With the ongoing war between the nuclear-weapon states and their larger neighbors, research into the command’s political and military leadership in conflict is certainly timely. Such studies are compelling if .
Lawrence Friedman has just the right background of military knowledge, battlefield history, and literary eloquence to explore the nexus between politics and the military and make it fascinating. It does not disappoint as it delves into the details of conflicts in Vietnam, the Falklands (where he wrote his official history), South Korea, French Indochina, and more, all the way to the prelude to today’s Ukrainian tragedy. The end of that particular story has not yet been written, but instructions He convincingly tells us how we got there.
His conclusion that politics and the military go hand in hand in both peace and conflict is almost self-evident. But his exploration of the intricacies of Top’s relationships and how this unfolds when war begins provides many lessons, both good and bad. Anyone who has or has the power to code should read and care about this important book.
Each chapter paints a picture of how conflicts ignite and how politics, personalities, and events develop.From the role of General de Gaulle in Algeria to General MacArthur in Korea, From Saddam Hussein in Iraq to Boris Yeltsin in Chechnya, it’s a colorful landscape of overlapping egos, clashing worldviews and spectacular misreadings. As Lawrence writes, of Wesley Clark, Supreme Allied Commander in Kosovo, writes: It was unavoidable. The question was how good they were in politics. “
And here the analysis moves into the deep process of the command and how it is executed. In tyranny, civilians and the military are almost, if not perfectly, one. In the USSR and China, the military was always subordinate to the Communist Party. Decision-making is usually easier than in democracies, but it’s also more wrong most of the time. Look at Saddam Hussein’s record.
Civilian control of the military is the principle in democracy. Civilian leaders may have served in the armed forces, like the current US and UK secretaries of defense, but ministers have broader and deeper duties than uniformed chiefs. A politician may not know all the acronyms, but as Friedman points out, he or she (now there are nine female defense ministers in NATO) can We must balance our interests, coalition partners and international institutions’ and, of course, deal with the necessary trade-offs. any dispute.
The military is the provider of political policy, but they have their own views. For some, like MacArthur in South Korea, there was a higher purpose to serve, and his insubordination, dismissed by President Harry Truman, was pardoned by himself as a duty to the country and the Constitution. . “A person who temporarily exercises the powers of the executive branch of government.” Most military opinion is to accept orders, but to inform expert advice.
MacArthur was an extreme example of military overthrow of an elected leader of a country. In many cases the impact is more subtle and less public. As Friedman puts it about the current situation in America, “The military has become more politicized because the president has weakened the military”. It is easy for military commanders who have (usually) served as secretary of war to score in the debate over options. Only the tenacious can rule.
But in democracies policy decisions are increasingly collective and more consensual in alliances. That requires different skills for both politicians and military chiefs. In this context, Friedman cites David Richards, former British Secretary of Defense and commander-in-chief of all NATO forces in Afghanistan, saying that modern-day commanders are “entrepreneurial networkers, not dictators. and communicator”.
When we return to the immediate terror that President Vladimir Putin is inflicting on Ukraine, and through it to the wider world, the lessons of this book are clearly recognizable. It speaks of familiar themes, instigated by leaders so confident of their insight, and by flattering courtiers. He continued, “By ignoring the Ukrainian experts, Putin not only made his decision much easier, but much worse.”
Command, whether civil or military, should be what Friedman describes of Eisenhower (“more shrewd than heroic”) and Marshall (“political sensibility”). Also, you should realize that the most important factor in the success of your command is your decision, but only after you’ve properly challenged your options. As the chapter calls out, both battlefields and political failure are all but guaranteed by avoiding challenge and allowing prejudice, arrogance, and selfishness to flourish.
As we watch the enormous struggle unfold in Ukraine, a comedian-turned-inspiring leader, Friedman’s brilliant insight helps us understand the dynamics of modern military catastrophe. A “how to” book for generals. The Kremlin library urgently needs a copy.
instructions: The Politics of Military Operations from South Korea to Ukraine by Lawrence Friedman, Allen Lane, £30, Page 608
George Robertson was British Secretary of Defense from 1997 to 1999 and Secretary General of NATO from 1999 to 2003.