In This Review

Surprise Attack
Surprise Attack
By Richard K. Betts
Brookings, 1982, 318 pp

A true original, this impressive work deals with a subject that is central to military strategy yet has been little studied in itself. Betts initially examines a number of instances of surprise attack-the German blitzkriegs, Pearl Harbor, Korea, Czechoslovakia and some of the Middle East wars; he then applies that analysis to the central front in Europe and suggests how NATO might prepare to deal with sudden attack. Betts suggests that military surprise at the start of a war usually succeeds, not because of intelligence failures but because political leaders are reluctant to respond and thus possibly escalate the crisis. To hedge against surprise attack, he says, worry less about how to prevent it and more about what to do once surprise has occurred. An outstanding piece of scholarship.