This is a lively contribution to an inexhaustible subject, but Dupuy never quite pins down how the German military achieved ""institutionalized excellence"" and what its special character was. Utilizing narrative and generalization rather than focused analysis, the book sets forth many of the elements of the German Army as it was developed in the 19th century by an extraordinary collection of liberals and intellectuals--the mass mobilization system, the emphasis on history and science in officers' training, the staff-line rotation, war games, railroad mastery, and opportunity for initiative from the lower ranks. Dupuy, an authority on WW II, denies that the German Army went into a decline in the mid-1800s; on the contrary, the great victories climaxing in the Franco-Prussian War were being prepared by the general staff. The brilliance of German performance in both world wars is stressed--convincingly enough for WW I, less so for WW II. Nor does Dupuy give a Clausewitzian political context to his military high points. The book remains didactic and allusive rather than explanatory, lacking precision of the kind that makes Gordon Craig's The Politics of the Prussian Army, 1640-1945 (1956)a far more rewarding study.