The Best Defense

3 hard questions for the Marines to chew

Yesterday I was reading a paper on the future of the Marine Corps that bothered me because I thought it didn't ask tough enough questions. So I asked myself, What would those questions be?

This is what I wrote down:

  • Right now the Marine Corps is too attached to measuring itself by its end strength. That is an Army approach, and a bad idea for the Corps. I think its competitive advantage is in its quality. That should be its position to defend, not size. Is it possible to change this emphasis? How?
  • Over the last two decades, the Marine Corps spent billions of dollars on the V-22 and F-35. Sure, they might be effective. But are they worth it for the Marines? Is one of the lessons of the last 20 years that the Marines should not be in the business of technological innovation?  (And what do the Marines really need the F-35 for? Wouldn't an F-4 or a prop-driven plane be better for close air support?)
  • If, as I suspect, the Marine Corps' real future role is to be the 911 force, why not adapt to that even more? Yes, develop a well-trained force led by adaptive officers and overseen by generals who speak truth to power. But take it another step: Make the Marines the military's premier "interagency" force, not only willing to take orders from the State Department or CIA, but thoroughly trained and prepared to do so. Lead the way in such exercises. Build on the foundation of Small Wars Manual to write counterinsurgency doctrine that actually takes politics into account. 

Wikimedia

The Best Defense

Here’s the official Best Defense list of books of non-American military history

Here are the results of our survey of good books of military history that aren't about the U.S. military.

There were so many British books mentioned that I moved them into a second category. The first part here is genuinely foreign books -- not necessarily written by foreigners (though most are) but about wars in which the British and Americans were not major players, or at least not written from the Anglo-American perspective.

Most of these mentions were in the comments, but about 10 percent came in by e-mail.

I offer them in no particular order. Not even cleaned up -- just pasted in. For details on the books, go back to the comments section -- lots of explanations there about why a particularly book was nominated.

David Glantz, When Titans Clashed

Rommel's Infantry Attacks (2 nominations)

Counterinsurgency in Africa: The Portuguese Way of War 1961-74

Zhuang-zhi

Epictetus

Martin Van Creveld, everything but especially Command in War

Michael Oren, Six Days of War (2 votes)

Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, 34 Days: Israel, Hezbollah, and the War in Lebanon

Alistair Horne's The Price of Glory

Noel Mostert's The Line Upon a Wind

Patrick Rambaud's The Battle

Roland Perry, Sir John Monash: The Outsider Who Won a War

Larteguy's The Centurions and The Praetorians (3 nominations)

Harold Parker's Three Napoleonic Battles (short treatments of Friedland, Aspern-Essling, and Waterloo, with observations uniting all three)

John Elting's Swords Around a Throne (the Billy Yank/Johnny Reb treatment of what it was like for soldiers, leaders, and specialists in Napoleon's Grande Armee)

David Galula's Pacification in Algeria

Legionnaire, by Simon Murray

B.H. Liddell Hart's Caesar: Man, Soldier, and Tyrant

Colonel Saburo Hayashi, Kogun: The Japanese Army in the Pacific War  

Hoito Edoin, The Night Tokyo Burned

No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War, by Hiroo Onoda

The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919, by Mark Thompson

The Franco Regime, by Stanley G. Payn

Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa, by Peter Godwin

Sean Maloney's three-volume history of the Canadian experience in Afghanistan (Enduring the Freedom, Confronting the Chaos, and Fighting for Afghanistan). He also did a narrative of the first eight or so years entitled War in Afghanistan: Eight Battles in the South.

Ivan's War, by Catherine Merridale (2 nominations)

The Reluctant Admiral, by Hiroyuki Agawa (Yamamto)

Vasily Grossman, A Writer at War

Bernard Fall: Memories of a Soldier-Scholar, by his wife Dorothy with an introduction by David Halberstam

Quotations of Chairman Mao Tse Tung

Either The Code of the Samurai or The Hagakure or The 47 Ronin

Heart of Darkness for anyone about to do an AFRICOM rotation. (And one de-nomination.)

Lester Grau, The Bear Went Over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan

Alistair Horne's Savage War of Peace

Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom

Avigdor Kahalani, Heights of Courage

Rabinovich's Yom Kippur War

On the Banks of the Suez: An Israeli General's Personal Account of the Yom Kippur War, by Avraham Adan

Forgotten Soldier, by Guy Sajer (2 nominations)

All Quiet on the Western Front, and the lesser known but just as powerful sequel to the book, The Road Back, both by Erich Maria Remarque

Ernst Junger's Storm of Steel

Coalitions, Politicians and Generals -- Some Aspects of Command in Two World Wars, by Dominick Graham and Shelford Bidwell

Strange Victory, by Ernest May

Julian Jackson's The Fall of France

Witness to Surrender, by Brig. Siddiq Salik

The Way It Was, by Brig. Z.A. Khan

In the Line of Duty, by Lt. Gen. Harbaksh Singh

Guerrilla Warfare, by Ernesto "Che" Guevara

Afgantsy, by Rodric Braithwaite

The Jungle is Neutral, by F.Spencer Chapman

The War in Paraguay: With a Historical Sketch of the Country and Its People and Notes Upon the Military Engineering of the War, by George Thompson

 

On British military -- listed separately because more familiar

Keith Douglas, Alamein to Zem Zem

George MacDonald Fraser's Quartered Safe Out Here (3 nominations)

John Masters, first two volumes of his memoirs

Emile Simpson, War from the Ground Up

Keegan's Face of Battle

The Dambusters

William Slim, Defeat into Victory (4 nominations)

The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command, by Andrew Gordon (4 nominations)

Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of The Great War, by Robert K. Massie (4 nominations)

The Last European War: September 1939-December 1941, by John Lukacs

How the War Was Won: Factors that Led to Victory in World War One and The Killing Ground: The British Army, the Western Front & the Emergence of Modern War 1900-1918, two volumes by Tim Travers

Churchill's Generals

The Story of the Malakand Field Force, by Winston Churchill

Churchill and Seapower, by Christopher Bell 

J.F.C. Fuller's Strategy

Donald Morris, The Washing of the Spears (Zulu Wars)

Gordon Corrigan's Mud, Blood, and Poppycock (attempts to bust many of the popular myths about WWI on the Western Front)

Niall Ferguson's The Pity of War (doorstopper-sized analysis of WWI)

Andrew Roberts' Masters and Commanders

The Tizard Mission: The Top-Secret Operation That Changed the Course of WWII, by Stephen Phelps

Not Mentioned in Dispatches

18 Platoon, by Sidney Jary

The Defence of Duffer's Drift, by Maj. Gen. Ernest Dunlop Swinton.

Brazen Chariots, by Robert Crisp

My War Gone By, I Miss It So, Anthony Loyd, ex-British soldier in Bosnia.

The Swordbearers

Forgotten Armies: Britain's Asian Empire and the War with Japan, by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper

The Great Crusade: A New Complete History of the Second World War, by H. P. Willmott

Battle for the Falklands, by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins

 

Poetry

Sassoon's The War Poems

The Dark Hills, by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Bingen on the Rhine, by Caroline E. Norton

Wikimedia