Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace

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5-2-7.jpg

Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace

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Author(s): David Goyne
No pages: 1
Year: 2002
Article ID: 5-2-7
Keywords: art of war, book review, strategy
Format: Electronic (PDF)

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Abstract: Martin van Creveld, the eminent military historian, said of the original edition of this book, first published in 1987, that it '... is brilliant'[1], and elsewhere described it first chapter as '... written in heaven.'[2] More recently, Robert Leonhard, the American military analyst said that in Strategy 'Luttwak demonstrates his status as one of the greatest American military thinkers' and considers it 'A fine work that deepens the understanding of the dialectic nature of warfare and is absolutely foundational to my theory of combined-arms warfare.'[3] Surely, having already been reviewed as glowingly as this, there is no need for a further edition or, indeed, review. Yet not so, for as Edward Luttwak says 'Once the original edition was consigned to the printers, I did not cease to study strategy and war, nor did I stop working professionally, in practical ways in the field and as an adviser. Whether from theory or practice, the original idea continued to evolve'.[4] The core of Luttwak's understanding of war is what he describes as its 'paradoxical logic' where any action will become ultimately self-defeating. This understanding draws on Clausewitz's 'culminating point' but then extends it to be the central insight necessary to understand war. Luttwak considers that most practitioners of war come to grief because they never understand or hedge against this paradoxical logic, but continue to apply the linear logic, that is that more is better, which Luttwak considers applies in all situations other than the adversarial war or war-like setting. The arguments he advances for this concept are not easily precised and deserve to be read in Luttwak's original fluent clarity. Luttwak follows this paradoxical logic through what he describes as the five levels and two dimensions of strategy. The five levels are the technical, the tactical, the operational, the theatre strategic and the grand strategic. All of these levels are important in their own right, but it is their interaction that is critical and must be understood. Ultimately, success at a lower level may be valueless if counteracted by irrelevance or failure at a higher level. The two dimensions are the impact of the paradoxical logic between the levels (the vertical dimension) and within each level (the horizontal dimension). Luttwak illustrates this interaction by a series of examples based on the much anticipated, but ultimately non-existent clash of Soviet and NATO ground forces on the European Central Front. This example draws on his earlier edition and might appear dated, but is used very effectively to show the importance of examining any situation in its depth, not just at the level that best suits the point being made. Throughout this book Luttwak repeatedly shows how this in-depth analysis debunks quick fix theories based on the proliferation of cheap, specialised wonder weapons as panaceas. Edward Luttwak illustrates his book with relevant examples and engaging descriptions. For example he provides simply the best and clearest description of the concept of 'friction' I have ever read. Similarly his description of the interactions of nuclear deterrence clarified issues that I had sensed, but never clearly understood. This book is worthwhile reading for these minor insights alone. The first major addition that Edward Luttwak brings to the revised edition is a discussion of 'post heroic' war, a term he coined to describe the unwillingness of modern industrial nations to engage in war if any friendly casualties are likely. This is a deeply disturbing thought for those who see force as a useful, natural and necessary adjunct to diplomacy and the exercise of power. The other major addition is a discussion of the value and place of airpower in the age of 'routine precision'. Both of these are critical issues for those who want to understand what modern war 'is', rather than what it should be.