Rules of Engagement
David Bruns and J. R. Olson. St. Martin’s Press: New York, 2019. 336 pp. $14.99.
Reviewed by A. Denis Clift
The Hardy Boys at their swiftest and most mysterious have nothing on this 21st-century cyberwar thriller. The coauthors, two Naval Academy graduates, former submariner David Bruns and intelligence officer J. R. Olson, introduce three extremely talented cyber-student midshipmen, heroes who save the world from global BANG!
Midshipman Fourth Class Michael Goodwin has lightning-fast eyes linked to a brain able to read code and quickly spot cyber anomalies and malware in action. Midshipman Second Class Andrea “Dre” Ramirez is a pro at writing code to assist Michael in his tracking. Midshipman First Class Janet Everett is the project manager keeping the code reader and the code writer on target. They are spotted at work in the Academy’s Grace Hopper Cyber Security Studies Center by guest lecturer Don Riley, the Deputy J2, U.S. Cyber Command.
On the far side of the globe, Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is in action. Nuclear weapons are his defense; cyber warfare his devastating instrument of attack against the United States, China, and Japan. The U.S. power network has already felt his wrath.
Kim’s instrument of choice, under the direction of his subordinate Pak, is the diabolical, murderous, international terrorist Rafiq Roshed. After arriving in Beijing, Rafiq is in action deep in the night, tunneling with his covert team and cutting into the pipe carrying the cyber cables of China’s elite cyber-hacking military unit, the “infamous Unit 61398.” Rafiq clamps a device on the unit’s fiberoptic cable. The Chinese military is now Kim’s to sabotage.
Rafiq moves quickly. Japan’s network is infiltrated. He next observes and targets Lieutenant Commander Weston Merville, head of intelligence technology on the U.S. Seventh Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19). Rafiq puts Merville in a compromising situation, blackmailing him into a mission. The mission, which he acts on to save his skin, is to plant the thumb drive given to him into the cyber systems administration server on the Blue Ridge. Kim now has the Chinese, Japanese, and U.S. militaries in his hands.
In the meantime, the three mids are invited as guests to U.S. Cyber Command to orient. They crack a tough case, and return again and again with assigned work stations, impressing their seniors mightily.
All hell breaks loose in the Pacific. Airborne Chinese jet fighters receive unexpected orders, sink a U.S. Poseidon patrol plane and a Japanese destroyer. A Chinese attack submarine being tailed underwater by the USS Key West (SSN-722) acts on orders and launches antiship cruise missiles against the carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). One hits; the Ford is badly damaged and soon sinking. The Key West torpedoes the sub; the USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) launches a surface missile counterattack.
The mids, now full-time under orders at Cyber Command, infect nodes, enter the back door of the Chinese network, and learn that the Chinese have been compromised by an overlayering code. In the White House Situation Room, the mood is grim, with orders given to ready U.S. ICBMs for launch.
The mids are on the move, testing, working, fitting together pieces of the apocalyptic cyber jigsaw puzzle. Pak defects to Japan. Then . . .
The novel clicks along with scenes and characters changing fast—66 chapters and 51 characters in some 300 pages—perhaps a new genre, graphic novel minus only the graphics. This is not John Le Carré or Graham Greene, taking the reader deep into inner thinking, morality, and clashes of conscience along complex spymaster odysseys. Rules of Engagement skims along the surface in a very entertaining manner.
The work also is a well-earned salute to the Naval Academy’s pioneering cyber studies program, the serendipity of proximity to Fort Meade/Cyber Command, and the important contributions to be made by those teaching and studying in the Grace Hopper Center, which is still under construction. Rules of Engagement should be sought-after if not required reading for all faculty, senior military, and midshipmen at the Academy.
Mr. Clift is vice president for planning and operations at the U.S. Naval Institute and author of several books, most recently The Bronze Frog (Naval Institute Press, 2018).
Anatomy of Victory: Why the United States Triumphed in World War II, Fought to a Stalemate in Korea, Lost in Vietnam, and Failed in Iraq
John D. Caldwell. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018. 568 pp. Illus. Notes. Biblio. Index. $29.95.
Reviewed by Lieutenant Commander Ryan Hilger, U.S. Navy
The cogent formulation of grand strategy and the operational strategies needed to accomplish national objectives seem to have been in steady decline since the end of World War II. The Allied military forces that fought the Axis powers and won could not prevail decisively in any of their follow-on conflicts. Perhaps the world is becoming more complex and complicated. Perhaps national choices over the course of the last half-century have left U.S. strategists insufficiently developed.
John Caldwell’s Anatomy of Victory attempts to cast new light on the necessity of developing grand strategy. In the same vein as On Grand Strategy by John Lewis Gaddis (Penguin Press, 2018), Caldwell’s book is a reflection of a lifetime spent studying and analyzing U.S. wars at several defense think tanks for more than 50 years. Despite the plethora of books available on strategy, Caldwell presents an excellent framework for a unified theory of victory in warfare and seeks to equip decision-makers to answer Clausewitz’s first strategic question: What is your policy objective?
For its size, Anatomy of Victory is breathtaking in scope: World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq. Caldwell presents key case studies of individual battles or campaigns in each war to highlight the necessary dynamic development of grand strategy. In World War II, he asserts, the Allies took the major steps they did, despite Russia’s insistence on opening the second front in Europe as early as 1942, because they were the only logical steps to take, given their policy objectives and the resources at their disposal.
As he walks readers though history, Caldwell provides both civilian and military strategists at all levels—including the Presidents—with the necessary information to understand how strategies evolved or disintegrated, succeeded brilliantly or fell short, or simply muddled along, wasting lives and national treasure in the process. Readers with experience in the United States’ forever war in Afghanistan will recognize many of the perceived shortcomings of current U.S. strategy there and will be left with the sense that there may be no way to achieve “victory with honor.” That is, unless the President and the nation clearly define a theory of victory for the global war on terrorism, translate those aims down to the tactical level, and provide the military with the resources necessary to accomplish it.
For civilian policymakers and military officers alike, Anatomy of Victory will yield lessons not only for strategy, but also for fostering and maintaining healthy relations. In recent decades, civil-military relations in the United States have ebbed and flowed as Presidents have changed and the nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have evolved. Military officers would do well to heed the lessons of previous generations with respect to where they let civilian leadership down by not asking the right questions.
Having lived athwart the wars and leaders he profiles, Caldwell has given readers a readable and important work that will help civilian and military leaders refine their abilities to develop and understand grand strategy. As we enter an era of renewed great power competition, these abilities have become vital.
Lieutenant Commander Hilger is an engineering duty officer and former submariner with Strategic Systems Programs in Washington, DC.
Clint Johnson. Washington, DC: Regency Publishing, Salem Media Group, 2019. 246 pp. Biblio. Notes. $29.99.
Reviewed by Vice Admiral Robert F. Dunn, U.S. Navy (Retired)
It was the torpedo that led to the development of the ship we know today as the destroyer. As torpedoes evolved as a threat in the latter part of the 19th century, navies developed specialized craft to defeat them. First it was the torpedo boat destroyer, then the destroyer. After a couple of close calls with torpedo-carrying craft during the Spanish-American War and the success of Japanese torpedo boats in the Russo-Japanese War, the U.S. Navy, in 1903, commissioned its first destroyer, the USS Bainbridge (DD-1). Other destroyers in other classes followed, and by the start of World War I the United States was able to contribute significantly to the Atlantic battle against German U-boats.
After World War I, with shipbuilding constrained by various international treaties, the U.S. Navy continued to build destroyers. Several classes were launched, each a little bigger and a little more capable than the last, but all were designed to defeat the torpedo, especially submarine-carried torpedoes. Thus, when the United States began escorting convoys to Europe before actually entering World War II, U.S. destroyers played a key role in getting supplies past German submarines to the Allies. When the United States did enter the war, the destroyer force was ready . . . in two oceans.
That force was not static, however. As experience accrued and the enemy introduced new tactics and new equipment, the destroyer force, with the help of U.S. industry, grew and adapted. It thus supported outstandingly well the force’s effort to meet new threats. From a single-mission torpedo boat destroyer to a multidexterous capability to take on all threats—undersea, surface, air, and land—it is a remarkable story.
To say that destroyers won two world wars, as suggested by the title of this book, might be an exaggeration, but they did make major contributions. Defeating the U-boat in the Atlantic, overcoming Japanese surface forces in the Solomons, playing a major role in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, supporting Marines in various amphibious assaults, and contributions to outlasting the kamikazes all were important events. At the same time, U.S. shipbuilders launched more advanced and capable destroyers. Newer ships had improved sonar, torpedoes, radars, and armaments, useful not only in antisubmarine warfare, but also in air defense and shore bombardment and insertion of underwater demolition teams as well. Little wonder that a destroyer, the USS Nicholas (DD-449), was selected to carry Japanese officials to the Tokyo Bay surrender in 1945.
In the last chapter, the author cites individual ships and individual heroes in those ships. They should never be forgotten by those who follow in their footsteps.
The author does a good job of making sure we do not forget, and to that end he merits signal praise and thanks. Beyond that, his book provides extensive references for those who might want to dig more.
Unfortunately, this story and the many included vignettes have been told before. Those who have read Samuel Eliot Morison’s series, History of United States Naval Operations of World War II (Little, Brown and Co., 1947–62), or any of the other books about that war listed in the author’s bibliography might well find Johnson’s effort repetitive. On the other hand, for those who are not familiar with Morison or his ilk, Tin Cans and Greyhounds will be a good introduction.
Vice Admiral Dunn is a retired naval aviator, veteran of the air war over North Vietnam, and author of (Naval Institute Press, 2017).
Andrew J. Bacevich. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2018. 491 pp. Index. $125.
Reviewed by Robert M. Cassidy
To paraphrase Clausewitz, no sane head of state should start a war without a clear idea of what he wants to achieve and how he plans to carry it out. The purpose of war is to serve policy, but if war is unguided by reason, the nature of war is to serve itself. If war continues with no end in sight and the consequences of war are exorbitant in costs and harmful to the security of the state that embarked on the war, there is no strategy linking the violence of war to the political outcome sought.
Andrew Bacevich’s latest book, Twilight of the American Century, is not at all about mastery of statesmanship or strategy. This book is about the converse. Bacevich explores and indicts decades of malfeasance by senior U.S. posers, pundits, and peddlers of platitudes who were pretending to be prophets of policy, strategy, and war. This work essentially is about arrogance, ignorance, and risible self-delusion.
The author is a former colonel and scholar who has published a host of articles and books that examine why and how senior U.S. civilian and military leaders have undertaken policies and wars that have either failed or ultimately harmed U.S. security in the long term. U.S. senior civilian decision-makers and military leaders should read this work, because it explores the critical interchange of civilian and military leaders with policy, strategy, and war in the United States over the past century-plus. Unlike his previous books, this is a compilation of his articles and book reviews since 2001.
The book casts a wide net for the
people it impugns as false prophets and spurious sages. Those indicted for malpractice in various forms range from Brooks (David) to Bush (W.), Cheney to Clancy (Tom), Feith to Franks, Kennan to Kagan (Robert), Rice to Rumsfeld, Schlesinger to Sanchez, and the Wohlstetters to Wolfowitz. But the author justly reserves his most sardonic excoriation for those who disserved the administration of former President George W. Bush. Members of Team Bush, or the Bush League, preponderate in Bacevich’s pantheon of policy wonks who posed as strategic savants and brought harm to U.S. interests that will not soon be reversed.
In several places, Bacevich essentially enlists the self-exculpatory memoirs of the former members of the Bush League to flay them. For example, In the chapter that reviews War and Decision, the memoir of Doug Feith, Bacevich notes that the book unwittingly reveals “the astonishing combination of hubris and naiveté that pervaded Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon.” In the chapter that reviews Michael Gordon’s and Bernard Trainor’s Cobra II, about the invasion of Iraq, he eviscerates Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz, the key poser-strategists and proponents of the
The major theme running through this book is one of U.S. overreach stemming from a mythological narrative about American exceptionalism and its special role in the world as anointed hegemon as exemplar. In many wars since 1898, but especially since the end of the Cold War, U.S. policy and strategy have not been aligned in ways that brought success. Bacevich argues that the United States has become a country “that does not finish what it starts and then borrows exorbitantly to conceal its failures.” Moreover, it only has become worse because the current administration exhibits “an ill-informed, impulsive, and capricious foreign policy.”
Twilight of the American Century is a readable and pithy indictment of the people, policies, and actions that are responsible for the massive misalignment of U.S. policy and strategy in the Middle East, and elsewhere, over the past century. It is a story of hubris and ignorance trumping humility and reason. This book has salience for international security practitioners and scholars, because it lays out many implications for U.S. foreign policy and strategy. It also provides cutting insights about Team America’s perpetual wars against Islamist terrorists and insurgents around
the globe in this century. A sole criticism of this work is that it coheres less than the author’s other books, because it is a compilation.
Dr. Cassidy is a retired U.S. Army colonel who teaches at Wesleyan University as the Chamberlain Project Inaugural Fellow. He has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere the Middle East.
New & Noteworthy
By Lieutenant Commander Nicolas Hoffmann, U.S. Navy
Stefan Draminski. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2018. 336 pp. Biblio. $60.
The German battleship Bismarck is one of the world’s most recognizable warships, and this work—the first of the Anatomy of the Ship series from Osprey Publishing—describes the Bismarck as never before. Author Stefan Draminski has converted painstaking research into hundreds of computer-generated schematics, giving a deck-by-deck, frame-by-frame overview of the ship. In addition to a general history of the vessel, the work gives detailed cutaways and deck plans from stem-to-stern both internally and externally. No detail is too small—even ship’s boats and ammunition-ready service lockers are depicted. The book finishes with brief schematic overviews of HMS Hood and other Bismarck opponents.
The Battleship Bismarck will be an invaluable aid to historians and modelers alike, and this work sets a new standard of comprehensiveness for upcoming volumes in the Osprey series.
Lieutenant Commander Hoffman is a career surface warfare office. He has served on several ships and afloat staffs and currently works on the staff of Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Anna Ohanyan, ed. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2018. 220 pp. Notes. Ref. Index. $36.95.
While many international relations theorists see recent Russian expansionism through East vs. West terms, the essays collected by Anna Ohanyan view the phenomenon through the lens of regional fracture. From the book, fractured regions are geographically connected and often interdependent, but lack strong political or economic ties and often are overshadowed by a postcolonial power. As many of the states in Russia’s “near abroad”—Ukraine, the Caucasus, and Central Asia—fall into this category, the essays in this collection attempt to describe Russian policy using the theory of fractured regions.
Russia Abroad is definitely written with an academic audience in mind, but its main thesis of regional fracture offers a fresh perspective on some of the world’s current headline-grabbing conflicts. Despite its appeal to international relations specialists, a general reader interested in current events in Eurasia will also find this collection of essays to be a worthwhile read.
Uncommon Valor: The Recon Company that Earned Five Medals of Honor and Included America’s Most Decorated Green Beret
Stephen L. Moore. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2018. 412 pp. Appx. Notes. Biblio. Index. $35.
Uncommon Valor details the exploits of the Studies and Operations Group (SOG), a highly classified group of Green Berets charged with some of the most sensitive missions of the Vietnam War. Small special forces teams operated with local allies along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, facing overwhelming odds, as they executed reconnaissance, sabotage, and rescue missions. This book highlights the unit’s history and team exploits, and likewise gives credit to the indigenous trackers and aircrews supporting the Green Berets.
The book is a fascinating look at a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War and an excellent story of American heroism in combat. It will appeal to both students of the Vietnam War as well as those interested in behind-the-scenes accounts of special operations forces.
Everard J. Bullis; David J. Bullis, ed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2018. 238 pp. Notes. Index. $35.
Edited by the author’s grandson, Doing My Bit Over There is the story of U.S. Marine Everard Bullis and his service during World War I. The memoir starts with Bullis’ enlistment and recruit training and takes the reader through his front-line service as a squad machine gunner in France—including his role in key Marine battles such as Belleau Wood, Soissons, and others—until his eventual demobilization at war’s end. This gritty firsthand account offers an unflinching look at trench warfare on the Western Front while also including several personal touches, such as connections between Bullis and fellow Minnesotans he met at the front and an often contentious interservice rivalry between the Marine Corps and the Army.
With the recent centenary of the Armistice, World War I histories have become somewhat commonplace, but nothing compares to reading the reminiscences of those who fought in some of the war’s landmark and hard-fought battles. Doing My Bit Over There earns its place among other battlefield memoirs, transporting the reader to the mud and terror of Flanders.