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WAR IN THE MODERN WORLD

Welcome to the website!

Most of the papers here are from my studies at King's College London in an online "programme" for mid-career British Army officers called War in the Modern World (MA "with distinction," 2010). About half were indeed British Army, including a captain who deployed to Afghanistan midway through the four years. The rest were from militaries and civilian careers, from Denmark to Singapore. I learned a great deal, and this website is to share it more broadly.

If you regard it as a disaster, this was the road to it

Road to Disaster: A New History of America's Descent Into Vietnam is a brilliant book and a maddening one. Like most academic historians, Brian VanDeMark regards the Vietnam War as a catastrophe, not only for the country that was bombed, napalmed, and defoliated, but also for the one that inflicted most of that damage. (He teaches at the Naval Academy, but I can find no evidence he ever wore a uniform.) Nothing the United States did with respect to Vietnam, except to abandon it, ever gets a good word from such people. A second flaw in Road to Disaster is the author's explanation for each American misjudgment, trotting out a psychological experiment by a "cognitive scientist" for instant pscychoanalysis. But I enjoyed the book, and I came away from it feeling rather sorry for Lyndon Johnson, trapped as he was by Jack Kennedy's legacy, the ever-receding "light at the end of the tunnel," and his own inner demons. I also found myself with renewed respect for two of the war's primary architects, Robert McNamara and Clark Clifford. Perhaps a cognitive scientst somewhere can explain why, of the hundreds of men who paved the road to our inglorious retreat from Vietnam, the two who come looking good also happen to be the two for whom Mr VenDerMerk worked as a research assistant and ghost-writer.

I am reading David Kilkullen's The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West and will have something to say about it next month, along with my worries about what's going these days in Russia and China. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Cowboy: interpreter, warlord, one more casualty

The essays (in more or less chronological order)

A Rebel in the County Cork, 1915-1923: case study of an insurgency
Was the Cold War an Inevitable Outcome of World War 2?
The Clayton Theorem: Did George Marshall Save the US from Economic Collapse?
To what extent is the US experience in Iraq comparable to their experience in Vietnam?
'Not Right, but British': The Superpower Role in the Falklands War
'But the Russians won, after all!: lessons from the Chechen wars
China: O brave new hegemon!
That's what presidents are for! (Why is 'planning' not the same thing as 'strategy'?)
When Sun-tzu met Clausewitz: John Boyd, the OODA Loop, and the invasion of Iraq
War sucks. Get over it. (on the novelty of 'Hybrid war')
How would John Boyd have waged a counterinsurgency?

Other good stuff to read

Gaddis: George Kennan: An American Life
Finkel: The Good Soldiers
Arreguin-Toft: How the Weak Win Wars: A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict
Luttwak: Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace
Smith: The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World
Galula: Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice
van Creveld: The Transformation of War
Bobbitt: 'Terror and Consent: The Wars for the 21st Century'
Ricks: 'The Gamble: Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq
Wright: 'The Looming Tower: The Road to 9/11'
Adams: 'The Army After Next: The First Postindustrial Army'
Was John Boyd a new Sun Tzu? (books about the OODA Loop)
A counterinsurgency reading list by John Nagl
50 best books about terrorism, by Joshua Sinai
more reviews of books about war as it has developed since 1945

Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Poland's Daughter

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