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21st Century Patton: Strategic Insights for the Modern Era, by J. Furman Daniel III, editor

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2016. Pp. xii, 164. Notes, biblio. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 1682470636.

What Would Patton Do?

Prof. Daniel (Elliott School of International Affairs) has written extensively on the problem of reconciling “traditional” ideas about strategy and war with the present apparently “non-traditional” threats, notably “non-state actors” and terrorism. In 21st Century Patton, he offers us a critical selection of writings by George S. Patton that offer insights into the general’s method of analysis, and considers how these may help us better understand contemporary trends.

So while the seven papers address matters that may today seem commonplace, but at the time of their writing they were often in the forefront of military thought, and they reveal how Patton researched, organized, and prepared his thoughts, helping to give us a look at a brilliant mind tackling a thorny problem. Daniel opens with an introduction amusingly titled “A Warrior’s Honeymoon(s)”, in which he points out the general’s travels and readings all contributed to his development as a soldier.

The seven essays by Patton follow, covering such topics as “Why Men Fight?” (1927), “Mechanized Warfare” (1933), “The Desert Training Corps” (1942), and even “The Form and Use of the Saber” (1913), which help reveal the general’s analytical skills and breadth of knowledge.

Daniel’s commentary, and an interesting essay by Mrs. Patton on the general’s reading, strengthen our look at the Patton’s methodology. We learn, for example, that during the preparations for Operation Torch, the landings in North Africa in November of 1942, Patton read about local history and culture, including The Quran, to better understand the region and avoid mistakes in coping with its inhabitants, an idea that might have been useful for some more recent American political and military planners.

21st Century Patton, a volume in the Naval Institute series “21st Century Foundations”, is a valuable read for the insights it offers on the analytic processes employed by a creative military thinker, and ought to be required reading for policy makers and military commanders.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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