In This Review
Command: The Politics of Military Operations From Korea to Ukraine

Command: The Politics of Military Operations From Korea to Ukraine

By Lawrence D. Freedman

Oxford University Press, 2022, 624 pp.

In this historical and geographical tour de force, Freedman cogently examines the interplay of politics and command—the balance of decision-making by civilian leaders and their military counterparts. His account ranges from the end of World War II to the present, and across Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America assessing the record of a host of important civilian and military officials who were in positions of command during times of war and peace. One of the critical questions Freedman explores is what military officers should do when civilian leaders demand actions that are illegal or contradict core national or professional values—and, conversely, what civilian commanders should do when generals refuse to follow orders. During wartime, it is not just the contest of civil and military authorities that complicate command but also the clashing imperatives of politics, expertise, resources, and individual egos. Freedman’s book is a must-read, and even more so today, as it sheds light on the dynamics of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which challenges the very core of the postwar international order.