A Military History of the Cold War: 1944-1962

By Pryer, Douglas A. | Military Review, May-June 2014 | Go to article overview

A Military History of the Cold War: 1944-1962


Pryer, Douglas A., Military Review


A MILITARY HISTORY OF THE COLD WAR: 1944-1962

Jonathan M. House, University of Oklahoma Press Norman, 2012, 546 pages, $40.50

ALTHOUGH DR. JONATHAN House's A Military History of the Cold War: 1944-1962 focuses on the operational level of war, there may be no clearer, more comprehensive evidence for Clausewitz's contention that "war is but the continuation of politics by other means" than this book provides. In conflict after conflict, the reader sees that if one side did not achieve its desired end state, the reason was that it failed to address the political components of the conflict sufficiently.

House shows that no military action has value in and of itself. What matters instead are political questions such as these: Does a military action create more enemies than it eliminates from the battlefield? Does it gain support from allies? Does it drive a wedge between the enemy and its base of popular support? Does it help address legitimate political grievances? Does it increase the likelihood of broader war, or worse, nuclear holocaust? These things really matter in war, especially in the nuclear and information age.

House shows that the Cold War provides especially fertile ground for the study of counterinsurgency. This stands to reason, since the United States and the Soviet Union--the two great nuclear superpowers of the conflict--avoided direct confrontation, relying largely instead on proxies to fight each other. House discusses 13 insurgencies in detail. After reading these case studies, the counterinsurgent comes away with a better understanding of which military actions could be successfully employed again and which, due to local peculiarities or changes in global conditions, only could have worked when and where they did.

Additionally, the book enhances the military student's understanding of the current security environment. …

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