Edited by George Perkovich; Ariel E. Levite. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2017. 297 pp. Index. Illus. $34.93.
Reviewed by Lieutenant Raymond Dennis, U.S. Navy
Each time we access the internet or use our mobile devices, the effect of cyber technologies on society is clear. Conversely, how cyber conflict—its weapons; its manner of employment—occurs is perplexing to most. George Perkovich and Ariel Levite of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace have teamed to compile essays that aim to demystify cyber conflict.
Not only does this book succeed in such demystification, but it once again proves that learning through others’ experience is less painful than learning through your own. With the rapid rise of all things cyber, there is no shortage of cyber-related books. This book separates itself by leaning on a group of authors with backgrounds in academia and the national security and defense apparatus—each well-versed in cyber conflict policy formation and execution. These authors drew on their own experiences and those from historical instances to ensure the reader leaves better informed on cyber weapons and cyber war.
The book consists of 14 essays (or “analogies”). It takes the reader along a methodical path that helps to reduce the cyber learning curve. The term cyber often comes with complex connotations, terms, and programmatic concepts; the editors obviously took consideration and kept technical jargon to a minimum. The book’s 14 analogies are divided into three groups: What are cyber weapons like?; What might cyber wars be like?; and What are preventing and managing cyber conflicts like? With the analogies told in approximately 20 pages each, Perkovich and Levite convey the information in a concise and cogent manner. While each analogy stands independent, they come together to form a thorough awareness of the past, present, and future of cyber conflict.
The book smartly notes that humans “think, learn, and communicate through analogies.” Lessons gleaned from actions around the globe (including those in Britain, Estonia, Iraq, Pakistan, and Russia) and from famed strategists (including Alfred Thayer Mahan and Sun Tzu) help convey topics. This makes sense, given the editors’ intent to use traditional conflict to analogize with cyber conflict. Most surprisingly, the analogies woven throughout serve as an impromptu world history lesson on topics beyond cyber. In the end, we realize that—in nearly all cases—history shows us that what is old is new again. The editors did well to balance history with modern realities, including changes to geopolitical conditions that alter the where, why, and how nation-states (and non-state groups) act in cyber conflict.
Several of the essays use examples in the realm of nuclear weapons development and proliferation. Such examples reveal to the reader a natural correlation between how nuclear technologies evolved in the mid-20th century and how cyber technologies are evolving in the early 21st century. By analyzing decisions made during Cold War–era episodes, the reader can look to apply comparable conflict mitigation techniques in cyber. For civilian or military leaders concerned with cyber, this book should be added to the must-read list. In addition, this book will enlighten the teachers and scholars committed to shaping the cyber future. Even though technology will continue to outpace our ability to understand its implications, analogies such as these certainly help.
Lieutenant Dennis is an active-duty member of the Navy’s Information Warfare Community. Most recently, he was a Secretary of The Navy Tours with Industry Fellow to USAA. He is now assigned to the Navy Cyber Warfare Development Group.
The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam
Max Boot. New York: LiveRight, 2018. 605 pp. Notes. Biblio. Index $35.
Reviewed by Lieutenant Commander Nick Hoffmann, U.S. Navy
As we continue to mark 50th anniversaries of key milestones in the Vietnam War, a new book sheds light on a colorful behind-the-scenes player during the conflict. Often characterized as an American Lawrence of Arabia, Air Force Major General Edward Lansdale championed a novel approach to counterinsurgency campaigning. In The Road Not Taken, historian Max Boot argues that if Lansdale’s advice had been heeded, the U.S. experience in Vietnam would have been markedly different.
Opening with a riveting account of the U.S.-backed 1963 coup and assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, The Road Not Taken is a sympathetic but critical portrayal of an ad-man turned unconventional warfare expert. Boot describes how Lansdale began his service during World War II and later served in the Philippines during the late 1940s.
Here Lansdale made his mark as a counterinsurgency pioneer, advising a government beset by communist Huk rebels. He befriended up-and-coming politician Ramon Magsaysay, encouraged a less heavy-handed approach with the civilian populace, and supported other reforms—all to win “hearts and minds.” Boot calls this methodology—a rapport with the local people coupled with a “nation-building” reformist push—Lansdale’s trademark, and credits his strategy with the eventual defeat of the Huks.
Lansdale was sent to Vietnam to assist the newly independent government against the Viet Minh communist movement. He quickly found Vietnam a different environment from the Philippines—Vietnam did not share the Philippines’ U.S. influence, and the scholarly, aloof President Diem was very different from the gregarious President Magsaysay. Despite these differences, the United States continued to back Diem throughout the 1950s as he prevailed against rival factions and pacified the countryside. By 1956, South Vietnam was an anticommunist success story, in part because of Lansdale. Boot asks a critical question: If Lansdale had remained in Vietnam instead of returning to the United States to work on anti-Castro efforts, would things have turned out differently?
As communist hostilities recommenced in the 1960s, Lansdale continued advocating U.S. backing for Diem while encouraging reform. As Diem’s increasing authoritarianism cost him U.S. support, he was overthrown in favor of a succession of weak military rulers—a consequence Lansdale forecasted. While Lansdale went back to Vietnam on several occasions until 1968, he increasingly became marginalized and disillusioned, and his successes were limited in scope. Boot blames Lansdale’s marginalization on his idealism coupled with a bureaucracy jealous of the meteoric rise of an unconventional thinker while enamored with conventional military solutions.
In addition to a biography and history of the Vietnam era, Boot’s book also serves as a warning to strategists to heed Lansdale’s advice—particularly in current conflicts such as Afghanistan and Syria. The Army’s counterinsurgency manual composed during the Iraq War incorporates many Lansdale principles (such as minimizing civilian casualties and ensuring the populace takes charge of their own affairs) even if it does not cite Lansdale by name. Still, Boot sees Lansdale’s method as facing an uphill struggle in current counterinsurgency operations as the United States still often turns to “kinetic” solutions in the fights against the Islamic State and the Taliban while being unable to persuade local rulers to institute needed reforms.
The Road Not Taken pairs well with Michael Burleigh’s 2013 work Small Wars, Far Away Places, a comparison of Western powers’ responses to various postwar insurgencies including Vietnam. A reading of the earlier work with “Lansdalism” in mind may offer additional insights in counterinsurgency approaches for both the specialist and the general reader. On its own, The Road Not Taken provides a new insight into a controversial time and into a unique and often misunderstood figure of the Cold War and Vietnam era.
Lieutenant Commander Hoffmann is a career surface warfare officer and holds degrees in Philosophy and European studies from Carnegie Mellon University. He has served in several ships and afloat staffs, and currently works on the staff of Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery
Scott Kelly. New York, NY: Alfred K. Knopf, 2017. 369 pp. Index. Illus. $29.95.
Reviewed by Captain David L. Teska, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve (Retired)
Scott Kelly’s start in life did not bode well for someone who dreamed of becoming a naval aviator and astronaut. In this highly personal and introspective book, Scott goes to his youth to tell the story of his path to a career in aviation; it was not always clear that would happen. His book’s title pays homage to another intrepid explorer, Sir Ernest Shakleton, whose 720-nautical-mile journey in an open boat to save his crew after their ship the Endurance was caught and crushed in Antarctic ice still stands as a feat of courage and skill.
After flying F-14s operationally and as a test pilot at Pax River, Scott and Mark joined NASA in 1996 (NASA’s largest astronaut class) and made two flights on the space shuttle and journeyed to the International Space Station (ISS). Scott’s biggest test came during the Year-Long Mission (March 2015–March 2016) to the ISS with Russian Mikhail “Misha” Kornienko. Their primary goal was to study the effects of long-term space exposure on the human body. Being a twin made Scott uniquely qualified for such a mission; while he was on the ISS, his brother served as the ground control subject.
What makes this book so engrossing is the way Scott weaves his life story within the central narrative of the year he spent on the ISS. He gives rich details about his daily routine living and working on board the station and of the many challenges that came with such a long-duration space mission. There is plenty of humor, such as the peculiar tradition within the Russian space program to urinate on the crew bus’s back tire on the way to the launch pad. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin relieved himself before his historic first flight, and every cosmonaut—and astronaut—has done that ever since. And although Scott was a highly trained astronaut, the ISS’s toilets continually vexed him.
There also is plenty of real drama. The long mission proved an arduous test for him and Misha, both physically and psychologically. Scott also was acutely aware of the stresses his flying and NASA career took on his first marriage and that it placed heavy burdens on his two daughters. The aviator and engineer in him knew space was dangerous and unforgiving; his account of a nearly 11-hour spacewalk with fellow astronaut Kjell Lindgren is exhausting and hearkens to the early days of space flight Scott read about in The Right Stuff, the book that inspired him to become an aviator and astronaut. The occasional use of profanity only serves to distract the reader.
What would be his final mission in space left a profound mark on Scott, and he has written an indelible testament of his experience. Ultimately, what makes his book so powerful is its simplicity. Scott set his sights on achieving his goal and had the journey of a lifetime. The book also serves to remind us that space exploration is still a thing of wonder and beauty. Scott knows this and through this book he is able to impart some of that wonder to those of us who only dream of traveling in space.
Captain Teska retired from the Coast Guard Reserve in June 2015. His last assignment was as Coast Guard CG-4 liaison to the Joint Staff/J4 in the Pentagon. He now works for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Kansas City, Missouri.
Mapping Naval Warfare:A Visual History of Conflict at Sea
Jeremy Black. Oxford and New York: Osprey Publishing, 2017. 192 pp. Illus. Maps. Index. $45.
Reviewed by Craig Symonds
This is a beautiful volume published in oversize format in the manner of a “coffee table” book. Its author, Jeremy Black of Exeter University in the U.K., is a naval scholar of daunting productivity, and his narrative about the importance of maps and charts in the development of naval warfare from the late Middle Ages to the present, if necessarily brief, is reliable and often insightful. The central feature of the book, however, is the many full-page, full-color, eye-catching illustrations, some of them paintings, but predominately charts and maps.
Two points need to be made about these illustrations. The first is that they are drawn from contemporary sources. Instead of modern maps depicting a particular voyage or battle, the illustrations date from the period under discussion and often were created by artists with only a general idea of the scene or the circumstances. Though they are historical objects in their own right, they are,
in effect, more art than history. As the narrative moves forward into the 20th century, the maps become more representational, though even here the illustrations are products of their era; many first appeared in contemporary magazines and newspapers. Such maps are useful in showing how the campaigns were presented to the public: a Japanese print depicts Zeros flying all across the Pacific Ocean (p. 155), and a British map shows oversized Royal Navy ships savaging U-boats in the Atlantic (p. 257). Both offer valuable insight into wartime propaganda, though less about how the battles actually unfolded.
The second point to be made is that the illustrations do not mirror the narrative. While both the text and the illustrations proceed chronologically, the images and their lengthy captions are supplemental rather than integrated. They are a series of sidebars wholly independent of the narrative, selected for their artistic appeal rather than connection with the text. While Black describes the emergence of accurate maps and charts, especially in Britain, during the early 19th century, the nearby illustration is “a French propaganda cartoon map” depicting Napoleon galloping toward Britain in a kind of seafaring sled drawn by horses with fins for hooves (p. 83). want to linger over. The Nazi chart of the English Channel showing the planned invasion route for Operation Sea Lion (p. 139) is fascinating, as is the map the Japanese relied on for their attack on Pearl Harbor (p. 152). And of course, there is Black’s thoughtful narrative in which he emphasizes both the development of maps and charts for naval use and the technological developments that changed the nature of warfare at sea over the past 500 years.
Dr. Symonds is the Ernest J. King Professor at the U.S. Naval War College. He also sits on the U.S. Naval Institute’s Naval History Advisory Board.