On Tactics: A Theory of Victory in Battle

In This Review

On Tactics: A Theory of Victory in Battle
By B. A. Friedman
Naval Institute Press, 2017
256 pp.
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Given the steady flood of books about strategy, it is remarkable how few there are about tactics. Friedman has filled that gap with a short, sharp piece of analysis that highlights the physical, mental, and moral dimensions of conflict and explores important concepts such as “the culminating point of victory,” the term Clausewitz used to describe the point when the attacker had achieved the maximum possible. The successful tactician, Friedman writes, “arranges the physical means at his disposal in terms of maneuver, mass, firepower, and tempo to inflict mental effects in the mind of the opposing tactician and his units: deception, surprise, confusion, and shock.” Friedman enlivens a potentially dull subject, using plenty of historical examples to illustrate his points. In so doing, he demonstrates that some core lessons are timeless—the advantage of combined arms, the importance of having the right mix of mass and firepower—even though their application must incorporate the latest technologies. Although he shows how war fighters can win tactical victories, he is well aware that in the broader strategic context, these may not be sufficient to win a war.