Human Face of War (Birmingham War Studies) Paperback – 27 Oct 2011
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About the Author
Jim Storr is a former British Army officer. He is now an independent defence consultant. He studied Civil Engineering before joining the Army and serving in the British Army of the Rhine for much of the 1980s. Amongst a series of staff and regimental appointments in the Falkland Islands, Northern Ireland and Cyprus he studied at the Royal Military College of Science and the Army Staff College at Camberley. He was a military adviser to operational research teams before spending more than four years writing and teaching high-level military doctrine. In 2002 he was awarded a doctorate for a thesis on the nature of military thought. In his second career his main activates are consultancy, research, writing and teaching. He has spoken at, or chaired, a number of national and international conferences. His clients include defence industrial corporations, research agencies and universities. He is a visiting fellow of the Defence College of Management and Technology, Cranfield University and an honorary research fellow of the Department of Modern History of the University of Birmingham. He has worked for, or taught at, all of the major elements of Britain's Defence Academy.
Top Customer Reviews
The first chapters in the book are concerned with some definition of key terms, some examination into existing thought and some of the current military buzzwords: “kinetic”, “effects-based operations” and the “OODA loop” come under harsh scrutiny, for example. More widely, Storr examines the large gaps between quite airy “principles of war” and actual doctrine. He also examines the paradoxes that have been inherent in previous military thinking and then some ways of developing methods to tackle these issues. These methods are then used to inquire into what combat, fundamentally, is actually like – not as subjectively experienced by a human observer perhaps, but what the causes of the effects (victory/defeat etc.) are.Read more ›
'Combat is an interaction between human organisations. It is adversarial, highly dynamic, complex and lethal. It is grounded in individual and collective human behaviour, and fought between organisations which are themselves complex. It is not determined, hence uncertain and evolutionary. Critically, and to an extent which we currently overlook, combat is fundamentally a human activity. This, then, is our new paradigm.'
The rest of the book is a rigorous, critical and insightful investigation of the implications of those words, sometimes one word at a time. Whilst some of the argument is a purely logical deduction from these premises, much of the text is based on empirical observation. It has to be. In his opening chapter, Storr discusses whether war is an art or a science and concludes that, like medicine, it is neither. Aristotle might help us here. He distinguished 'theoria', the object of which is thought and results in 'sophia' (wisdom), from 'poesis' the object of which is creation and results in 'techne' (craft), and distinguished both from 'praxis', the object of which is action and results in 'phronesis' (usually translated as 'prudence', but perhaps better rendered as 'good judgement'). 'Techne' is about how to achieve a certain end, 'sophia' considers the ends in themselves and 'phronesis' considers both ends and means and their relationship. War is a 'praxis' and conducting wars effectively requires 'phronesis'.Read more ›
It*'s a very intellectual book; much theory that's founded on empirical and experimental research. He offers a critique of anglophone and in particular British warfare theory and attempts to reinvent how to develop military theory based on concepts developed in sciences and philosophy.
He trashes many of the post-Cold War military fashions (OODA, EBO, RMA, Rule of Four, attrition vs. manoeuvre, large staffs), pointing out why they were poor ideas in the first place and not founded on the right paradigm and methodology for developing warfare theory.
His attempt at offering a better theoretical paradigm - one which explains instead of accepts seeming paradoxes and offers - appears to be usable, but still incomplete. He focuses on the human aspect of warfare; dangerous, adversarial - driven by brains, not microchips..
His contribution to tactical theory is centred on the generation of surprise and the addition of shock to surprise. Surprise and shock are known to be extremely powerful variables for the decision of engagements, but most theoretical works nevertheless pay little attention to both. Even Jim Storr's writing on surprise and shock is not comprehensive (lacking in examples and practical details IMO, but still among the best in modern literature.
Some of the most interesting parts of the book were about not exactly well-known findings from studies and experiments, some of them running counter to conventional wisdom (such as that the attacker has a substantial advantage in house-to-house combat).Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Storr uses broad themes of what has worked and what has not worked in military history by explaining the nature of combat and tools and models available to the practitioner. He uses Clausewitz's "dialectic of aims and means" in conjunction with Systems Theory to describe the holistic nature of military units; where effective/efficient output is dependent on input---where a good outcome is "winning" (as Storr repeatedly observes throughout the book, armies aren't paid to come in second). Hence, organization of military units is fundamental; efficient/effective organizations are more likely to succeed.
He observes: "Cohesion and collective performance indicate the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. There is a systemic effect, and we should see armed forces as systems."
Storr is a proponent of forcing decision making to the folks on the ground using brief and succinct communications. His chapter on Commanding the Battle is excellent. Storr advocates lean command staff's and dispersed decision making. "We should employ the best brains in small groups, rather than try to assemble a collective brain." He points out that "when staff numbers are reduced, the effectiveness of HQ improves." "Reducing staff numbers would increase speed with which they could get things done." [Amazingly, Storr quotes a work from 1998 that reports a typical Western division commander has 600 people supporting!---and that number has, I'm sure increased in 10 years.] He concludes this excellent chapter making a distinction between technology and the human factor: "...the future is not digital: it's human. What is needed is things that bind talents together as a team, not more bandwidth...given time, resources, open minds and not much money we could revolutionize land tactical command. The key problems are human, cultural and institutional."
Storr asserts that successful modern commanders are most likely intuitive thinkers and possess the ability to learn from experience. He suggests further the "tendency to learn is more critical. It implies a tendency to reflect on experience and to learn from it, to maximize the benefit of the experience." This tendency is key to the development of "skills". He encourages a "permissive man-management regime that allows those who can learn rapidly from their experience to do so." At the opposite end, Storr makes clear the unsuitability of many leaders who use bullying tactics and fear to motivate.
Storr concludes by observing that "institutional conservatism" inhibits armed forces from improving significantly during times of peace; that "the current size and shape of Western armies reflect issues that are not primarily related to warfighting effectiveness." He insists that doctrine should be explicit, relevant,(descriptive and where appropriate, prescriptive), coherent, and practical. The short tours common in western armies harm team integrity---which is "huge". Innovation is vital, and in many cases military members aren't with a unit long enough to have the experience necessary to truly innovate. Storr advocates "experience is the best way to achieve practical coordination and overcome the fog of war, as long as the experience gained is positive." He discourages the common use of lieutenant-colonels in jobs where a captain or major could function/thrive/learn; as these junior officers will have less experience when they are promoted and will have probably developed the habit of "referring decisions upwards, and hence develop little initiative."
According the Storr, the "human" aspect of war should take prevalence over technology. He acknowledges the utility of technology, but asks the reader to "...pause and look for a moment at the Vietnam War, which suggests that superior technology is not always the deciding factor." [9-11 is illustrative of this point on the "terror" side; determination and box cutters wreaked havoc.]
My review does not do justice to the wealth of information, insight, and counsel in Storr's book and I quote him frequently because his style is better than a summary. This book was aimed at a narrow audience, hence the high price. When I began, I was concerned about Storr' opinions concerning John Boyd's OODA loop; but last year I rejected Boyd's deterministic underpinnings of OODA---Storr's pragmatic and partial empiricism makes more sense. OODA remains a valuable and versatile methodology in both the military/law enforcement and business arenas.
This book is highly recommended; particularly for junior officers and NCO's---the price is high, but what you will gain will be worth the cost.
UPDATE 2-14-2012, the reference to the cost was the $100 version in hardback, which is what I read. The paperback should be much more accessible and is worth every penny.
To continue, shock and surprise, and those combat forces best able to generate them, are by far the largest determinants of who wins a battle. They certainly have more effect than any likely range of force ratios (I.E, how many times you outnumber the enemy, or vice versa). This entails a maneuverist, rather than an attritionalist, approach to warfare. Featuring prominently in his work is a psychological aspect of warfare that is missing in most military literature, which entails that army doctrine should be concerned not with fighting alone, but also manipulating the use (and the threatened usage) of violence. Many, many other important topics are broached and elaborated upon, often brilliantly so. A number of them are seemingly counter-intuitive, like the usefulness of anti-tank formations (largely disbanded by most armys in the wake of WW2), the inordinate concern over friendly fire, etc.
One could visualise, in the future, that the epiphanys in military history books made after the implementation of storrs recommendations going something along the lines of: ''Planning for military operations, before the human face of war, was like planning to build a cathedral before the advent of newtonian mechanics. Without an understanding of the forces that were acting on their structures, medieval architects could never be sure just how long their cathedrals would remain standing, or what kind of forces they could be subjected to without collapsing. They had no idea of what the 'proper' design of a cathedral should be, and blundered about in ignorance.'' (Authors note: To those who haven't read this book, that quote is a cheeky inversion of a passage made by storr in chapter 4).
Buy this book, and treat it with the same respect as you would with your bible (assuming you are religous, that is). It is surely worth its weight in gold.