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War, Peace, and Victory: Strategy and Statecraft for the Next Century.

War, Peace, and Victory: Strategy and Statecraft for the Next Century Colin S. Gray. Simon and Schuster, $24.95. Ten years ago, Colin Gray wrote an article arguing that the United States could and should plan to fight and win a nuclear war against the Soviet Union. Now he has written a big book arguing that the United States must develop a strategy or strategies to win a variety of wars.

In the course of the argument, Gray displays extraordinary erudition about past wars, from the Peloponnesian to the Napoleonic, and about past exponents of strategic theory, notably Clausewitz and Jomini, and he makes a number of sensible observations. But every time Gray comes down on one side of a specific current issue, he seems to come down wrong. He can barely contain his contempt for arms control efforts. He specifically opposes a treaty to limit the development of antisatellite weapons. He rejects the idea that some nuclear weapons contribute to strategic instability. And he seems still to be pursuing the will-o'-the-wisp of Star Wars.

Yet, Gray's thinking has moved some distance over the past 10 years. His chapter on "Nuclear Weapons and Strategy" no longer offers the dubious consolation that U.S. casualties in a nuclear exchange could be limited to 20 million. Instead, he recognizes that the principal purpose of nuclear weapons is to discourage the other side from using nuclear weapons as well as to damp down potential conflicts that might escalate into conventional and then into nuclear wars, and he justifiably chides the proponents of "flexible response"--gradual escalation from conventional weapons to "tactical" nuclear weapons to larger-scale nuclear exchanges--for not thinking seriously about where flexibility can lead.

Gray goes on to suggest that the principal deterrent "in the foreground" to discourage Soviet leaders from waging war on the Western Alliance in Europe, or upon its "vital interests elsewhere," would be the fact of "an economically vastly superior enemy coalition" persistent in defending its interests. The danger of a nuclear holocaust would be only a "deterrence makeweight."

One wonders why, it Gray sees so little military utility in nuclear weapons, he is not more interested in reducing their numbers, or at least in modifying their configuration. But Gray is not prepared to consider that sometimes no conceivable military means may achieve the desired political or economic ends.

Although some civilian military analysts--Michael Howard, Karl Kaiser, and Francois de Rose come to mind--are beginning to see that figuring out how to achieve military victory is not their primary task, many of them--Gray is just one example--are still too caught up in the excitement of plotting complex nuclear--and even non-nuclear--strategies. Granted, there is still plenty of work to be done by military analysts: force structure, rms control agreements, and the role of reserves, to name a few topics. But if you begin by thinking about how the United States should conduct a war, you avoid a number of troubling questions about how we got there in the first place.

The enormous changes in the Soviet Union, in Eastern Europe, and in what are no longer the two Germanys, have made NATO deterrence strategy largely irrelevant. The capacity of the United States to intervene decisively in any of these situations is extremely limited. And one could argue that military intervention is most likely to be successful only when it offers the antagonist a face-saving alternative. Military intervention is a risky supplement to, never a substitute for, a range of political, economic, and diplomatic means.

That's why the Colin Grays of the 1990s need to think less about winning wars and more about keeping the peace.
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Author:Yarmolinsky, Adam
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1990
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