THE THIRD WORLD WAR: August 1985 by John Hackett


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General Sir John Hackett, after a distinguished military career, major NATO command, and a second career as Principal of King's College, Cambridge, has chosen to air his views in a ""future history"" of the 1985 ""war"" between NATO and the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact members, written from the vantage point of 1987. World War III turns out to be short, but the author and Others (some identified, some not) provide a professionally detailed account of combat, strategy, and tactics in every form. Every form, that is, but dramatic: the General has marshaled his chapters in firm ranks with separate descriptions of combat in each theater followed by an analysis of the political background, and with individual accounts of each type of warfare--land, sea, air, etc.--followed by more background on the forces involved. This flashback technique only serves to interrupt the narrative and interfere with the overall picture. Another confusing element is the plethora of stock p.r. photos of tanks, planes, men, and ships captioned as if they were in actual combat and inserted without regard to the flow of events. The story itself takes the form of interviews, eyewitness accounts, newspaper stories, articles, and official reports, but all have the stiffness characteristic of military documents. And as this Third World War progresses, it comes more and more to seem like World War II again: the first Soviet thrust is remarkably like the Nazi blitzkrieg; action in Ethiopia and Africa seems like that in the Balkans; air action is all too familiar and the convoys still move ponderously at sea, beset by subs. Short shrift is given to space activities, and nuclear power on both sides is restrained until, in desperation, the enemy tries to force a peace by obliterating one British city. NATO forces, of course, retaliate and wipe out Minsk, and the internal reaction causes the breakup of the Soviet Union. Throughout there is the familiar military reminder that if the civilians and governments do not give more financial and political support to the armed forces, war is inevitable and the West in dire peril. But if the situation is so bad, why do the NATO forces win so quickly? At the very end, pulling a classic feint, Hackett states that ""nothing will happen exactly as we have shown here."" So the book becomes an exercise, less intriguing than the war games lots of people play.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1979
Publisher: Macmillan