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War, Strategy, and Military Effectiveness


  • Date Published: July 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107614383
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About the Authors
  • This collection of articles represents Professor Williamson Murray's efforts to elucidate the role that history should play in thinking about both the present and the future. They reflect three disparate themes in Professor Murray's work: his deep fascination with history and those who have acted in the past; his fascination with the similarities in human behavior between the past and the present; and his belief that the study of military and strategic history can be of real use to those who will confront the daunting problems of war and peace in the twenty-first century. The first group of essays addresses the relevance of history to an understanding of the present and to an understanding of the possibilities of the future. The second addresses the possible direct uses of history to think through the problems involved in the creation of effective military institutions. The final group represents historical case studies that serve to illuminate the present.

    • The collection aims to bring history to bear on understanding military effectiveness
    • Brings together a collection of valuable articles by an expert on military history and tactics
    • Provides updated references, bringing these essays up to date
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    Customer reviews

    12th Apr 2014 by Robbo

    Professor Emeritus Williamson Murray, a Vietnam veteran, has written, and co-edited over twenty books on strategy, military effectiveness, and military history. All are worth reading, for Murray bases his works on sound research of past events, a keen analysis, and a deep understanding of the realities of politics, strategy, and war. Underlying his work is a strong belief of the value of studying military history as an aid to guide current policy makers and military leaders in confronting the problems of the future. In doing so, Murray does not argue that a study of history provides a clear path for understanding the future - rather he believes that, despite the uncertainty and ambiguity of its lessons, and its discontinuities, writ large, history provides the best laboratory we possess for understanding the future, and avoiding the disastrous mistakes of the past. Both the Introduction and the initial chapter “History and the Future’ of this book provide thoughtful essays on this theme of Murray’s work. War, Strategy, and Military Effectiveness presents thirteen essays written during Murray’s productive career covering a range of issues, from a comparative study of the value of the writings of Thucydides and Clausewitz, to an analysis of the air effort during the First Gulf War. In between he discusses a range of diverse topics, including the intrinsic value of military culture German military effectiveness between 1900 and 1945 an analysis of the Combined Bomber Offensive of the Second World War the effectiveness of Red Teaming in challenging assumptions British Intelligence during World War II, to questioning the value of a set of ‘Principles of War.’ Each of these chapters are insightful, and while one may not agree with some of Murray’s comments, they are persuasive, thought provoking, and make compelling reading. Underpinning each of them is the historical analysis that supports Murray’s case, and his firm belief that we can learn from the past. They provide a welcome antidote to the shallow journalistic comment, and many of the mythological based, under researched popular ‘histories’ lacking analysis, which are so prevalent today. One of Murray’s underlying themes running through several of these essays, is that many military leaders since the Second World War have been sadly lacking in a truly professional education, relying, instead, on their own combat experience as junior or middle ranking officers, which is hardly a basis for providing sound strategic advice. Consequently, their knowledge of past events, and of the political, cultural and historical background of potential adversaries is weak. Others, in more recent times, have been seduced by the theoretical, technological, and template based approaches to war, that claim to provide a panacea for solving what, in reality, are the complex human activities through which strategy, war and military effectiveness evolve. Murray eschews these fads, and quick fixes, disdaining the fallaciousness of their assumptions, and demonstrating their failure to deliver in recent wars. Instead he emphasises that, while technology plays a key role, war is a social phenomenon, in which human thinking and decisions, good and bad, have driven events, and that human genius is a rare commodity. He argues, therefore, that today’s leaders, ‘must possess the historical and cultural background to offer sage political and strategic advice about the consequences involved in war.’ In reading his essays, it is hard to disagree with him. War, Strategy, and Military Effectiveness is a book seeking to understand these complex issues, and the factors that influence them. Presented in an easily readable style, it covers subjects that are at the core of planning and preparing a militarily effective force to meet the challenges of the future, and issues associated with strategic considerations in a complex world, and this is where its real value lies. Although initially written for an American audience, Murray’s reflections have a universal message for all armies. Part of that message lies in the professional education of their senior officers. Today’s military leaders would do well to place this book on their essential reading lists, and more importantly, take heed of the messages it conveys. Highly recommended

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2013
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107614383
    • length: 342 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.5kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. History and the future
    2. Thucydides and Clausewitz
    3. Clausewitz out, computers in, military culture and technological hubris
    4. Changing the principles of war
    5. Military culture does matter
    6. History and strategic planning, from Rome to 1945
    7. Thoughts on red teaming
    8. The distant framework of war
    9. The problem of German military effectiveness, 1900–45
    10. Reflections on the combined bomber offensive
    11. The air war in the Gulf, the limits of air power
    12. Thoughts on British intelligence in WWII and the implications for intelligence in the twenty-first century
    13. The meaning of World War II.

  • Author

    Williamson Murray, Ohio State University
    Williamson Murray is Professor Emeritus of History at The Ohio State University. At present he is a defense consultant and commentator on historical and military subjects in Washington, DC. He is co-editor of The Making of Peace (with Jim Lacey); The Past as Prologue (with Richard Hart Sinnreich); The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300–2050 (with MacGregor Knox); Military Innovation in the Interwar Period (with Allan R. Millett); and The Making of Strategy (with Alvin Bernstein and MacGregor Knox).

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