African Solutions to African Problems: #Reviewing Composite Warfare

African Solutions to African Problems: #Reviewing Composite Warfare

Within lies both the necessary pragmatism with which a practitioner must approach thinking about African wars, but also the necessary idealism of “African Solutions to African Problems,” which is what Barlow ultimately desires. If only as a way to frame the conversation about the nature of intervention in Africa, the significance of the book moves from useful to indispensable.

#Reviewing A History of Warfare

#Reviewing A History of Warfare

Montgomery makes us think of whether our current debates are worth the destabilisation that they could produce, “The peace we enjoy now is the peace of victory over the beast in men, and this victory will not survive if the virtues which gained and sustain it are lost...What worth is peace without freedom, or freedom without justice between one man and another.” The conversation between past and present is the most important takeaway from The History of Warfare and the lasting legacy of an old soldier.

Organizational Agility: Winning in Today’s Complex Environment

Organizational Agility: Winning in Today’s Complex Environment

What does it take for militaries to win in today’s interconnected, interdependent, and complex environment? I would argue that in contrast with the battlefield of the past, today’s environment demands much more organizational agility, the degree to which a team or company is resourceful and adept at flexing in response to both internal and external factors.

U.S. Strategy for al Qaeda and ISIS: It’s Groundhog Day

U.S. Strategy for al Qaeda and ISIS:  It’s Groundhog Day

The current situation in Syria reminds us again that we are failing in our post-9/11 wars. We have accomplished neither the strategic objectives set forth by the Bush administration nor those of the Obama administration. Both administrations have had notable successes and achieved periodic tactical and operational progress, but neither created sustained strategic success...We must reset our thinking.

Five Things That Helped Carl von Clausewitz Become A Great Strategic Thinker

Five Things That Helped Carl von Clausewitz Become A Great Strategic Thinker

While Carl von Clausewitz is often quoted, in reality his treatise On War is rarely studied in depth. In times when the U.S. military struggles to find its strategic footing, however, reading and debating Clausewitz’s complex ideas are needed more now than ever before. Perhaps even the times and conditions in which he developed them deserve a second look, for they contain lessons about how strategic thinkers grow and develop.

The Necessity of Self-Sacrifice

The Necessity of Self-Sacrifice

Self-sacrifice as a first principle helps strategists to remain faithful to the essential characteristics of a nation’s vital national interests, and it can prevent them from getting lost in moral absolutism when taken as a first among equals rather than as an overriding imperative. In other words, an attitude of self-sacrifice enables strategists to make strategic choices. This principle of self-abnegation is of foremost importance to strategists because its antithesis in limited wars effectively precludes the proper function of strategy and thereby undermines the utility of war.

#Reviewing Somme: Into The Breach

#Reviewing Somme: Into The Breach

Hugh Sebag-Montefiore took advantage of the Somme’s centenary year to publish "Somme: Into the Breach," a weighty and well-documented volume privileging the voices and accounts of the men who fought it. He uses letters and diaries to resurrect the combatants as real men, husbands and fathers, while showing us unflinchingly how they suffered and died.

Learning From The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

Learning From The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were a highly successful terrorist organization who were famous for successfully forming a fully functional military. Their fight for separation from the Sri Lankan government lasted a quarter century, and parallels can be drawn between the Sri Lankan conflict and the current situation in the Middle East (and elsewhere).

Tet à Tête: Vietnamese Exploitation of American Misapprehension

Tet à Tête: Vietnamese Exploitation of American Misapprehension

The Tet Offensive was a shock and a surprise for the Americans, where despite the high death toll the Americans inflicted on the Vietnamese, the Americans still lost. The Americans did not understand the restrictions and limitations they placed on themselves: the ideology of anti-Communism and exceptionalist pro-Democracy. But the Vietnamese did.

#Reviewing Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela

#Reviewing Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela

It is important to view the civil-military problematique through a lens slightly different from that of the United States looking at itself. In this regard, Trinkunas has offered a useful addition to the literature on civil-military relations. And as a history of political transitions, coups, democracy, and civil-military relations in Venezuela from 1945 to 2004, he does not disappoint. But the book doesn't live up to the author's aspirations.

Preparing for 2035: The Navy’s Role in Shaping the Future

Preparing for 2035: The Navy’s Role in Shaping the Future

On 15 October 2036, the USS ZUMWALT (DDG-1000) glides through the Philippines Sea on the twentieth anniversary of its commissioning. Nearby, the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-80) launches both the F-35C and the unmanned F-47C to jointly conduct bombing raids on the Navy’s Western Pacific bombing range. Both ships, along with the entire ENTERPRISE Carrier Strike Group, are headed toward the South China Sea to participate in the annual US-India-Singapore naval exercise called DRAGON FURY. Below the surface, the USS MONTANA (SSN-794) deploys the unmanned underwater vehicle called SEA-EYE to assist in trailing a Russian Dolgorukiy class SSBN as it leaves port headed to its strategic patrol areas.

From the Third U.S. Offset to China’s First Offset

From the Third U.S. Offset to China’s First Offset

As the U.S. and China respectively prioritize advances in the same strategic technologies, innovations may take place simultaneously, and diffusion may occur almost instantaneously. As China has become a global leader in multiple critical technological domains—including unmanned systems, hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, and quantum information science—indigenous Chinese innovation, rather than simply its rapid expropriation and effective emulation of foreign advances, also has the potential to prove highly disruptive. Under these conditions, neither the U.S. nor China is likely to achieve or maintain an enduring technological advantage.

Applying Jomini to the Ukrainian Donbas Conflict

Applying Jomini to the Ukrainian Donbas Conflict

Looking at the current situation on the ground for the Ukrainian military, Henri Jomini and his work The Art of War provides not only a framework for analyzing the conflict at the campaign level, but also for providing a guide to the Ukrainian military in its effort to defeat the two separatist republics. Jomini’s core principles include offensive, rather than defensive, action, as well as massing forces at a decisive point of attack to gain local superiority. His magnum opus elaborates on these principles and their application, often applying geometric concepts and terms to battlefields and theaters of war for explanations.

We Want It, What Is It? Unpacking Civilian Control of the Military

We Want It, What Is It? Unpacking Civilian Control of the Military

The nomination of James Mattis as Secretary of Defense briefly brought the often overlooked concept of civilian control of the military to public attention. Commentators debated whether Mattis’ qualifications, personality, and presumed influence on the administration justified an exception to the law prohibiting recently retired generals from serving in that post. Reassuringly, in that discussion as well as in the larger conversation about the unusual number of retired and acting general officers now serving in traditionally civilian posts, there has been no discernible challenge to the notion of civilian control of the military. Yet underneath this consensus as to the desirability of civilian control, hide differences in understanding about what it actually entails. In short, we want civilian control but do not precisely know what it is.

#Reviewing A History of Strategy

#Reviewing A History of Strategy

Strategists are a critical bunch. After all, critical analysis is an important skill for those involved in scrutinizing international relations, history, and policy to generate insights. It is therefore curious that Martin Van Creveld’s book A History of Strategy: From Sun Tzu to William S. Lind immediately opens itself to the nitpicking of strategists in two related regards. First, the treatment of such a vast topic is too brief, running just 124 pages. Second, as a natural extension of its brevity, the details about the strategists it addresses are rather sparse. If the reader is able to overlook these limitations, however, A History of Strategy is a useful overview of the figures and ideas that form the canon of strategic thought.

#Reviewing Insurgency and Counterinsurgency

#Reviewing Insurgency and Counterinsurgency

As the armies of the West begin a shift away from counterinsurgency (COIN) and the US Army, in particular, renews its focus on peer on peer warfare, the timing of the publication of Insurgencies and Counterinsurgencies by Jeremy Black could seem to have missed the COIN revolution. In the age of a resurgent Russia annexing the Crimea and threatening Baltic NATO members with a similar fate, is COIN still relevant or is it an idea to confine to a dusty shelf while the West learns how to confront Russian cross domain coercion and multi-domain battle? Despite the cognitive shift from COIN back to a paradigm of armor and mechanization, “wars amongst the people” - a phrase that popularized in Rupert Smith's The Utility of Force - are here to stay.