Academic journal article Military Review

WAR AND THE ENGINEERS: The Primacy of Politics over Technology

Academic journal article Military Review

WAR AND THE ENGINEERS: The Primacy of Politics over Technology

Article excerpt

WAR AND THE ENGINEERS: The Primacy of Politics over Technology, Keir Lieber, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 2005, 226 pages, $39.95.

The title of Keir Lieber's latest book could have been more appropriate: War and the Engineers is really not a book about war or about engineers; it is about the latest scholarship on the offense-défense theory in political science. This quibble aside, lieber's study breaks new ground by openly criticizing and eventually refuting the theory.

The book's introduction outlines the foundations of current offensedefense theory. Broadly, the theory holds that war and peace depend on technology and perceived power. If a country has offensive capabilities, it will attack and expand, overthrowing the status quo. When defense predominates (ideologically, technologically, or otherwise), cooperation and peace are more likely. In subsequent chapters, lieber considers both military and political outcomes to discredit the theory. By analyzing offense-defense using its own vocabulary and definitions, Lieber deconstructs it persuasively. He uses two case studies of offensive mobility (trains in the wars of German unification and tanks in WWI), and two case studies of the evolution of defensive firepower (small arms in WWI and the nuclear revolution), to turn the theory against itself. …

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