Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.
Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century by P. W. Singer. Penguin Press (http://us.penguingroup.com), 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014-3657, 2009, 400 pages, $29.95 (hardcover), ISBN 1594201986.
Editor’s Note: This book appears on the 2010 Air Force Chief of Staff’s Reading List.
Wired for War is a world away from P. W. Singer’s previous book Children at War, in which he proposed ways to halt such a horrible practice. This latest venture, a study of the use of robotics in combat, could be taken as futuristic, with Singer enticing his readers to be swept up by the excitement of using advanced technology on and over the battlefield—or on and under water. The author points out early on that many robot systems are already working the battlefields of today’s conflicts. Filling a market need, they appear in ever-growing numbers that could equal those operating in domestic service and industry.
It would be wrong to say that this is a book purely for the military reader although this audience will benefit from the knowledge contained within its pages. The text is written for a broader readership, raising many important moral and ethical conundrums that need to be addressed and solved. For younger servicemen and -women, who as children played with Transformers, this book amplifies what they already know—that robotic platforms will play an increasingly important part in future military operations. More senior military readers may well learn that a new facet of war is already fast approaching, removing preconceived ideas of how Soldiers should close with and kill the enemy.
My only criticism concerns Singer’s propensity to concentrate on just a few commercial members of the military-robotics community. Those experienced in this field understand that no robot can complete all of the required missions. We currently have in service many different robotic platforms, made by a range of producers, that perform unsung, important duties each and every day. To be fair, Singer correctly states that his named robotic platforms have already kept servicemen out of harm’s way and have undoubtedly saved many lives.
Unlike Isaac Asimov, whose rules for robots prevented them from causing harm to humans, Singer confirms that real robotic platforms of the near future have a vast array of missions, many of which can inflict great damage upon an adversary. Singer points out that changing who fights at the fundamental level “transforms the very agent of war” (p. 194). No one can deny that posthuman warfare is an intriguing thought. The psychology of war may also change, and Singer examines the effect of losing moral considerations, when robotic warriors in contact with the enemy and their distanced operators no longer experience fear, shock, or anger (p. 262). Without these moral inputs, how do we halt an advance? Or how do entrenched forces conclude that to fight on is beyond reckless? How, indeed, can we win battles?
Singer broadens his discussion a few pages further on (p. 268). If technology aids overconfidence and if nations have gone to war because of overconfidence, then unmanned warfare could become a favored, regular option for those intent on conflict. We could see an increase in the number of tactical engagements between technologically capable nations. Terrorist organizations could also buy and use their own robotic machines, and any military planner will have to factor in such use against our forces in the future.
Singer describes a range of robot capabilities, from those totally controlled by an operator to preprogrammed systems that operate by means of artificial intelligence. What are the moral implications when technologically advanced nations use such systems to fight the enemy? A “sense of mutuality” (p. 365) helps commanders consider moral issues. As man and machine become more separated by distance and as robot systems are programmed to function autonomously, a danger exists that associated moral considerations will not get the attention they need. Singer alludes to this (p. 366) but does not really develop his argument any further although it merits greater discussion. If we can accept the notion that robot versus man is on course to happen, then we should be ready to debate the implications of such confrontations in order to probe and understand the associated moral implications.
When machines kill, what is the supporting legality behind such actions? Singer tackles this aspect well (chap. 22), exposing the need for lawyers to become an increasingly integral part of military operations (p. 327). The presence of lawyers in forward operating locations is now a fact of life in current operations. Increasing the use of remotely piloted lethal platforms may well demand space for lawyers alongside the distanced cubicle warriors.
As the supporting technology of robotics expands and we make increasing use of artificial intelligence, the conflicting ethics of using these platforms needs critical deliberation and assessment. Maybe we need to program robotic systems with rules of engagement that reflect the Law of Armed Conflict. Perhaps, Singer muses, we need to introduce a “human impact statement” (p. 361) that addresses this new class of “killing machine,” with its associated ethics and potential for social infringements.
Wired for War is not just about the effect of using robots in conflict. It paints a far broader canvas of how technology will cause us to question and ultimately change our operating procedures. The book highlights the need to understand the moral and ethical implications of using such weapons. Given that the use of robotic systems is already upon us, Singer raises a myriad of associated concerns that military, political, and legal minds need to address.
Wing Cdr John M. Shackell, RAF, Retired
San Antonio, Texas
The International Politics of Space by Michael Sheehan. Routledge (http://www.routledge.com), 270 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016, 2007, 248 pages, $170.00 (hardcover), ISBN 978-0-414-39807-7; $43.95 (softcover), ISBN 978-0-415-39917-3.
Distant heavens have captured human imagination for millennia, but not until just over 50 years ago were man-made objects—and, later, men and women—sent into space. Since then, the world has become increasingly dependent on space power for everyday utilities, management of global commerce, and national security affairs, as well as domestic stability and prosperity. But humankind’s ability to venture into space created a complex dilemma for its “proper” use. Optimists view space as a global commons that should be free from human divisiveness and accessible by all. Pessimists—and perhaps pragmatists—on the other hand, predict that space eventually will be prone to weaponization, conflict, and other sorts of misuse, as were land, sea, and air previously. These competing views set the stage for critical analysis on the topic. The differing perspectives also point out that space is inextricably tied to politics in the rising tide of globalization in the twenty-first century.
The International Politics of Space provides readers an authoritative departure from previous analysts’ treatments of the subject by examining historical developments of national space programs through international relations and national security lenses in order to glean lessons applicable to the continued maturation of the space age. This analysis includes space policy, doctrine, and technology as they relate to fundamental political motives. Sheehan’s conclusions are pertinent to today’s complex international structure because there are direct and indirect political outcomes from space programs and their underlying policies that influence national behavior in the ever-changing global balance of power. Political and military leaders of the future will face many challenges vis-à-vis space, and informed consideration of previous space policies may help shape their decisions.
The book begins with a brief survey of major political theories and then analyzes their relationship to space policies during the space race between the United States and Soviet Union and beyond. Sheehan’s work also includes chapters on the European Space Agency, India, China, the military use of space and its supporting doctrine, space treaties and laws, and cooperative efforts among various nations.
Readers will find well-researched analysis with supporting evidence illuminating the many political motives for national and international space policies of the past. The most important of these include political equities in the form of national prestige and propaganda, development of indigenous science and technology, political independence from friendly and rival spacefaring nations, and even rationale supporting the merits of each superpower’s foundational political philosophy.
Sheehan concludes that the public space policies of many nations are not necessarily the true underlying reason for pursuing a space program. Perhaps the most noble of stated intentions—“to benefit mankind through exploration”—gets short shrift in favor of purely realist pursuits to enhance one’s own internal and external national security at the expense of one’s rivals. For instance, the USSR’s strategy sought to achieve a list of “firsts” in order to quell public commentary in the West about the inferiority of the Soviet technology base. Indeed, the Soviets had some impressive firsts, including the first satellite, first mammal, first person, first woman, and first extravehicular activity in space. Crucially, Nikita Khrushchev used these achievements to gain political clout by extrapolating them as proof of communism’s ideological triumph over capitalism and democracy. He did so for both internal and external audiences in order to consolidate Soviet power within the union and around the world. On the other hand, the United States was surprised and motivated out of fear after the launch of Sputnik I in 1957. The near hysteria that followed made the United States reassess its initial conclusions about the state of the USSR’s science-and-technology infrastructure and capabilities.
Another major theme woven through the book is the natural tension associated with the development of booster and spacecraft technology. Obviously, these capabilities have natural military utility, but acquiring them can run aground politically when confronted with the internationally recognized and promulgated concept of the space sanctuary. From a political perspective, crossing—or even approaching—the indeterminate threshold between militarizing space and weaponizing space can cause political angst and public outcry. Sheehan’s exploration of this scenario provides valuable insight as perceived through his look at the European Space Agency.
The bibliography and endnotes contain all the major authoritative works on this topic such as James Oberg, Bruce DeBlois, Everett Dolman, and Walter McDougall, as well as historically important treaties, laws, and doctrine publications. The result of such comprehensive research is reflected in the depth of analysis, which is unlike any other as it pertains to politics.
Disappointingly, Sheehan somewhat glosses over powerful economic motivations for and against space programs as they relate to power politics, both global and domestic. Tangible lessons are available, and this area needs further revelation.
The International Politics of Space achieves its stated goal of avoiding analysis of military uses of space and its subset—weaponization of space—in favor of considering the larger political significance of the major national space programs around the world. By doing so, this volume contributes significantly to the body of knowledge associated with the development of space policy. Although this is not the final episode in the refinement of space policy, students and practitioners alike will benefit from Professor Sheehan’s work as the space era moves into its sixth decade. Undoubtedly, his comprehensive work will fuel additional and needed analysis of space policy and its impact on global politics.
Lt Col Kevin M. Rhoades, USAF
Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden. Atlantic Monthly Press / Grove Atlantic (http://www.groveatlantic.com), 841 Broadway, New York, New York 10003, 2001, 296 pages, $20.00 (hardcover), ISBN 0871137836.
Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down, has written a gripping account of the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar, the notorious Colombian drug baron whose ruthless “silver or lead” policy placed him above the law. Escobar systematically corrupted government officials by forcing them either to accept his money (silver) or his bullets (lead). His control of cocaine profits financed this corruption as well as his lavish lifestyle. Building public housing and soccer fields for the poor in his hometown of Medellín made him a local folk hero, but his crimes progressively tarnished his public image. In a possible allusion to Tom Clancy’s classic book of 1989, Bowden refers to Escobar as “a clear and present danger” (p. 59).
More than an exciting crime story, Killing Pablo probes the dark nexus among terrorists, organized criminals, and democratic governments. Colombian drug cartels initially helped their government fight guerrillas, but a symbiotic relationship later evolved between the cartels and guerrillas. To fight the cartels, the Colombian government blended traditional law enforcement with a desperate strategy of fighting terror with terror. The government initially attempted law enforcement, but Escobar’s “imprisonment” from 1991 to 1992 proved a humiliating farce because he controlled the prison. His escape led to a massive manhunt based on an altered government strategy. Bowden contends that the Colombian and US governments’ new strategy was simply to kill Escobar while officially claiming they merely wanted to capture him.
Bowden characterizes the manhunt as a targeted assassination, a troubling notion for two democratic governments ostensibly dedicated to the rule of law. The Colombian government was unable to stop Escobar due to feckless politicians and corrupt, incompetent police and military officials. The US government, eager to stifle the flow of cocaine, was plagued with intense interagency competition to gain bureaucratic advantage by catching the outlaw. US officials may also have exploited a change in US presidential administrations to get away with dubious covert operations before incoming Clinton administration officials fully understood what was happening (p. 195). The United States secretly sent military operatives and advanced electronic-surveillance gear while the Colombians formed a special police unit called the “Search Block” to track down Escobar. The Search Block soon acquired a reputation for killing suspects rather than arresting them. Even worse, the author claims that both governments condoned a shadowy vigilante group called “Los Pepes” (a Spanish acronym for “People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar”) that included criminals. The Search Block allegedly funneled intelligence information from the United States to Los Pepes members, who methodically murdered many people thought to be associated with Escobar, decimating his henchmen. Bowden thinks that US officials knew what Los Pepes was doing but concludes that “there would always be powerful, well-intentioned men who believed that protecting civilization sometimes required forays into lawlessness” (p. 178).
Cyber operations were vital to the manhunt but difficult to perform. Escobar shuttled constantly between hideouts, so the Search Block used US equipment to home in on his cell phone when he called his son. Escobar knew that the authorities were eavesdropping, but “the game wasn’t to avoid being overheard—that was impossible—but to avoid being targeted” (p. 237). To ensure that he kept making phone calls, the Colombian and US governments used Escobar’s wife and children as bait, refusing to let them flee Colombia out of concern that if Escobar’s family fled to safety, he might either surrender for another farcical prison term or simply vanish. After an agonizing series of failed raids, including an abortive air strike on Escobar’s electronically determined location, the Search Block finally zeroed in on his cell phone and killed him.
Today’s readers might see parallels between this story and the war on terror. Colombia is not the only country that faces an unholy alliance between terrorists and organized criminals. The evolving partnership between Colombian guerrillas and drug traffickers is reminiscent of that now seen in Afghanistan, where members of the Taliban once fought opium growers but now partner with them to finance their insurgency. Efforts to fight such enemies engender dilemmas for the United States. Bowden explains that “killing Pablo would not end cocaine exports to the United States or even slow them down—everybody knew that—but the Americans had signed on for this job believing that it was about something bigger. It was about democracy, the rule of law, standing up for justice and civilization” (pp. 260–61). Similarly, killing a notorious terrorist may or may not affect the incidence of terrorism, but Americans still fight for the principles that Bowden lists. The questionable government methods used in Colombia may be analogous to our policies for detaining terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation techniques. Joe Toft, chief of the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s Bogotá station, reportedly believed he had struck a Faustian bargain and “felt that to get Pablo they had sold their souls” (p. 268). Hopefully we will not feel that way after the war on terror.
Killing Pablo is based on extensive research—including interviews and official documents summarized in a “Sources” section—that lends credence to the author’s provocative assertions. Overall, the book tells an excellent story but raises worrisome questions that we will continue to confront for years to come.
Lt Col Paul D. Berg, USAF
Maxwell AFB, Alabama
The War: An Intimate History, 1941–1945 by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns. Alfred A. Knopf (http://www.randomhouse.com/knopf/home.pperl), 1745 Broadway, New York, New York 10019, 2007, 452 pages, $50.00 (hardcover), ISBN 0307262839.
Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns’s book The War: An Intimate History, 1941–1945 accompanies the Public Broadcasting Service’s very highly acclaimed 15-hour documentary series of the same name. The project of two award-winning authors who have also made their mark as a historian and a film producer, it captures America’s experience in World War II by focusing on the personal reflections of close to 50 residents of four towns (Luverne, Minnesota; Sacramento, California; Waterbury, Connecticut; and Mobile, Alabama), using them to represent all Americans who fought in the war. These individuals include Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, factory workers, Nisei (first-generation Japanese-Americans), Afro-Americans, women, and children.
Arranged chronologically, the book begins on Sunday morning, 7 December 1941, with the attack on Pearl Harbor and concludes in August 1945 with the end of World War II and the return of American military forces. By including poignant letters and quotations from servicemen and their loved ones, Ward and Burns reveal the raw emotions of the time and create a clear image of American life during the war. Rather than glorifying the war, the book paints a picture not only of personal determination but also of confusion and horrid carnage.
Several themes appear and reappear throughout The War: the home front’s determination to support the war and follow events via newsreel, radio, and newspaper; American servicemen’s overarching call to duty; and the cruel brutality of the war. A corollary of the latter theme is the desire of American servicemen to protect their families from the horrors they experienced and witnessed. Additionally, many of the book’s interviewees discuss how they came to grips with killing and how their experiences profoundly changed them.
Although the authors include a solid overview of the conduct of the war and its battles, as well as a theaterwide perspective, the primary focus or strength of the book remains the numerous personal aspects, mentioned above. Other studies do a good job of conveying the experiences and emotions of either the servicemen or the home front, but Ward and Burns excel in combining the two. Also impressive are the 394 illustrations/photographs and 21 maps, most of which I had never seen before. Picture-researcher David McMahon’s high-quality photographs, along with their insightful captions, complement the points under discussion.
I must point out, however, that the authors give only sparse coverage to the air war, particularly in the Pacific theater. Since they concentrate on veterans from four towns, this lack of coverage could be related to availability of the dwindling number of such veterans.
Viewers of the television documentary will enjoy the book as a wonderful companion to the series, and readers who have never seen the documentary will enjoy the book and want to watch the televised version. The War is a must-read for readers who wish to learn more about average Americans’ (i.e., their parents’ and grandparents’) personal triumphs, tragedies, and World War II experiences.
Lt Col Daniel J. Simonsen, USAF
Louisiana Tech University
The Worlds of Herman Kahn: The Intuitive Science of Thermonuclear War by Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi. Harvard University Press (http://www.hup.harvard.edu), 79 Garden Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, 2005, 432 pages, $26.95 (hardcover), ISBN 0674017145.
In The Worlds of Herman Kahn, author Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi uses the life of Herman Kahn (1922–83) to address the effect that the potential use of nuclear weapons in a future war had upon American culture from the end of World War II through the early 1960s. More than just a biography of Kahn, the book examines a wide swath of defense and social issues that faced America during the 1950s and early 1960s, when many people considered Kahn one of the preeminent military (nuclear) strategists. Moreover, it has value for the general Air Force history buff since these early nuclear weapons were initially assigned to the Air Force to manage and possibly employ. Additionally, this study would prove valuable to individuals interested in various issues that America had to confront because of the infusion of nuclear weapons into its military arsenal.
A physicist by education and a storyteller by vocation, Kahn began his professional career at the RAND Corporation, where he utilized the calculations of early game theory to craft military strategy and think about the unthinkable, namely, nuclear warfare. He later founded his own research organization, the Hudson Institute (p. 19). Through these studies and subsequent lectures, he became a recognized, leading expert on the implications of nuclear war. Kahn published several works (e.g., On Thermonuclear War [Princeton University Press, 1960] and Thinking about the Unthinkable [Horizon Press, 1962]) that furthered his reputation as a nuclear-war theorist and made him a lecturer in high demand. As Ghamari-Tabrizi describes in some detail, Kahn’s glibness enlivened his lectures even though they sometimes had the unintended consequence of alienating him from his audience and marking him as something of a monster for even considering the rationality of nuclear war. Furthermore, during formal briefings, he occasionally offended Air Force audiences with a casual or flippant remark at their service’s expense.
Given the notoriety of his published books and lectures, it is no wonder that he is thought to have inspired the character of Dr. Strangelove, who appears in the 1964 movie of the same name, directed by Stanley Kubrick. Indeed, Kahn spoke of a “doomsday machine” (p. 211) as a deterrent during the Cold War, and Strangelove discussed just such a weapon, triggered by an accidental nuclear strike at the end of the movie.
The Worlds of Herman Kahn gives readers interested in the Cold War added perspective by addressing the development and testing of the atomic and hydrogen bombs as well as the growth and role of Strategic Air Command. It also covers the ensuing debate concerning procurement of intercontinental ballistic missiles versus the need for intercontinental bombers (B-52s) as the primary means of delivering nuclear weapons. This author speaks to other issues of that day as well—the concept of and debate over civil preparedness, the employment of the Ground Observer Corps (whose volunteers watched the skies for incoming Soviet bombers), and the use of systems analysts as a means of evaluating the possible use of nuclear weapons during World War III scenarios.
A worthwhile read, The Worlds of Herman Kahn offers insights not only into the life of one man and the role he played in crafting our nation’s nuclear-weapon strategy during the 1950s and 1960s, but also into American public reactions during the early Cold War years. Mr. Kahn played a significant role in shaping those reactions as he lectured both civilian and military audiences on the implications of the employment of nuclear weapons during a future war.
Col Joe McCue, USAF, Retired
The Development of Propulsion Technology for U.S. Space-Launch Vehicles, 1926–1991 by J. D. Hunley. Texas A&M University Press Consortium (http://www.tamu.edu/upress), John H. Lindsey Building, Lewis Street, 4354 TAMU, College Station, Texas 77843-4354, 2007, 388 pages, $65.00 (hardcover), ISBN 1585445886.
“Actually, it is rocket science!” Almost every space engineer has owned, at some point, a T-shirt with that slogan adorned with a field of equations, a rocket, or some other space motif. However, it never did seem quite . . . right. Why? In his excellent book, 25-year-veteran air and space historian J. D. Hunley argues that it’s wrong because there is no such thing as rocket science. At least not “rocket science as a body of knowledge complete and mature enough to allow accurate predictions of problems” (p. 289). Hunley spends this volume arguing that the development of American launch vehicles has been a process of engineering and not science, as well as cataloging that development from the first tenuous experiments by Robert Goddard through the evolution of the space shuttle. His effort is the most comprehensive general history of the growth of American rocketry we’re likely to see.
Hunley’s book is predominantly a managerial history of the various rocket-development programs, both military and civilian. Although he does not delve into equations, Hunley doesn’t shy from explaining technical issues and how they were conquered. He provides general chapters on the refinement of ballistic missiles and launch vehicles, and then focuses later chapters on specific systems. Thankfully, Hunley minimizes the politics involved (normally the bread and butter of space histories) and concentrates exclusively on the managers and engineers—those who built the rockets and got them to work. Because of this decision, Hunley’s book is very valuable to those who currently work in rocket development because it allows them to understand the past and perform more effectively in the future.
Hunley credits the success of America’s launch vehicles to a number of items. Foremost, he lauds the “heterogeneous engineers” (more properly termed, perhaps, “technical managers”): men like Gen Bernard Schriever, Wernher von Braun, and other early leaders who not only understood the complex engineering problems associated with rocket advancement, but also could communicate among many different disciplines and express the importance of space-launch vehicles to the general public. Without these leaders, the funding so desperately needed to establish a robust and effective space-launch capability might never have been available. Hunley also describes the unique balance of interservice rivalry and information sharing in the early days of the Cold War that maximized the efficiency of American development efforts. Parallel work by the Army, Navy, and Air Force drove competition that dramatically improved overall growth. At the same time, organizations like the Rocket Propellant Information Agency became vast clearinghouses open to all, limiting overlap in expensive research. Ironically, competition and collaboration were both hallmarks of the most successful development efforts.
Finally, throughout the book, Hunley emphasizes that rockets were made to work—not on the chalkboard with elegant equations but in the workshop with the bending of metal. Rocket scientists could not always predict the problems that accompanied the building of a successful launch vehicle; indeed, more times than they might wish to admit, engineers were forced to “fix” problems by trial and error. Often, without understanding why it worked, they would stumble upon a configuration that solved a problem (in an injector, combustion chamber, etc.) that was causing a rocket to fail or that was causing the original problem. Perhaps worrisome to some, this fact is nevertheless a testament to the “steely-eyed missile men” who built the US space program.
What can the Air Force leader learn from this book? That great managers can help great technicians flourish and do the impossible, and that both are imperative to success. That jealous competition between allies can spur competition, but that we shouldn’t keep secrets because we are all on the same team in the end. That not every problem can be solved on a computer, and that we skimp on the flight-test program at our peril. And most important, especially in the rocket business, that doing is often the only way in which knowing can happen.
The Development of Propulsion Technology made me proud to be an engineer, but . . . in the end . . . I still like my shirt.
Capt Brent D. Ziarnick, USAFR
Spaceport America, New Mexico
Governing the American Lake: The US Defense and Administration of the Pacific, 1945–1947 by Hal M. Friedman. Michigan State University Press (http://www.msupress.msu.edu), Suite 25, Manly Miles Building, 1405 South Harrison Road, East Lansing, Michigan 48823-5245, 2007, 320 pages, $64.95 (hardcover), ISBN 0870137948.
The title of this book is provocative but misleading, offering a come-on suggesting that American waters include the Pacific Ocean. After all, the United States had just fought a bitter contest with an Asian power for dominance of the ocean, and by 1947 US policy makers were concerned that another rival might challenge American control. This work attempts to show the divergent policy stances of various components of the American government as well as some of the disagreements within a given department. The affected players are the defense elements—Navy, Army, and Air Force—as well as the Departments of Interior and State. Each department and service had its own agenda, concerns, and internal disagreements over policy.
The author, Hal Friedman, arranges the text by agency, treating the military services first. As he points out, the services faced competition for funding in an era of rapid demobilization and sharp budget cuts. Each had to figure out how to maximize its advantage while offering a realistic approach to defending some portion of the Pacific—obviously too large for the smaller forces to handle completely. Issues included stationary defense (bases with ground forces) or mobile defense (fleets and aircraft). Another matter concerned which parts of the Pacific the United States would claim as its province. Though short on answers, the book does illustrate that the policy remained negotiable even as the Cold War began. Interior and State had different issues, the former wanting to extend its traditional role as overseer of US possessions or mandates overseas, and the latter wishing to avoid a situation that could lead to a charge of imperialism against the United States. Friedman brings out these issues clearly.
One cannot say the same for the debates, however—or the resolution of the matter. Indeed, these lacunae are what make the title misleading. Governing the American Lake has nothing to say about the actual administration of any given part of the Pacific by any element of the American government, civilian or military. It doesn’t even effectively define the approach to administration chosen by the government for a given territory. In effect, it is simply a description of correspondence between high-ranking military and civilian officials, and, mostly, policy paper after policy paper. We find out little about how a given paper was received and little about how policy developed, who changed it, and who argued against or on behalf of a specific position.
The result is dry-bones reading, with the reader left wondering at the end why the author bothered. Though well researched and adequately written, as one would expect from an academic with previous publications in the field, Governing the American Lake fails to address the subject advertised by its title. On a positive note, however, even the author acknowledges that the Pacific is a comparative backwater for the United States in world affairs. Thus, a history of its administration during the shift from a hot to cold war is not vital. Only experts need pick up this work for more than a casual glance. Those seeking a political, military, or diplomatic history of the region during this period must look elsewhere.
Dr. John H. Barnhill
In the Shadow of the Moon: A Challenging Journey to Tranquility, 1965–1969 by Francis French and Colin Burgess. University of Nebraska Press (http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu), 1111 Lincoln Mall, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-0630, 2007, 448 pages, $29.95 (hardcover), ISBN 0803211287.
Authors Francis French and Colin Burgess have continued the chronological narration of the American and Soviet human-spaceflight programs, which they began earlier in 2007 with publication of Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961–1965. Now, the appearance on bookstore shelves of In the Shadow of the Moon sets the stage for additional volumes covering post–Apollo 11 activities. These two titles represent a spectacular beginning for a series that the University of Nebraska Press has labeled Outward Odyssey: A People’s History of Spaceflight. Simply stated, they whet readers’ appetites for the rest of the story—the space shuttle, space stations, Earth-orbiting robotic spacecraft, and interplanetary missions.
Writing in a style and at a grammatical level appealing to general readers and space professionals alike, French and Burgess recount the challenges of the Gemini and early Apollo programs, along with disappointing setbacks and ultimate recovery in the Soviet human-spaceflight program. Their strong suit lies not so much in presenting new material or a new interpretation of existing information but in pulling together countless threads of detail and weaving them into colorful descriptions of events. Furthermore, they keep readers’ attention riveted on the human dimension of the story because they know that is the essence of history. The authors achieve this human focus, albeit primarily on the astronauts and cosmonauts themselves, by blending details from personal correspondence and interviews with information from published sources.
Because they cover both American and Soviet human-spaceflight programs and because some astronauts or cosmonauts went into space more than once, French and Burgess occasionally struggle to balance the chronology and coverage of specific individuals. Near the end of the third chapter, for example, the authors unexpectedly “fast forward” to Pete Conrad’s participation in the Skylab project but restore the narrative’s chronological integrity within a page or two. In the fourth chapter, they shift abruptly from Apollo 1 and devote 15 pages to their first extensive coverage of Soviet activities. Although these rather awkward transitions might startle some readers, they represent exceptions in an otherwise flowing saga.
No one should make the mistake of thinking that a book written for a nonscholarly audience is devoid of scholarly analysis. Through careful examination of evidence from various sources, In the Shadow of the Moon dispels “myths” associated with the Apollo 7 mission: that all three astronauts caught head colds and that the crew mutinied. The authors’ discussion of how various spacecraft names and call signs originated, as well as how officials with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reacted to the astronauts’ choices, is both entertaining and instructive. Perhaps the most thought-provoking bit of analysis in this volume pertains to the conclusion that Soviet Soyuz flights were “more meaningful and beneficial to the long-term use of space than those of Apollo” because Soyuz provided “the enduring workhorse of space travel” (p. 284). French and Burgess demonstrate how descriptive passages can convey sophisticated analytical points.
The most annoying features of this book, like those of its previously published companion volume, are the absence of annotations and an index. Perhaps the decision to dispense with these textual accoutrements reflects the publisher’s purposeful aim toward a broader, less scholarly audience. For academicians, however, not knowing where the authors obtained specific, possibly controversial, details poses problems. Even those reading In the Shadow of the Moon at a less intellectually rigorous level occasionally might be curious about where the authors picked up this or that tidbit. Some clues appear in the narrative itself, but much is left to the reader’s speculation. Similarly, if readers want to find where Deke Slayton, Pete Conrad, Vladimir Komarov, or anyone else is mentioned in this book, they must thumb through it, page by page.
Nonetheless, most members of the Air Force community will find In the Shadow of the Moon fascinating and easy to read. The accomplishments of Air Force test pilots who became NASA astronauts, from Gus Grissom and Buzz Aldrin to James Irwin and Charlie Duke, can instill pride. Those who know more of the story can pause between chapters to remember how countless, mostly forgotten, Air Force officers, enlisted, and civilian personnel working on the ground supported NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs, thereby helping win the race to the moon.
Dr. Rick W. Sturdevant
Peterson AFB, Colorado
The Road to Safwan: The 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry in the 1991 Persian Gulf War by Stephen A. Bourque and John W. Burdan III. University of North Texas Press (http://web3.unt.edu/untpress), 1155 Union Circle, no. 311336, Denton, Texas 76203-5017, 2007, 336 pages, $27.95 (hardcover), ISBN 1574412329.
We read historical accounts of battles and individual tales of bravery and heroism, but sometimes we can’t put them in perspective because the stories lack presence; the author simply cannot place us alongside the primary characters. However, some authors do very well at incorporating a sense of involvement into their recounting of history. Some even go a step or two further, providing not only a good account but also some “takeaways” that inspire us to dive further into the battle or a specific point. Stephen A. Bourque is one such author.
The 1991 Persian Gulf War has always held an element of attraction for me. I enjoy historical narratives of units with which I’ve served or have been associated, even if briefly. When I saw that Bourque had coauthored The Road to Safwan, featuring the history of the oldest and most decorated cavalry squadron in the US Army—the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry (1/4 Cav)—I had to read it.
Bourque and coauthor John W. Burdan III offer an interesting, cavalry-centric presentation of the squadron before, during, and immediately after conflict in the first Gulf War, describing four main operational phases (predeployment, deployment, employment, and redeployment). They credibly depict warfare at the battalion or squadron level and below by illustrating problems characteristic of such units. Not only do we learn the names of otherwise anonymous drivers and troop leaders, but also we learn about the people themselves. The running narrative employed by the coauthors allows us to get to know these main characters without enduring the tedium of a novel’s character development.
The Road to Safwan is not without its problems, however. Bourque and Burdan have some strong opinions about US Army decisions leading up to the war (e.g., their discussion about the lack of tanks organic to the squadron organization [pp. 22–24]). Though their points are illustrative, repeated mention of these tangents proves distracting at times. Furthermore, the brief conclusion fails to expand on recurring themes or to propose solutions that could apply not only to the larger US Army but also joint operations. Such possible solutions include 1/4 Cav’s unique approach to the reduction of friendly-fire episodes and to platoon-level live-fire exercises for combined ground cavalry and scout weapons teams (pp. 18–19). Also, the coauthors’ retelling of squadron events does not address the pros and cons of using people on the ground versus remote technology. Lastly, the small print found in most of the combat and operational maps and graphics severely limits their usefulness; foldouts would have been much better.
Despite its shortcomings, this book is a solid review of the squadron’s history in the first Gulf War, following the troopers’ problems and triumphs from initial notification through their safe return home. Rather than confronting droll dates and facts, we come to know the squadron’s leadership, from the commander down to the troops. Admittedly, aside from affording readers the opportunity to understand Army—specifically, cavalry—operations, Airmen will discover few “lessons learned” in this book. Nevertheless, those of us who have a nostalgic interest in the history of armored cavalry will find The Road to Safwan a pleasant read.
Maj Paul Niesen, USAF, Retired
Scott AFB, Illinois
Breaking the Mold: Tanks in the Cities by Kendall D. Gott. Combat Studies Institute Press (http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/csi.asp), Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027, 2006, 144 pages, $12.00 (softcover) (available from the Government Printing Office, http://bookstore.gpo.gov), ISBN 0160762235. Available free at http://www
In this book, Kendall Gott attempts to examine the application of armored vehicles in urban environments. At first glance, he seems to offer an intriguing subject that has great potential as a case study of utilizing traditional technology to overcome unconventional situations. This should prove interesting to anyone familiar with the role airpower has played in recent years in Iraq and Afghanistan, considering that the strategy in these conflicts emphasizes asymmetric warfare instead of a traditional air campaign. Gott argues for specialized training and the use of combined arms at the lowest tactical levels, pointing out that when tanks are properly employed (and well supported by infantry) and operated by well-trained personnel, they are highly successful.
The book consists of five case studies, ranging from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom: Aachen (1944), Hue (1968), Beirut (1984), Grozny (1995), and Fallujah (2004). Each chapter includes the background of the conflict, a description of the battle, and an analysis (“In Retrospect”). The book also includes a brief introduction and a conclusion.
Chapter 1 describes the German defense of the city of Aachen against the Allied advance. Although Allied forces were not trained for urban combat, they ultimately achieved success by combining fire and maneuver. The main tanks used in the battle included the M4 Sherman and the M10 Tank Destroyer, the latter used in a supporting role to the infantry as a mobile platform to reduce enemy positions.
In chapter 2, which details the aftermath of the Tet offensive and the retaking of the city of Hue during the Vietnam War, we find that US Marines relied on the M48A3 and the M50 to provide firepower and mobility. At the time, neither the Marine Corps nor the Army of the Republic of Vietnam had doctrine devoted to urban warfare. Though utilized in a support role, armor led limited advances on occasion. The battle demonstrated the ability of armored forces to move under heavy fire and bring firepower to the enemy in urban terrain.
Operation Peace for Galilee and the Israeli incursion into southern Lebanon, the subject of the third chapter, notes that the Israelis’ primary armor consisted of the M60 and the M113. Unlike the situation in the previous examples, the Israelis enjoyed specialized equipment and training in addition to established doctrine regarding the use of armor. Overall, their tanks performed well in Beirut but simply were not designed to fight in urban terrain. Inherent weaknesses included the inability of gun turrets to elevate to reach rooftops and tank commanders having to fight with their hatches closed to avoid sniper fire.
Chapter 4 discusses the Russian invasion of Chechnya, during which the hastily assembled and unprepared Russian Army—using the BMP-2, T-80, and BTR-80—faced a determined Chechen regular army and hardened guerilla fighters. Although the Russians enjoyed a distinct advantage numerically and technologically, they were routed by the Chechens, who used superior urban tactics in taking advantage of the narrow traverse radius of the main Russian battle tank and poor communication.
The final chapter deals with the coalition forces (Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force) and Iraqi ground forces as they advanced into Fallujah during Iraqi Freedom. The two main armored vehicles of choice included the M1A2 and the M2A3, the former following the Marine advance and providing direct fire support to the riflemen. Breaking with tradition, armor actually led the assault into the city as the infantry offered cover and cleared buildings. In addition, the trailing allied Iraqi forces held captured buildings to prevent flanking by the enemy. By this point in the war, Americans had become highly proficient in urban warfare.
Unfortunately, Breaking the Mold falls well short of expectations. Originally written as five separate articles later thrown together, the book manages only a thin connection between them in the form of the application of armor in each battle. Rather than emphasizing the author’s main point, most of the text simply details the specifics of each battle. Due to the book’s short length, readers will not have to invest too much time discovering this for themselves.
Capt Michael D. Kennedy, USAF
Yokota Air Base, Japan
Unknown Soldiers: Reliving World War II in Europe by Joseph E. Garland. Protean Press / Open Book Systems (http://www.proteanpress.com), 37-J Whistlestop Mall, Rockport, Massachusetts 01966, 2008, 528 pages, $29.95 (hardcover), ISBN 0962578037.
I have read most of Joe Garland’s books. This one, however, is quite unlike anything else he has written. I knew that reviewing Unknown Soldiers would be both interesting and a challenge. I began my review with two questions in mind: Who is Joe Garland of World War II? Is he capable of meeting his usual high standards despite writing in a completely different genre?
I thought this book was going to be an autobiographical account of his experiences as a member of the Intelligence and Reconnaissance (I&R) Platoon, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division in World War II. It was—to a point. After he was injured and sent back to Italy, the narrative becomes more like an oral history, told by his comrades. Mr. Garland employs quite an interesting style that runs throughout his account of I&R in the war. At appropriate points, he inserts portions of an actual entry from the unauthorized record he kept. He also includes sketches he drew or part of an interview he conducted with one of his buddies while writing the book. I also learned that Willie and Joe, Bill Mauldin’s cartoon characters, were composites of Garland’s compatriots in the 45th Division. These enjoyable tidbits contribute a great deal to the narrative. Photographs of buddies, interspersed throughout the text in appropriate places, allow the reader to place a face with a name. I found myself referring back to them every now and again just so I could keep someone’s likeness in my memory. This technique effectively brings Mr. Garland’s experiences to life.
As soon as the reader thinks he knows the author’s particular way of writing, Garland adds a new twist by changing the style of his gripping narrative. He demonstrates amazing versatility—for example, sharing a poem he wrote and recorded in his journal (pp. 214–16) and then reverting to the style to which I had become accustomed.
In chapter 11, he talks about the combat movement of the I&R Platoon from Rians to Livron, France, when the 157th Regiment—the platoon’s parent—met the French Résistance, especially Henry Siaud and his two friends. At this point, the reader encounters “extensive excerpts” (15 pages) of Siaud’s memoirs, which Garland translated himself. Fitting perfectly into the narrative, they allow us to see things from the perspective of the liberated.
For the rest of the wartime exploits of the I&R Platoon, Garland integrates these memoirs, thoughts from his notebook, and parts of interviews he conducted many years later with his wartime buddies. His weaving of all these elements together makes the narrative more personal and intimate. I felt like I was a member of his unit, helping win a war nobody wanted and liberating prisoners from their Nazi captors.
We see Garland’s first use of humor during his in-processing at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, when he was interviewed and allowed to choose the arm of the Army in which he wished to serve. Well, as anyone who has been in the military knows full well, recruits really don’t have a choice; the services just let them think they do. Garland opts for motorized infantry since riding sounded better than walking; however, the Army rewards him with a place in the infantry.
He soon learns that motorized infantry really means tanks, a choice that doesn’t even rate as high as really bad because the chances of survival for the crew of a hit tank lie somewhere between slim and nil. At this point, he concludes that “in exercising the one and only option of my nascent career in the military I swung from flunking pre-med at Harvard to flunking the first lesson of survival out there: never volunteer” (p. 3). I really got a laugh out of that typical New England humor.
Readers also learn about the sequence of events along the Sele-Calore Corridor to Naples between November 1943 and January 1944, during which time the front moved forward and backward again and again. Here, Garland and his buddies live in a cave that can only be described as a decaying, feral rabbit warren.
When I began this review, I said that, after having read a number of Joe Garland’s books, I wondered if he could meet his customary high standards. He not only met them but blew them away! Those who want to know about the war in Italy should read this book. Those who want to experience the liberation of the French from a French perspective should read this book. And those who want to see World War II through the eyes of an enlisted infantryman and his buddies should read this book. They will not be disappointed!
Dr. Donald A. MacCuish
Maxwell AFB, Alabama
NATO’s Gamble: Combining Diplomacy and Airpower in the Kosovo Crisis, 1998–1999 by Dag Henriksen. Naval Institute Press (http://www.usni.org/navalinstitutepress/index.asp), 291 Wood Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5034, 2007, 304 pages, $24.00 (softcover), ISBN 1591143586.
NATO’s Gamble examines the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) strategy for Operation Allied Force in Kosovo. More precisely, author Dag Henriksen argues that NATO had no strategy prior to or during the initial stages of the conflict and that history, rather than events, guided its actions. In outlining matters relating to the operation, he highlights the transatlantic differences in philosophy regarding the crisis, illustrates how they affected NATO’s actions, and points to them as the underlying reason for the lack of a unified strategy on Kosovo. Henriksen concludes that NATO stumbled into war in order to protect its credibility without any overall strategy—and that was NATO’s gamble.
Using a case-study format, the author begins his analysis with the opening days of Allied Force by recounting the struggle between the military and NATO politicians over the conduct of the war. He paints a picture of disagreement and confusion over all of its aspects—targets, objectives, and pace of the war—and observes how the military would often hear of changes through press conferences instead of NATO channels. By focusing on the ideological differences between the military and diplomats, the remainder of the book reveals how NATO arrived at such a point. Establishing a foundation for his argument, Dr. Henriksen uses the development of airpower theory and history to show the “shock and awe” mind-set prevalent in the Air Force and then employs a similar historical line of reasoning to demonstrate the US political leadership’s beliefs regarding the linkage of force to diplomacy. Finally, starting with the origins of the Bosnia conflict in the early 1990s, he establishes a pattern of political and military events that created only minimal connection between the use of force and diplomacy as Allied Force began.
In addition to noting NATO’s lack of coherent strategy, Dr. Henriksen examines principles of coercion to emphasize the necessity of a link between the use of force and diplomacy. Harkening back to Alexander George and his concept of coercive diplomacy, the author demonstrates how NATO’s lack of an overall strategy caused the failure of coercion prior to the conflict. Although not fully developed, the discussion on coercion presents a strong reminder to military professionals and diplomats of the need to keep political goals in mind when designing military strategy and to establish links to those goals—precisely the sort of connection missing in NATO.
An airpower lecturer at the Royal Norwegian Air Force Academy and a captain in the Royal Norwegian Air Force, Henriksen used his doctoral thesis as the basis for NATO’s Gamble. His study not only offers an interesting argument but also presents perspectives from multiple NATO members, even during discussion of the bipolar transatlantic divide. Furthermore, it considers the views of military officers and diplomats from many NATO nationalities, including some often missing from or minimized in other books on the subject. This sort of inclusiveness provides a well-rounded account from which even a reader quite familiar with Kosovo will likely learn something new.
Although aspects of this topic hold little mystery for many members of the Air Force community, NATO’s Gamble is nevertheless worthwhile. In light of current events, conceptualizing military operations as supporting political strategy should have a familiar ring for most readers. However, harmonizing both of these elements in a coercive operation within the framework of a standing alliance presents complications that every military professional must understand. This book provides a case study of just such an instance.
Maj Lisa Nemeth, USAF
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
Reflections of an Air Warrior by Group Capt Arjun Subramaniam. Knowledge World Publishers (http://www.knowledgeworldonline.com), 5A/4A Ansari Road, Darya Ganj, New Delhi 110002, 2008, 150 pages (hardcover), ISBN 978-8187966722.
Now here is a good book for the aspiring scholar-warrior who wishes to dedicate an evening to informative reading. Written by Group Capt (now Air Commodore) Arjun Subramaniam of the Indian Air Force, Reflections of an Air Warrior brings together a potpourri of previously published articles on a variety of subjects interesting to the audience of Air and Space Power Journal (ASPJ).
The first section of the book holds particular appeal for those who spend their working days on the flight line—be they flyers or maintainers. Written in an engaging way with a focus on leadership, these pieces are concerned with the safe and effective running of a flying squadron. Not limited to the technical and operational details of the work, they also deal with morale, development of air leaders, and quality-of-life issues. The last of the articles in this part addresses in a practical way the “Ethics and Values in Military Leadership.”
But Reflections is much more than just a handbook for squadron leaders. Displaying a good acquaintance with the airpower literature of the US Air Force, the author includes a series of thoughtful chapters on that subject. One is about a transition facing the Indian Air Force in light of the great growth of the country’s economy, India’s broadening set of concerns outside its borders, and the perceived need to move from a tactical force to one that also has a strategic capability. He continues with a piece on the requirements to prepare for out-of-country operations and in this and other articles seems convinced of a convergence of interests for both India and the United States. Group Captain Subramaniam also offers a short essay regarding the growing power and changing strategy of China, which has some interests in common not only with India but also with other nations less obviously in harmony with his own country’s interests.
Reflections of an Air Warrior provides useful insight from an informed, articulate, and well-read airman from another environment—insight useful for the audience of ASPJ. The only faults I noticed are the absence of a glossary (some of his acronyms are not common in the US Air Force) and an index, but neither omission is a serious impediment. I therefore recommend that this book occupy a fairly high place on the reading list of air scholar-warriors.
Dr. David R. Mets
Hans-Joachim Marseille: An Illustrated Tribute to the Luftwaffe’s “Star of Africa” by Robert Tate. Schiffer Publishing (http://www.schifferbooks.com/newschiffer), 4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, Pennsylvania 19310, 2008, 224 pages, $49.95 (hardcover), ISBN 0764329405.
Luftwaffe fighter ace Hans-Joachim Marseille is by any measure a compelling figure. In a combat career lasting barely two years, he was credited with shooting down 158 British and Commonwealth aircraft. Marseille’s reputation was enhanced by his legendary skill: his victories required an average of only 15 rounds of ammunition, and on many occasions he scored multiple “kills” in a single sortie. All who saw him in combat agree that he was a phenomenal marksman, a uniquely gifted pilot, and a genuine “character.” He achieved most of his success in the desert campaign in North Africa, in many ways a “clean” war far removed from the atrocities of the Eastern Front. By some accounts, Marseille fought his war with chivalry, personally delivering word of the fate of downed Allied pilots to enemy airfields and refusing to fire at enemy aviators floating helplessly in their parachutes. He also seemed to care little for National Socialist ideology, a fact reflected in his taste for swing music and his befriending a black man. Finally, he died unbeaten by the enemy—while bailing out of a malfunctioning aircraft, he was struck by the tailplane.
Robert Tate, a retired Air Force officer and current airline pilot, has drawn upon a lifelong fascination with Marseille to produce this lavishly illustrated volume. Tate does not duplicate the narrative information contained in previous Marseille biographies and offers little treatment of the ace’s early life or family history. Rather, he concentrates on Marseille’s North African service with fighter wing Jagdgeschwader 27—his tactics, aerial victories, personal and professional qualities, and the assessments of those who flew with and against him.
The book’s graphic and production values are a major part of its appeal. The photograph selection and reproduction are outstanding. Tate has tracked down items from public and private collections worldwide, using them to document thoroughly Marseille’s brief and spectacular career in North Africa. Especially striking are photos of a combat-stressed, prematurely aged 22-year-old Marseille, taken the day before his death. Newspaper and magazine items, as well as vintage postcards, demonstrate how the German propaganda machine elevated aces like Marseille to celebrity status.
With regard to faults, the book is not based on any major new documentary evidence. In fairness to Tate, some of this is unavoidable—Marseille himself seems to have left no writings. This consummate aerial tactician evidently never penned a tactics manual or set of rules along the lines of the “Dicta,” by World War I ace Oswald Boelcke. In addition, the surviving Luftwaffe records related to Marseille are fragmentary. The author does draw interesting information from some of Marseille’s comrades and acquaintances although much of it comes from a comprehensive review of English-language accounts and memoirs. More focused editing of the book would have removed some of the repetitive, verbatim use of quoted material from these sources. More surprisingly, Tate does not refer to some of the standard sources on the subject, most notably Karl Gundelach’s classic history of the Luftwaffe in the Mediterranean. Neither does he seem to have consulted British or American official sources, published or unpublished. It would be interesting to see what (for example) Royal Air Force air intelligence reported about Marseille’s accomplishments.
These criticisms aside, this book has much to interest students of aerial warfare. Tate offers a cogent commentary on fighter tactics, some of which have changed little since Marseille’s day. Although the treatment of Marseille is generally positive, Tate brings some critical analysis to bear on subjects ranging from the veracity of Marseille’s victory tally to the lack of strategic success that accompanied the ace’s tactical exploits. He rejects the notion that Marseille’s successes were the result of his being pitted against inferior adversaries. The author also makes some judicious and intriguing observations about Marseille’s association with the Berlin “counterculture” (such as it was) that enjoyed jazz music and flouted authority. On the whole, Hans-Joachim Marseille is a well-constructed book that will interest students of the Luftwaffe, fighter tactics, and World War II.
Dr. Richard R. Muller
Maxwell AFB, Alabama
The Star Wars Enigma: Behind the Scenes of the Cold War Race for Missile Defense by Nigel Hey. Potomac Books (http://www.potomacbooksinc.com), 22841 Quicksilver Drive, Dulles, Virginia 20166, 2006, 288 pages, $22.36 (hardcover), $15.16 (softcover), ISBN 1597970050.
In today’s international struggle against terrorism and insurgency, the Cold War can sometimes feel like ancient history. It was a completely different conflict of near-perfect symmetry that locked the globe in a strategic stalemate—a stalemate threatened by Pres. Ronald Reagan’s announcement of a plan to protect the United States and its allies against a Soviet nuclear attack without having to rely on the deterrent of a counterstrike. In The Star Wars Enigma, Nigel Hey provides a vivid historical account of the politics and science that fueled President Reagan’s vision of a world free from the threat of nuclear war. He traces the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) from scientific theory and debate to its crescendo as one of the defining political issues at the end of the Cold War.
The Star Wars Enigma attempts to illuminate two key questions surrounding President Reagan’s SDI: (1) Was a space-based shield from nuclear attack technologically possible? (2) Did it really matter if it would work or not, or was the threat of “Star Wars” enough to attain US political objectives? Hey cites scores of scientists and administrative officials from both the United States and Soviet Union who believed that such a system was not possible in their generation. He also reveals that the Soviets had such high regard for American ingenuity and technology, demonstrated in the Manhattan and Apollo projects, that they could not risk ignoring the threat of an impenetrable nuclear shield over their enemies. The book rightly does not attempt to answer the first question; it simply shares the thoughts of scientists and leaders who were there. The book answers the second question in context. Many of the author’s sources thought that the United States intended the SDI as a political tool to pressure the Soviet economy into collapse; others saw it as a legitimate technology program aimed at defending the nation. In the end, it did not really matter. The book reveals that Soviet leaders considered the SDI a vivid threat to the balance of power, adding another layer of complexity to their mounting domestic troubles.
In The Star Wars Enigma, Hey does not attempt to challenge any of the conventional wisdom surrounding the SDI or its impact on the Cold War. He does, however, walk the reader through the history of space-based missile defense in an entertaining and nontechnical manner. The book focuses on the blurry line between politics and technology, but Hey manages to throw in some cloak-and-dagger vignettes (e.g., murder and bombings of SDI contractors in Europe, p. 181) that highlight the SDI as more than simply a technical challenge. Further insights into the people and personalities involved add a human context to the SDI, reminding the reader that the fear of nuclear war was omnipresent in the 1980s. In telling the story, Hey draws on his associations with many of the key scientific players in the SDI from his time as a senior administrator at Sandia National Laboratories. He fills in the rest of the details by means of thorough research of the literature and media as well as one-on-one interviews with scientists and decision makers from the United States and former Soviet Union.
Today, one finds the remnants of the SDI in the Missile Defense Agency and its systems for national missile defense (NMD). Although space-based lasers no longer represent the central technology, much of the current developmental system has its roots in the SDI. The Star Wars Enigma is a worthwhile read for anyone in the Air Force or NMD community who seeks a concise, entertaining, and accessible account of the SDI saga and its contributions to our current effort.
Maj Eric J. Kolb, USAF
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
Preparing the Army for Stability Operations: Doctrinal and Interagency Issues by Thomas S. Szayna, Derek Eaton, and Amy Richardson. RAND Corporation (http://www.rand.org/publications/index.html), 1776 Main Street, P.O. Box 2138, Santa Monica, California 90407-2138, 2007, 276 pages, $31.50 (softcover), ISBN 0833041908. Available free from http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2007/RAND_MG646.pdf.
The United States overthrew the Taliban and Baathist regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively, believing that the populations of both countries would smoothly transition to democratic governments. Misconceptions and missteps in the aftermath of those successful military operations allowed for the creation of environments conducive to the growth of insurgencies and the introduction of terrorist activities against the populations and military forces alike. We found it tough going to stabilize both countries so their people could build functioning governments.
By 2004 the US government had begun a comprehensive study of the stabilization process. For its part, the Army engaged RAND’s Arroyo Center to examine the issue. The report of that study, Preparing the Army for Stability Operations, explains the construct of such operations as a US government effort in which the Army has a significant, perhaps the most significant, part—but only a part, nonetheless. It shows that the Department of State has regulatory responsibility as the lead government agency in stability operations and recognizes that the Army cannot simply assume that State or any other agency can or will rise to the requirements inherent in that responsibility. Since the Army is the preeminent element of US land power (operating on the medium where forces establish stability) in an environment in which failure is not acceptable, the Army must proceed as if it will have sole responsibility for establishing stability after the completion of military operations.
After an in-depth explanation of the study construct, the book dissects the requirements for interagency cooperation in stability, security, transition, and reconstruction (SSTR) operations, including a look at Army doctrine. That examination reveals three main insights regarding tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP); gaps and seams in the current doctrine; adjustments required in the Army Universal Task List (AUTL) and in definitions of Army tactical tasks (ATT). (Like this paragraph, the book is full of acronyms that will quickly confuse all but the most studious readers. Fortunately, the authors include a list of abbreviations for easy reference.)
The study offers 56 specific recommendations in three categories: (1) that the Army serve as the medium in defining the roles and missions of various agencies engaged in stabilization missions; (2) that the Army use its experience with provincial reconstruction teams to advise other agencies in the establishment of advance civilian teams; and (3) that decision makers consult the study’s list of Army doctrinal recommendations.
Preparing the Army for Stability Operations serves as an excellent adjunct to Army Field Manual 3-07, Stability Operations, October 2008, and other doctrinal publications. However, unlike the actual doctrinal manuals, this is not a how-to book on stability operations but a breakdown of those operations as a system. Non-Army readers many find themselves feeling left out, given the study’s unabashedly Army-centric slant. However, considering that every military member, no matter what service, may one day pursue the stability mission as part of a joint/combined team, this book should find a wide audience.
CSM James Clifford, USA, Retired
Educing Information: Interrogation: Science and Art: Foundations for the Future, Phase 1 Report, by the Intelligence Science Board. Center for Strategic Intelligence Research, National Defense Intelligence College Press (http://www.dia.mil/college/press.htm), Washington, DC 20340-5100, 2006, 339 pages (hardcover), ISBN 1932946179. Available free from http://www.fas.org/irp/dni/educing.pdf.
Everybody agrees that information is power. In the global war on terror, a particularly passionate, continuing debate concerns a specific form of information gathering: the interrogation. One can express the essence of that debate with the question, What means of securing important, time-sensitive information from an uncooperative individual is both effective and acceptable? (Indeed, the single, subconscious theme found throughout the book deals with what must be done to prevent another Abu Ghraib.) More a call to action for the organized accumulation of vital data than a repository of concrete answers, Educing Information begins a laborious process to address that question.
The book consists of a series of 10 essays by nine authors, loosely organized into three subject areas: an overview of interrogation techniques and procedures, the status of current interrogation training, and recommendations for future research. Each author, handpicked by the Intelligence Science Board for his or her particular expertise on the subject, boasts considerable doctoral-level experience in behavioral science, psychology, neuroscience, and negotiation theory. The individual essays not only add substantial value to the collection as a whole but also can stand alone as a source of detailed information on their particular subjects.
Two messages clearly resonate in each piece. First, using torture to procure information is ineffective, often produces erroneous data, and is not worth the political price paid by a democratic government. Second, we need much more research to discover efficient, accurate, and morally acceptable means of interrogation.
Despite the existence of an Army manual that addresses interrogation tactics, techniques, and procedures, the book’s authors believe that most interrogation specialists learn predominantly from anecdotal advice and personal experience—one of the major criticisms of current interrogation operations. Two essays explore training programs of domestic police forces as well as programs in the United Kingdom, the latter described as anemic and of dubious worth to professionals responsible for questioning criminal suspects. Clearly, such a program does not hold the answer to the question under study.
The most interesting part of this collection deals with the incorporation of negotiation theory within the process of interrogation. Viewing such questioning as a series of complex negotiations opens up a robust and effective line of research. This may represent the most promising avenue of approach for further improvement.
Designed specifically for intelligence professionals, Educing Information has little value in and of itself to Air Force readers unless they have direct responsibility for interrogation operations. Politically, the book is very interesting because it offers a glimpse into the intelligence community’s first reaction to the Abu Ghraib crisis. An excellent first attempt at addressing the much-debated interrogation question, it proceeds not so much by providing guidance as by setting the table for answers.
Lt Col Christopher D. Harness, USAF
Maxwell AFB, Alabama