Academic journal article Military Review

Small Wars: Low-Intensity Threats and the American Response since Vietnam

Academic journal article Military Review

Small Wars: Low-Intensity Threats and the American Response since Vietnam

Article excerpt

SMALL WARS: Low-Intensity Threats and the American Response Since Vietnam

Michael D. Gambone

The University of Tennessee Press

Knoxville, 2012, 406 pages, $40.00

HOW DID U.S. policymakers respond to the multiplying challenges to U.S. security after 1973, what factors influenced their decisions, and what were the end results? Michael D. Gambone attempts to answer these key questions in Small Wars. The underwhelming title with its use of "small wars" and "low-intensity" could make the book easily lost among so many other recently published books that cover the same general topic. Yet, this history professor from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania has put together a work that is superior in its analysis, writing, and organization and is, therefore, relevant and useful for today's military professional. Rather than being lost in the crowd, it is distinctly different.

Gambone's conclusions are not ground breaking, but his analysis is fresh and informed by careful attention to the nuances of organizational cultures, policy debates, and the interpretation of lessons learned from previous conflicts. He recognizes and attempts to explain the complexities of decisions concerning the use of military force. While he theorizes that post-war analogies and interpretations of the Vietnam War "continue to have a profound legacy for American policy and the U.S. military," Gambone explores the influences that go far beyond this legacy. He concludes that the U.S. military of the last decade evolved to meet the contingencies of present warfare (the past 20 years) far better and to a greater degree than the Army of the Vietnam era, but these reforms came late and are likely to recede in the future.

Gambone explores this history through a combination of chronology and topics that extend throughout the period. He starts with an overview of the Cold War and then dissects events of the last 40 years. …

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