By William C. Martel; Reviewed by Professor Mark Sommer
This book offers a foundation for critical thinking by both clarifying and mystifying the concept of winning at war.
***** Victory in War: Foundations of Modern Strategy, 2nd Edition. By William C. Martel. Cambridge University Press, www.cambridge.org; 592 pages, $50.
"Despite all the work that has been done on theories and strategies of war, the concept of victory is not a transparent term in the language of strategy, diplomacy, security, and war.” From the preface of Victory in War, this quote summarizes the intent of the book, which offers a foundation for critical thinking by both clarifying and mystifying the concept of winning at war.
The book is informative, well-researched, and coherently presented. It refers to the classical strategists—Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Machiavelli—and applies strategic thought to modern military conflicts such as those in Libya, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. While admitting that he doesn’t have all the answers, author William Martel encourages readers to ask better questions.
This reviewer suggests that future editions of the book might delve more deeply into the paradox of the United States as a country that finds war abhorrent while maintaining a large military establishment, as well as the question of what justifies a war and the intelligence community’s view of victory. In the meantime, Martel has provided a good start on the subject that will be valuable to students of history and to military and civilian leadership.
Reviewer: Professor Mark Sommer teaches classes on political science and international relations at various schools in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. He has written articles for Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin, The Intelligencer, and The Link.