The Making of Strategy: Rulers, States, and War

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The Making of Strategy: Rulers, States, and War

Edited by Williamson Murray, Macgregor Knox and Alvin Bernst
Cambridge University Press, 1994
645 pp. $34.95
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One of the most famous modern books on strategy, The Makers of Modern Strategy, was based on the assumption that strategy, like works of art or science or games of chess, was conceived by individuals and could be studied by reading the works of individuals. That assumption was only partially true, because wartime strategies have always been the product of collective activity and reflected the influence of many factors in addition to the individual genius of strategic thinkers. Hence, a book on the makers of strategy needed to be complemented by a book on the making of strategy that examined the geographic, historical, cultural, and bureaucratic influences on nations at war or preparing for war.

This book traces the processes that resulted in military strategies in 17 cases, ranging from ancient Greece and Rome to American nuclear strategy. There are, thank God, no attempts to develop universal theories that explain national strategy everywhere and always. Each essay is self-contained, and academics searching for brief but expert analyses of strategic case studies for teaching purposes will welcome this book. As with any collection of essays by a large group of scholars, some essays are better than others. Donald Kagan's essay on Athens will do much to combat the simplistic view that became dominant in the American academy during the Vietnam hangover, that Athens "inevitably" lost the war because it had its own imperial overstretch in Sicily. Eliot Cohen's essay on American strategy from 1920 through 1945 reminds us of the impact of World War I experiences on American strategic planners in very specific ways. Arthur Waldron is always worth reading on China.

There are two interesting gaps in this otherwise comprehensive book. In contrast with political scientists, who study little else except the Cold War period, this book has only two essays on the period after 1945, an essay by Michael Handel on Israel's search for security and one by Colin Gray on American nuclear strategy, an unfortunate choice given his decision not to make use of any of the new Cold War histories or archives containing recently declassified material. There is no essay on Soviet strategy since World War II, no discussion of modern Chinese strategy, no discussion of strategy in the Third World. Second, with the exception of Waldron's essay, the book has no essays on the making of strategy in Asia; no essay on Japan at any point in time; no essay on the Ottoman Empire. Given the growing importance of Asian powers relative to the West, and given the editors' correct perception that national strategy reflects continuities in historical experience, institutions, and culture, more attention to the world beyond Christendom would have been useful not only for scholars interested in the comparative study of history, but for American officials and citizens with practical concerns.

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