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.
Frontier zones are the most complex and interesting of regions. They have been explored as wild badlands of smuggling and insurgency in the international system in many recent books from Niall Ferguson, George Friedman, Robert Kaplan, and David Kilcullen. In this vein, Scott MacEachern takes a microscopic view of one relatively small frontier area around the Mandara Mountains on the Cameroon-Nigeria border and describe its’ inhabitants’ cultural evolution over seven millennia.
To a woman on active duty, constantly trying to prove her value—or, at the very least, that her mere presence isn’t destructive—the majority of Westley’s behavior is mortifying. I did not enjoy reading this book. But as Westley’s story developed, I stopped cringing as much over her exploits and started wondering more if she ever had much of a chance. Westley’s account reads extreme, but I’ve seen the basics too many times before.
Professor Harper has produced a wonderful case study that demands a general rethinking of how we view the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. It turns much of the earlier views on Rome’s decline into surface explanations and places the chance happenings of nature in a driver’s seat that we can barely comprehend. It should also give us pause in how we think about the future.
Secretary Lehman, awaiting the declassification of several key Cold War documents, recently published Oceans Ventured, meticulously documenting the Navy’s aggressive operations in the 1980s. Secretary Lehman’s readily accessible book tells the story as if you were having a casual conversation at the Black Pearl, listening to the reminiscences and sea stories of a well-traveled naval officer.
Ready offers a necessary antidote to the lionization of American military service, as well as an honest picture of the challenges of coming home to normal life. This is a book that will speak to anyone who’s worked in a large, complex bureaucracy, anyone who had to explain to their guys that they were taking an ‘operational pause’ because somebody forgot to pack enough batteries, and anyone who’s had a useless boss in any job, not just the military.
In Hubris: The Tragedy of War in the Twentieth Century, British historian Alistair Horne ties together five key battles in the first part of the twentieth century with one word—hubris. Horne focuses on “those conflicts that have affected future history powerfully in ways that transcended the actual war in which the conflict was set.” This is the last book Horne published before passing away in 2017, Hubris is the final word by a writer who spent more sixty years writing about modern warfare, a fitting epitaph for warfare in the twentieth century.
Stephen W. Sears, author of twelve prior Civil War volumes, reassesses the Eastern Theater in Lincoln’s Lieutenants: The High Command of the Army of the Potomac. It explores two topics germane to the modern military. Strategists will note that the Army of the Potomac was the most important Northern force and fought in the preeminent theater. Russell F. Weigley claims that this area “offered the most promising opportunity for a short war and thereby the limitation of costs and destructive violence.” Students of civil-military relations will focus on the relative politicization of the officer corps and whether President Abraham Lincoln could impose his strategic vision on commanders.
In a quiet, quirky, and often quotable collection of poems spanning the late 1970s to present day, poet Michael Brett spins tales of bombs, bodies, and bureaucracies, echoing and updating European traditions of 20th century war poetry. He does so with a wonderfully plainspoken and honest tone of a mid-level political functionary or well-informed citizen—someone engaged in immediately observing conflict, but also intellectually apart from it.
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.
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.
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.
It’s been another big year for The Strategy Bridge and we’re thankful for the great community that helped us span our third year of work developing writers, thinkers, and practitioners in the realms of strategy, national security, and military affairs. As our community enters a new year, we look forward to expanding not just our own individual efforts in the national security space, but our conversations and programming to develop new thinkers and writers. Your recent contributions to The Strategy Bridge will be instrumental in providing the resources and network for the community to grow—thank you. We look forward to working with you this year...and stay tuned for more great work from The Bridge community!