Is Emile Simpson the new Clausewitz?

The new (November 2012) book is War From the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics, and yes it is an important work.  It is also difficult to excerpt.  Nonetheless I especially liked these two sentences about Afghanistan:

This kind of situation, where sides argue tooth and nail over the meaning of every point or action, is typical of unstable interpretative environments, and those environments are in turn produced when people are insecure about who they are, and what they are about.  Returning to the analogy of sixteenth-century England, we find that a parallel situation would be the debate over the interpretation of the English translation of the Bible in the 1520s and 1530s.

It is in general extremely insightful on the conflict in Afghanistan, where the author has had three tours of duty.  The chapter on the British military campaign in Borneo in the mid-1960s (an oddly neglected historical episode) is also especially good.

Here is FT lunch with Emile Simpson, possibly gated for you.  Excerpt:

In Simpson’s view, one of the biggest mistakes the US has made has been to talk about a “global war on terror”, a phrase he describes as silly because it raises expectations that can never be met. “If you elevate this to a global concept, to the level of grand strategy, that is profoundly dangerous,” he says. “If you want stability in the world you have to have clear strategic boundaries that seek to compartmentalise conflicts, and not aggregate them. The reason is that if you don’t box in your conflicts with clear strategic boundaries, chronological, conceptual, geographical, legal, then you experience a proliferation of violence.”

Here is a very positive TLS review of Simpson’s book., where it is described as one of the half dozen essential works on military strategy since World War II.

Dense reading, but definitely recommended.


Comments for this post are closed