Review: Stratagem: Deception and Surprise in War

5 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Information Operations
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Barton Whaley

5.0 out of 5 stars Pioneeding, Deep, Essential, Needs 21st Century Follow-Up September 5, 2013

I borrowed this book from another officer, and have been quite delighted to spend time with it.

This is a much older book than most realize (1969) and its examples and case studies stop with the Six-Day War in 1967 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. It is certain a book that is worthy of being brought up to date through to the varied wars of the 21st Century; it is also a book that would merit a deeper look at the ethics, efficacy, and frequent perversion of deception operations, by which I mean both the mission and the mind-set creep from focused deception to what has been called “Strategic Communication,” or lies so broad and deep we believe them ourselves and want everyone else to believe them also. Apart from being dated, this is the books more important oversight – it does not offer the reader a balanced appraisal of when transparency, truth, and trust are a better investment than pervasive and pernicious deception of one’s own public, global leaders, and global publics. The latter may be asking too much, I will soften it by strongly endorsing this book as a reader for war colleges around the world, with my own monographs (free online) from the U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute (SSI), as the counterfoil.

Now for the good of this book, this is considerable. This book merits vastly more attention than it has been getting, in part because the US marketplace is dumbed down and drugged up, and the US military still has a “hey-diddle-diddle up the middle mind-set.” “Keep it simple” is often actually “keep it stupid.” In that context, this book could be used to teach both ethics and nuanced thinking at the war colleges. The book offers – and the author points out this is the least visible part of the book – “an original exercise in methodology – a method designed to unmask deception when it is present.”

The author’s introduction to the 2007 reprint is BRILLIANT. I can do no better and therefore I keep the book at five stars and suggest that the introduction, and my extractive summary of the book provided here at Amazon, be used as handouts across the war colleges.

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