Wednesday, March 08, 2006


I usually keep a few books of short works on hand for when I have spare reading. Right now those books are The Making of Strategy and The Dark Descent. The latter is a horror anthology, but it is slow going as I am finding I have read many of the stories. So I read, stop and start another, read, repeat. Sometimes I read them again, sometimes not. In this sort of story, the ending often dominates lessening the thrill of reading it again.

The Making of Strategy consists of a number of essays on the inputs and outputs of state strategy making. They begin in Ancient Greece and continue to the Cold War, the focus is almost entirely European, thanks to data availability and the fact that European states fought each other for a long time. The value is in seeing what material and ideational inputs went into how states dealt with their international situation. The Chinese case is interesting as ideology often prevented them from properly dealing with nomadic tribes. This book would be helpful in thinking about American strategy towards Iran and China. It is less helpful as a complete grand strategy guide. I would recommend looking at Michael Mazarr's new piece from Policy Review. He argues that much (although by no means all) conflict is moving from Realpolitik to Psychopolitik which means words like war will have to be redefined or replaced. He says that much of the focus in on how to best use military power when in fact we should be looking at other uses of hard and soft power. Mazarr is no slouch, he is the co-author of the text book on national security. Journal articles are great, you'll get the basic argument far faster than from a book, although the arguments are less developed and the data is far more sparse.

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