Thursday, February 26, 2009

Military Strategy Annotations #2

In view of the continuing scholarship on military strategy I felt compelled to offer some of my favorite works that should be part of any historian or military strategists' collection:

Foley, Robert T. Alfred von Schlieffen's Military Writings. London: Frank Cass Publishing, 2003.

Over 80 years since his death, Alfred Graf von Schlieffen's military writings remain one of the most comprehensive work's of pragmatic military doctrine and have inspired countless military theorists, historians, and political scientists since 1914. The importance of this book is twofold: first, to date there is only one other piece of translated work on Schlieffen, Gerhard Ritter's The Schlieffen Plan, and second Alfred von Schlieffen's Military Writings provides English-speaking students with rare documentation concerning staff rides, memoranda, and fully annotated archives. Furthermore, the compilation of essays found within the pages represents the best source for Schlieffen's ideas about warfare and the contemporary strategic setting. It offers the closest thing to a complete treatise on continental modern wafare.

Clausewitz, Carl von. On War. Ed and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Peret. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976. 184-185.

Paret and Howard's translation of On War is generally considered to be the best translation into English of Carl von Clauswitiz's Vam Kriege and is now treated as a standard work. Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian military theorist and author of contemporary military strategy in his treatise Vam Kriege, addresses several key issues including: the dialectical approach of miltiary analysis, the relationship between political and military objectives in warfare, and the factor of 'friction.' The latter is especially important because it explains the resistant element in war, which concerns destabilizing political and military 'centers of gravity.' Clausewitz's innovative strategies and philosophies have even been applied to business strategy and sports. Every military historian should have Clauswitz's treatise tucked away in their bookcase, right next to Sun Tzu and Alfred von Schlieffen.

French, David. The British General Staff: Reform and Innovation. Routledge: Routledge University Press, 2002.

This book is the first modern analysis, based on extensive archival research, of the British General Staff in the period up to the eve of the Second World War. Some of the world's leading historians, including Brian Bond, came together to produce a collection of essays that explore three broad themes: the inception of the general staff, the role of personalities in expending power and command authority, and the influence of the General Staff on the development of British strategic policy. Of noted interest, is the discussion on highly-detailed simulated war games: for starters everything was quantified and specific to the last detail. The rate of travel of military units over land forms was modified by terrain, the type of force, and a host of other factors including, weather, supply availability, unit density, and morale. The most important aspect of this simulation was that the war game began the process of "replacing nebulous ideas" with practical military operations. It is the practical military applications that are of particular interest to myself and military historians as it demonstrates the trend away from classical military thought and towards real-world applications of military principles.

Williamson, Samuel R. and Russel van Wyk. Soldiers, Statesmen, and July 1914. Beford: St. Martins, 2003.

This text is proof that solid scholarship, mixed with anecdotal and historical archives, can be presented in a manner that engages undergraduates. Samuelson and Van Wyk make significant, original contribution, one that not only enlightens students and scholars about the origins of the Great War, the first continental world war, but also informs politicians and soldiers about the urgency of trust, cooperation, command, and authority in the political-military arena. The book is a prime example of the relevance of history to contemporary society, as well as the importance of collective decision making on the part of military and political leaders who represent the public. The piece is most important for two reasons: it is engaging and it demonstrates the importance of historiography in assessing evidence and different points of view in history. It is crucial that any historian, student of politics, contemporary society, military studies, and international relations digest these two important points, as they are the two most fundamental elements of great writing narrative compelling historiography.

Below I have also added a few more sources that can satisfy the historian's intellectual thirst for scholarship:

Lawrence, Richard D. The Art and Practice of Military Strategy. Washington D.C.: National Defense University, 1984.

Wallach, Jehuda L. The Dogma of the Battle of Annihilation. Westport: Greenwood P, 1986. 90.

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