The main idea of this book is to review XX century warfare from its initial pattern of multimillion armies clashing on wide fronts in WWI to total war between alliance of Democracy and Soviet Totalitarism against German and Japanese totalitarism with Cold war and late XX century Islamist insurgency at the end of the century. The main inference is that war between developed countries become impossible due to the nuclear weapons, while suppression of insurgencies is very tricky and could be done either through high cruelty of suppression or expensive high level of population accommodation. The significant point is that XX century warfare is of little use in XXI century where armed conflict occurs between population of developed world and barbaric Islamic fundamentalists that are not even at the gates, but rather inside of our cities and could win if we fail to wake up.
This book is about war in XXI century as the product of military developments and wars of XX century. It is poses the question why contemporary armies of highly developed western countries like USA while being capable win on the battlefield incredibly quick and with minimal loses seems to be fail when it comes to contain terrorism and let poorly organized and widely distributed forces of insurgents overrun whole countries and even entire continents.
Chapter 1: Prelude, 1900-14: 1.1 States, Armies and Navies; 1.2 Visions of War; 1.3 Resisters and Enthusiasts; 1.4 The Balance of Power; 1.5.War Plans; 1.6 Facts and Counter facts.
This chapter is look at initial period of military history of XX century with its multimillion conscript armies, huge industrial machinery, and high reliance on rigid railroad transportation system. The key to understanding of pre WWI period and consequently path to the war is understanding of industrial character of war and believe common for leaders of all countries that concentration of people and material would provide for overwhelming advantage and consequently victory. This caused all of them to put effort into planning of mobilization and transportation forces to frontline and created situation in which any delay of initiating this activity would lead to loss, while once initiated it would be impossible to stop. Another key feature of prewar situation was mass enthusiasm among population of all countries that were raised on stories of glorious past in very peaceful period with no knowledge of cruel reality of war. The final consideration is balance of power between countries and their forces that remained fluid to the very brink of hostilities causing leaders to rush ahead any time when they believed they have temporary advantage.
Chapter 2: World War I, 1914-18: 2.1 Opening Moves; 2.2 From Movement to Attrition; 2.3. The War at Sea; 2.4 A Continent in Flames; Technology Takes Over; 2.6 The Beginning and the End
Here author retells the story of WWI mainly as progressive movement from enthusiasm and active maneuvering to stalemate in unchanging positions with constant annihilation of people on the large scale due to technological superiority of defense over offence practically in all areas. Eventually the outcome of war was decided by economic superiority of Allies when USA joined them. Nevertheless the search for exit from stalemate brought in new technologies like tanks and aviation that would become foundation of mobile wars in the middle of century.
Chapter 3: The Twenty Years’ Truce: 3.1 Powers, Aspirations, and Attitudes; 3.2 The Military Thinkers; 3.3 Innovation: From Theory to Practice; 3.4 Civilized Wars; 3.5 Uncivilized Wars; 3.6 The Unraveling of Peace
Here author reviews interwar period with its dramatic technological developments and not less dramatic psychological developments. On technological side mechanized forces and aviation expansion opened possibility of wide maneuverability of troops and their deep penetration into enemy territory, encirclement, and destruction of less mobile opponent. Author looks at doctrines of Douhet for massive air war, Fuller for massive movement of tanks and mechanized forces, and, most important, Ludendorff for total war with complete subordination of economy and all country resources to military purpose as the only way to victory. Author also looks at concept of civilized war when fighting going according to the rules including sparing non-combatants, humane treatment of POW, restrictions on some types of weapons versus uncivilized war when everything allowed and no limitations apply. Author briefly points, but not explore that much psychological condition, when German population never accepted their loss because fighting never really got to German territory causing people to believe the idea of “knife in the back” and eager to revenge, while France and Britain, which got nothing valuable from their victory after much losses and suffering, went pacific and start pursuing disarmament and appeasement with highly predictable results. At the end of chapter author looks at actual political developments that eventually led to hostilities.
Chapter 4: World War II, 1939-45: 4.1 The Blitzkrieg Era; 4.2 Global War; 4.3 Total War; 4.4 Esoteric War; 4.5 Closing the Ring; 4.6 The Road to Hiroshima;
The chapter on WWII is concentrating on implementation of blitzkrieg war in 1939-1941 as real live implementation of military ideas developed in 1920s and 30s. However despite initial success this type of war failed to achieve victory at the end when huge resources on the global scale get involved. The total war with al resources of combatants including their civil population get involved the fast movement of forces on wide terrain with objective to break will of enemy was just not enough for victory because fighting would not stop until majority of active population killed or captured. Another interesting characteristic of the war stressed in this chapter is its esoteric character when much depended on technological, managerial, and operational skill of millions of participants from top leader to lowery repair technicians without which tanks would not move and plains would not fly. Author assigns quite a bit of attention to complexities of coalition warfare that demanded effective diplomatic skills to coordinate efforts multimillion groups of people of various cultures around the world. The final point here is made about qualitative difference between European theater where combatants clearly understood their cultural, religious, and historical commonality versus Pacific theater where enemy had different race, religion, culture, and just about everything else, leading to much more cruel and hateful attitudes on all levels.
Chapter 5: In the Shadow of the Bomb: 5.1 Looking Backward; 5.2 From War Fighting to Deterrence; 5.3 From Proliferation to Stalemate; 5.4 The Conduct of Conventional War; 5.5 Evolution, Revolution, and Failure; 5.6 Think-Tank War;
Eventual conclusion of the WWII with use of nuclear weapon instantly made obsolete all previous strategic thinking rendering war between top-level technologically proficient countries practically suicidal proposition leading to new type of warfare – Cold War. This chapter reviews brief history of Cold War with special attention to limited use of conventional hot war in some theaters. One interesting subchapter here is dedicated to analysis of think- tanks activities mainly at the West that is identified as war of ideas both strategic and tactical.
Chapter 6: The New World Disorder 1991 to the Present: 6.1 On Nazis, Terrorism, and Counterterrorism; 6.2 The Record of Failure; 6.3. Case I: The British in Northern Ireland; 6.4 Case II: Assad in Hama; Case III: The Americans in Iraq; 6.6 Barbarians at the Gate
The period after 1991 reviewed here with its civil wars and terrorism discusses difficulties of dealing with it and presents somewhat unusual point of view that pure force and cruelty does not work in these situations using as example inability of Germany completely suppress resistance in all occupied territories. Author supports this idea with reference to American failure in Vietnam and Soviet failure in Afghanistan. Generally author views counter insurgency conflicts around the world as failure, but nevertheless he reviews two conflicts when suppression of rebellion was successful. The first one was Britain in Northern Ireland when success was achieved by accommodating local population as much as possible and the second was Assad senior in Hama where success was achieved mainly by unlimited use of brute force. Author reviews two conflicts that were practically ended in stalemate: Arab-Palestinian conflict and Americans in Iraq.
Chapter 7: The First and the Last.
This is the brief restatement of previous chapters, retracing transformation from war as national effort with multimillion armies at the first half of XX century into small, however global skirmishes of war against contemporary terrorism when enemy is very week and very annoying resulting in achieving some objective for terrorist side that would not be possible otherwise.
Here author discusses our current war not as just war against terrorism, but rather war that radical Islamist wage against Western values and culture with frontline coming through every European city posing real threat to the West, while money go to developing more and more sophisticated weapons that just not usable in this war. At the end author calls developed world to wake up and fight this war with alternative to failure to destroy terrorist would be terrorists destroying us.
MY TAKE ON IT:
It is a nice brief history of military history of XX century, but I think that a couple things are not correct. First of all author seems to believe that insurgency could not be suppressed and time would support increase and maybe even eventual victory of insurgents. I think that author is missing a little known but significant history of resistance movements in Baltic States and Western Ukraine that lasted up to 8-10 years after WWII. Both insurgencies were defeated through combination of cruelty, isolation from external world, and some, albeit very limited steps to allow improvements of living conditions for population. This demonstrates that impossibility to defeat popular movement if highly exaggerated. Correspondingly all defeats of Americans in Vietnam of Soviets in Afghanistan resulted in huge flow of support from supplies to psychological support to nuclear cover if needed provided by Soviets to North Vietnam and by Americans to Afghanistan. Without this support both insurgencies would be defeated within 5-7 years. The second point that Islamic fundamentalism represents existential threat and has already advanced inside our cities is true, but only due to weakness of western elite that refuses to wage war in defense of its civilization. Eventually, quite possible after nuclear explosion in some big western cities such as New York or Paris, this elite would be obliterated as treasonous and substituted by another leadership that would wage war against Islamic forces by taking away their resources such as oils, forcing them convert to some form of peaceful Islam or any other religion and, most important, to tolerate all other religions in their midst or eliminating them all together from the face of the earth. The severity of this war, level of tragic consequences, and number of victims would heavily depend on timing. The earlier it starts and more decidedly it would be conducted, the less people will suffer.