This was an exceptional year for #Reviewing on The Strategy Bridge, and the reviews listed below represent a snapshot of what we’ve read as a community in the world of strategy, policy, national security, and military affairs. In addition to a stack of books fit to fill out any strategist’s library, we also took in e-books, video games, movies, and podcasts this year. Just as the character of war changes, so do the media through which we interpret it. This year’s #Reviewing effort reflects what some now call a multi-domain battlespace—we’ve moved beyond the domain of bound books and expanded our approach to the profession in new mediums.
It’s worth taking a moment to ask ourselves a question. Why do we review books and read book reviews?
There is craft involved when an author places the work reviewed in context, not just temporally and with other similar works, but alongside its counterparts in the arts—in poetry, music, film, or theater. This craft is what makes a book review enjoyable and when the author strings it together just right, it approaches art. In fact, when we sit down to review a book, it is an attempt at operational art—we view the book through our own experience, judgment, education, and intellect in an effort to assess, understand, and visualize the book in a new way. Every reviewer approaches a book from a singularly unique perspective.
And if #Reviewing is multi-domain operational art in practice, then The Strategy Bridge is your distributed assisted intelligence platform. Behind the pixels of your screen are scores of strategic thinkers, professors, and practitioners scouring the world for contextualized information and feeding it in draft to our team of editors where it is assessed, refined, and passed to our social media team who presents it to you via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and through our journal. The Strategy Bridge is #Reviewing your reading options in an effort to assist and improve your decision making—as in all things, the rest is up to you.
Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap. Graham Allison. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.
For a review by Brett Wessley and an interview with Graham Allison, click here:
"In many ways the Peloponnesian War was a maritime struggle—the Athenians built their empire through their navy, the culminating point of the war was the failed Syracuse expedition where Athens lost 200 ships, and the war finally ended when Athens surrendered a decade later after the remainder of its fleet was destroyed by Sparta at Aegospotami. In The History of the Peloponnesian War, Athenian exile Thucydides details how his native city-state’s empire and power expanded throughout the Hellenic World, often at the relative expense of status quo power Sparta."
Europa Universalis IV. Video Game. Designed by Johan Andersson. Stockholm, Sweden: Paradox Development Studio, 2013.
Read a review by Adam Petno here:
"Video games are often discounted as entertainment, but I and many others have found they can be valuable tools to teach history, international relations, and strategy in an engrossing and engaging way that complements traditional academic learning. I have learned valuable lessons about grand strategy, international relations, and history from games. Historical strategy games, used over a long period, might also teach students about grand strategy. But they also teach shorter-term diplomacy. In Europa Universalis I have used the power of alliances of convenience, and I have learned how to predict invasions by reading diplomatic cues and troop movements."
The Age of Total War: 1860-1945. Jeremy Black. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2010.
Read a review by John Q. Bolton here:
"Black’s work is strongest when he questions conventional wisdom regarding how we see war. His approach is an excellent counter to a linear view of warfare—one that sees the evolution of warfare through various stages, culminating at some point. By focusing on the unique circumstances (societal, technological, industrial) of the period ranging from 1860-1945, Black helps us understand how and why this period’s conflicts were fought in a particular way and why their consequences were important to the world we live in today."
Insurgency and Counterinsurgency: a Global History. Jeremy Black. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016.
Read a review from Andrew Breach here and another from Brian C. Darling here:
"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."
Soldiers and Civilization: How the Profession of Arms Thought and Fought the Modern World into Existence. Reed Robert Bonadonna. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2017.
Read a review by Pauline Shanks Kaurin here:
"What do the ideas of narrative as doctrine, Stoicism, defeat, chivalry, and fighting for pay tell us about the development of military professionalism in the West? In his new volume, Soldiers and Civilization: How the Profession of Arms Thought and Fought the Modern World into Existence, Reed Robert Bonadonna addresses the role these and other developments in military history played in the development of military professionalism. His book is a fascinating and deep journey through military and intellectual history, which seeks to bring a historical and literary focus to a topic that tends to be dominated by social scientists such as Samuel Huntington or by ethicists rooted in the military practice such as Anthony Hartle. This volume appears unique in its focus and brings an important voice to the debate over the sources and nature of military professionalism in the West."
Violence: A Micro-Sociological Theory. Randall Collins. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.
Read a review by Jessica Scott here:
"Violence remains an uncomfortable if necessary part of the profession of arms. As the United States has shifted to more limited ways of conducting war, so too have our views on the appropriate application of force. Seminal works like On Combat and On Killing by David Grossman began the discussion of how soldiers are trained for war and killing, and offer an organizational perspective on how individuals can be trained for violence. These books operate on the questionably documented assertion that humans are inherently reluctant to engage in violence."
A History of Strategy: From Sun Tzu to William S. Lind. Martin van Creveld. Helsinki, Finland: Castalia House, 2015.
Read a review by John McRae here:
"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."
21st Century Patton: Strategic Insights for the Modern Era. J. Furman Daniel III, ed. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2016.
Read a review by Christopher Nelson here:
"To understand Patton, you have to look at what he wrote and what he read, and it is there that you will find the man. Besides Patton’s well-known journals...Patton also wrote essays on military technology, history, leadership, and strategy. Many of these are now reprinted in 21st Century Patton: Strategic Insights for the Modern Era."
Lifting the Fog of Peace: How Americans Learned to Fight Modern War. Janine Davidson. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2011.
Read a review from David Fitzgerald here:
"When discussing the struggles of the U.S. military in the early years of the Iraq War, Davidson uses the phrase “adapting without winning,” a formulation that surely continues to accurately describe the American experience of the post-9/11 wars. Despite the optimistic characterizations on the dust jacket that frame this book as a manual for how to succeed at counterinsurgency, though, Lifting the Fog of Peace sounds a note of caution about the gap between tactical adaptation and strategic success, even as it lauds the U.S. military for the evolution of its lesson-learning apparatus."
On the Psychology of Military Incompetence. Norman F. Dixon. Philadelphia, PA: Basic Books, 1976.
Read a review by Robert Callahan here:
"Dixon’s psychology may be dated and his references may be foreign, yet he has much to offer anyone who selects leaders. Dixon himself admits that “it is most difficult to find a suitable prescription for military commanders,” but despite the difficulty, someone must attempt to find one. Fortunately for them, On the Psychology of Military Incompetence is a great place to start."
War Stories. Adin Dobkin and Angry Staff Officer. Podcast.
Read a review and interview by Mick Cook here:
"Adin Dobkin and the pseudonymous Angry Staff Officer have teamed up to produce a podcast that tells true stories about war. This show is called, funnily enough, War Stories. Rather than simply review the podcast, I wanted to understand, the story of War Stories. And since understanding a story is easier when it is told by the storyteller, I spent some time with the Angry Staff Officer and Adin Dobkin discussing their project."
The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough. Alex Evans. London: Transworld Publishers, 2017.
Read a review of this book by Jason M. Trew here:
"I recommend Strategy Bridge readers look elsewhere if they want to increase their own narrative intelligence. Once armed with greater understanding of storytelling, one might consider coming back to Evan’s work for two reasons: first, as an opportunity to apply narrative theory, and second, to learn more about a geopolitical issue that is sure to impact future military operations."
The Sterling Forest. John Fenzel. Breathe Press, 2016.
Read a review from Claude Schmid here:
"We inhabit a troubled and troubling world, so we owe our ear to men like Fenzel who spent years, in Teddy Roosevelt’s memorable words, “in the arena.” The author has walked the grounds and studied the people—friend and foe—of these regions, before and after the fall of the Soviet Union. He’s worked at high levels of our government and his counsel is respected. By reading his novel, readers just might get a jump on the future."
Gold, Dollars, and Power: The Politics of International Monetary Relations, 1958-1971. Francis J. Gavin. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
Read a review by Rob Ludington here:
"While certainly not a primer for domestic or international monetary policy, Gavin does a great job in connecting what seemingly could be disparate strategic policies—security, military, economic, international relations, etc.—and ensuring they are considered together. At a time when the U.S. is looking for innovative ways to exert power, any national security professional desiring a deeper understanding of how monetary policy could be both an opportunity and a vulnerability should read Gavin’s book."
Insurgencies and Counterinsurgencies; National Styles and Strategic Cultures. Beatrice Heuser & Eitan Shamir (eds). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017.
Read a review by Thomas McDermott here:
"Insurgency is an old concept. If you were to travel back to Iraq between 2334 and 2279 BC, you would find a man called Sargan. Sargan ruled a vast empire spanning from Southern Iraq to Southern Turkey, enforced by overwhelming military power. His Akkadian hordes, armed with high-tech composite bows and sophisticated logistics, laid waste to all before them. Their strategy was a simple one: mass slaughter, enslavement, the deportation of defeated enemies, and the total destruction of their cities. For years their technological edge and brutal strategy allowed the Akkadians to dominate. When they inevitably fell, however, they did not fall to a superior empire. They were victim to a new phenomenon: a tireless, guerrilla-style attack from the unsophisticated barbarian hordes all around them. In 2190 BC the city of Akkad, near modern Baghdad, finally fell."
World War I and the Origins of U.S. Military Intelligence. James L. Gilbert. London, UK: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.
Read a review by James King here:
"The origins of U.S. Military Intelligence is the story of the efforts of two men, Dennis E. Nolan and Ralph Van Deman. Nolan, an aspiring teacher and decorated veteran of the Spanish-American War, caught the eye of General John J. Pershing while serving as his adjutant. That contact with Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, would lead to his selection as the first Intelligence Officer (G-2) on an American General Staff in the field."
The Qur’an: A Chronological Modern English Interpretation. Jason Criss Howk. Louisville, KY: Old Stone Press, 2017.
Read a review from Kellie J. McCoy here:
"This volume accomplishes precisely what its author intended by providing those with sufficient intellectual curiosity a means of seeking deeper understanding of Islam and forming their own opinion of the Qur’an. This mission is both inspirational and aspirational. The gap we must close in modern society to achieve lasting international stability is vast. It is an intellectual divide that is multi-dimensional, layered, nuanced, complex, and sometimes maddening. Howk’s refreshed interpretation of the Qur’an is a noteworthy step in bridging this divide through respect and acceptance."
Creating Japan’s Ground Self-Defence Force, 1945-2015: A Sword Well Made. David Hunter-Chester. Lanham MD: Lexington Books, 2016.
Read a review by Sean Duffy here:
"For some Americans, especially those of a certain generation, the image of Japanese military tradition is one of caricature. We see cartoon samurai and Godzilla when we close our eyes and imagine Japan. But Japan has a warrior tradition that is among the most rich and storied in the world. Warriors and military leaders ruled Japan for 800 years until unconditional surrender and a new constitution brought that rule to an end. The story of what came after is one that has been largely forgotten or ignored by the United States and the West."
The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944–1945. James D. Hornfischer. New York, NY: Bantam, 2016.
Read a review by Colin Steele here:
"The Fleet at Flood Tide provides not only a good yarn but an unflinching history rich with lessons to be learned about truly existential war, the vast expanse of the Pacific, and the lengths to which the country was forced to go to definitively defeat a societal death cult."
Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women. W. Brad Johnson and David Smith. New York, NY: Routledge, 2016.
Read a review by Ray Kimball here:
"This book tackles the question of why men are terrible at mentoring women and how to fix it. The book is written as a practical, common-sense guide aimed squarely at men who can recognize opportunities for cross-gender mentoring, but aren’t sure how to start. If you’re a man, do a quick inventory of your mentoring relationships. If none of them involve women, pick up a copy of this book and use it as an opportunity for structured self-reflection on that topic. If you’re a woman and looking to start a mentoring relationship with a man, use this book as your initial outreach. If nothing else, it will make a great conversation starter to get things going."
Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude. Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA, 2017.
Read a review by Michael J. Smith here:
"To lead others one must first seek to lead themselves. Solitude creates the necessary white space and opportunity to mature as leaders. Solitude also provides an opportunity to better connect with intuition, which allows our minds to connect the dots, find patterns, and bridge the gap between the conscious and subconscious. Through solitude and reflection, we can unveil our core values, strengthen our resolve, and gain perspective. Each of these are required to lead effectively."
Cyberspace in Peace and War. Martin Libicki. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2016.
Read a review from David C. Benson here:
"While there have been many valuable contributions to our understanding of the digital realm from the social sciences, it has been a struggle on all fronts to transform those theoretical and empirical observations into cohesive, strategic and policy recommendations. Cyberspace in Peace and War is a huge stride in the right direction. Anyone interested in cyber security should have a copy of in their library, and going forward it should be regularly cited and referred to."
Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam. Fredrik Logevall. New York: Random House, 2012.
Read a review by Peter Kouretsos here:
"To the casual student of history and foreign affairs, France’s war in Vietnam is typically a brief aside in a 50-minute lecture about America’s Vietnam War that goes something like, “You can’t truly understand America’s war in Vietnam without understanding the Franco-Indochina war,” stressing its importance, but not going much further. Indeed, this lack of coverage is reinforced by the countless books describing the American war in the 1960s. Fredrik Logevall's newest book analyzes the roots of America’s involvement, beginning with the French war."
Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific. Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson (eds). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2014.
Read a review by Christopher L. Mercado here:
"Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific is an essential introduction to U.S. basing in the Pacific for defense and intelligence analysts, military planners, and strategists, and is recommended reading for students of security studies."
My War Gone By, I Miss It So. Anthony Loyd. New York, NY: Grove Press, 1999.
Read a review from Jacob Helgestad here:
"My War Gone By, I Miss It So is a story about Loyd’s struggle of emotional turmoil and his abuse of alcohol and heroin becoming the solution. It identifies with a generation that has experienced the horrors of war while figuring out their place when they return to their old world and coping with the enduring memories. His candid struggles with drug addiction offer the perfect companion to Loyd’s struggle with his addiction to war. The deep, personal struggles when home, and how alcohol soon moved to heroin as the coping mechanism to process his emotions, allow the reader to feel the internal struggles and conflict. This emotional conflict is not unique to Loyd. His ability to be so candid, and describe his journey with such clarity, pulls the reader into a shadowy world many are unfamiliar with and lack the ability to comprehend. Beyond the field of war, the book will additionally relate to readers who struggle with substance abuse as a coping mechanism for their respective problems."
Counter-Terrorism: Narrative Strategies. Ajit Maan. Lanham, MD: University Press of Maryland, 2016.
Soft Power on Hard Problems: Strategic Influence in Irregular Warfare. Ajit Maan and Amar Cheema (eds). Lanham, MD: Hamilton Books, 2017.
Read a review of these works by Mark S. Weiner here:
"'We are the alternative metaphor,' writes Ajit Maan. Considering the care that Daesh puts into its own narrative construction, therefore, one wonders whether the most strategic thing that the United States can do right now on the international stage is to get its own story straight."
Angola, Clausewitz, and the American Way of War. John S. McCain IV. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 2017.
Read a review by Stephen F. Burgess here:
"McCain has usefully drawn our attention to a case that teaches by negative example. In the same way that the United States thought that anti-terrorism operations in Southwest Asia and Africa would contribute to strategic victory in the global war on terrorism, South African leaders believed that that the use of highly trained and mobile forces in operations against Cuban forces and insurgents would ensure the survival of white majority rule and domination over Namibia. The end result demonstrates the difficulty of devising a grand strategy in the face of great uncertainty and flux."
American Power & Liberal Order: A Conservative Internationalist Grand Strategy. Paul D. Miller. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2016.
Read review from Carl Valle here:
"Overall, American Power is a policy framework that is easy to read and yet full of substance. It bridges the gap between intellectual and practical policy. And while there is nothing necessarily revolutionary about the framework, it hammers home the United States’ role in the world as a promoter of democracy and the liberal order. I am in agreement with Miller that democracy promotion and the liberal order will always be in the United States’ interests."
A History of Warfare. Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. London: Book Club Associates, 1982.
Read a review by Craig Beutel here:
"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."
A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War. Williamson Murray and Wayne Wei-Sieng Hsieh. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.
Read a review by Chris Townsend here:
"Over the last couple years and in various papers, I have frequently cited Clausewitz, Thucydides, and Sun-Tzu in my writing, but more as passwords into a military writing corps that constantly trots them out than as a true believer. A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War, by Williamson Murray and Wayne Wei-Sieng Hsieh, made me reconsider my opinion on these classics."
Girl at War. Sara Nović. New York, NY: Random House, 2015.
Read a review by Eric M. Murphy here:
"You don’t need to experience something to remember it. This is precisely the power of literature; when it’s done well, we can remember something we haven’t experienced, or experience something of which we have no memory."
Our Latest Longest War: Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan. Aaron B. O’Connell (ed). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2017.
Read a review from Will Selber here:
"This book is a must for any student, policymaker, or practitioner seeking to better understand America’s war in Afghanistan—even if that student disagrees with its conclusions. As America seems to be on the verge of stepping into the Afghan breech yet again, this book should serve as warning to the over-zealous or those prone to hubris. Moreover, Our Latest Longest War must be included in any pre-deployment reading list for any soldier, diplomat, or aid worker heading to Afghanistan."
Clausewitz in His Time: Essays in the Cultural and Intellectual History of Thinking about War. Peter Paret. New York, NY: Berghahn Books, 2014.
Read a review from Youri Cormier here:
"The pleasure in reading anything by Peter Paret on the subject of Clausewitz is that one comes to expect a high level of scholarship and receives it every time. Paret shows a great deal of familiarity with the work and the man, as well as a deep understanding of his ideas and their implications."
In Cadence. C. Rodney Pattan and Lance B. Brender. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2016.
Read a review by David Dixon here:
"It would be a mistake to think the underlying truth in the work lies in any single poem or set of poems. Instead of the individual poems themselves, it is in the contrast between the fears, hopes, and dreams of the two authors—and by extension their respective generations—that the reader will find the greatest revelation."
Congress Buys a Navy: Politics, Economics, and the Rise of American Naval Power, 1881-1921. Paul E. Pedisich. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2016.
Read a review from Matthew McCaffrey here:
"This book contains a wealth of specific information about Congressional influence on the Navy. In my opinion, it will be especially useful for readers who are already familiar with the era in question, and are simply looking for reference material to support other research. Yet while general students of U.S. naval politics will find much to mull over in this book, only a specialist would take it on a long voyage."
War Machine [Motion Picture]. Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Ted Sarandos, and Ian Bryce (Producers) & David Michôd (Director). United States: Plan B Entertainment.
Read a review by John Q. Bolton here:
"War Machine is a welcome (if failed) satire that will undoubtedly become politicized by those with no skin in the game. At the same time, it will be understood (if not agreed with) by those who have served overseas. This movie brings satire back to institutions that demand it, reminding us that questioning the powers that be is not only right but necessary."
The Valley. John Renehan. New York, NY: Dutton, 2016.
Read a review of the book by Marc Milligan here and an interview with the author here:
"The Valley ends as it begins, with the protagonist, Will Black, sitting in a rental car outside a place he is not expected and perhaps would be unwelcome were he to leave the vehicle and walk to the front door. In one instance, the reader knows exactly why he is there. In the other, like other questions raised in the course of this debut novel by former U.S. Army officer John Renehan, the reader may never find the answers. What the author has fit in between is a thrilling crime novel set in a deep valley of Afghanistan’s remote Nuristan province with an amateur gumshoe detective played by a disgruntled but capable Army lieutenant sent to conduct a by-the-books investigation at the remotest of combat outposts."
Exporting Security: International Engagement, Security Cooperation, and the Changing Face of the US Military. Derek S. Reveron. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2016.
Oleg Svet reviewed this book here:
"The security challenges America faces in the twenty-first century are so geographically dispersed and so politically complex they can only be solved in partnership with American allies. Reveron believes that over the past two decades U.S. commanders quietly came to recognize this reality and transformed the military from a force of confrontation to one of cooperation."
The Rise of the Machines: A Cybernetic History. Thomas Rid. London: Scribe, 2016.
Read a review from Danny Steed here:
"Right away The Rise of the Machines must be declared a fantastic work, conveying an accessible history of a distant in time (yet still strikingly present) and technical scientific story. To succeed in making wave after wave of scientific innovations not only understandable, but to also place them in their intellectual, cultural, political, and strategic contexts in such a compelling manner is testament to why Rid’s book must hold high position in any technologically-focused reading list."
Doomed to Succeed: The US-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama. Dennis Ross. New York, NY: Farrar, Staus, and Giroux, 2015.
Read a review from Rexford Barton here:
"Assumptions form the bedrock of any strategy. The choice of ways and means to achieve a particular outcome or objective is based on the assumption that those choices will lead to an expected result. Assumption is just one of many reasons flexibility is the key to good strategy - assumptions must be continuously analyzed for their efficacy. One major assumption at the root of the United States’ strategy in the Middle East has stood the test of time: the US needs Arab oil, or the continued flow of oil out of the Middle East, therefore it must remain on good terms with its oil-exporting Arab allies. It would follow that Arab disdain for Israel suggests the US should put distance between itself and Israel in favor of better relations with its Arab allies. Dennis Ross, in Doomed to Succeed: The US-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama, is rethinking this assumption and Middle East analysts, policy makers, and strategists should listen."
Scales on War: The Future of America’s Military at Risk. Robert Scales. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2016.
Read a review by Colin Steele here:
"To read Clausewitz on war is akin to reading John Muir on forests: each understood the particulars of his subject uncommonly well, but gained immortality for his insight into the nature and function of the whole. Scales on War, by contrast, is like a field guide to trees: full of interesting detail on the parts but with little to say about the entire ecosystem."
War Porn. Roy Scranton. New York, NY: Soho Press, 2016.
Read a review by Olivia Garard here:
"War Porn is an attempt to come to grips with the modern, and perhaps even the postmodern, experience of war—an experience that Achilles would still understand. Yet, what is most striking is the author's incessant meditation on what it means to be 'a spectator of calamities taking place in another country.' This tension forms the brutal backbone and gritty strength of the novel, uniting all who watch war."
Somme: Into The Breach. Hugh Sebag-Montefiore. New York, NY: Penguin Random House, 2016.
Read a review from Michael Peterson here:
"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."
The Other Air Force: U.S. Efforts to Reshape Middle Eastern Media Since 9/11. Matt Sienkiewicz. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2016.
Read a review by Sam Ratner here:
"America is on the precipice of a credibility crisis in public diplomacy. The world has little faith in our most important messenger, and the proliferation of social media use at all levels of government makes deliberate message management more difficult to execute than ever. Sienkiewicz’s ideas about the soft power value of reproducing American forms while ceding actual content creation to local producers serve as both a basis for policy innovation and a warning. Ultimately, Sienkiewicz’s ability to pack both granular history and broad theory into a concise package makes his book a rare treat among academic titles. The Other Air Force isn’t written with strategists in mind, but anyone with an interest in the future of soft power would do well to read it all the same."
Crisis at Sea: The United States Navy in European Waters in World War I. William N. Still, Jr. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2007.
Read a review by Thomas Sheppard here:
"Crisis at Sea is an exhaustive study of the U.S. Navy in the European theater. William Still brings a remarkable attention to detail in his latest volume, providing a thorough account of America’s role at sea in the First World War. Eleven years after its publication, this is still the definitive resource for its subject, and likely will remain so for many years to come."
Woodrow Wilson and World War I: A Burden Too Great to Bear. Richard Striner. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.
Read a review by Andrew Forney here:
"Our historical image of Woodrow Wilson reflects this tendency. We label individuals and ideas as Wilsonian if they exhibit a utopian vision of the world as it should be based on a set of moral ideas that, often times, appear quaint or naive. Rarely in the twenty-first century do we believe that being “Wilsonian” is a good thing, though many argue that neoconservatives and liberal interventionists both share principles borrowed from the twenty-eighth president. Our vision of Wilson, top hat on head and moralistic 14 Points in his coat pocket, being hailed by the war-fatigued European countries, must be bookended by his return to America, hat now in hand, begging the nation to approve the League of Nations. In this way, his failure and his series of strokes conveniently play out as a Grecian tragedy with an American chorus passing judgment on a president consumed with hubris."
Military Leadership Lessons for Public Service. Charles Szypszak. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2016.
Read a review from Brent W. Thompson here:
"The new presidential administration includes more veterans in cabinet-level positions than any administration in recent memory, a point that has sparked debate among public policy experts. On one hand, Daniel Benjamin, a professor at Dartmouth College and former official at the State Department, says former military officers in civilian positions is “a matter of deep concern,” because “Generals as a rule believe in hierarchies and taking orders…Generals have one set of skills, and diplomacy is not in the top drawer of that tool kit.” Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) disagrees and contends, “The United States military…produces real leaders, people who know how to solve problems and take a very structured approach in doing so.” In Military Leadership Lessons for Public Service, Charles Szypszak explores the principles and methods of military leadership and argues they are effective for public service. Szypszak’s book will be especially valuable to service members who are interested in post-military public service, from the policy-making level to service in city and county governments."
Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela: A Comparative Perspective. Harold A. Trinkunas. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.
Read a review from Eric M. Murphy here:
"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."
A Tale of Two Navies: Geopolitics, Technology, and Strategy in the United States Navy and the Royal Navy, 1960-2015. Anthony R. Wells. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2017.
Read a review of this book from Jack Curtis here:
"The shared history of both the American and British people and their navies, in concert with shared visions for how the world ought to function is indeed special. But, beyond simply being special, this relationship is critical in underwriting global security. A Tale of Two Navies has a place on the shelves of all who study and strive to understand the importance of effective maritime partnerships and strategy."
American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant. Ronald C. White. New York, NY: Random House, 2017.
Read a review from Thomas Sheppard here:
"Theodore Roosevelt, a man who held the unique distinction of being both an historian and a president, once wrote of American history, “Mightiest among the mighty dead loom the three great figures of Washington, Lincoln, and Grant.” Roosevelt’s words would come as a shock to most Americans today. Although Grant’s reputation has undergone a rehabilitation in the last two decades, he hardly ranks among great American leaders in the minds of all but a handful of historians, and the popular conception of Grant as an inept drunk still lingers."
Nine Days In May: The Battles of the 4th Infantry Division on the Cambodian Border, 1967. Warren K. Wilkins. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017.
Read a review from Robert J, Thompson here:
"Battles like Ia Drang, Con Tien, Khe Sanh, and Hue standout in the history of the American war in South Vietnam. While hardly typical, those clashes resonate well in popular histories and documentaries. On the other hand, transpiring on tracks of land away from large urban areas and not on some named, fortified hilltop—and at a time when multiple larger American military operations occurred across South Vietnam—nine May battles took place that lacked the consistent intensity of the aforementioned engagements, but typified the experience of many in Vietnam. Although these May battles were both remote physically and mentally for those not involved, participants experienced the savagery that came with the few, intense instances of contact with the enemy."
Corps Commanders of the Bulge: Six American Generals and Victory in the Ardennes. Harold R. Winton. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2007.
Read a review from Steven L. Foster and an interview with the author here:
"World War II is not without its exemplars of leadership across all levels of war. Volumes of text have examined the command styles of Eisenhower, Patton, Macarthur, and Bradley at the theater and field army command levels. Likewise, historians have tracked the experiences of companies of infantry soldiers and their non-commissioned officers, lieutenants, and captains. In between is the Army corps, and Dr. Harold R. Winton’s Corps Commanders of the Bulge, which covers with great detail the training, development, and battlefield execution of the six integral operational-level leaders who shaped the path to victory in this pivotal battle of World War II."
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