Book Review: Conceptualising Modern War

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by Ole Jurgen Maao & Karl Erik Haug, editors

New York: Columbia University Press /Hurst & Co., Publishers Ltd: 2011. Pp. xiv, 344. Diagr., notes, index. $80.00. ISBN: 0231702949

In Conceptualizing Modern War, Norwegian scholars Haug and Maao have gathered fifteen essays on the nature of “modern” warfare. 

The essays are by such specialists on the subject as Steve Metz, Hew Strachan, and Antulio Ecchevaria, among others, plus several less familiar scholars.  Each of the essays touches upon various aspects of the recent arguments as to the ways in which war is – or is not – changing. These include “Asymmetric Warfare”, the so-called “Four Generations of Warfare”, “Effects Based Operations”, “Net-Centric Warfare”, terrorism, "Transformation”, insurgency,  non-traditional warfare, and more.  Several essays address historical examples, one aptly titled “Contemporary War is Not Modern”, to remind us that irregular and asymmetric operations have a long history,  and another dealing with T.E. Lawrence’s ideas about irregular warfare.  Most of the essays are critical of some recent theories, such as the notion that Clausewitz is “dead” (i.e., no longer applicable), but in doing so they offer interesting and often thought-provoking insights into the problems facing modern planners at a time when “war” in the state-on-state mode seems less likely, while other forms of armed conflict, none particularly “new”, may be increasing. 

An important read for those interested in the evolution of the idea of “war”.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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