Daniel Byman’s book is a timely piece on the history and evolution of foreign fighters’ role in jihad. Readers will walk away from this book with a better understanding of the severity of the threat of foreign fighters, as well as how the rise of the Islamic State was possible to begin with. Foreign fighter flow to jihadi conflicts is evidence of the way the modern, globalized world fans conflict beyond its regional nucleus.
The China Mission is an important book for those seeking to understand China or, more realistically, grasp the near-impossibility of understanding the complexities of China, in the past or present. Like other recent scholarship from the Council on Foreign Relations, The China Mission throws cold water on any China expert who makes definitive claims about China or the Chinese; China remains truly foreign to most Americans.
What books stand out in the field of logistics? Ask any officer or senior enlisted leader who has graduated from a professional military education course and they can tell you two things: a book about strategy they liked and many they did not. Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and even the much-maligned but desperately needed for his time Jomini, all fit the mold. Ask the same crowd to suggest the best book on military logistics and the answer is likely to be silence. Thus, in odd juxtaposition, logistics is so important in war that the most popular quotation about logistics is apocryphal and the vast majority of military leaders could not name one book on the subject.
Ultimately, Smith’s book will accommodate both scholars and seekers of American naval heritage. Its reception among historians proves this work as a major contribution to many fields and the broader understanding of the 19th century naval history that led to the American empire. One can appreciate the title To Master the Boundless Sea as an endless endeavor to challenge ourselves to strive and understand the immeasurable depths of the seas and the relationship between knowledge and the environment in which we live.
The 308th was a draftee regiment, largely from New York City, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. On October 2, 1918, due to a lack of experience on the part of both the regimental and divisional commanders, the 308th found itself surrounded by the Germans. The soldiers’ ability to hold out for six days behind enemy lines earned them the name “Lost Battalion” and was seen by many as an example of the American spirit.
For those familiar with the traditional narrative of U.S. airpower history centered on the Air Corps Tactical School’s development of bomber doctrine followed by its application against Germany during World War II, Rid provides a jarring but useful counter-narrative focused on human-machine interactions.
The popular conception of World War I centers on hellish trench warfare and all its horrors. While it is undeniable that the war was won and lost on the Western Front, the lines stretching back across the Atlantic that brought men and desperately needed supplies into the theater of operations played an essential part in Allied victory.
Weinberger’s history of DARPA is an enthralling read and especially recommended for professionals in acquisition or research areas. It should appeal far beyond the defense community, it is perhaps the best institutional case study in innovation management and adaptive organizational design available.
In the Year of the Tiger still deserves serious consideration by scholars as a worthwhile book in the growing field of academic investigation into the First Indochina War. Despite shortfalls in commission and omission at points, Waddell provides a cogent and useful analysis on which others may usefully build. That should, after all, be the goal among those who seek to understand how the First Indochina War conditioned the disaster the United States chose to pursue after final French defeat in 1954.
This book reveals very little about national strategy or defense policy, or even about the effectiveness of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it is a worthwhile read for those interested in the ground-level experience of war and Americans who want to know more about the actions committed overseas in their name.
McArthur’s Operations Analysis in the United States Army Eighth Air Force in World War II is not always the easiest read, but anyone interested in operations research, the history of World War Two, strategic bombing, the United States Air Force, or improving military operations would gain value from its pages. Most importantly, future war will almost invariably involve another Great Experiment as warfighters try to implement new ideas of warfare whose vision on paper do not live up to the cruel reality of war.
Professional military education needs tools to look at the past as a guide, as a way to learn the practice of discovering solutions that meet present needs by knowing enough to ask the right questions. History supplies these military professionals with the tools to shape models of the present and visions of the future.
An unexplored aspect of structural and operational readiness is the ability for forces and capabilities to be ready for military operations below conflict, specifically in the competition space with other global powers. With respect to this level of competition, the key is to have enough force ready, but not so much so as to break the bank, or carelessly sacrifice future readiness in the present.
McFate has not written a guide to control minds and subdue people abroad. On the contrary, she tries to show that military success and the security and prospects of the people on the spot go hand-in-hand. She makes a strong case for accepting different cultures, learning about them, understanding them, and eventually integrating into them in a certain way while living there.
In theory, policy, and strategy are the product of extensive analysis, detailed cost-benefit calculations, and rational criteria for decision-making. In practice, good strategy development is also about compromise and consensus building, resolving problems, mitigating uncertainty and constraints, and steering downstream through the fluid dynamics of international and domestic politics.
To be effective at helping partner militaries establish internal defense the U.S. must become deeply involved in the partner state’s sensitive military affairs, and the role of antagonistic external actors must be mitigated. In light of the nearly twenty-year effort to create stability in Afghanistan and the ongoing instability in Iraq, this book makes a compelling argument for what is required to build partner military capacity.