Strategy for Chaos: Revolutions in Military Affairs and the Evidence of History

By Van Nederveen, Gilles | Air & Space Power Journal, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

Strategy for Chaos: Revolutions in Military Affairs and the Evidence of History


Van Nederveen, Gilles, Air & Space Power Journal


Strategy for Chaos: Revolutions in Military Affairs and the Evidence of History by Colin S. Gray. Frank Cass Publishers (http://www.frankcass. com), 5824 NE Hassalo Street, Portland, Oregon 97213-3644, 2002, 310 pages, $52.50 (hardcover).

In his foreword to this text, Williamson Murray lays bare one of the central problems in today's academic studies-the gap between political scientists and historians in their dealings with strategy, war, and military institutions. One group studies war only as a period set piece, while the other-I am willing to theorize-uses preestablished formulas. Colin Gray is one of the leading neo-Clausewitzian theorists who believes that, although warfare has changed, war-as long as humans wage it-has not. He uses three historical case studies-Napoleon, World War I, and nuclear war-to explore revolutions in military affairs (RMA) and their effect on war. The possibility of revolutionary change in warfare first appeared in Soviet military writings when, by the late 1970s, the Soviet General Staff realized that American and Western technological innovations would make the USSR's weapons, doctrine, and tactics obsolete. The writings of Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov stressed the RMA in the "reconnaissance strike complexes" being developed by the United States. In conjunction with these developments, the nonlinearity of events-or the fog of war, as Clausewitz refers to it-made a comeback in the form of chaos theory. According to Gray, the problem lies in determining how much of this transformation is technology-based and how much is driven by humans.

Strategy for Chaos is the first book that examines all elements-history, strategy, and policy making-in laying out what the RMA is and when one achieves it. The most dramatic conclusion, one that most military officers will recognize, is that change always brings about a reaction by the enemy or competitor. (Yes, even the sole remaining superpower in the world has competitors.) Equally important is the strategic framework that Gray uses to relate the RMA to the world. …

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