Strategic Thinking: An Introduction and Farewell. By Philip Windsor, edited by Mats Berdal and Spyros Economides. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002. 199 pages. $19.95.
It is unfortunate that Philip Windsor was not more widely published or more widely read during his lifetime. He had a keen mind and a unique perspective insofar as the Cold War period was concerned. Strategic Thinking: An Introduction and Farewell is his final work, ultimately edited by others and published after his death in 2000. The book grew out of a series of lectures titled "Strategic Aspects of International Relations" that he delivered during his tenure at the London School of Economics from 1967 to 1997. This book is an absolute must for any student of strategic thought.
Windsor's thesis is that the nuclear age was one in which "strategic thinking dominated the conduct of international affairs." It was, and is, an age in which strategy came to dominate politics because the means (nuclear weapons) in essence defined the ends. As introductory examples he offers a simple analysis of three nuclear-era identifiers: the Cold War, superpowers, and bipolarity. The term Cold War suggests that Clausewitz's dictum that war was the continuation of political intercourse carried on with other means had been reversed: politics had now become the continuation of war by other means. "Superpowers" were neither empires nor global powers, the United States being the possible exception insofar as it had global economic influence, and they were not hegemons. They were more simply defined by their ability to destroy the society of an enemy state and eventually the entire world. Finally the much-touted "bipolar" world dominated by Moscow and Washington was not that at all. This was evident by the co ntinuing problems in the Middle East, the nonaligned nations movement, and the emergence of China. The point here is that strategic considerations in the conduct of states in recent history were based on such catchphrases. Nuclear deterrence, in an effort to manipulate catastrophic risk, acquired a unique political dynamic that required a rule set that came to dominate strategic thinking, which in turn determined the ways that international affairs could be conducted. The failure of the rule set at lower operational or even tactical levels could quickly escalate, and left unchecked would just as quickly lead to the destruction of civilization. To ensure this would not occur, regimes such as alliances and arms control became imperative, but would also further complicate the situation.
In order to understand the basis of this new strategic thinking, Professor Windsor takes the reader through the development of Just War theory, the legal traditions it spawned, and the political context of war: an interesting yet broad journey from Constantine to Clausewitz. In each step he evaluates the development of the moral basis of warfare from the perspective of these traditions, each leading to the next, though none of them totally disappearing. His treatment of Clausewitz's development of the political context of war cuts through much of the misunderstanding of On War and lays an excellent foundation for Windsor's thesis. This analysis is perceptive and should be required for any student of statecraft and strategy. It is an excellent departure point for the development of modern warfare.
Professor Windsor then fully develops his thesis. War in the 20th century, he argues, was transformed in two regards. …