Wars of Revelation: The Transformative Effects of Military Intervention on Grand Strategy
By Rebecca Lissner
Oxford University Press, 2021, 240 pp.
After the disruptions and shocks of big wars, great powers must reorient their grand strategies to accommodate new international systems. Through war, alliances are forged and broken, great powers expand and contract, and new norms emerge for state practice. Lissner shows, in this well-researched and lucidly argued account, how even the less cataclysmic conflicts that followed World War II led to adjustments in grand strategy. The originality of her approach lies in her interest in what great powers learn about themselves and reveal to others during these smaller wars, which are often militarily and diplomatically demanding even when they are not waged against other great powers. She shows how the U.S. wars in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf led to major revisions of U.S. grand strategy. Indeed, each of these interventions challenged the assumptions of the previous war. Thanks to its intervention in Korea in the 1950s, the United States became much more of a global power and expanded its military capabilities and alliances. Thanks to the Vietnam War, the United States queried its rigid adherence to the containment of communism and Soviet influence. Thanks to the Persian Gulf War, the United States saw how it could take the lead in the post–Cold War world.