a recent trip to Brussels, upon finding out that I would be having meetings the following day at NATO headquarters, a close friend and colleague insisted that I pick up a copy of the Rob de Wijk's book, telling me "It reads like a novel!" High praise for yet another book which deals with (yawn) NATO. In spite of my initial skepticism, my friend's prosaic description of the book proved accurate. Dr. de Wijk has written a nonfiction equivalent of a racy bureaucratic "kiss and tell": the behind-the-scenes description and analysis of the debate that occurred as NATO struggled to come to terms with the change in Europe's balance of power.
What gives the work credibility is that Rob de Wijk was no stranger to NATO during this period of reform. From 1989 until recently, he was head of the Conceptual Planning Division of the Ministry of Defence of the Netherlands and enjoyed a remarkably close vantage point from which to observe and participate in the debate on reforming the Atlantic Alliance. What he has done is document and recount the discussions, debates, and brawls that have been essential aspects of NATO's reform, including issues heretofore largely cloaked in that often abused and intellectually debilitating restraint, "NATO CONFIDENTIAL."
In NATO on the Brink of the New Millennium, the challenges to reform in the Alliance are at last exposed. De Wijk addresses and analyzes two key reform processes that have yet to be explained in public and are well worth careful reading. First, one can read of in camera debates in the Defence Review Committee that produced in 1991 the "Alliance's New Strategic Concept," replacing the Alliance's strategy of flexible response (MC 14/3). This debate was not without considerable acrimony, de Wijk relates, yet produced consensus rather quickly (by NATO standards), even including the French. Second, one would be well advised to read the sections that address the plodding work of the Long-Term Study (now being derided by NATO staff officers as the "Life Time Sentence"). This working group has had two broad charges. The first was reform of MC 400 that implements the New Strategic Concept, and which eventually led to the endorsement of MC 400/1. Much less successful has been the group's efforts to find consensus to reorganize the integrated command structure, which is rife with petty national agendas. Dr. de Wijk's account of this contentious and as yet unsuccessful effort is long overdue.
The work also provides important details about the creation of the Partnership for Peace program, the struggle to develop the combined joint task force concept, and the debate surrounding the contentious issue of membership expansion. Particularly informative is de Wijk's treatment of the seemingly never-ending (and predictably frustrating) problem of managing relations with Paris. Two of the more interesting issues in the latter activity are that of enticing France to declare forces to the Alliance and rejoin the NATO integrated command structure, and the French proposal to make the Commander-in-Chief Southern Europe a European, vice American. In short, every substantive issue that the Alliance has confronted since 1989 has been described and documented in this book, thereby shedding new light on national positions and explaining how consensus was achieved or identifying what led to failure.
This book should find high favor in graduate-level seminars that address NATO's adaptation since 1989. Yet I feel that those who would most profit from having a copy of this book are young field grade officers en route to an initial NATO assignment. NATO headquarters often operate in a historical vacuum, thereby leaving newcomers in the dark about why otherwise straightforward issues and endorsed documents appear, well, rather silly. The Alliance would be well served to ensure that every headquarters down to the level of the sub-principal subordinate commander has a large number of this and related publications on hand to deal with this vexatious truism of alliance commands.
What is truly remarkable about the book is the simple fact that Dr. de Wijk was able to get it cleared for publication. Anyone who has published works that have had to skirt the fringes of allegedly classified information will appreciate his perseverance.
Credit is due as well to NATO and its Office of Information and Press. That the Alliance has supported publication of this revealing work, as opposed to a less forthright (and consequently less useful) monograph, demonstrates in no small way NATO's successful efforts to adapt itself to the new and more open international security environment.
Encouraging Faith, Supporting Soldiers: A History of the United States Army Chaplain Corps, 1975-1995. By John W. Brinsfield. Washington: Office of the Chief of Chaplains, 1997. 809 pages. $19.95. Reviewed by Colonel Ray E. Porter III, USA Ret., Somervell Professor of Management, US Army War College, 1995-97.
Written as Volume VII in the History of the United States Army Chaplaincy series, these 800 some pages offer much more than the title suggests. This is also the social history of an Army undergoing dynamic change. Beautifully paralleling James Kitfield's insightful Prodigal Soldier (1995), the story of how the Army changed between Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm, Brinsfield's expansive tome stakes claim to and then justifies an additional role for our chaplaincy. More than an agency responsible for the morale and religious welfare of the troops, the chaplaincy in the author's cogently presented view is a unique facilitator of social and institutional change. During the post-Vietnam era, this small corps of chaplains met our soldiers' spiritual needs while helping the institution respond to exceptional challenges. This history weaves the personal activities and initiatives of hundreds of chaplains into the fabric of a changed Army. It builds the big picture from thousands of personal glimpses, which will be recognized by any who served during this period.
Chaplain (Colonel) John Brinsfield set out to tell the story of chaplains, their work, and the people they serve. In so doing he presents an exceptional history of how the Army, demoralized by Vietnam, reinvented itself, becoming the Army that fought and won in Operation Desert Storm, and becoming the institutional leader in egalitarian social opportunity and harmony. The behind-the-scenes dynamics of almost every issue the Army faced are presented, and the sometimes surprising role of the chaplaincy explained. From the right of individual soldiers to wear items of religious expression to reconciling the practice of religion with military duties, 132 interviews with chaplains, their assistants, and senior officers bring the history to life and add to our understanding of the Army of change.
While there are more than 500 books, diaries, journals, and articles in print that address the ministries of chaplains, chaplain assistants, and laity in the Army from 1775 to 1975, including six official historical volumes published by the Office of the Chief of Chaplains, Brinsfield's work focuses on the events from the reorganization of the Army after Vietnam through the Gulf War to the brink of the crisis in Bosnia. Even more remarkably, most of his history is based on primary sources, including after-action reports, and contemporary news accounts. Among the interviews of interest to historians are those of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf and Lieutenant General John Yeosock immediately after Operation Desert Storm, with members of Joint Task Force Guantanamo and Joint Task Force Andrew in 1992, and with Army Rangers who were present in Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993.
The organization of the history is based on a "top down, bottom up" approach. In Part One, Brinsfield visits the highest councils of the chaplaincy to examine the ways that ministries to soldiers and their families were modified and improved to meet a series of bureaucratic, legal, and warfighting challenges from 1975 to 1995. In undertaking this task, he was assisted by five former Chiefs of Chaplains and numerous senior staff officers from both the active and reserve components and from the US Army Chaplain Center and School. In Part Two, the contributions of battalion, brigade, division, and corps chaplain ministry teams are highlighted during seven operations from Grenada to Haiti. While any one of these latter chapters could stand as a single monograph, taken together they provide a compelling picture of the largest and most comprehensive effort to provide religious support to the Army since World War II.
If Chaplain Brinsfield's book has a drawback, it is its size. It is larger, for example, than any three of the previous works in the Army Chaplaincy series. Over the course of four years, in Washington and later at the Army War College, Chaplain Brinsfield painstakingly put together this equivalent of two doctoral dissertations, or seven master's theses. But there is no need to read it all. It is organized so you can find what you want to relive or study. The author is a superb historian and student of classical and contemporary ethics, but also a fascinating storyteller. This is more than a library reference or a source for historians. For veterans of the Vietnam and later era, it is the story we lived. For those younger, it is an essential reference for understanding how the Army changed.
Can a history book be timely? Throughout it is clear that the moral aspects of leadership and the institution's responsibility to the people who are the Army are integral parts of successful change. Chaplain Brinsfield demonstrates how the Army maintained its values, choosing to be an example to society rather than to mirror it. The chaplaincy led the Army in teaching respect and diversity. Such a discussion of the moral imperative of leadership is certainly timely. In these times it is good to reflect on where we have come from and on how well our values have served us and the nation.
It is also critical to ask ourselves how we preserve and inculcate our battle-tested system of values. This is an ultimate leader responsibility. In the past our chaplains have not only helped us study and think through the hard issues, preparing us to be worthy leaders, they have stood by us when we needed support or comfort. This book tells how hundreds of individual chaplains performed such vital work.
Historical Dictionary of the Persian Gulf War 1990-1991. By Clayton R. Newell. London: The Scarecrow Press, 1998. 363 pages. $65.00. Reviewed by Dr. Henry G. Gole (Colonel, USA Ret.).
War, by its very nature, is a complex, confusing, and chaotic activity. . . . Organizing the events, people, places, and organizations involved in a particular war into a dictionary establishes an arbitrary sense of order on an event or series of events memorable primarily because of the chaos they produced.
With these cautionary words in his Preface, Clayton Newell suggests what he is: a good writer and editor, an experienced combat soldier who understands chaos, and a mature historian who puts people and events in perspective. He also points out that "even from a vantage point seven years after the end of the [Gulf] war, it remains unclear exactly what the war accomplished." And it is true that the secretive Iraqi government provided little information on its conduct of the war, so the dictionary necessarily reflects a lack of information about the Iraqi side. That said, Newell has produced an impressively well-organized and concise compendium useful to specialists, students, and general readers running down a fact or beginning serious research.
In his first 59 pages, Newell provides: a list of abbreviations and acronyms that captures the essential militaryspeak; seven maps that place us in the region and depict the dispositions of forces at critical points in the campaign; a 30-page chronology, 16 dedicated to the years 1990 and 1991, recording important events by day. He then presents a tightly written narrative Introduction covering the origins of the war; the situation in 1990; diplomatic efforts; war goals on the eve of war; air, maritime, and ground campaigns; and results. He concludes with "Changes in Warfare," in which he says that the Persian Gulf War may be remembered as marking the transition from industrial warfare, in which mass was the key to success, to high-technology warfare, where timely information and quick reaction come to dominate.
The 200-page dictionary that follows has entries from A-4KU Skyhawk to Zulu Time, most of them five to ten lines in length. Order of battle entries run to a page or two, as do "Navies, Coalition," and the biographical sketches of President Bush, General Schwarzkopf, Saddam Hussein, and very few others. Entries are crisp.
Newell begins his 43-page bibliography with a five-page introductory essay on the literature of the war. That is followed by a two-page outline of the bibliography with 33 subtopics, such as The 1990 Crisis, The Air War, Logistics, Environmental Issues, Women and the War, Personal Accounts, Histories and After-Action Reports, Reporting the War, Ethical and Legal Issues, Analyses and Lessons Learned, Economic Sanctions, Book Review Essays, and Fiction.
The book concludes with three useful appendices. Appendix I contains the 40 resolutions, verbatim, addressing the dispute between Iraq and Kuwait, using Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter as the basis for UN actions. Appendix II contains Chapter VII, Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression. Finally, Appendix III contains the Central Command Briefing presented by General Schwarzkopf on 17 February 1991, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Clayton Newell, former member of the Army War College faculty, author of Lee vs. McClellan: The First Campaign and The Framework of Operational Warfare, and coeditor of On Operational Art, has provided us a useful research tool. Few readers will cough up the outrageous price of this book, but they should ask their libraries to add this excellent reference work to their collections.
Perspectives on Leadership: From the Science of Management to Its Spiritual Heart. By Gilbert W. Fairholm. Westport, Conn.: Quorum Books, 1998. 167 pages. Reviewed by Dr. Roderick R. Magee II, Professor of Organizational Change and Strategic Leadership, US Army War College.
Gilbert Fairholm challenges the traditional mindset concerning leadership by focusing on relationships among people rather than solely on leadership tasks or productivity issues. He agrees that productivity is important, but it is how the leader achieves it that matters. Fairholm focuses on values as the basis for successful leadership, particularly followers' core values. However, his originality lies in his focus on spirituality. The leadership task today is a "function of the leader's concern for the whole person, the inner sense of spirituality felt by individual leaders and by group members." He is suggesting that there exists some strong inner essence that affects leader decisionmaking. Fairholm argues that when the leader and follower "share core spiritual values, such as trust, faith, honesty, justice, freedom, and caring, in the workplace, a true metamorphosis occurs and the corporation can reach new creative heights." Spirituality is a new notion, in fact a radical one, in leadership theory.
He tries to marry theory with practice, believing that theory is lagging behind practice. Whereas much of the literature in the past has focused on management, Fairholm stresses that the leader is a servant first and boss second. By servant, he means one who helps others develop and mature through creating a culture of individual progress and growth. He believes many of the problems organizations experience result from too little leadership and too much "bossing" of followers.
Fairholm provides a useful framework for addressing what many believe to be the most important issue facing organizations today, that is, high-impact, quality leadership. It is critical, in his view, for people to understand the role and function of leadership and that it is distinctly different from simply running things. His framework is a combination of the individual's values and organizational values and the desire to mesh these so that the leader maximizes the organization's potential and the potential of followers.
Fairholm describes a hierarchy of leadership activity and process that ascends through five stages of understanding from the most rudimentary to the most enlightened: leadership as management, leadership as excellent management, values leadership, trust-centered leadership, and spiritual (whole-soul) leadership. These five stages incidentally correlate with the evolution of leadership theory in this century. His conclusion is that leadership "is the job of transforming the core nature and character of the leader, the corporation, and its workers." The author produces some confusion as he uses different names for the same thing. Here he attempts to use the pop and often overused term "virtual reality" as a metaphor for looking at what most authors would term periods of leadership study or focus over this century. He then calls these five levels of understanding "virtual environments." Later he terms them five mental models. So the elegance of his conceptual model is undermined by inconsistent terminology.
Fairholm provides a sound model to capture his conceptual foundation of "spiritual leadership." The model has three spiritual leadership tasks: task competence, vision-setting, and servanthood. It also has four spiritual leadership processes: building community, wholeness, setting a higher moral standard, and stewardship. The model is one of leading from the heart and not the head, the latter being the focus of most traditional leadership theories.
This is a significant book that attempts to crystallize the soft side of leadership. It adds to the growing body of literature surrounding values-based leadership and values-based organizations. It is a book requiring the reader to be self-reflective and to mull over its premises to truly get the author's message. It is also a good general summary of management and leadership theory of the past 100 years.
Inside Terrorism. By Bruce Hoffman. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1998. 278 pp. $24.95. Reviewed by Colonel Richard Friedman, USA Ret.
Bruce Hoffman is Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence and reader in international relations at the University of St. Andrews (Edinburgh). Formerly, he was director of terrorism research at RAND. During the past 20 years, he has published 16 books about terrorism and social violence.
Hoffman declares that terrorism went global on 22 July 1968, when a Palestinian group hijacked an El Al flight en route from Rome to Tel Aviv. This event initiated a wave of hijackings and airport shootouts. "When we hijack a plane it has more effect than if we killed a hundred Israelis in battle," said George Habash, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. "At least the world is talking about us now."
In Inside Terrorism, the author argues that terrorism today is "dominated by several different trends that in recent years have become increasingly intertwined--with often unsettling consequences. The reemergence in the early 1980s of terrorism motivated by a religious imperative and state-sponsored terrorism set in motion profound changes in the nature, motivations, and capabilities of terrorism that are still unfolding."
Hoffman asserts that no single definition of terrorism is widely accepted, partly because the definers are not all talking about precisely the same activities and partly because the meaning of what constitutes terrorism has changed over the years. His analysis will help the reader distinguish between what most analysts say terrorism is and what it is not. He illustrates his discussion with many examples. In the end, like almost all other scholars who have written about terrorism, he offers his own definition:
[Terrorism is] the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence in the pursuit of political change. All terrorist acts involve violence or the threat of violence. Terrorism is specifically designed to have far-reaching psychological effects beyond the immediate victim(s) or object of the terrorist attack. It is meant to instill fear within, and thereby intimidate, a wider "target audience" that might include a rival ethnic or religious group, an entire country, a national government or political party, or public opinion in general. Terrorism is designed to create power where there is none or consolidate power where there is very little. Through the publicity generated by their violence, terrorists seek to obtain the leverage, influence, and power they otherwise lack to effect political change on either a local or an international scale.
Under the same rubric, however, Hoffman also includes terrorist acts perpetrated by individuals and groups who do not seek power (such as anarchists and nihilists), or seekers of revenge (as against the Great Satan, for example). No wonder terrorism is so hard to define. The section ends with the cute observation of social scientist Brian Jenkins, "Terrorism is theater!"
In addition, the book traces the evolution of terrorism and includes a comprehensive bibliography with chapter notes. The chapters on the internationalization of terrorism, religion and terrorism, and the modern terrorist take the reader inside terrorism as well as inside the heads of terrorists.
Of special interest to the military reader is the section dealing with employment of armed forces to combat terrorism. Hoffman cites a discussion with General George Grivas, leader of the Cypriot separatist movement. More than 40,000 British troops proved unable to overcome his small force, which never exceeded 400 combatants and relied chiefly on terrorist tactics. According to Grivas, "One does not use a tank to catch field mice--a cat will do the job better."
What makes the message of this book alarming is Hoffman's conclusion that terrorism does work. And, although Hoffman does not say it flatly, he implies that cruise missile attacks are unlikely to be effective in countering today's terrorists. One can argue with the author on one or another of his many points and assertions. Nevertheless, the reader comes away from the book with a heightened understanding of this complex phenomenon. While the book offers no solutions to the problem of terrorism, those facing the challenge of finding solutions will benefit from reading it.