Uncomfortably all-in-one: a thumb-nail history of the development of weapons from sticks-and-stones to cruise missiles; a primer on the politics of defense contracting; a brief review of strategic theories; even a guide to the designation of aircraft, ships, and rifles. If the importance of knowing how Gustavus Adolphus' troops employed their arquebuses is not clear, that particular bit of information gets lost in the avalanche anyway. Also lost is any real sense of horror: the observation that an antitank shell would make ""human puree"" of the occupants indicates both an insensitivity to, and a lack of first-hand acquaintance with, war and death. The one thing that the authors do with some efficiency, providing a run-down of contemporary weaponry, is far better accomplished by James Dunnigan in How To Make War (p. 175). We hear, for instance, how fast, far, and high US fighter planes can fly, who builds them and who buys them--while Dunnigan explains, in each case, why a particular kind of weapon was developed and how it is used (and James Fallows' National Defense puts them all into context). The beginner would do better with those and other works.