Civilian and military leaders have sought the ability to anticipate the nature of future conflicts and prepare for them for millennia. Robert H. Latiff gives us his vision of future war in his recent book Future War: Preparing for the New Global Battlefield. In a concise volume, he presents his assessment of where the U.S. military is now, the challenges ahead, and the way forward.
The premise of Michael Pillsbury’s controversial book is alarming yet straightforward. Western strategic thinkers have been the victims of a massive deception campaign perpetrated by a group of Chinese hardliners who have convinced the West that China’s intentions are benign, but who are, in fact, driven by one overriding goal, to overthrow the U.S. as the world’s sole superpower. If this conjures up images of a thriller from the pen of Dan Brown, it may be the intent of the author.
Why, one might ask, is the late Victorian British army of any relevance to the U.S. military in 2019? Simply put, many of the ideas and themes discussed by Beckett are of timeless interest to those concerned with the ways in which professions ought to, and actually do, function. In fact, there are a striking number of analogies between the British Empire during the late Victorian and Edwardian period and the current geopolitical situation of the United States.
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.
Marine Major Ian Brown, who like all Marine officers of the past three decades heard stories of John Boyd and the reforms he sparked while at The Basic School, undoubtedly from instructors with little more than a cursory familiarity with the subject matter. Boyd’s contributions piqued Brown’s interest and encouraged him to dig deeper into the story.
Giangreco’s study fills a vacuum in the literature on Truman. There are many biographies of him, but they deal only briefly with his life before the end of World War I. Giangreco provides thorough coverage of Truman’s career in the military, both as a citizen soldier and then later after the U.S. government federalized his National Guard unit.
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.
The experiences of American soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, sometimes over and over again, are central to this story, including consideration of the lasting impact of their time abroad. American culture is already rife with conversations about post-traumatic stress, veterans’ services, and treatments following deployments. Unfortunately, the voice of the veterans themselves is seldom heard with clarity in these conversations.
No general would ever suggest you read this book, and maybe that is why you should make time to do it. The first person perspective offered by Kassabian is unpolished, irreverent, and told from a soldier’s perspective. In a world full of strategic challenges it is, in my view, a good thing for those making the decisions and grappling with the consequences to get an appreciation for what the greatest of plans looks like when 18-year-old Americans are sent forth to implement them.
An unparalleled account of the American Battle Monuments Commission. He identifies heretofore nameless staffers of the agency and offers a more informed sketch of its commissioners. This is an incredible contribution to the history of the American Battle Monuments Commission, as no finding aid or guidebook of names to its records exists. However, the reverential and uncritical tone with which Conner treats the American Battle Monuments Commission is at times tiresome, and he offers sparse analysis beyond what the archive demonstrates—even when it reveals obvious prejudice.
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.
Victory. That is why we are all here. But, does anyone know what victory in war looks like over the next several decades, or how to achieve it? There is no shortage of authors in the ever-growing literature on strategy and national defense telling us both what victory in war will look like and how to get there. Count me a skeptic. I find a whiff of moonshine and snake oil surrounds most in this crowded field, and I struggle to find thoughtful analysis among the raft of novelists selling books, technocrats fighting for budgets, and thought leaders peddling warmed-over and outdated scholarship. In a further turn of the screw, one often encounters real insight and snake oil in the same work.
The practice of grand strategy has been a staple of statesmanship since time immemorial. But only since the Napoleonic era has much ink been spilt analyzing and grappling with the grand strategic behavior of varied historical dynamos. Until now, scholars have largely demurred from trying to pin down the theoretical essence of what grand strategy actually is. By borrowing insights from fields as varied as strategic studies and cognitive theory, Layton has created an interpretation of how grand strategy could and should look in practice.
Kaplan has provided a window into the thoughts, struggles, fears, and triumphs of these soldiers from a century ago as they fought the Germans while mastering the most advanced technologies of their modern world. They were not much different that those who soldier on today in the face of fast-paced change and an evolving character of war. These personal reminiscences of service in the tanks illustrate the fortitude required to fight the enemy, bureaucracy, and non-believers in fielding the capabilities needed to win on the modern battlefield.
Hunt has written a book that challenges the modern strategist to process how we end our wars and how we deal with their excesses. Furthermore, Hunt challenges how we, as a whole society, commemorate these wars and their participants through the morally complicated saga of the Latvian Legion. The book’s moral weight is palpable as we attempt to answer some of those questions in the modern era.