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War, Strategy, and Military Effectiveness, by Williamson Murray

New York Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. viii, 332. Notes, index. $90.00. ISBN: 1107002427.

In War, Strategy, and Military Effectiveness Prof. Murray, one of the most erudite and incisive contemporary military historians, brings us thirteen of his essays on various subjects, all of which deal with some aspect of his theme, that a careful understanding of history is essential for success in war.

There are essentially two types of essays in this work. Several deal with the need to understand history and the continuing relevance of Thucydides and Clausewitz to an understanding of war.  Others take deeper looks at specific issues such as the Allied “Combined Bomber Offensive”, “The Problem of German Military Effectiveness”, the 1992 “Air War in the Gulf”, the utility of understanding British intelligence in World War II,” and “The Meaning of World War II.  One very unusual essay is “Thoughts on Red Teaming,” on the value of looking at a problem from the enemy’s perspective.  Of notable value is his discussion of erroneous assumptions that can lead to disastrous outcomes when “the terrible ifs accumulate”, such as the German Army in France and Belgium in 1914 or the British at Gallipoli the following year. A lthough Murray only indirectly addresses America’s post-9/11 wars, several essays clearly bear. 

A very valuable book for anyone interested in policy, strategy, history, and winning wars.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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