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The Direction of War: Contemporary Strategy in Historical Perspective [Kindle Edition]

Hew Strachan
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Review

'A very thoughtful, enormously stimulating, and hugely thought-provoking examination of the strategies, concepts, and civil-military relationships that have influenced the character of war in the twenty-first century.' General David H. Petraeus, former Commander of United States Central Command and Commanding General of the Multi-National Force - Iraq and the NATO International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan

'Another masterpiece from the foremost military academic of our generation. If you want to understand strategy, just read this book!' General Sir David Richards GCB CBE DSO, former Chief of Defence Staff

'Unparalleled in historic depth of argument, a surprising yet seductive view on whether modern war should bend to the demands of politics, or politics to the needs of war.' Jan Willem Honig, King's College London

'Strachan's historical analyses are a valuable addition to the literature on strategy. He invites the reader to think carefully about what we think we know and understand about strategy, and, perhaps more significantly, why we understand and think about strategy the way we do today.' Terry Terriff, University of Calgary

'A valuable book tracing an esteemed scholar's contributions to contemporary strategic thinking.' Antulio Echevarria, Strategic Studies Institute, United States Army War College

'[A] powerful and stimulating essay about the conduct of war and peace in our time. It is an essential read for MPs and hacks, the ideal primer for the debate about why we need armed force, and in what form, today.' London Evening Standard

'Impressive and provocative.' Daily Telegraph

'… a timely and devastating critique.' Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian online

'… extremely well written …' Jerry Lenaburg, New York Journal of Books

'[Strachan's] insistence on Clausewitzian exactitude produces a uniquely incisive assessment of key moments in America's twenty-first-century wars that may be particularly valuable to American leadership as it leaves them behind.' Foreign Policy's 'The Best Defense' blog

Product Description

The wars since 9/11, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, have generated frustration and an increasing sense of failure in the West. Much of the blame has been attributed to poor strategy. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, public enquiries and defence think tanks have detected a lack of consistent direction, of effective communication, and of governmental coordination. In this important new book, Sir Hew Strachan, one of the world's leading military historians, reveals how these failures resulted from a fundamental misreading and misapplication of strategy itself. He argues that the wars since 2001 have not in reality been as 'new' as has been widely assumed and that we need to adopt a more historical approach to contemporary strategy in order to identify what is really changing in how we wage war. If war is to fulfil the aims of policy, then we need first to understand war.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 835 KB
  • Print Length: 337 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1107047854
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (13 Nov. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GA22YFQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #57,545 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Kind of War are We Fighting? 20 Feb. 2014
By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The author is Professor of the History of War at Oxford University. A brilliant historian following in the footsteps of Michael Eliot Howard and many other previous illustrious holders of the chair. Strachan has written a number of excellent books on strategy and war. He is a regular lecturer at Defence Colleges around the world.

Today, strategy has come to mean many different things from those of say 100 years ago when it referred to the relationship between tactics and strategy. Today it is more pragmatic and less theoretical. It is essentially the bridge between policy and the battlefield. It is about applying means to ends. It is at the interface of operational capabilities and political objectives. Strachan likens it to the 'glue which binds each to the other and gives both sense'. Above all,strategy has to be founded on a crystal clear 'recognition of the nature of war itself'.

This book is one of the most stimulating books on war and strategy ever written. It is full of insights destroying myths along the way. His comments on Clausewitz are illuminating even for those who are very familiar with his work.
The book is not for the general reader since it requires a detailed knowledge of the key writers on war, i.e. Jomini, Machiavelli, Sun Tsu, Mao, Clausewitz, Corbett, and others. In addition, one needs to be very familiar with warfare in depth since at least the 18th century in order to follow and appreciate the author's analysis.

The chapter on Clausewitz is a gem. In it he focuses on the relevance of 'On War' today and on how Clausewitz has been misunderstood in book after book written about him.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am still immersed in this work, but it is not one that can be hurried. I suspect that I will only get to a fuller understanding of his thrust after a second or third reading.The semantics of language and their relevance to the ongoing direction of war in the 21st century as employed by the major powers is a theme that cuts through the book like writing through a stick of rock. Strachan looks at the ongoing relevance of Clausewitz, and at how the term strategy has been used and misused, leading to problems in the ongoing conflicts that have plagued our century. An argument is posited that politicians have muddied the waters somewhat, with the military colluding in this by failing to adequately defend their corner. To make successful war, there has to be a clear strategy in place - something that Germans never had in place in the second world war, and something that the Americans are currently struggling with (the "War on terror", aka "the long war"). Strachan argues that short wars tend to be successful, while protracted conflicts favour the defenders.
So, you are pondering whether to buy this book. It is weighty and thought provoking, based around a series of lectures delivered by Strachan. The weightiness is also physical - it is pleasingly printed on good quality heavy paper, and equally pleasingly I have yet to spot a typo! It is a book with key observations onto the modern world, and as such inevitably feeds into current events. As somebody deeply interested in history I would heartily endorse this book. It is undoubtedly an impressive piece of work on an important area of human activity. It makes you think, and that in itself is a good thing.
So why the 4 star review, and not the full five?
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging thoughtful 4 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this , it was engaging and thoughtful. Modern strategy it seems has been misused mis understood and simply not taught at staff colleges correctly. This book should be on officers reading lists...
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! 22 Nov. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Sir Hew Strachan's book is a tour de force

Arguably a thorough understanding of the core strategic thinkers from Clausewitz, Mahan and Corbett through Douhet, Liddell Hart and Brodie is required to place the reader at the point where this contemporary consideration of strategic issues begins and for that foundation no better source exists than Beatrice Heuser's "Evolution of Strategy".

Strachan's work then takes Heuser's foundation onward and brings her history of strategic thought into the present day by describing and discussing contemporary strategic issues in a lucid, thorough and at times exquisitely well written series of essays that have a thoughtfulness, panache and sheer readability that challenges Sir Michael Howard's previous paramountcy in this area.

For me this is the best thinking and writing on contemporary strategic issues (and challenges) that can be found in one place.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clause revisited 26 Jan. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A timely review of the contemporary use military power at a time when there are no longer defined front lines. The author considers the roles of politicians and the High Command in the light of current operations in the Middle East. H e gives much food for thought and one would hope that his work is studied carefully by both wings go government thus avoiding a repetition of the shambles of the last ten years.
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