by James F. Dunnigan ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 16, 1982
An intelligent noncombatant's guide to the conduct of modern warfare--better suited to the concerned citizen or the idly curious than to the military buff (who knows most of this already). Dunnigan (The Complete Wargames Handbook) not only explains why tanks advance in groups of two and three (the second and third cover the head tank--because it's so hard to see out of them); he will also dissuade the more reckless among us from pursuing a career as a top-flight tank commander (the only good way to lead your tank is to stick your head and shoulders out until wounded or killed: ""When that happens, everyone gets upset until the wounded man quiets down or the corpse is allowed to fall to the floor. . .or is tossed overboard""). But even tank commanders have it better than infantrymen--who can only be effective with above-average intelligence and good training; that seldom being the case, tanks outlive the foot-soldiers surrounding them. In each section--additionally, on air power, sea power, electronic battlefields, nuclear warfare, and more--Dunnigan runs through the basic uses and disadvantages of various instruments of war; concluding, he provides a glossary of special terms and acronyms, and charts showing relative US-Soviet strength. The result is an analysis of war preparedness, in material and human terms, along with a simple discussion of strategy and tactics, and a scorecard. Though Dunnigan emphasizes that war is unpredictable, a pattern emerges that spells bad news for the Soviets. Their weapons systems are numerically superior, but technologically inferior, to those of the West. Soviet strategy calls for a short war, in which superior numbers (of tanks, for example) will compensate for quick deterioration. But, crucially, Soviet troops and technical support personnel are even more poorly trained trained than their Western counterparts; and the greater closeness between Soviet commanders and their forces doesn't compensate for the USSR's highly centralized command and communications structures, a hindrance in a volatile war situation. Better weapons don't always mean victory (in 1941, Dunnigan points out, the Red Army was better equipped than the Germans); but inferior weaponry and inferior training is a disastrous combination. If that doesn't reassure you, Dunnigan's optimism born out of extreme pessimism may: he figures that military men know how devastating a war would be, so they strive to avoid it--and that, moreover, a larger military buildup would generate political unrest because of its astronomical cost. So no doomsday pall hangs over the book. Thoroughgoing--and almost enjoyable.
Pub Date: March 16, 1982
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1982
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