The Future of War: A History (英語) ハードカバー – 2017/10/10
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From the French rout at Sedan in 1870 to the relentless contemporary insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lawrence Freedman, a world-renowned military thinker, reveals how most claims from the military futurists are wrong. But they remain influential nonetheless.
Freedman shows how those who have imagined future war have often had an idealized notion of it as confined, brief, and decisive, and have regularly taken insufficient account of the possibility of long wars-hence the stubborn persistence of the idea of a knockout blow, whether through a dashing land offensive, nuclear first strike, or cyberattack. He also notes the lack of attention paid to civil wars until the West began to intervene in them during the 1990s, and how the boundaries between peace and war, between the military, the civilian, and the criminal are becoming increasingly blurred.
Freedman's account of a century and a half of warfare and the (often misconceived) thinking that precedes war is a challenge to hawks and doves alike, and puts current strategic thinking into a bracing historical perspective.
"Freedman consistently brings the discussion down to real cases, covering a wide range of history and geography. The final section, which considers the place of gang warfare and civil unrest in many parts of the world and the likely role of China in future conflicts, is especially thought-provoking. The author's lively style adds to the interest for general readers. A valuable book for anyone interested in international affairs."―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"The one thing that Sir Lawrence is sure of is that predictions of future war rarely get it right. His message to policymakers is to beware those who tout 'the ease and speed with which victory can be achieved while underestimating the resourcefulness of adversaries'. Anybody who thinks otherwise should read this book."―The Economist
"[An] engaging survey of how and why historians and writers--of nonfiction, fiction and film--bravely prognosticate. The theme is scholarly, but the tone is refreshingly popular: Tom Clancy makes the index, but von Clausewitz does not."―Army Times
I think this can be a great course book for a two semester course on Past Thinking of Future Wars, and Contemporary Issues in Warfare. (The bibliography alone is worth the price of the book). The closing sections on climate change, mega-cities, water wars, hybrid conflicts, and information warfare are valuable summaries that can be supplemented with deep dive articles. Dr. Freedman's critique of water wars was compelling, and think his skepticism could be carried over to urbanization as well. My only complaint is the emphasis on Anglo-American insights, and hope that Professor Freedman can extend this work into Russia, Chinese and Middle East perspectives on war and warfare.
The past is certainly littered with plenty of examples of generals assuming that the next war will be like the last one and thus devising strategies or tactics that seem bound to fail. A classic example is the Maginot Line. The French assumed that a Second World War would be like the Great War and accordingly devised a set of fortifications on the Franco-German border which represented a more elaborate version of the Western Front’s trench system, failing to appreciate that changes to warfare (to say nothing of the failure to extend the Line to the Channel) would render it virtually obsolete by 1940.
But hang on a minute – if Maginot represents a failure to conceive the future of war by the French, shouldn’t the German proponents of Blitzkrieg, like Guderian, building on the insights of Basil Liddell Hart and J. F. C. Fuller into the potential of armoured warfare, be credited with correctly piercing the veil of the future?
And isn’t Ivan Bloch an even better example of an accurate prophet of future war? It was Bloch, remember, who in the six volumes of his book ‘La Guerre, published between 1898 and 1900, stated that the lethality of modern firepower would drive men to dig trenches and that warfare would result in stalemate because frontal assaults against entrenchments would prove too costly.
This is, then, the central problem with Freedman’s book. He has no difficulty showing that many military experts and some gifted civilian amateurs (such as Bloch and H. G. Wells) expended considerable energy musing about future war from the mid-nineteenth century onwards (when war became increasingly destructive and changes to technology and weaponry begged the question of how they would be employed militarily). Nor does he have any trouble in detailing how the way in which “people imagined the wars of the future affected the conduct and course of those wars when they finally arrived.” What he does not do, and in the nature of History cannot do, is provide a satisfactory overarching explanation of how a few got the future right but most got it very wrong. Hence the book concludes that, “If there is a lesson from this book it is that while many [future speculations about future wars] will deserve to be taken seriously, they should all be treated sceptically”.
After almost 300 pages, in which there is admittedly much interesting material about imagined futures of past wars and even speculation about the future of war as an institution, one is nevertheless bound to question whether the journey was worth making for such a trite and anti-climatic insight.
"Freedman takes us on a lively journey through a century and a half of war and warfare, revealing how everyone thought it would play out. He skips back and forth over the razor's edge between past and future, and then balances on the blade to survey how the novelists, soldiers, statesmen, and scholars of the past got the future of war wrong, or sometimes very nearly right. Once again, Freedman has shown us that penetrating scholarship need not be burdened by jargon-soaked prose and can therefore be rewarding for the educated layperson and expert alike."
Also, not all books that are great for teaching are also fascinating for the specialist. This is both. I think this book will find fertile ground in the classroom.
Finally, it seems like the less kind reviewer was working off a proof of the book rather than the final version. The ending since changed.
Update: 1/9/18: Another review below who did not like the book complains that Freedman does not offer his own "professions on the future of war, as the title suggests." Setting aside the fact that Freedom actually does offer his own views on this, the reviewer seems to have missed the critical subtitle of the book: "A History"