A Vision So Noble



Welcome to the website!

Most of the papers here are from my studies at King's College London in an online "programme" for mid-career British Army officers called War in the Modern World (MA "with distinction," 2010). About half were indeed British Army, including a captain who deployed to Afghanistan midway through the four years. The rest were from militaries and civilian careers, from Denmark to Singapore. I learned a great deal, and this website is to share it more broadly.

Yes, DARPA really did change the world!

The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World is an odd book. It's well-written, but Sharon Weinberger so dislikes the Vietnam War that not only can't she say anything good about it, she can't say anything good about anyone or anything associated with it. Thus the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (which began as ARPA but has more often been known as DARPA) is mocked for its expensive and supposedly calamitous counterinsurgency projects, some of which were actually very good and still have application today. I wrote last month about how DARPA helped develop the M-16 assault rifle whose descendants still arm the US military and those of many other countries, more than half a century after I saw it in action in the Vietnamese Highlands. I especially snickered at Ms Weinberger's quote from a "nuanced account" by Frances Fitzgerald, whose books are about as nuanced as Donald Trump's tweets. Another oddity is the book's scattershot references to ARPANET, a collection of military, government, and academic computers that evolved into what we know as the internet. (It started with a proto-email that read, in its entirety, "LO". The sender was typing "log-in" when the connection died. From that lone syllable arose Amazon, Netflix, WeChat, Zoom, and all the other conveniences and time-wasters that dominate ours lives in the 21st century. Yet nowhere does Ms Weinberger devote more than a couple of paragraphs to the DARPA project that actually did change the world! For all that, her book is worth reading, and not nearly as dull as you might think. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Cowboy: interpreter, warlord, one more casualty

The essays (in more or less chronological order)

A Rebel in the County Cork, 1915-1923: case study of an insurgency
Was the Cold War an Inevitable Outcome of World War 2?
The Clayton Theorem: Did George Marshall Save the US from Economic Collapse?
To what extent is the US experience in Iraq comparable to their experience in Vietnam?
'Not Right, but British': The Superpower Role in the Falklands War
'But the Russians won, after all!: lessons from the Chechen wars
China: O brave new hegemon!
That's what presidents are for! (Why is 'planning' not the same thing as 'strategy'?)
When Sun-tzu met Clausewitz: John Boyd, the OODA Loop, and the invasion of Iraq
War sucks. Get over it. (on the novelty of 'Hybrid war')
How would John Boyd have waged a counterinsurgency?

Other good stuff to read

Gaddis: George Kennan: An American Life
Finkel: The Good Soldiers
Arreguin-Toft: How the Weak Win Wars: A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict
Luttwak: Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace
Smith: The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World
Galula: Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice
van Creveld: The Transformation of War
Bobbitt: 'Terror and Consent: The Wars for the 21st Century'
Ricks: 'The Gamble: Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq
Wright: 'The Looming Tower: The Road to 9/11'
Adams: 'The Army After Next: The First Postindustrial Army'
Was John Boyd a new Sun Tzu? (books about the OODA Loop)
A counterinsurgency reading list by John Nagl
50 best books about terrorism, by Joshua Sinai
more reviews of books about war as it has developed since 1945

Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Poland's Daughter

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