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  • The Fog of Peace and War Planning: Military and Strategic Planning under Uncertainty
  • Samuel R. Williamson Jr.
The Fog of Peace and War Planning: Military and Strategic Planning under Uncertainty. Edited by Talbot C. Imlay and Monica Duffy Toft . New York: Routledge, 2006. ISBN 0-415-36697-6. Tables. Figures. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xii, 282. $125.00.

Successful strategic and war planning requires as many inputs into the process as possible, a balance between long and short-term perspectives, hedges against uncertainty (not least technological surprises), an ability to distinguish between allies and enemies, the successful cultivation of allies and alliance relationships, and, above all, flexibility. These are the key lessons, so conclude Talbot Imlay and Monica Toft, at the end of this analysis of planning for war in "The Fog of Peace." If these maxims contrast sharply with the planning that appears to have characterized the Bush administration's rush to war with Iraq, that conclusion is deliberate since the authors want to improve the process in the future.

The editors asked ten contributors to explore the ramifications of "military and strategic planning under uncertainty" from Napoleon's defeat to the French military after Algeria. In each essay the authors were to consider profound shifts in historical forces (such as economics), interstate relations, the nature of political systems, civil-military relations, bureaucratic politics, and the role of individuals in the planning process. Even if some of these topics receive only modest attention, especially the impact of bureaucratic politics, the authors to a degree unusual for a collection of essays have met their assignments.

Louise Richardson reminds readers that the post-Napoleonic years show how often armies learn more from defeat than victory. Confident for far too long that diplomatic approaches through the Concert of Europe would address [End Page 1267] major issues, the armies eventually involved in the Crimean War were singularly unprepared. Yet if the Russians were not ready, Frederick Kagan will surprise readers by suggesting that ad hoc civil-military arrangements under Tsar Nicholas I had been reasonably effective in earlier crises. Far less impressive were efforts by the Austrian and Prussian military to address strategic issues, since, as Lawrence Sondhaus shows, the two states were more interested in jockeying for political position in Germany than in assisting military reform.

David Stevenson contributed possibly the most encompassing of the essays, once more showing his mastery of the pre-1914 era. He reminds readers of the need to consider the frictions between general staffs and war ministries when evaluating the war plans for 1914, which he sees more generously than is usually the case. While Holger Herwig describes the centralization of the control of the military under Kaiser Wilhelm II, he also notes that the German military (not unlike the Bush White House in 2002) consciously sought to exclude anyone who might challenge their views on war planning. One who did challenge the prevailing ethos in Britain, Admiral Sir John Fisher, was only partially successful, as Jon Sumida chronicles his failure to get enough battlecruisers to supplant the dreadnoughts or to get the British navy to accept submarines.

The First World War changed the entire strategic environment, as Imlay describes in a brilliant survey of the altered fortunes of the major powers, including Japan. He also notes that the uncertainties of the interwar period for planners may have had their counterpart in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Within the interwar context John Ferris and Andrew Krepinevich explain how air power advocates in Britain and the U.S. Navy managed to secure their goals through the rough and tumble of bureaucratic politics, changing technologies (including the invention of radar), restricted funding, and shifting assessments about possible enemies. In both instances the Second World War showed that aviators had prepared well.

David Kaiser and Charles Cogan examine the flux of American and French strategic fortunes after the Second World War. Their essays show the crucial roles played by key political leaders, in this instance Charles de Gaulle and Dwight Eisenhower. But Kaiser also emphasizes the vast gap between political aims and military plans that characterized early American planning for an atomic war, a...


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pp. 1267-1268
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Archived 2010
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