by Williamson Murray
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. x, 342.
Notes, index. $35.00. ISBN: 1107006597
Military Adaptation, Prof. Murray,
who has specialized in the study of how military institutions grow and change,
gives us a series of essays on historical examples of how particular armies or
air forces coped with changing military conditions.
Murray’s case studies are the British, French, and Germans armies in the First
World War, the German armed forces from that war through their early victories
in the Second World War, the British and Germans from the Fall of France to
Operation Barbarossa, the protracted struggle between RAF Bomber Command and
the Luftwaffe, and the Israeli armed
forces in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. In
each of his cases, Murray looks at how new technological, strategic, operational,
and tactical ideas affected the service’s performance and how it attempted to
cope with these changes, often in the midst of war.
Some proved successful, some less so, and some disastrously less so.
lavishes praise and criticism – mostly the latter – with an even hand. He observes that there are a number of
reasons some military forces have coped with change better or worse than others
at various times. The most important of
these are “military culture,” political leadership, and personalities. While some have been better than others, no
military institution can avoid the negative effects of hierarchy, which often
leads to rigidity and even arrogance.
Moreover, none have managed to permanently institutionalize flexibility,
innovation, curiosity, and openness.
Murray concludes with some observations about the problems confronting
the American armed forces in the current rapidly changing global strategic environment.
is an important work for those interested in the events it covers, as well as for
anyone concerned with how armed forces tick.