“Margin of Victory: Five Battles that Changed the Face of Modern Warfare” by Douglas Macgregor. Naval Institute Press. 2016, Hardcover, 268 pages, $34.95.
“Margin of Victory” is about change, intelligently and soberly recognizing the need for that change regardless of preconceived notions and the consequences of failing to do so. Each of the conflicts analyzed by Macgregor, all seemingly unrelated at first glance, center on his repeated premise that victory will depend on lessons learned that will drive accepting change and implementing the hard decisions that must accompany transformation – notably in technology, people, strategy and organization. While history provides perspective that must be considered, holding on to outmoded concepts or failing to properly leverage what’s been learned will ultimately lead to decisive defeat.
The American Republic is out of balance — collapsing from poor governance and the triumph of special interests over the public interest. There are two root causes — the corruption of the US political process that disenfranchises sixty percent of the public and blocks Independents and small parties from ballot access, and a dysfunctional intelligence architecture that lacks integrity — as Henry Kissinger has observed, intelligence is not necessary to the exercise of power (as practiced by the elite-driven US national security state) and is often useless.
No one since President Ike Eisenhower and Project Solarium has ever attempted an official honest, comprehensive, and coherent formulation of a grand strategy that balances ends, means, and ways for all government functions, not only in the national security arena, where the military is consuming 60% of the disposable budget in 2015, but across the domestic front as well.
The People’s Army – the Continental Army rooted in home-spun militias – was formed and fought and won a war before the U.S. Constitution was written and signed in 1787. The Constitution – and the Republic – exist because the People’s Army, the Continental Army led by George Washington – leveraged the twin advantages of a righteous cause and home court to eject what was then the greatest imperial power on the planet. Of the 55 men attending the Constitutional Convention, at least 29 served in the Continental Army, most of them in positions of command. Understanding the relationship between the people from whom the early militias were drawn, the Army, and the Constitution, is essential to evaluating where we fall short today.
A Few Gems, Too Little, Too Late, Not a Grand Strategy and Not Global By Any Stretch of the Imagination
I was paying attention in 2009 when Wayne Porter and Mark Mykleby did their best for the Chairman, and was present when Brent Scowcroft, among others, listened to the Wilson Foundation “launch” of the book’s ideas in 2011. I also observed with interest as Patrick Doherty, then of the New America Foundation, tried to develop the ideas with one good meme — sustainability as the central concept – while suffering from arrogance, naivete, and shallow reading so very typical of the light-weight Washington “think tanks.” I bought this book because I think the original thinkers (Wayne Porter and Mark Mykleby) and their mentor (Mike Mullen) were on to something in 2009.
This book makes the jump from 5 stars (generally I don’t bother to review a book if it is not a four or five star read) to 6 stars — my top ten percent — because of the combination of Questions Asked, glorious color graphics, and the total holistic nature of the book — this is easily a PhD thesis in holistic analytics, true cost economics, and open source everything engineering. Indeed, this book could be used as a first-year reference across any humanities and science domain, they would be the better for it.
By Patrick Porter Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2015
Reviewed by Steven Metz, Director of Research at the US Army War College
The Global Village Myth is short, tightly-argued body blow to contemporary American security policy. In it Patrick Porter takes on an important but often overlooked aspect of strategy-physical distance- and critiques the popular notion that technology has diminished its importance or even rendered it irrelevant. This is a seemingly simple idea with big implications.