Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Military Power


Military Power - Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle, by Stephen Biddle. The inimitable Armchair Warlord provides a synopsis:

Watching the slowly-developing advance of Russian forces across the line in Ukraine I've been brought back in mind of an excellent book I've read several times - Military Power by Stephen Biddle.

Using mathematical modeling, Biddle predicted that future wars would move slower at the tactical level than we were used to from the experience of WWII.  This was due to technological trends in the range and effectiveness of modern weaponry forcing armies to operate in a more dispersed, methodical fashion so as to minimize their exposure to fire in a sort of neomodern reversion to the conditions of WWI.  He also predicted that failures to do so would be punished with increasing severity as anything that could be discovered by increasingly omnipresent battlefield surveillance could be engaged effectively with precise and deadly weapons.

His recommendation on the optimum rate of advance for an army attempting to break through an enemy front line under modern conditions was a mere one kilometer per day; similarly he recommended that reserves be moved into position quite slowly to block such an advance to avoid their destruction by interdiction fire.  Only once that breach in the front is slowly levered open can forces then mass into fast-moving columns to strike into the enemy's lightly-held rear areas.


I'm no expert but reviews by those who are glow with praise for Biddle's work. For example:

"Stephen Biddle's Military Power is one of the most important contributions to strategic studies in recent decades. Presenting a very powerful case for a very surprising argument on a very important question, it will be controversial in some quarters, but critics will be hard-pressed to refute the case."―Richard K. Betts, Columbia University, author of Military Readiness.

"Fascinating, precisely written, indeed, brilliant, Military Power is among the most important books ever published on modern warfare. Stephen Biddle fundamentally rethinks the causes of victory and defeat in modern war and challenges almost the entire corpus of scholarship on assessing force capability and the role of offense and defense in determining war outcomes. Presenting his argument with power, balance, and subtlety, he synthesizes many partial historical explanations and provides a basis for understanding why so many 'rules of thumb' and other explanations are misleading. A landmark work."―Lynn Eden, Stanford University, author of Whole World on Fire.

"Steve Biddle may be the best American defense analyst of his generation, and this book is quite possibly his career masterpiece to date. Few are as well qualified as Biddle to weave together vivid descriptions of the modern battlefield, clear explanations of historical lessons, a detailed understanding of defense technology, and a sophisticated use of military models and war games. Biddle does all these things, helping the reader understand modern warfare more than does any other book on the market. His argument about trends in warfare transcends the popular theory that a revolution in military affairs is now underway. He replaces this theory with a more convincing, more historical, and less technology-obsessed view of the modern battlefield."―Michael O'Hanlon, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution.


You can buy Military Power on Amazon. It's most definitely on my list.

Ex Libris,


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Judge Andrew Napolitano's squad of commentors, ex-military, CIA and diplomatic corps have a host of observations that reinforce the ideas presented here. I'm a fan of their forthrightness even where I disagree with some of their ideas and question some of the sources they base some of their conclusions on. Refreshing. Almost on a par with Emil Cosman and the Durans (Alex Christopherou and Alexander Mercouris).