Technology and the American Way of War Since 1945

In This Review

Technology and the American Way of War Since 1945

By Thomas G. Mahnken
Columbia University Press, 2008
256 pp. $29.50
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Through an account of the major technological innovations in U.S. defense procurement since World War II, Mahnken challenges the deterministic view that such innovations drive changes in military organization and strategy. Instead, he argues that choices about which technologies to pursue reflect the cultural and organizational preferences of the individual branches of the armed services. After a brisk journey through the highlights of the early days of the nuclear arms race, when procurement battles tended to show the services at their most parochial, the author hits his stride, with some astute observations on the interaction between the new information technologies and the conduct of the "war on terror." As the Iraq case demonstrates, although it is possible to fit new technologies into established service preferences at times of relative peace, there is nothing like the frustrations of a failing campaign to get military and political leaders to look at potential innovations with fresh eyes.