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.
Taken as a whole, this work offers a critical means to analyze coup success and introduces a layer of analysis that has been greatly needed. Above all his work underscores the need for scholars to work harder at differentiating between the motivation behind a coup and the probability of its tactical success.
With Taipei’s economic and diplomatic fortunes having gone south (vis-à-vis Beijing’s) in recent decades—coupled with the rising stature of the Chinese armed forces—the story of the original party-army that ruled China proper, indubitably, has been neglected by both popular media and academe alike. In this present context, The Rise and Fall of An Officer Corps is a timely contribution to our understanding of modern China and its military history.
Scholars of civil-military relations sometimes have a bad habit of grounding their debates in the theories of the past instead of revising those theories or developing more appropriate frameworks that could inform our understanding of the recent past and prepare us for the future. In his recent book, Four Guardians: A Principled Agent View of American Civil-Military Relations, however, Jeff Donnithorne attempts to buck that trend.
A kleptocracy and a vast narco-economy rot Mexico’s weak institutions. Continuous gun battles and the failing military and police force raise concerns over Mexico’s stability as a state. The power dynamic continues to shift where the state continues to lose any monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and there's a real possibility that Mexico can fail as a state and one that is on the United States’ border. The United States needs to take a hard look at Mexico and treat it as a growing security threat.
Senators will soon be evaluating the President’s nominees to replace James Mattis as Secretary of Defense and General Joseph Dunford as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They will have no shortage of material from which to draw tough questions for each new nominee, but they may want to add relations between the two top staffs at the Pentagon to the list. In its recent report, the National Defense Strategy Commission raised concerns over the relationship between the civilians of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the military officers under the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Why has the U.S. failed to see any conclusive strategic victories in any of its recent conflicts? Second, within the context of a changed global post-cold-war strategic order and a massive American globalized infrastructure in place to support military operations, is the inability of the U.S. to be successful a failure of the American way of war or a failure in strategy as it relates to the American way of war? Instead of trying to answer each puzzle, we seek to define the contours of it. We argue American strategy has become increasingly incoherent. This is the product of a stagnant American political system that led to an incredibly effective military, but one that is strategically incapable due to it being a global discount security shop.
The professionalism of Western militaries is ripe for another discussion. The practitioners who make up the profession of arms—and those that study and teach them—owe it to their citizens, their governments, and themselves to shape their forces, and educate their professionals, in preparation for the future. It is their duty to ensure they are prepared to ethically and effectively achieve the military objectives their leaders lay before them, no matter the adversary or the context of the conflict.
oday’s long wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and increasingly in the U.S. military involvement in and around Syria’s civil war, demonstrate a failure of the political resolution for which the U.S. military acts. Lacking an attainable political end, the blue whales find the need to continually keep the tiger sharks in action. Without this understanding as we confront the many challenges to U.S. policy aims, we may find ourselves, again, in exactly the wrong kind of limited wars, using limited means—wars that have no fundamental or achievable political aim—with the only option a continuing and bleeding military application for which no end appears.
The movie “Goodbye Christopher Robin” is a movie about war. About a war so big, so terrible, that it defies description. It is also a movie about a society in denial, where the wounds of war are ever-present, but unseen –– in those who came back, but also in those who were left behind waiting for them. “Goodbye Christopher Robin” is a nuanced movie since the best way to talk about war is in a nuanced manner. The big dry numbers are lost on people –– one can’t grasp the millions, the faceless, uniformed icons, killed and wounded. The ferocity of war can never be truly described in anyway meaningful. On the contrary, the pyrotechnics of modern cinema might only cheapen it by making entertainment out of the unimaginable. Maybe war can better be understood by and about the individual. By one’s story; by one’s suffering. And the suffering that is best understood is not that experienced in war, but after it ends. It is also best understood by the suffering of loved ones; even those only born because of the war, never to be in it themselves.
The heart of this biography is the account of Upton’s career as a military reformer. Here, David Fitzpatrick has succeeded. Too often we are ignorant of the origins and take for granted many aspects of military training, education, doctrine, leadership, and organization. By understanding the hard-experience that gave rise to these foundational aspects of the military profession, there is still plenty of opportunity to continue Upton’s work in improving it.
What obligations do political communities have towards the military and its members? Military members play an essential role in defending political community members’ rights and securing the political community itself, and they risk a great deal doing so. Because of this, political communities incur special obligations towards military members.
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.
Good military advice flows out of trust relationships, and the candor that good military advice requires depends on mutual trust. Yet Huntington’s theory has created the lasting impression that civilian leaders must implicitly trust, and grant autonomy to, military leaders. Autonomy is not—and should not be—mechanistically or automatically granted; like trust, autonomy must be earned and re-earned continuously through the daily demonstration of character and competence, and the commitment by members of the profession to police themselves and hold one another accountable. So, after more than sixteen years of inconclusive wars, it is time for military officers to step out of Huntington’s shadow and improve the quality and nature of the military advice they provide.