"Although the probability is low that the United States will fail to deter direct attack by the Soviet Union," Betts says, "the intensity of the threat warrants painstaking analysis of how to cope with it." His own investigation of the historical, psychological, political, diplomatic, and military aspects of his subject heightens understanding of why surprise attacks succeed and why victim nations fail to respond to warnings. In discussing current policy he focuses on the defense of Western Europe and applies the lessons of history to U.S. defense planning, offering detailed recommendations for changes in strategy. Obviously some of the potential dangers of military surprise cannot be prevented. The important thing, he emphasizes, is that "without forces that exceed requirements (the solution Moscow appears to have chosen), it is vital to ensure that what forces exist can be brought to bear when needed.
Carl von Clausewitz's thought played a part in the process of military reform and the transition in US policy that took place after the Vietnam War. By the time of the 1991 Gulf War, American policy makers demonstrated that they understood the Clausewitzian notion of utilizing military force to fulfil a clear political objective. The US armed forces bridged the operational and strategic levels during that conflict in accordance with Clausewitz’s conviction that war plans should be tailored to fulfil a political objective. With the end of the Cold War, and an increasing predilection for technological solutions, American policy makers and the military moved away from Clausewitz. It was only the events of 11 September 2001 that reminded Americans of his intrinsic value. However, while many aspects of the ‘War on Terror’ and the conflict in Iraq can be accommodated within the Clausewitzian paradigm, the lack of a clear policy for countering insurgency in Iraq suggests that the US may have returned full circle to the flawed strategic approach evident in Vietnam.
Clausewitz and America will be of great interest to students of strategy, military history, international security and US politics.
(The Art of War by Sun Tzu, 9789380914893)