Book Reviews

From Parameters, Winter 2002-03, pp. 135-63.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)At Home Abroad: Identity and Power in American Foreign Policy. By Henry R. Nau. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2002. 336 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Richard Halloran, formerly with The New York Times as a foreign correspondent in Asia and military correspondent in Washington, D.C.

When Henry R. Nau wrote about America in this intriguing book, he filled pages with profound ideas and incisive explanations as he swept across the landscape of American foreign policy. It is especially pertinent to the era that began on 11 September 2001.

When it came to Asia, however, the author stumbled through passages laced with factual errors and dubious judgments. Curiously, he nonetheless turned out trenchant arguments that included a bold prediction: If the United States continues to attend more to China than to Japan, “It will be out of Asia within the next decade.”

Nau, a political scientist at George Washington, served on the National Security Council staff in the early Reagan Administration. His book was eight years in the making, and it shows in the lucid prose that is mercifully free of academic jargon. The author credits Roger Haydon of the Cornell University Press for teaching him “how to say more with fewer words.” Would that more editors cleared the miasma that clogs the writing of so many American academicians.

Early on, Nau asserts that national identity or self-image is as much an element in a nation’s power as military forces and economic strength. “Without a unified and healthy self-image,” he writes, “a nation has no incentive to accumulate or use material power.” He concludes: “The United States and other free societies prevailed in the Cold War because, despite their many faults, they inspired their people to greater sacrifice and achievement than communist societies did.”

In contrast, Nau argues, “The Soviet Union lost because it failed to inspire and unleash the talents of its own people. It lost because none of its citizens supported the use of its vast military power and none had the incentive to work, save, and invest to expand the Soviet economy.” Clausewitz, who saw national power as the sum of a “holy trinity” of army, political leaders, and the people, would have applauded both assessments.

The author includes a critical “but,” however: “America has never felt at home abroad,” Nau declares, because Americans see themselves as separate from the rest of the world. That “creates intolerable tension in American foreign policy,” with Americans divided among neo-isolationists who try to limit US involvement abroad, internationalists who would have the United States reform the world, and realists who seek engagement abroad but only to defend America.

“Terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, did not resolve the basic dilemma in American foreign policy,” Nau says. Rather, they ushered in a realist phase in which international coalitions are intended to serve the nationalistic cause of defending America.

“America wins wars when threats intrude, but loses the peace when threats recede,” Nau proclaims, but contends that this need not be. The United States could be at home abroad “if America can learn to share power and responsibility with the mature democracies in Europe and Asia.”


In writing about Asia, Nau is clearly not at ease. Asia is home to “three quarters of the world’s population,” he reports. About 55 percent would be more accurate. Japan occupied Southeast Asia for more than a decade—four to five years would be more accurate. Kim Dae Jung ousted the president of Korea’s military government—it was Kim Young Sam. “Taiwan is part of China,” the author contends. But that is a Chinese claim unsettled by international agreement and not acknowledged by many Taiwanese, Japan, and the United States.

In some judgments, Nau lacks credibility. He suggests the United States and Japan “could slip back into military rivalry,” a contention that lacks evidence. “America’s military, especially naval and air power, is preeminent,” Nau asserts. Yes, but only on the littoral and not on the mainland of Asia. China’s military power may be able to deter US intervention in the Taiwan Strait or Korea in two decades, he suggests. Sure, if the United States falls asleep for that period.

Despite these shortcomings, Nau’s prescription for America’s future in Asia is sound. While China is important to US interests, he asserts, more important “are Japan and the newly democratizing countries of South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and eventually Indonesia,” plus the mature democracies of Australia and New Zealand and the democracy in India.

“If these relationships falter,” Nau concludes, “especially the ties with Japan, America has no foundation in Asia.” No quarrel there.

Soldiers or anyone else who wants or needs to understand who we Americans are, where we are headed, and why, would be rewarded by spending a few hours with this volume.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World. By Ralph Peters. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole, 2001. 353 pages. $22.95. Reviewed by Anthony James Joes, Ph.D., Visiting Professor, US Army War College.

Few regular readers of Parameters will be unfamiliar with the works of Ralph Peters. For the record, however, Peters is the author of the widely praised Fighting for the Future (Stackpole, 1999) which has become something of a cult object. He has written a dozen novels as well. But perhaps his greatest claim to fame is that strategist Colin Gray (in Modern Strategy) has ranked him with C. E. Caldwell, T. E. Lawrence, and Mao Tse-tung as the foremost theorists of insurgency.

Most of the 18 essays in this book were written between 1998 and the end of 2001 (six are reprinted from Parameters), but some date from after 11 September 2001. Predictably, the essays are filled with the challenging analyses, dazzling insights, incisive characterizations, and ferocious exaggerations his readers have come to expect, and even demand. Pithy one-liners abound, including the following. “The blitzkrieg won campaigns but not the war.” Today’s US Navy is “bewildered by the utter disappearance of enemy fleets.” When a general urges his subordinates to think “out of the box,” what he really wants is “fresh justifications for his existing beliefs.” “How can we fail to recognize the absurdity of a situation in which the most expensive military in history is chronically short of people?” Or try this one: “In this era of American triumph, only two institutions continue to resist the future: blue collar unions and our armed forces. The unions have a better case.”


On the war against terrorism, the central concern of the book, Peters points out that small countries are good at intelligence-gathering and analysis because they need them as equalizers, whereas the United States is so rich and strong that it believes it can get along with mediocre intelligence, and pays the price. He maintains convincingly that the September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington made Americans more united than they have been for many years. He wants the US government to present the world with a “price list” for attacks on US cities with weapons of mass destruction. “When Americans are attacked, our retribution cannot be merely ‘proportionate.’ It must be stunning even to our allies.”

In what is by far the book’s longest essay, “When Devils Walk the Earth,” Peters distinguishes between the practical and the apocalyptic terrorist, analyzes their respective motivations, and provides a list of do’s and don’ts for superpowers fighting terrorists (“If the terrorists hide, strike what they hold dear”; “Don’t be distracted by the baggage of the term ‘assassination,’” etc.). As to the central question of whence and why terrorism is reaching the United States: “We are succeeding, the Islamic world is failing, and they hate us for it. The preceding sentence encapsulates the cause of the terrorism of Sept. 11, 2001.” And Peters grants us (because he knows we relish them) one of his vintage descriptions of Islamic societies: “bigoted, hopelessly corrupt, close-minded, uneducated, psychologically infantile, self-important, and incapable of dealing” with the modern world, “flawlessly intolerant and blithely cruel.” In spite of the writhing of this malevolent enemy, “On every single count, we lead the world and we shall continue to do so. We have crossed the threshold of the true American century.”

These Peters pyrotechnics are entertaining, even if sometimes deliberately bizarre. But Peters needs to refrain from using the term “medieval” to mean ignorant or repressive, and improve his understanding of the complexity and subtlety of medieval European society, the womb of the Renaissance. In addition, his relentless determination to be ever the enfant terrible leads him so far astray as to use the expression “making hamburger out of sacred cows,” a cliché among undergraduates 30 years ago and a needless offense to hundreds of millions of inoffensive people.

Finally, regrettably, the last chapter comprises an inexplicable descent into self-indulgence which ends up as self-caricature (“Intellectuals always remind me of virgins determined to write sex manuals”; “A room filled with university professors makes me nostalgic for the Khmer Rouge,” etc.). This chapter is a long way from the stunning revelations of his “The New Warrior Class” (Parameters, Summer 1994); it cannot fail to distress many of Peters’ admirers, and it should be deleted from any future printing.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Making War, Thinking History: Munich, Vietnam, and Presidential Uses of Force from Korea to Kosovo. By Jeffrey Record. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2002. 216 pages. $28.95. Reviewed by Dr. Allan R. Millett, Major General Raymond E. Mason, Jr., Professor of Military History, Ohio State University, coauthor of A War To Be Won: Fighting World War II, and author of Their War for Korea.

Like most students of presidential decisionmaking that leads to war—or something less—Jeffrey Record ponders the breathtaking historical explanations offered up for the commitment of the American armed forces to battle. We should share his curiosity, but not assume that he and other defense analysts and pundits have the ques-


tions right, let alone the answers. Making War, Thinking History muses on the use of historical analogy to justify taking the nation to war. Record concludes that “the evidence suggests, for better or for worse, some thinking about history attends all significant presidential uses of force, especially those that invite war.”

Record’s long career near the corridors of power in Washington gives his ruminations credibility. After civilian field service in Vietnam, a formative experience, Record picked up his doctoral union card at Johns Hopkins and put in his “Hill time” on three different staffs. He advanced to guru status with consecutive appointments to the Brookings Institution, the Hudson Institute, the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, the BDM Corporation, and now the faculty of the Air War College. Record’s writing on defense issues, force and mission mismatches, budgetary problems, defense technology, the conduct of the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, and military reform are all serious. He is not a historian, however, and there is a difference for gurus as well as Presidents.

Record’s concern is that Presidents unleash historical analogies like electoral promises to justify armed intervention. More specifically, he charges that Presidents from Harry Truman to George W. Bush have used the analogy of “Munich,” meaning the British appeasement of Adolf Hitler in 1938, and the analogy of “Vietnam,” meaning an expensive and losing commitment to save the Republic of Vietnam, to justify or reject limited war from Korea (1950-53) through Kosovo (1999). “Munich” is the codeword for encouraging further aggression by demonstrating a lack of will and doubt about one’s military capability; “Vietnam” is a mantra for a host of perceived mistakes, including intervention in a post-colonial civil war, accepting excessive casualties, defending people who don’t defend themselves with sufficient ardor, accepting rules of engagement designed by media-wary politicians, creating strategic and operational absurdities, and not anticipating the fickleness of public support. The “ideal” war should be defined by the six criteria of the Weinberger-Powell Doctrine of 1984, which enshrines “the American way of war” as an enraged punitive expedition that ends in the complete destruction of the enemy political system and armed forces, followed by an American make-over. Presidents, Record asserts, almost invariably get the analogies wrong. Clio, the Muse of History, is a victim of date-rape, but the Presidents treat her like a virgin bride.

As Record admits, rationalization-by-analogy has its complexities, and assessing what Presidents really believe is no mean challenge. First of all, the presidential use of analogy almost always appears in contemporary public statements justifying a military commitment or in memoirs, often spruced up for intellectual content. These are also Record’s dominant sources, so the reader cannot be certain he is getting real testimony or smoke. One might add that presidential critics are often the primary interpreters of presidential statements, including the allegedly false analogies. Should we allow, for example, Senator Wayne Morse to be the ultimate authority of what Lyndon Johnson really meant in 1964-65?

There is another, more elusive intellectual problem. What does one do with a President who uses and abuses historical evidence because his caste of mind is essentially a-historical? To learn history, one needs to read history and to do so with some guidance from educated, professional historians serving as classroom teachers or reliable authors. By world standards American Presidents are not well-educated in the humanities and social sciences. Just think about the quality of the curriculum and faculty at the colleges attended by Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan. The Bushes and Gerald Ford attended first-rate uni-


versities, but majored in athletics and social clubs. Bill Clinton attended Georgetown and made good use of it—in many ways. Harry Truman, who may have the record for the presidential study of history, did not attend a college, but at least he studied the American Civil War, which certainly had something to say about revolutionary people’s war, one post-World War II phenomenon with which Truman had to deal.

Truman’s decision to intervene in Korea, for example, shows some of the shortcomings of Record’s analysis as well as decisionmaking by analogy. As Record says, Truman made much of the similarities between Nazi and Stalinist aggression and the perils of appeasement. Record implies that the Korean War allowed the Truman Administration to start a rearmament program that would not be funded by Congress without a regional war that might lead to another global war. Truman did, in fact, play the Munich card, but it is questionable whether he really believed the appropriateness of the analogy or whether it swayed a single vote or changed a single public opinion poll. Record—following Truman—makes light of the experience in 1945-50 that might have superceded Munich. The Truman Administration had coped with aggressive and popular communist parties in France and Italy; it had made Yugoslavia a silent partner in NATO: it had sent a military mission and money to Greece; and it had already engaged in commitments to stop communist insurgencies in China, Indochina, and the Philippines before the first T-34 crossed the 38th Parallel. It had cajoled millions of dollars in foreign aid from Congress for the Marshall Plan and the Military Assistance Program.

The Korean War, in fact, offers a good example of how historical analysis might have been used to draw appropriate distinctions between both Munich and Vietnam and the Korean commitment. Truman seldom connected the dots (although the best minds in Defense and State did), and Record does not either, putting a dunce cap on Truman for invoking the misjudgments of 1933-39 as a rationale for American intervention in 1950. First of all, Korea had been at war since 1948 when communist insurgents in Korea’s southern provinces attempted to stop the creation of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and then, failing that goal, attempted to overthrow Syngman Rhee’s government. The North Koreans and Russians lent a hand. The next consideration is that the communist insurgency lacked a legitimate nationalist leader, at least in the eyes of many Koreans. Kim Il Sung was not Ho Chi Minh or Mao Zedong. Moreover, many Koreans, having survived Japanese colonialism, had no desire to accept a new Russian or Chinese socialist version of imperialism. This commitment to resist was especially strong among the Korean leadership elite, often exiled from northern Korea, often Christian, often Western-educated, often committed to Japanese-style modernization, if not hegemony. In China thousands of communist partisans and defecting nationalist soldiers brought down the Kuomintang; the South Koreans eventually crushed their domestic guerrillas, and no battalion or larger unit of the ROK army defected in 1950. Who needed Munich and why?

Record may have identified a real problem in presidential decisionmaking— I personally doubt it—but he offers no correctives. Should Presidents have to wade through an eccentric list of history books like those assigned to military officers by service chiefs who seldom read? Presidents are not the reading type, often struggling with the newspapers and the morning intelligence summaries. What about a court historian, a Jiminy Cricket to correct a Presidential Pinnochio that can’t keep his analogies straight? Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., helped invent Camelot, and when Henry Graff could not work a similar magic for Lyndon Johnson, he returned to his classroom. Nixon, also a reader, at least had Henry Kissinger, a historical spinmeister, around to talk precedents and write magisterial


memoirs. A better option is that the immediate presidential office or at least the National Security Council staff should have a professional historian who can review policy papers for historical appropriateness. Perhaps the speechwriting office should be similarly manned. The SOP for such personnel should be Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May’s Thinking in Time: The Use of History for Decision-Makers (1986), not May’s earlier Lessons of the Past, much-favored by Record. If another Ronald Reagan, say, thinks the Munich analogy applies to Lebanon in 1982-84, Professor Clio could suggest that the interventions in Lebanon and Jordan in 1958 probably have more telling tales to tell.

On balance, however, Record’s effort to grasp the issue of policy-by-historical-analogy is well-intentioned and worth reading. Anything that brings more rationality and clarity to intervention decisions is worth cultivating, even if the harvest is limited. Jeffrey Record at least deserves credit for raising some questions about presidential decisionmaking, even if he produces no convincing evidence that either the problem or the solution really exists.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Over Seas: U.S. Army Maritime Operations, 1898 Through the Fall of the Philippines. By Charles Dana Gibson with E. Kay Gibson. Camden, Maine: Ensign Press, 2002. 474 pages. $49.95. Reviewed by Brian McAllister Linn, author of The Philippine War, 1899-1902 and Professor of History, Texas A&M University.

In appearance, Over Seas looks to be one of those military histories which belongs more on a coffee table than in a library. But on further examination it reveals itself as a compendium of information on a subject that few people know anything about—US Army overseas transport from the Spanish-American War to the Fall of the Philippines. The authors have done a commendable job in digging up material on the overseas transport service. The book includes a host of pictures and an extensive listing of ships that served in the Transport Service, often including their date of purchase, tonnage, and dates of service. It also contains a number of indexes and extensive lists of everything from first boats chartered in the war against Spain to the names of blockade runners to Bataan and Corregidor. Readers who want to know the names of every vessel assigned to the Army during the defense of the Philippines or every transport used to ship the AEF to France will find the information here. Almost half the book deals with events in 1940-41 and the desperate efforts to resupply the US forces in the Philippines.

A trip aboard one of the US Army Transport Service’s vessels was one of the most influential experiences in the “Old Army.” Troopships such as the USAT Thomas and USAT Sherman transported soldiers and their families across the Pacific, while other, smaller ships moved troops and supplies among the islands of the Philippines and the Caribbean. Many an Army marriage owed its origins to the month-long trip to the Philippines and China. On Hawaii, the arrival of the troop transport was grounds for a virtual holiday—soldiers cut loose for a spree on Hotel Street, and officers and their wives attended “boat dances” in Waikiki’s fashionable hotels. On board, the voyage could be either luxurious or miserable, but either way it was memorable. High-ranking officers enjoyed spacious accommodations and excellent mess facilities, but lower-ranking officers were often separated from their families, crammed into tiny cabins, and, until the 1930s, forced to wear the dress uniform when on deck. Indeed, one criticism of this book is that the authors do not include enough of what the transports meant to the social history of the Army.


The major problems with this book are not the sections on transport, which are very valuable and well researched, but occur when the authors veer into the broader field of US military history. Some readers may have problems accepting a cause-and-effect relationship between FDR’s “provocation” and Japanese aggression in 1941, particularly given Japanese conduct in China and Southeast Asia. In their extended treatment of the Spanish-American War, the Gibsons might have done well to balance G. J. A. O’Toole’s entertaining but somewhat suspect “epic” with the works of David F. Trask, William R. Braisted, and Graham A. Cosmas. There are a number of mistakes in the footnotes, not least of which are that they follow no uniform citation form, and they contain more than a few factual or interpretive errors. In 1864 Nelson A. Miles was not a “winner of the Medal of Honor”; rather, he was retroactively awarded the medal in 1892 for his Civil War heroics. Did Dewey really base his conviction that there were no mines in Manila Bay on his study of a Chart of Philippine Islands Between San Bernardino and Mindoro Straits—an area over 80 miles south of the Bay? Richard Welch’s book is Response to Imperialism, not Response to Materialism. An extensive quote on McKinley’s decision to keep the Philippines is not only misquoted (the authors combine McKinley’s words with Ephraim Smith’s commentary), but it is also misattributed twice: first, the quote is from the Christian Advocate not the Christian Science Monitor; second, Smith does not use the quote to illustrate the point the authors claim he makes. Some might say that most of these errors would trouble only specialists, but this is a book whose entire appeal is to specialists.

Over Seas does provide a great deal of information on an often forgotten part of US Army history. It is particularly useful as a reference source. The extended treatment of the Philippine campaign of 1940-41, and the underappreciated efforts to bring supplies to the trapped defenders, is an important treatment of a neglected portion of the war. For those interested in Army maritime operations, the Gibsons have written a valuable work.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Churchill: A Biography. By Roy Jenkins. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2001. 1,002 pages. $40.00. Reviewed by Dr. David Jablonsky (Colonel, USA Ret.) Professor of National Security Affairs, US Army War College.

Winston Churchill’s life spanned a period from the reign of Queen Victoria to that of Elizabeth II—a time of immense change that began with small wars on the periphery of the British Empire and ended with the advent of the hydrogen bomb. Over the years, numerous biographies and memoirs by contemporaries have chronicled his life. Added to this are Churchill’s own writings, including his mid-life autobiography, still fascinating and exciting reading after 70 years. Finally, there is Martin Gilbert’s comprehensive and definitive multi-volume biography of the British statesman, replete with companion volumes of documents.

What, then, can Roy Jenkins bring to a new biography of Churchill, particularly since he acknowledges that he has not unearthed many new facts about the British statesman? The answer is an experienced eye as a politician, historian, and biographer. Jenkins was a leading figure in the Labour Party for several decades and, like Churchill, served as Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer. In addition, he is a member of the House of Lords and Chancellor of Oxford University. He is the author of 18 books, including well-received biographies of William Gladstone and Herbert Asquith. The re-


sult is an unawed, sometimes wry and witty, always elegantly written study that provides new insights on Churchill.

The biography is marked throughout by masterful examinations of British governmental culture in Parliament and in the Cabinet. Jenkins is particularly insightful in terms of the House of Commons, capturing the richness of its political traditions and of Churchill’s growing and ultimately unswerving devotion to that institution. To this he adds perceptive analyses of the impact of Churchill’s speeches, particularly in wartime, while demonstrating how hard that Member of Parliament worked on all his speeches, committing them to memory, but always, after an early disastrous bout of forgetfulness, backed up by notes. At the same time, Jenkins guides the reader expertly through the intricate workings and connections of the British aristocracy which formed an important background to Churchill’s life. But as Jenkins also points out, Churchill’s ambition and sense of destiny (“We are all worms. But I do believe that I am a glow worm.”) meant that the British statesman never allowed himself “to be imprisoned by the circumstances of his birth.”

As a historian, Jenkins captures the larger context of the events in Churchill’s life, whether it is the origin of Britain’s growing involvement in Egypt, which reaches its denouement on the killing fields at Omdurman, or the linkage of Churchill’s Mediterranean strategy in World War II to the British way of war. As a writer, he conveys a perceptive appreciation of Churchill’s literary style and debt to Macaulay and Gibbon and chronicles the astonishing productivity of a man who primarily dictated his books and articles—a case, as Churchill summed it up, of living “from mouth to hand.” Although Churchill was disappointed at not winning the peace award, Jenkins makes abundantly clear why the British statesman was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

At the same time, Jenkins has a writer’s ear for contemporary assessments like that of Pamela Plowden, Churchill’s first love: “The first time you meet Winston you see all his faults, and the rest of your life you spend in discovering his virtues.” Equally important are the author’s incisive and insightful observations. Thus, his comments as a fellow politician on Churchill out of power in the wilderness years of the 1930s: “In these circumstances it is neither surprising nor discreditable that when he thought there was a chance of major office . . . he pulled his punches against the government.” Or writing of Churchill’s controversial World War II decision to destroy the French fleet in Oran, Jenkins notes: “Nearly anyone else would have let sleeping ships lie, and hoped vaguely for the best.”

Of particular interest are mildly revisionist approaches to Churchill’s relations with two American Presidents, Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower. Reacting to the increased strains in the Roosevelt-Churchill relationship as World War II progressed and the fact that the well-traveled Prime Minister did not attend FDR’s funeral, Jenkins concludes that the emotional link between the two men “was never as close as was commonly thought. It was more a partnership of circumstances and convenience than a friendship of individuals.” Surely that is too far-reaching a conclusion for such a complex relationship. There is always the picture of the Prime Minister, for instance, captured by a participant in the memorial service for Roosevelt in St. Paul’s Cathedral, who after the ceremony “saw Winston standing bare-headed, framed between two columns of the portico, and he was sobbing as the shaft of sunlight fell on his face.” More convincing is the depiction of Eisenhower, whom Jenkins considers “always a little cold for Churchill’s taste, with the famous smile barely skin-deep,” combining with John Foster Dulles during Churchill’s last sad tenure in power to treat the British Prime Minister with “insensitivity verging on brutality.”


In the end, Jenkins’ biography is a readable, accessible, and enlightening study of Churchill. Only in a few instances does the pace in this massive book falter— primarily under the excessive weight of too many details concerning electoral results and the history of Parliament as well as overlong quotes from the speeches of Gladstone and Asquith. The judgments are generally evenhanded and objective. As Jenkins demonstrates, Churchill could be insensitive and a bully—with occasional lapses on major issues such as Indian independence and support of Edward VIII and in some military campaigns such as Gallipoli and Norway. And even Churchill’s wife acknowledged how little judgment he sometimes used in selecting political allies and friends. On the other hand, Jenkins clearly demonstrates throughout the book the development of a statesman whose greatness even surprises the author in the end. “When I started writing this book,” he concludes, “I thought that Gladstone was, by a narrow margin, the greater man, certainly the more remarkable specimen of humanity. In the course of writing it I have changed my mind. I now put Churchill with all his idiosyncrasies, his indulgences, his occasional childishness, but also his genius, his tenacity and his persistent ability, right or wrong, successful or unsuccessful, to be larger than life, as the greatest human being ever to occupy 10 Downing Street.”

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War. By David J. Eicher. Foreword by James M. McPherson. Illustrated by Lee Vande Visse. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001. 990 pages. $40.00. Reviewed by Colonel Len Fullenkamp, USA Ret., Professor of Military History, US Army War College.

“Commanders screamed orders that were rarely heard in the chaos; great billowing clouds of white smoke belched from cannon; shells ripped trenches into the plowed fields; and men were dying at a great rate on both sides of the fight.” As this description of the Battle of Antietam illustrates, David Eicher’s military history of the Civil War resounds with what James McPherson describes in his forward as the “Sturm und Drang” of battle narrative. War, as it is often said, makes rattling good history, and this one rattles a lot.

With his eye-catching subtitle, the author gives fair warning that The Longest Night is not going to spend much time with politics, economics, social issues, or any other subject that causes the reader to stray too far from the battlefield. All things military, from strategy to tactics and nearly everything in-between, dominate this history of the Civil War. Those with a hearty appetite for the whiz of bullets, the bang of artillery, dying declarations, famous last words, and eyewitness accounts of the face of battle will not be disappointed.

Eicher’s narrative begins with the April 1861 firing on Fort Sumter, an event described as a descent into darkness that for Americans, North and South, signaled the start of their “longest night.” Nearly 900 pages later he closes his military history in the last days of June 1865 with the surrender of the last vestiges of the Confederate army scattered about Texas. Vivid accounts of combat fill the pages, with summaries of nearly every notable engagement of the war, from army campaigns to duels, each brimming with details, personal narratives, and all rendered with evenhanded analysis.

Is another book on the Civil War necessary? Rhetorically answering the question, Eicher avers that, compared with the dated works of Bruce Catton (considered by some a “Yankee apologist”) and Shelby Foote (said to be “too flattering of Southern


soldiers”), his book provides a new look that uses “fresh material” to “construct a realistic history of what happened on the battlefield” based upon the most reliable primary source materials “without embellishments.” What exactly this fresh, realistic, and embellishment-free material consists of is not readily apparent. For the most part, the reader will find familiar facts and analysis, but the material is well-ordered and generally presented in an engaging fashion and bristling with details. Of the latter, this history has plenty, making it potentially useful as both a history and a reference work.

The Longest Night blends styles and formats such as one finds in E. B. and Barbara Long’s Civil War Day by Day, Ezra Warner’s Generals in Blue and Generals in Gray, Mark Boatner’s The Civil War Dictionary, and any of Stephen Sears’ excellent books on the Civil War (Landscape Turned Red, Chancellorsville), noted for their effective use of personal narratives by eyewitnesses to advance the story and bring it to life. To tell the story Eicher strings together a series of tightly written summaries of practically every incident of combat worthy of the name—on land, on rivers, off the coasts, and on the high seas during the four years of the war. That’s no small feat when one considers that E. B. Long puts this number of combat engagements at “10,455, not considering naval actions.” Embedded throughout are interesting digressions to explore strategy, tactics (infantry, artillery, cavalry, signal, engineers), logistics (everything from the soldier’s basic load and daily rations to the stuff needed to keep an army in the field for days and weeks at a time), balloon operations, railroads, military prisons, paroles, and many other subjects related to military operations. The section on military medicine includes a discussion of treatments for wounds and disease, statistics on numbers and locations of wounds and wounded for the entire war, details on amputations (frequency and type), fixed and field military hospitals, nurses and doctors, and education and training—all of which makes for interesting reading.

“New” does describe Eicher’s discussions of Civil War navies, Union and Confederate. These are crammed with interesting facts and countless details, such as the number and types of ships in 1861 and those acquired during the course of the war; the number of officers and enlisted personnel in the navies in 1861, including those who left Federal service to join the Confederate navy; and the many technological innovations (in weapons, propulsion, armor plating, submersibles, etc.) that shaped engagements on the rivers and high seas.

The often-confusing rank structure of Civil War armies with brevet, temporary, and regular army grades and ranks is rendered fully understandable in a few short paragraphs. Indeed, Eicher is meticulous on the subject of rank, and many generals known to history are properly reduced in rank as they are mentioned with the notation, “rank never confirmed,” with an explanation then provided parenthetically or in a note. Finally, no military history would be complete without maps, and this one has over 80, including several on naval battles.

Eicher uses numbers of casualties along with outcome to judge the winners and losers. But outcome is not always a sure measure of the true quality of an effort. For example, to focus only on the reasons for Pickett’s failed effort at Gettysburg risks leading one to miss considerations of what might have been had he succeeded. Was the gain worth the risk and the cost? Arguably yes. Moreover, sometimes the value of a military operation is less in the winning or losing but in the impact it might have on policy. Sometimes even a failing effort may affect policy favorably. Thus Jubal Early’s 1864 raid on Washington can rightly be judged as to have had little chance of military success, but it


did compel Grant to withdraw forces from in front of Petersburg so that they could by their presence calm the nervous citizens in the Union capital. Moreover, with the elections of 1864 not far off, any claim that the North was winning the war had to be cheapened by the sounds of Confederate cannon booming less than seven miles from the White House. Taken in isolation the raid was a quixotic affair with no chance of succeeding, but considered in a larger context one might argue that without later successes (Sherman at Atlanta and Sheridan in the Valley) the outcome of the November 1864 elections might have gone against Lincoln and the Radical Republicans.

These minor complaints aside, Eicher’s history ably accomplishes what it sets out to do, and that is to provide a highly detailed accounting of the military events of the Civil War. Some historians will criticize this book as being too heavy on detail and too light on analysis, and buffs may lament the author’s tendency to gloss over the arcane minutia that they consider so essential, but as both an interesting narrative and a reliable reference book, this history passes muster.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion: The Final Battles of the Petersburg Campaign. By A. Wilson Greene. Mason City, Iowa: Savas Publishing Company, 2000. 490 pages. $34.95. Reviewed by Dr. J. Boone Bartholomees, Jr., Professor of Military History, US Army War College.

Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion continues the recent trend in Civil War historiography of detailed (essentially micro-historical) tactical studies of Civil War battles, and simultaneously contributes to the even more recent phenomenon of interest in the closing days of that war. This is the history of the attack that smashed the Confederate line at Petersburg, forced the evacuation of that city and Richmond, and led ultimately to the surrender at Appomattox. The book necessarily contains several chapters of background information to set the stage, but the meat of the tale is the Union attack on the morning of 2 April 1865—and particularly the lead role played in that attack by the VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac. The subject reflects both the interest and expertise of the author. A. Wilson Greene is a former National Park Service historian and manager, a resident of Petersburg, Virginia, and the Executive Director of the privately owned historical park and museum that now occupies part of the site of the VI Corps breakthrough. Greene has done extensive research that he weaves together using detailed personal knowledge of the terrain and a fine storytelling style to produce an admirable work.

Nevertheless, the book cannot claim all the credit both the author and the dust jacket ascribe to it. This is not the definitive work on breaking the backbone of the Confederacy or even on breaking the Petersburg line. Strategically, the backbone of the Confederacy snapped at Appomattox, not Petersburg. It was Lee’s surrender, not the loss of Richmond or Petersburg, that ended the rebellion. Tactically and operationally, the attack on 2 April 1865 was simply the last act of the Petersburg campaign.

Breaking the Petersburg line was a complex task. It resulted from the cumulative effect of several actions, including at least the battles of Fort Stedman (25 March 1865), Five Forks (30 March to 1 April 1865), and the actual breakthrough (which does not have a formal name). Green describes each of those; however, he does so with significantly different degrees of fidelity. The reason is that Greene consciously focuses on the VI Corps and its breakthrough attack and the corresponding Confederate defense. Descriptions of


non-VI Corps actions are significantly less detailed. Thus, John B. Gordon’s Confederate attack on Fort Stedman and the IX Corps defense of that point is described in very broad strokes, while the march of Brigadier General Frank Wheaton’s VI Corps division to reinforce the threatened point—which was unnecessary, terminated before the unit reached Fort Stedman, and failed to result in any combat—is described in detail. Greene continues by describing the Battle of Jones’s Farm in great detail. This reader was unfamiliar with the Battle of Jones’s Farm, as I suspect is common (when discussed at all it is usually considered part of the Fort Stedman action, without a separate name). Jones’s Farm was the result of a belated and only partially successful attempt by VI Corps to occupy the Confederate skirmish line on its front. The neighboring II Corps launched an earlier and more successful attack for the same purpose that the author gives scant attention. Similarly, the critical Battle of Five Forks, with no VI Corps participation, receives only brief mention. There is nothing wrong with this—the author specifically states that his intent is to focus on the VI Corps. He actually and necessarily expands beyond that focus to do justice to the final attack on 2 April. That was a multi-corps and multi-army assault in which the VI Corps attack was both critical and unexpectedly successful but by no means unique. Nevertheless, by limiting detailed coverage of the precursor battles to the VI Corps’ participation, Greene relinquishes any claim for his book being the definitive work on the breakthrough.

I do not want to convey the false impression that this book is unworthy—it just claims a little more scope than it delivers. In fact, Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion is the definitive book on the final assault on Petersburg. Greene’s exhaustive research presents an insider’s view of the VI Corps from points of view ranging from the private soldier to the commanding general. He discusses both sides of every phase of the final assault in detail and presents a balanced and reasonable interpretation of the action. Unlike many modern critics, Greene does not demand too much of the troops. For example, he would like to have seen better employment of some Federal units that might have made the victory more complete, but does not insist that had they just been pushed a little harder the exhausted Union troops could have ended the war on the night of April 2d. Conversely, Greene does not try to glorify the confused and only partially effective Confederate defense (although he gives due credit to the courage of individuals and units). Thus, the reader clearly sees Lee struggling to hold on until dark so he can commence an ultimately fatal retreat. Excellent maps—important components of military texts, particularly tactical texts, that frequently fall victim to the economics of publishing—support each phase of the narrative, allowing the reader to visualize the action. The story is engaging; the book is an easy read. I recommend it to the Civil War enthusiast.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)No Gun Ri: A Military History of the Korean War Incident. By Robert L. Bateman. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2002. 320 pages. $22.95. Reviewed by Colonel Donald W. Boose, Jr., USA Ret., who served as a rifle platoon leader in the 12th US Cavalry (Infantry), had combat service as an advisor to a Vietnamese infantry battalion, and is currently an Adjunct Professor in the US Army War College Department of Distance Education.

On 26 July 1950, soldiers of the 2d Battalion, 7th US Cavalry Regiment (2/7 Cavalry), fired into a group of Korean refugees at a railroad overpass near the village of No Gun Ri, Korea. According to those living in the village today, survivors of the inci-


dent, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press story, the incident was a callous military atrocity: The American soldiers called in air strikes that killed a hundred of the refugees, then drove the survivors into the confined space under the overpass and, at the command of their officers, poured rifle and machine-gun fire into the huddled mass, killing another 200 to 300 of the helpless civilians over a three-day period. This version of the story seemed to be confirmed by American soldiers who participated in the massacre. Later, however, one of these veterans was found to have fabricated both his military record and his involvement, and at least two other key American witnesses were, on the basis of military records, found not to have been present during the incident. A review team established by the Department of the Army Inspector General concluded that Korean civilians were killed and injured by US soldiers in the vicinity of No Gun Ri, but could not confirm that large numbers of refugees were deliberately slaughtered. The members of the review board concluded that what “befell civilians in the vicinity of No Gun Ri in late July 1950 was a tragic and deeply regrettable accompaniment to a war forced upon unprepared US and ROK forces.”

Robert Bateman, a US military officer who once served in the 2/7 Cavalry and a former associate professor of history at the US Military Academy, has conducted his own examination of the incident. The title reflects his view that military history is different from journalism and that the interrogation of documents, surviving witnesses, and other evidence through the methods of military history leads to a more accurate account of past events than does journalistic reporting. Bateman summarizes the historical setting of the Korean War, describes the experiences of the 2/7 Cavalry before 26 July 1950 (including tutorials on operational and tactical terminology), and provides his own explanation of what took place at No Gun Ri. He also addresses the issues of historical evidence, the “fake veteran” phenomenon, and military-media relations, with a critique of the methods and motivations of the Associated Press journalists.

Bateman’s conclusions are, with a few exceptions, consistent with those of the Inspector General’s review. He notes that when the soldiers of the 2/7 Cavalry arrived in Korea in late July 1950 they, like most American combat forces on occupation duty in Japan, had experienced little training above platoon level. Many of their most experienced noncommissioned officers had been pulled out to fill the 24th Infantry Division, the first unit committed to combat. On 25 July, the 2/7 Cavalry moved into a blocking position on a road southwest of No Gun Ri. The young American soldiers, facing combat for the first time, had heard stories of US units being overrun by North Korean tanks and of American prisoners being shot in the head, their hands bound with wire. They believed that North Korean soldiers clad in the traditional white clothing of the Korean peasant were infiltrating American lines, disguised as refugees. Bateman notes that the area around No Gun Ri was a center of pre-war communist guerrilla activity and speculates that South Korean guerrillas were probably still active in the area, assisting North Korean forces.

During the night of 25 July, four US light tanks, previously cut off by an enemy roadblock and returning to American lines, drove through the 2/7 Cavalry. The Cavalry soldiers fired at the tanks, the tanks fired back, and in panic the entire unit pulled back, having been routed without any actual contact with the enemy. On 26 July, the leadership regained control of the unit, sent parties out to recover over a hundred weapons thrown away by the soldiers in flight, and established a new defensive position athwart a narrow valley, through which ran a road and railway tracks that crossed a stream bed via a culvert and a concrete overpass. Later that day, a large group of refugees


came down the road toward the 2/7 Cavalry positions. The soldiers tried to stop the refugees by hand gestures, firing over their heads, and dropping mortar rounds in their path. Some of the shells exploded among the refugees as they neared the railroad culvert and overpass. Based on the earlier presence of communist guerrillas and the discovery of two non-US weapons and expended cartridges after the incident, Bateman suggests one or more communist guerrillas hidden among the refugees returned the fire of the Americans, and that many of the 2/7 Cavalry soldiers then fired into the crowd. Bateman estimates the firing lasted only a brief time and was soon brought to a stop by the unit’s officers. The next day, both the refugees and the 2/7 Cavalry moved farther south.

Bateman does not contest that many incidents of American soldiers killing and wounding refugees took place. He acknowledges that some refugee columns were attacked from the air, but notes that the 2/7 Cavalry soldiers could not have called in air strikes because they did not have radios capable of communicating with airplanes and had no tactical air control parties assigned. Civilians certainly were killed at No Gun Ri, but there are no reports from American soldiers who were actually there of officers ordering the shooting. Based on the lack of evidence of large numbers of bodies or graves, Bateman disputes the allegations that hundreds were killed. He believes the No Gun Ri survivors have conflated several genuine tragic experiences into a single intense, but inaccurate, memory.

Although this is the most plausible account of the incident that this reviewer has read to date, there are some problems with the book. Bateman calls his version of the incident the “truth, supported by historical evidence.” Truth is a strong word for what is, in the end, an account that is consistent with circumstantial evidence. Bateman acknowledges that he does not speak or read Korean, and so was unable to question the Korean survivors. Bateman provides tactical maps (taken from the Inspector General’s review, with spelling errors intact) adequate to trace the movement of the various US battalions, and one larger-scale map of the immediate vicinity of No Gun Ri. However, the large-scale map does not portray the 2/7 Cavalry positions, nor does Bateman provide any photographs of the site, making it difficult to follow the eyewitness accounts with any clarity.

There are still gaps in the story and unanswered questions, but in spite of its shortcomings, this book is an important contribution to the debate over the No Gun Ri incident and the treatment of Korean civilians by the US military during the Korean War. No reader can come away from the book with the view that American forces were blameless, and that all civilian casualties were the result of unavoidable military necessity. Instead, the reader will be forced to ponder the relationship of training, command climate, and the presence of experienced noncommissioned officers to the performance of military units in combat and the eternal issues of military ethics.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Tank: The Progress of a Monstrous War Machine. By Patrick Wright. New York: Viking, 2002. 499 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Dr. Conrad Crane, Douglas MacArthur Chair of Research, US Army War College.

On the jacket of this book, noted historian Richard Overy describes it as “richly researched and brilliantly written.” The passage is obviously excerpted from a longer critique, and one would hope that the rest of the evaluation by a historian of Overy’s talent and reputation was not as positive. For this long, disjointed, and shallow book does not deserve that praise, and it will disappoint knowledgeable readers who expect it to live up to such quotes.


Tank is a loosely connected series of essays based upon British views of the tank and the author’s impressions concerning other writers’ observations about it. While Wright begins and ends with sections that are more cosmopolitan, he generally presents a British cultural and intellectual history of how armored military vehicles have been perceived during the last century. The author is a professor of modern cultural studies at Nottingham Trent University, and he presents some interesting ideas, but he has not done sufficient research to overcome his limited knowledge of military history. Professor Wright is also inconsistent in his focus; sometimes he seems clear that all armored vehicles are not tanks, but at other times he loses that perspective and tends to confuse his argument.

The book opens with a provocative introduction dealing with the images of “tankman” from Tiananmen Square and how they were received around the world. Part One that follows focuses on the early British experience with tanks in World War I. It contains some excellent tactical vignettes of fighting in the early models, but provides little overview of the major tank actions of the war. The author provides a whole chapter on the use of tanks in British war bond rallies, while devoting only one sentence to the Battles of Soissons and Amiens in 1918 that proved the decisive role the weapon could play, and which provided the basis for much of the reputation associated with armored forces.

Part Two is primarily a biography J. F. C. Fuller, perhaps the most important Western theorist on the employment of armored forces. However, the book spends an inordinate amount of time analyzing Fuller’s ties to the occult while minimizing his military thought. Though Wright has obviously read much about the British thinker, he does not reveal much understanding of Fuller’s theories of combined arms warfare. The author also tries to explore the development of tank doctrine and forces in various countries during the interwar years, but his coverage is notable mainly for his ignorance about the French and American experiences. His description of the latter is based solely on one book, a biography of George Patton.

The bulk of Part Three of the book looks at German blitzkrieg mainly through the eyes of Nazi journalist Curzio Malaparte, a rather strange approach. While Wright has a good grasp of the wartime evolution of Soviet armored forces, his coverage of the Germans is very uneven, and he misses many of the key actions and developments during World War II. For example, the section on the initial attacks in Poland focuses almost exclusively on press coverage of operations which he never really analyzes in their entirety, and he writes only one inaccurate page about the fall of France, the event that made blitzkrieg so feared.

Part Four is by far the strongest portion of the book, with a good overview of the development of Israeli armored forces and a description of American efforts to look to the future. The main flaw in the author’s analysis of the Israelis is that while he acknowledges that they concentrated more on fielding pure tank forces after the 1967 war, he does not reveal that many of Israel’s tactical problems and high losses in 1973, especially on the Egyptian front, were the result of a misguided move away from combined arms. His section on the American “Army After Next” project is provocative but now outdated, as the Army is pursing a number of even newer initiatives.

Wright is correct in emphasizing the importance of the tank as an icon of state or national power, especially with regard to the British, Soviet, and Israeli examples he cites. His other military assertions are more questionable, skewed to a large degree by his preoccupation with Fuller. There are other theorists equally deserving of examination, especially in a book focusing so much on ideas.


Tank might appeal to individuals working on views of technology, cultural studies, or art criticism. It offers little for military historians and professional soldiers. The time necessary to read this book about tanks would be better spent working on them in the motor pool.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost. By the Russian General Staff, translated and edited by Lester W. Grau and Michael A. Gress. University Press of Kansas, 2002. 364 pages. $45.00 ($17.95 paper). Reviewed by Ali A. Jalali, former Afghan colonel, author of several books on Afghan military history, and currently Director of the Afghan Radio Network Project at the Voice of America, Washington, D.C.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the ensuing decade-long unsuccessful military action to control the country became Moscow’s longest foreign war of the 20th century. Its impact has been far-reaching. It not only contributed to major geopolitical shifts in the region and beyond but also put to the test the validity of certain military concepts underpinning the tenets of Soviet operational art and combined arms tactics. Yet few published works on the war look at the conflict from a critical military perspective.

The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost is a professional study of the drawn-out conflict. It reviews the Soviet military experience recounting the struggle of a modern army trying to cope with the harsh conditions of guerrilla warfare in a mountainous environment. Written by a group of 16 military analysts from the Russian General Staff, the volume draws on studies done by several Russian institutions compiled in a single work. Eyewitness accounts are laced with theoretical discussions similar to standard lectures given in Russian military schools. The book divides the war into four phases: the invasion (December 1979 to February 1980), military operations to pacify the country (March 1980 to April 1985), “Afghanization” of the war (April 1985 to January 1987), and the withdrawal (January 1987 to February 1989). The nature of the combat action, the structure of the forces, and the level of cooperation with Afghan government forces are outlined in each phase.

The book stands out for dealing with all aspects of military action—including the force structure, command and control, training, operational art, combined arms tactics, combat support issues, and logistics. It offers a comprehensive and yet succinct analysis of the war. The translators and editors have done a superb job, adding useful comments to put the passages in perspective. The editorial comments also help clarify the authors’ confusing assertions and incomplete statements.

The most striking issue that recurs throughout the analysis is the lack of Soviet political and military preparedness for the Afghan war despite Moscow’s close ties with the country for a quarter of a century. This drawback, coupled with risky miscalculations about the “correlation of forces and means,” haunted the Soviet campaign all the way to the end. According to the authors, Soviet leaders had little comprehension of the “historic, religious, and national particularities of Afghanistan” when they sent their troops into the mountainous country. Nor was the Soviet military machine able to meet the requirements of fighting a counter-guerrilla war on rugged terrain. The troops had no practical skills in the conduct of counter-guerrilla warfare, nor specific guidelines and


theoretical manuals for fighting such a war. The army, they say, lacked sufficient combat readiness to fight in mountainous terrain.

These statements invalidate the pre-war notion that the Soviet military methodology was characterized by a legendary resourcefulness. An army reputed to have developed creative methods for tactical and operational employment of armed forces under various conditions in different theaters of military action had hardly digested the lessons from the Basmachi war in Central Asia (1919-33) or the counterinsurgency war in Vietnam.

An army structured for large-scale, high-tempo engagements failed to deal effectively with decentralized guerrilla fighters who were too elusive to be destroyed or softened-up by the weight of massive air and artillery “preparation” or finished off by the swift and bold maneuvers of armored and mechanized columns. The Soviet command attempted to make adjustments as the conflict wore on. These modifications were slow and incremental, allowing the Mujahedin to adjust as well. Even so, the shifts dictated by the tactical environment mostly affected the front-line units and failed to bring significant conceptual or doctrinal changes. This is clearly visible in the arguments offered by the authors in describing the application of Soviet operational art to the Afghan guerrilla war setting, which was basically dominated by tactical actions.

The study admits that “the practice of massing a large number of regular forces against a small group of irregular forces to fight a guerrilla war on rugged terrain is bankrupt,” and notes, “the war in Afghanistan posed many issues for the Soviet operational art which await resolution.” However, the authors’ analysis simply does not go far enough in suggesting new tactical and operational methods. Instead of looking for battle-imposed conceptual shifts, the authors tend to interpret the combat situation in a way that supports the validity of the “official” Soviet doctrine.

The study is thus useful but not complete. The chapters written by different authors at some points seem disjointed and inconsistent. The authors’ distinction between the second and third phases of the war is vague and confusing. They claim that during the second phase the Soviet army mostly conducted independent operations, while in the third phase it often joined Afghan forces in joint actions. In fact, however, major military operations involving elements of several large units had always been combined ventures with massive participation of Afghan units. It was at the tactical level that the Soviets waged independent combat actions.

The chapter on the Afghan Mujahedin forces is the most disappointing part of the book. It is full of inaccuracies, factual mistakes, and unrealistic assessments based on sheer imagination and speculation. The authors’ dash through Afghan history is also replete with factual errors and problematic interpretations. The identification of sources is another problem. Except for denoting some eyewitness accounts, the book rarely provides the reader with the source of its assertions. The authors claim casualty figures that are almost double the official figures without supporting them with facts or credible references. The maps are flawed and misleading in terms of distances, the location of towns and villages, and their geographic orientation. The editors failed to standardize the spelling of geographic names or accurately transliterate them from Russian into English. “Panjshir,” for example, a well-known location, is spelled three different ways—Pandshir, Pandjshir, and Panjshir. Many misspellings in Russian are copied into English.

Finally, while the study does have its merits, it is lacking when compared with other published works. It certainly does not have the credence of official documentation


and interpretation of the war, nor the appeal of personal accounts of the conflict. It lacks the statistical richness of Alexander Lekhovski’s Afghan Tragedy and Valor and the fascination of General Boris Gromov’s and Alexander Mayurov’s dairies of the war.

Afghanistan, a remote Central Asian country with a long history of fighting foreign invasions, seems to find its moments on the world stage only when it becomes the scene of a new international campaign. Lessons from failed outside military actions in the past are then sought to help design effective strategies for future military actions. The US-led anti-terrorist military campaign in Afghanistan has spurred renewed interest in studying the military history of this turbulent land, particularly that of the Soviet military against the Afghan resistance in the 1980s.

However, it is very important to note that there is a stark contrast between the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the US-led coalition against al Qaeda and the Taliban. The two situations are distinct in terms of political aims and military objectives, the type of committed forces, the potential enemy, and the impact on the strategic situation in the region. Lessons learned from the past need to be evaluated in the context of current international and regional realities.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Women in Combat: Civic Duty or Military Liability? By Lorry M. Fenner and Marie E. deYoung. Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2001. 207 pages. $49.95 ($19.95 paper). Reviewed by Dr. Anna Simons, an Associate Professor in the Department of Defense Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California.

This should be a great book to teach. Lorry Fenner, a colonel (select) in the Air Force, and Marie deYoung, a former chaplain in the Army, launch their initial arguments about women in combat as if both women served in the Navy: their arguments sail right past each other. It isn’t until the authors get to respond to each other directly, in the final section of the book, that we see a real clash—and one that, unfortunately, may be more revealing than either author intends.

Fenner gets the first word in Women in Combat: Civic Duty or Military Liability? As a proponent of a woman’s right to serve, she makes a number of familiar points: fitness levels and not gender should determine who can do which job; sustaining cohesion is a leadership issue; diversity and pluralism, which are hallmarks of our democracy, represent undertapped strengths. Although we have not “clearly defined the rights, obligations, or privileges of citizenship,” she nonetheless believes all citizens should serve in some capacity. But should “some” be the same as “same”? This, presumably, should be a driving question in any argument about citizenship obligations, especially since, as Fenner notes, citizens’ service to the nation has hardly been treated equally. For instance, combat veterans have always done better than nurses when it comes to veterans’ benefits. Fenner doesn’t consider this fair. But if the system were made truly fair, then it shouldn’t matter what type of service women perform, should it? Fairness is what Fenner seems to be after, so why fight for women to be combatants? Why not fight for equivalent stature for all citizens who serve?

There are actually any number of ways in which the points Fenner makes in one place undermine her arguments elsewhere. Part of the problem is that she flips back and forth between units of analysis. One would think that for someone making a case about citizenship, the only relevant unit of analysis would be individuals—or citizens.


Yet, Fenner treats women (in the plural) as an entity whose acceptance has been long overdue. Her wanting to have it both ways doesn’t work. Nor does she help her position when she makes statements like the following: “We do not have the resources to squander valuable servicemember talents for the sake of holding onto an obsolete power structure that is based on arbitrary biological distinctions.” Arbitrary biological distinctions? If this were so, we wouldn’t have just males and females in this country, but 250 million varieties of sexual type.

Because Fenner writes so fluidly, it’s easy to understand how tempting it must be to turn polemical on occasion. Unfortunately, she too often uses her skills to rail against what she calls unfounded, unsupported assumptions rather than to shatter them. Perhaps she feels her word, given the weightiness of her scholarship, is enough. But here, too, she is somewhat disingenuous. Although she offers us 190 footnotes, the single-sentence footnote about me contains no fewer than three factual errors. Also, the sheer number of her sources belies their breadth, though this is an increasingly common academic trick hardly exclusive to Fenner.

Much less excusable is Fenner’s mischaracterization of her opponent’s methods. According to Fenner, Marie deYoung’s support of the combat exclusion ban is based “almost entirely on generalizations from personal experience (already a decade old) and anecdotes.” However, here Fenner is flat-out, demonstrably wrong. Yes, deYoung draws on her experience as a regimental support squadron chaplain for the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment, and as a chaplain with the 44th Combat Engineer Battalion in the 2d Infantry Division. But this is to make the cogent case that women assigned to combat battalion headquarters are not “full team members who can rotate through a variety of positions for the length of their tour.” As she explains, they cannot be “cross-leveled” into ground combat slots. DeYoung then goes on to cite at least as many studies as Fenner does (if not more), which point to physical, physiological, physical wellness, and other differences between the genders. Again, most of these will be familiar to anyone who has been tracking this debate.

Interestingly, though, deYoung makes a number of provocative additional points that, in unintended ways, counterpoint some of those made by Fenner. These aren’t always entirely convincing. But they help illuminate some of the fundamental differences between the authors that they themselves don’t seem to notice. For instance, one of deYoung’s chief concerns is for the health and welfare of unborn or young children, and the hazards that combat (or being assigned to a headquarters unit, which can thrust women into combat) poses. DeYoung makes the case that, for children’s sake, women have to be protected. Fenner, who would turn women into protectors—since this is what they would be if they took on combat roles—doesn’t make anything like the potentially pluralist claim that women have an unusually keen protective instinct. Instead, she suggests that because women can be victims of war, they should be allowed to be—no, they have a right to be—full(er) participants. Civic duty, in other words, is a complete afterthought. Actually, that seems to be the overriding message of this book, since when it comes down to it what most concerns both authors is whether women are assets or liabilities, though really, in the end, what both authors are arguing about is the extent to which women are or are not liabilities.

Although Fenner doesn’t live up to her promise to make the case for women in combat based on civil obligations, her contributions definitely enliven this volume. She is especially passionate, and some would probably argue even uncivil, in the final sec-


tion. She fires any number of broadsides at deYoung, though curiously none addresses the substance of her opponent’s argument. The fact that neither author fully engages the other’s strongest points when granted an opportunity to rebut may be among the more surprising features of this book, and one of the more revelatory things about the format in which it presents this debate. Even just a debate about their debate would give all those teaching such issues more than enough to work with in class.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Breakthrough International Negotiation: How Great Negotiators Transformed the World’s Toughest Post-Cold War Conflicts. By Michael Watkins and Susan Rosegrant. Foreword by Shimon Peres. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001. 346 pages. $40.00. Reviewed by Colonel James S. McCallum, USA Ret., Professor of Peace Operations, US Army Peacekeeping Institute, Center for Strategic Leadership, US Army War College.

Breakthrough International Negotiation contains four case studies of complex international negotiations or interventions in the last decade: the North Korea nuclear crisis (1994); the Oslo negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians (1992-93); building and maintaining the coalition for the Persian Gulf war (1990-91); and the negotiations leading to the Dayton peace talks on ending the war in Bosnia (1995). Three of the four cases are US-centric while the fourth emphasizes the interaction at the Oslo negotiations of Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and Norway. The cases are well researched, with significant reliance on interviews with key participants in the negotiations from the US perspective and from all perspectives in the Oslo case.

The authors consider these to be significant international negotiations with high stakes in cases that proved resistant to earlier attempts at resolution. They call them breakthrough negotiations because the negotiators succeeded in overcoming the formidable barriers that had thwarted agreement previously. Lastly, these cases helped define the evolution of the international order in the 1990s as the Cold War ended. This focus on complex and difficult negotiations at the highest levels of government in a diplomatic context offers the reader an inside view of how the negotiators practiced their craft.

Two features of the book are particularly useful. First, the studies are abridged versions of cases available from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Case Program, which, despite the breakthroughs achieved, remain part of the international landscape. The authors offer the reader an update on what has happened since the breakthrough negotiation concluded. Two dilemmas a negotiator faces in intervening in a conflict are whether to pursue narrow or broad goals and whether to focus on the short term or the long term. The updates to the cases give the reader a succinct history of the rest of the story to the end of 2000 that enriches the book’s analysis of these dilemmas.

Second, the book is organized into 14 chapters that provide conceptual frameworks for analysis of each of the four cases. About half the book is used to describe the North Korean case and to develop what the authors describe as the four core tasks to achieving a breakthrough: diagnosing the structure of the negotiation; identifying the barriers to agreement; managing the conflict; and building momentum toward favorable agreements. The remaining chapters offer the other three cases, with conceptual approaches that address transforming the dynamics of conflict (Oslo), building coalitions (Persian Gulf), and leading negotiations (Bosnia).


The conceptual sections of the book succinctly present negotiation and mediation theory, coupled with analysis and examples drawn from the previous chapter’s case. For those who have taken a course in negotiation, this book is an excellent addition to a professional library. For the reader who has not taken a course in negotiation, this book is not the first one to read to develop expertise in negotiation. As the authors state, the first requirement is to understand the conceptual framework. As Max Bazerman and Margaret Neale note in their book, Negotiating Rationally, “experience by itself won’t improve your outcomes, but having a conceptual framework of negotiation will.” Learning that conceptual framework is best acquired by taking a negotiation course. Terms such as “alternatives” and “changing the game” are rich in meaning and are best learned first and applied in a course that uses case studies and exercises.

On the other hand, for those interested in the regions of the world addressed in these four cases, this book is a fascinating read and will further an understanding of the role of negotiations in the continuing evolution of the conflicts in the current era. For example, the Oslo case has several lessons for the Middle East crisis between the Israelis and Palestinians and the war on terrorism, the most important being the critical role of individual leadership in international dispute resolution. The problems and criticism associated with the Bosnian case study in negotiating with the Bosnian Serbs also have applicability, as does the Persian Gulf case, which graphically illustrates the challenges of sustaining a coalition over the long term.

In summary, this book captures the dynamics of negotiating four intractable international conflicts and makes vivid the concepts that the authors present from negotiation and mediation theory. It is essential reading for the experienced student of negotiations. While few people will find themselves as the lead negotiators described in this book, many will support such efforts in the future, and this book is important preparation for those negotiations.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Clash of Arms: How the Allies Won in Normandy. By Russell A. Hart. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001. 469 pages. $79.95. Reviewed by Dr. Samuel Newland (LTC, ARNG Ret.), Professor, Department of Distance Education, US Army War College.

Sometimes when a student of military history picks up his latest purchase and delves into its contents, he finds that the book will cover precisely what the title describes. In other cases, the book surprises the reader by delivering far more. Clash of Arms is one of those that provides the reader far more than the title suggests. This book is not so much how the Allies won at Normandy, but rather how armies prepare for war and adapt during a war, as seen through the Allies’ performance in the European Campaign.

The author, an Assistant Professor in modern military history at Hawaii Pacific University, begins with a clear thesis for what he wishes to accomplish. At issue is the question of how armies adapt and implement change in wartime, with the focal point being the performance of four armies in the summer of 1944. To accomplish this task, the author must digress and discuss both the interwar and the early war periods, reviewing what the armies did to integrate the lessons of the Great War into their training and doctrine. To make his task manageable, the author focuses his attention on the four nations involved in the campaign in Western Europe—the United States, Germany, Canada, and Great Britain. The book is divided into two sections: first, how the armies of


these four powers prepared for the campaign in the years from 1919 to 1944; and second, how well the armies fought and adapted during the Normandy campaign. The narrative covers events beyond the establishment of the initial lodgment through the breakout and pursuit phase, ending in early August 1944.

Of the armies studied, the military forces fielded by the United States and Germany receive the highest praise. The German army initially receives high marks because in the post-World War I era, it seriously studied the lessons of that war and integrated them into its training and doctrine. Furthermore, when World War II started, the German army distinguished itself by its ability to learn—to change training, doctrine, and even weapon systems, based on critical self-appraisal immediately following battles and campaigns. Although the US Army did not study the lessons of the First World War nearly as well as the Germans, once World War II started, the American Army, though unprepared for the war, showed itself capable of learning quickly and integrating lessons-learned into methods for fighting the next battle. Thus, both the German and US armies are assessed as adaptable and innovative, although the Americans failed to adapt with regard to basic weapon systems once the European campaign began.

For the British forces, however, the author finds the opposite to be true. Whereas the American and the German cultures are depicted as encouraging innovation, the British are characterized as being excessively cautious, a factor that was exacerbated in the early campaigns of the war, when they were faced with repeated defeats. In the author’s opinion, the British failed to prepare for war, their culture failed to encourage innovation, and this together with a class-oriented, tradition-bound society caused the British approach to war to be lackluster.

The Canadians are characterized as being more adaptable in combat than their British peers, but they too were unprepared for the war and had failed to study and properly integrate lessons of the First World War. Even though the Normandy campaign showed the Canadians to be flexible and adaptable, their lack of a systematic method to coordinate the collection of after-action reports and to integrate the lessons into new tactics doomed them to adapt at a lesser rate than the US and German armies.

The book possesses several strengths. A reader should take the time to review, if only in a cursory fashion, the depth of the author’s research. The book is based on excellent sources, using solid, up-to-date secondary works and archival materials from the four nations outlined. To a historian, the research is impressive. The book is also a good read for military personnel, because it provides one more example of a current scholar documenting the exceptional performance of the US Army during the Second World War.

There are some shortcomings in the book as well, particularly for the military reader. For example, this reviewer is not altogether certain that the author clearly understands the difference between the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war, although he uses those terms. For example, he concludes that the US Army showed “its growing operational flexibility” and “recognize[d] its flaws in the operational art.” But, the operational art was not spoken of at that time, and most writers on the period bemoan the lack of operational thinking in American campaigns. In fact, the examples used seem distinctly tactical.

There are also minor errors in details which will bother World War II historians. For example, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, when appointed Commander of the Afrika Korps, is described as a young officer. He was 50. A picture caption describes a dead German general in Leipzig; however, the officer is not a German general, but a


member of the Volkstrum. Such minor errors may cause peers to wonder about the factual underpinning of the book.

Still, the small flaws are outweighed by the author’s exemplary research and the overall content of the book. Clash of Arms permits the reader to consider four armies and their ability to adapt to the demands of World War II.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)The Russian Way of War: Operational Art, 1904-1940. By Richard W. Harrison. 366 pages. $39.95. Reviewed by Stephen J. Blank, Professor of National Security Studies, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College.

Operational art, or what Harrison calls “the theory and practice of waging war at the operational level,” is a Russian theory and played a critical role in the development of Soviet military thought during the interwar period and after World War II. The Russian or Soviet military of 1921-39 was arguably the most theoretically advanced and profound in terms of thinking about the nature of future wars, the requirements for waging them, and about the conduct of operations (the actual practice of that theory, with which this book is not concerned, was probably a rather different affair). The military’s attention to these issues, however, or, perhaps more precisely, its ability to learn from contemporary practice, was lost after 1936 due to the politicization of the military and all other Soviet thought, along with the purges throughout Russian society. Only through enormous and probably unnecessary suffering and travail did the Soviet army begin to relearn what it had known in the 1943-45 period and to build its postwar doctrine on that foundation.

Because so much of the literature of the interwar period was banned or lost, Harrison has performed something of a miracle. This is a stunning piece of scholarship, for the author has resurrected this literature or discovered its analogues in the hitherto closed Soviet archives and he presents it to readers in exemplary style. In so doing Harrison demonstrates that the concept of operational art originated in Tsarist thinking and practice before and then during World War I as a direct outgrowth of the negative experiences of those wars and the subsequent civil war and war against Poland. Subsequently the concept of the operational level and of operational art developed haltingly, step by tragic step. The lessons that ultimately gave this concept substance emerged out of those horrible wars of 1914-21 which presented Soviet commanders with novel problems and circumstances, not to mention political and ideological requirements quite unlike what had occurred in Western Europe.

After 1921 the Soviet debates regarding the nature and scope of the operational level, and its strategic and logistical requirements, grew steadily in sophistication among a brilliant group of Tsarist and Soviet military thinkers who fought endlessly and lethally over such issues. As Harrison shows, this combative intellectual and political struggle had, by 1936, brought about a situation where the concept of operational art had achieved considerable substance and depth of thought. Additionally, the concept was increasingly allied to an economy and military that appeared able to provide the material wherewithal for realizing it in practice. Men like Tukhachevsky, Svechin, Triandafillov, Isserson, and a host of other Tsarist- or Soviet-trained military thinkers grappled with the most profound questions related to the nature of future war and how to achieve decisive strategic outcomes when thousands and even millions of men were mobilized across an enormous front in a “war of machines.”


Yet Stalin and his creatures, blinded by viciousness, personal spite, political fear, the jealousy of mediocrities for brilliant commanders, and a host of other motives, destroyed this intellectual capability and military thought in 1936-38 and were thus unable to comprehend the lessons of the conflicts in Spain, Finland, and the Far East of 1936-40. This criminal negligence, now recognized by Russian writers, not only deprived the army of solid leadership, it crippled Russian military thinking for generations. Even though the long-term effects of this blight are still with the Russian army, it is clear from Harrison’s masterful account that future strategists and theorists, as well as military leaders and commanders, have at their disposal a valuable military history with wonderfully creative approaches to the challenges of future war and the relevance of the operational level of war.

Furthermore, he shows that innovations in strategic thinking do not flow ready-made from the heads of strategists, no matter how gifted. Tragically, though perhaps necessarily, they emerge through bitter trial and error over a period of years. And the continuity of past and present, however wounded by revolutionary excesses, is not wholly disrupted but continues, albeit in often novel and perhaps unexpected ways. This is the legacy of the Russian/Soviet debate over operational art, and it is one that we should not ignore. For that reason this book should be read not just by Soviet specialists, Russian historians, and interested laymen, but it should also be pondered by commanders at every level and by those who would teach them how to think about future war.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)The Dynamics of Military Revolution 1300-2050. Edited by MacGregor Knox and Williamson Murray. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 204 pages. $27.95. Reviewed by Colonel Gregory Fontenot, USA Ret., former Commander of the Battle Command Training Program.

The Dynamics of Military Revolution stemmed from a conference at Quantico, Virginia, in 1996. Published some five years later, this fine anthology may not have the impact it would have had if published sooner. Nonetheless, it is a first-class addition to understanding military revolutions. All of the essays are tightly written and adhere to several central ideas. First among these, revolutions in military affairs do not result from technology exclusively or even in the main. These revolutions generally arise in the context of clear threats and may stem as much from doctrinal, political, and social dynamics as from technology or threats. Military revolutions are, the authors argue, uncontrollable and affect the dynamics of the societies they touch, and they continue to affect military affairs distant in time and place.

Clifford Rogers’ essay on the 14th-century English revolution in military affairs, perhaps the best of eight very good contributions, sets up the others brilliantly. Rogers argues convincingly that the military revolution that enabled England to dominate the European battlefield in the 15th century developed slowly and generally as a consequence of “organizational, structural and administrative changes” rather than technological improvement in weapons or equipment. In his essay on “Forging the Western Army in seventeenth-century France,” John A. Lynn makes the case that improvements in drill and the creation of the regimented formation—more than advances in technology—yielded advantages for first the French and later other Western armies. MacGregor Knox and Mark Grimsley, in essays on the revolutionary armies of France and the American Civil War, illustrate the power of the levee en masse and the capacity of 19th-century nationalism to


mobilize entire nations. The Civil War, according to Grimsley, “combined the mass politics and passions of the Wars of the French Revolution with the technology, productive capacity, and management style of the emerging Industrial Revolution.” The great slaughter and total warfare of the American Civil War resulted. Technology clearly affected the combatants during the Civil War, though the keys seemed to be revolutions in financing great wars and the ability to mobilize, by the standards of the day, huge armies.

The remaining essays demonstrate the consolidation and promise of revolutions embodied in the Prussian military system and those cited earlier on the battlefields of World War I. By 1914 the major powers of Europe had achieved the logical end-state of earlier revolutions, and thus none had an asymmetrical advantage. The slaughter and stalemate of the trenches produced the seeds of the military revolution of 1940 realized by Hitler’s armies, which came to be called blitzkrieg. What emerges from all of these essays, but most clearly from Holger Herwig’s essay on the development of the dreadnought navies and Williamson Murray’s essay on the illusory advantages brought by the German invention of blitzkrieg, is that technology alone fails to produce “real” revolution. More important, the same technology that affords advantage tends to enable opponents to close gaps quickly. When Great Britain commissioned the HMS Dreadnought, she made every previous battleship obsolete—including Britain’s own. The Dreadnought failed to provide “deterrence” as Britain had hoped, however. Instead, it increased the danger, since Britain had a head start of only one dreadnought in the arms race that ensued. In May 1940, the Germans rolled over France, but not as consequence of better technology. German tactical doctrine and organization won the day. But as Murray ably argues, by the end of the war both the Russians and Americans had learned to be as effective as the Germans at the application of blitzkrieg.

“Dominant maneuver” and “precision engagement” may be good bumper stickers, but they do not meet the tests for arguing that we are in the midst or even on the cusp of a revolution in military affairs. Our advantages in information technology are ephemeral given the cycle of advancements in that field. Perhaps our great wealth will lengthen the gap in development of hyper-expensive weapons such as Raptor and Fleet Carriers, but someone out there may well be developing the counter to these capabilities. For this reason alone, reading The Dynamics of Military Revolution is well worth the time invested.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare: The Evolution of British and American Ideas About Strategic Bombing, 1914-1945. By Tami Davis Biddle. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002. 406 pages. $45.95. Reviewed by Dr. Phillip S. Meilinger (Col., USAF Ret.), author of Airwar: Theory and Practice and deputy director of the AEROSPACENTER, Science Applications International Corporation.

The strategic bombing campaigns against Germany and Japan continue to generate much historical and emotional interest. Several excellent and well-researched books have examined these campaigns, and, as historians often do, they reach differing conclusions. Tami Davis Biddle, a professor at the US Army War College, now adds to the discussion. The strength of her work lies not in new discoveries or interpretations, but in the trenchant thoroughness of her research and presentation.

Even before the airplane was invented, civilian and military thinkers were speculating on how aircraft could revolutionize war. Most assumed that aerial bombard-


ment would become as common as land or naval bombardments. When the Great War erupted in 1914, all the belligerents possessed air forces, and soon they were using them in rudimentary bombing campaigns. These limited bombing operations had a common thread: the psychological effects of air attack seemed of greater significance than their physical effects. This unquantifiable belief in the psychological impact of bombing, later proven incorrect, was to shape airpower thought in Britain and the United States throughout the interwar period.

Both the Royal Air Force (RAF) in Britain and the US Army Air Corps developed doctrines that envisioned strategic bombing as a potentially decisive weapon. Both believed that bombing would have a profound effect on the enemy’s will to fight, but both also refuted the notion of urban attacks promulgated by the Italian theorist, Giulio Douhet. Instead, for legal, humanitarian, and military reasons dealing with efficiency and effectiveness, American and British airpower proponents hoped to achieve psychological or moral collapse by attacking the industrial and economic structure of an enemy nation. Given the Great Depression, it certainly appeared that economies were fragile mechanisms whose disruption would have serious consequences. So, like a naval blockade or siege, air attack would disrupt a country’s economy, and the will to fight would dissipate.

Such was the theory. “Small wars” in Spain, Ethiopia, and China between the world wars called into question these ideas, but precisely because they were “small,” airmen in Britain and the United States felt justified in ignoring them. Worse, neither country spent the time and resources necessary to build a true strategic air arm, plan its use, determine its targets, or even seriously address key issues like bomb types, fuzes, navigation aids, bombsights, and defensive armament. Although both air arms received an average of less than 15 percent of their respective defense budgets between the wars, lack of funding was only an excuse: airmen simply assumed away these crucial technical problems, with near disastrous results.

The opening months of World War II showed that British bombers could barely find their targets, much less hit them, and the losses they incurred in achieving such marginal results were excessive. So in 1941 RAF leaders jettisoned their doctrine of the previous two decades and moved to the safety of night. Unfortunately, nighttime accuracy was even worse, so night operations quickly devolved into urban area attacks. When the Americans arrived in England in 1942, they rejected the repeated entreaties of the RAF to learn from their experience and join them in the night offensive. The Army Air Forces (AAF) elected to reinvent the wheel. By mid-1943 it was becoming clear that something was amiss; by that fall it was painfully obvious that daylight, precision, formation bombing of industrial targets was in serious trouble. Fortunately, the day was saved by a technology previously dismissed—the long-range escort fighter. When P-47s and P-51s began escorting the bomber formations into Germany, the tide turned. A scant four months after the AAF seemed willing to throw in the towel, they achieved air superiority over Europe. The bombers were saved and could now go about the business of methodically and relentlessly destroying the German industrial infrastructure.

Professor Biddle covers these events and the ideas behind them in great depth. Her research is prodigious—she has reviewed a wide range of primary documents as well as the relevant secondary writing. If there are shortcomings, they involve focus. The events of the prewar era and up through mid-1944 constitute the bulk of this book. Those years are largely ones of frustrated hopes and paltry gains. With the achievement of air superiority in mid-1944, along with the reduction of what airmen called “diver-


sions”—the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and the campaigns against German U-boats and “V” weapons—the Combined Bomber Offensive truly took off. Fully 85 percent of the American bombs that fell on Germany did so after D-Day. Not coincidentally, the German economy began to collapse that fall. Yet Biddle spends fewer than 20 pages on these months when the vast majority of bombs fell and the greatest results were obtained. Similarly, her short passage on the B-29 campaign against Japan (a scant nine pages) leaves more questions than it answers.

In addition, Professor Biddle’s summary of bombing’s effects on Germany and Japan is strangely devoid of numbers. As a consequence, we are not told here that by December 1944 German rail traffic was down by 50 percent, Ruhr steel production was down 80 percent, and aviation fuel production had been cut by 90 percent. In discussing whether or not morale was affected by bombing, it is not mentioned that 8.5 million Japanese fled the cities, that a third of them were workers, and that absenteeism in Japanese factories neared 50 percent by the summer of 1945.

The book ends with a quick run through the use of strategic bombing since 1945. This short account leaves out much, but the conclusion is certainly uncontestable: strategic bombing remains controversial and tends to generate more discord than it does agreement.

Despite any shortcomings, this book is one of the best-researched and most well-documented works on the subject of why wartime realities with strategic bombing were so radically different from peacetime rhetoric.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission. By Hampton Sides. New York: Doubleday, 2001. 342 pages. $24.95. Reviewed by Steve R. Waddell, author of U.S. Army Logistics: The Normandy Campaign, 1944, and Associate Professor of History, US Military Academy.

In his book Ghost Soldiers, Hampton Sides, a contributing editor for Outside magazine and author of Stomping Grounds, a book of stories about American subcultures, tells the story of the January 1945 American raid on the Japanese prisoner of war (POW) camp at Cabanatuan in the Philippines to rescue Allied prisoners. In the tradition of Cornelius Ryan and Stephen Ambrose, the author interviewed many of the participants, both rescuers and prisoners, and then tells the story of the POW camp and the subsequent rescue mission through the eyes of the individuals involved. The book is as much a story about the individual—about survival and the human spirit—as it is the story of a successful military operation.

The story begins in December 1941 with the Japanese invasion of the Philippine Islands, the American retreat to Bataan and Corregidor, and the subsequent surrender of the American and Filipino forces to the Japanese in April and May 1942. By January 1945 very few Allied prisoners, survivors of the Bataan Death march, remained in the Philippines. Many had died from nearly three years of neglect, hunger, disease, and torture at the hands of the Japanese. By the summer of 1944, with the Americans moving nearer to the Philippines, many prisoners were shipped out of the islands on the infamous “Hell ships” bound for Japan or Formosa. With the Allied invasion of the Philippines in October 1944, the fate of the surviving prisoners of war became even more precarious: Reports of Japanese troops murdering Allied prisoners prior to retreating began reaching the American forces. To prevent another massacre, a small force of 121 men from the US Army’s 6th Ranger Battalion


slipped through the Japanese lines on 28 January 1945, launching one of the most daring rescue missions of the war. The objective of the raid was to rescue 513 American and British POWs in the Japanese camp near Cabanatuan on the Island of Luzon. Ghost Soldiers is the story of the rescuers and the rescued.

Sides details the raid from beginning to end, intertwining the story of the prisoners in the camp with the story of the rescuers, capturing not only the details but the emotions of the event. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci, a West Point graduate and the commanding officer of the 6th Ranger Battalion, was selected to lead the raid. Mucci could not take all 800 of his Rangers, so he selected C Company, commanded by Captain Robert Prince, and a platoon from F Company to undertake the mission—121 men in all. Early on the morning of 28 January, the rescuers began a 30-mile march to the camp at Cabanatuan. Sides details the march through the jungle; the concern when LTC Mucci learned that the camp was a major transshipment point for retreating Japanese and that nearly 8,000 Japanese troops might be in the area; the logistical, intelligence, and combat contributions of the Filipino guerrillas; the planning, reconnaissance, and execution of the assault on the camp; and the successful withdrawal of the prisoners back to American lines.

Sides not only tells a great story in an exciting, gripping manner, he brings the participants to life; he captures the spirit of the time. He details the day-to-day suffering of the prisoners of war, the hunger, disease, and Japanese torture they endured with no end in sight. He tells the story of the dangerous work conducted by the Filipino resistance forces, both before and during the rescue mission. Many Filipino citizens risked certain death to gather intelligence and aid the prisoners whenever possible. Many aided the Rangers, supplying carts and food, and often taking up arms to join in the fight against the Japanese. The determination of the Rangers, committed to rescuing as many of the prisoners as possible, to prevent their murder by retreating Japanese soldiers, is inspiring.

Ghost Soldiers is worth reading for several reasons. First, it is a great account of one of the most exciting rescue missions of World War II. Second, it is a study in human behavior. It details people at their best dealing with people at their worst. Third, it is engagingly written. Anyone interested in military history, in World War II, and in the American spirit will find it to be an exciting story, compellingly told.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)European Contributions to Operation Allied Force: Implications for Transatlantic Cooperation. By John E. Peters, et al. Arlington, Va.: RAND, 2001. 113 pp. $20.00 (paper). Reviewed by Ryan C. Hendrickson, Assistant Professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University.

As the research on Operation Allied Force continues to be published at a rapid pace, five analysts from RAND have released an important study on how the European allies contributed to NATO’s most sustained military operation in its history. Peters et al. place their emphasis on how Europe assisted militarily in the effort to punish Slobodan Milosevic for his ethnic-cleansing activities in Kosovo. In doing so, the authors provide a very useful study on NATO and, more broadly, on the European Union’s ability to provide for its proposed Rapid Reaction Force.

The authors measure “contributions” in terms of the level of air support given to NATO. In strict numerical measurements, France was the largest European contributor to Allied Force, followed by the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, and Ger-


many. These contributions are subdivided into the types of air operations each allied state participated in. For example, among the allies, France was by far the largest contributor to “battlefield air interdiction” operations, while the Netherlands flew the most “combat air patrol” missions. The Germans participated primarily in “suppression of enemy air defense” operations. No other book on Allied Force provides such a detailed assessment of such contributions.

The larger lesson from this research, however, regards the serious limitations of NATO’s European allies. The United States dominated every military aspect of the operation. This finding has been reported in the press and by other analysts, and thus comes as no surprise among students of NATO. Yet the raw numbers provided in this book demonstrate how truly limited Europe is in the types of operations it is able to conduct. Among the more troubling findings is the lack of secure communications between the allies, which created serious limitations in the ability to share intelligence and sensitive targeting information. Most of the allies also do not have the capability to strike effectively in inclement weather or at night.

The book also gives some attention to the political roles played by the allies in the target selection process. France most frequently exercised a veto power in NATO as the alliance requested strikes deeper into Yugoslavia and around Belgrade. In short, the book demonstrates the difficulty of conducting warfare in a multilateral setting, where numerous countries were granted input on how the alliance should proceed. It also illustrates many of the political problems faced by General Wesley Clark, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, in maintaining alliance cohesion during the operation.

Besides offering this useful assessment of Allied Force, the authors provide a short history of the events that led to the conflict in Kosovo. In the book’s last two chapters, the analysts address broader questions of European capabilities by examining defense spending trends. Although the diplomatic interest in Europe for a Rapid Reaction Force appears genuine, coupled with profound disappointment (if not embarrassment) about their limited military capabilities vis-à-vis the United States, it is still difficult to see how the European Union can play the larger security roles it seeks given the decreased defense expenditures over the last decade. The authors suggest that the United States will maintain a leadership role in Europe given the latter’s low defense spending levels, but also call for the United States to encourage the European allies to work toward building interoperable weapons and communication systems.

One limitation of the book is both a strength and weakness—that is, the book does an excellent job regarding the larger contributors to the alliance, but gives no virtually attention to the “smaller allies” within NATO. The authors mention that 13 NATO allies participated in the military operations, yet only the “big five” are treated. A more comprehensive assessment would have examined, for example, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Spain, and the others in terms of their contributions, and why others refused to contribute. The authors also measure contributions primarily in terms of air support, but do not address the diplomatic assistance given to the alliance. For instance, Poland did not participate in the air operations, but was one of the most vocal allies in condemning Milosevic and was publicly willing to send ground troops to support the operation.

Despite these limitations, no other book gives such impressive and detailed analysis of the European contributions. The book is especially interesting and well researched regarding NATO’s target selection process. It is also well written, and it will be useful to students, military professionals, and policymakers alike.

Go to Winter issue Table of Contents.

Go to Book Review Index.

Go to Parameters home page.

Reviewed 1 November 2002. Please send comments or corrections to