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Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace

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"If you want peace, prepare for war." "A buildup of offensive weapons can be purely defensive." "The worst road may be the best route to battle." Strategy is made of such seemingly self-contradictory propositions, Edward Luttwak shows--they exemplify the paradoxical logic that pervades the entire realm of conflict. In this widely acclaimed work, now revised and expanded, Luttwak unveils the peculiar logic of strategy level by level, from grand strategy down to combat tactics. Having participated in its planning, Luttwak examines the role of air power in the 1991 Gulf War, then detects the emergence of "post-heroic" war in Kosovo in 1999--an American war in which not a single American soldier was killed. In the tradition of Carl von Clausewitz, Strategy goes beyond paradox to expose the dynamics of reversal at work in the crucible of conflict. As victory is turned into defeat by over-extension, as war brings peace by exhaustion, ordinary linear logic is overthrown. Citing examples from ancient Rome to our own days, from Barbarossa and Pearl Harbor down to minor combat affrays, from the strategy of peace to the latest operational methods of war, this book by one of the world's foremost authorities reveals the ultimate logic of military failure and success, of war and peace.

320 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1987

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About the author

Edward N. Luttwak

58 books174 followers
Edward Nicolae Luttwak is a military strategist, political scientist and historian who has published works on military strategy, history, and international relations. Born in Arad, Romania, he studied in Palermo, Sicily, in England, LSE (BSc) & at Johns Hopkins (PhD). He speaks five languages. He serves or has served as a consultant to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Council, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force; he is/has been an adviser to Treaty Allies of the United States. He is chairman of the board of Aircraft Purchase Fleet Limited (APFL), an aviation lessor, and he founded and directs a conservation cattle ranch in the Bolivian Amazon. He is the author of various
books and more articles including: The Rise of China vs the Logic of Strategy, Coup d'Etat: a practical handbook, Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace, The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire, The Endangered American Dream, and Turbo-Capitalism: Winners and Losers in the Global Economy. His books are also published in: Arabic, Chinese (both Beijing simplified and Taipei traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Indonesian (Bahasa), Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (and Brazilian Portuguese) Romanian, Russian, Spanish (Castilian, Spain, in Argentina and in Venezuela), Swedish, and Turkish. Before ever writing of strategy and war, he was combat-trained (Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry) and fought as a volunteer or a contractor in several countries on two continents. He likes Hebrew songs and the Greek & Latin classics. His best article is "Homer Inc." in the London Review of Books.

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Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews
Profile Image for James Murphy.
982 reviews155 followers
March 28, 2014
I first encountered Luttwak many years ago through a book he wrote about the grand strategy of the Roman Empire. He's written many books on strategy and this, Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace, is one of the most studied and influential on the subject.

It's Luttwak's idea that strategy is being constantly practiced. Strategy is an ever-present condition whenever there are relations between nations, whether friendly or hostile. It's like borders, like the distinctions of languages, it always exists. In fact, he tells us, a world in which strategy is being constantly shaped and projected, actively as in war or more deceptively as the grand strategy of winning the peace, is a normal world. Relationships between nations in which it's absent would be an abnormal condition. If strategy's always present and actively practiced, however, he says not everyone understands its paradoxical nature. Most of the time successful strategy creates conditions which may be, eventually, unfavorable. As you're defeating your enemy you're creating a situation in which your successful strategy in defeating him no longer works because he's constantly adjusting to the fluidity of the situation. As you advance into your success your resources are depleted and your strength dissipated while your enemy's becomes more consolidated. Luttwak spends considerable time writing about the importance of persuasion and dissuasion through military power, the importance of harmony in the relation of vertical strategy (military operations) to horizontal (diplomacy, propaganda, public opinion). One of the paradoxes of war, he tells us, is that it creates peace by destroying the means necessary to engage in combat. But equally paradoxical is that the resulting peace creates war by breeding conditions in which advantage must be sought, strategies developed to persuade and dissuade, and the peace won even if war has to be resorted to. In the calculus of international relations, strategy and war are natural states.

These are just a few of the fascinating ideas and issues Luttwak deals with. And he illustrates his points with examples from recent history, some almost transferred directly from the status of current events. I believe I learned more from reading these pages than any book I've read recently.
15 reviews1 follower
January 19, 2021
The examples and references are good, but the book could be shorter. A couple valuable thoughts for me - specialized weapons are good for the initial surprise attacks, yet become obsolete faster because of the enemy’s increased efforts; nuclear weapon is meh from the strategy perspective; new types of weapons have decent organizational back pressure.
Profile Image for Kristyna.
41 reviews3 followers
September 2, 2016
Welcome to the world of a paradoxical logic, where war facilitates peace by destroying state's means to engage in a conflict and peace breeds war by making the state powerful and daring enough to resort to brute force. "Si vis pacem, para bellum," writes Luttwak in his first chapter, and spends the rest of the book demonstrating that the non-linear logic is present throughout the whole realm of strategy.

It can appear between different levels of war, when the right tactical decision may result in the worst operational outcome, as seen in the case of French soldiers who abandoned their positions in May 1940 to stop a limited German offensive, only to be taken aback by a full force attack.

It can appear when a seemingly unreasonable decision results in the best potential outcome, as seen in Hannibal's determination to march over the Alps, which proved incredibly costly, yet it surprised Romans, leaving them unable to use their capabilities to their full potential.

It can appear when more advanced technology yields a worse result because it discourages the enemy. France's determination to construct a fortification line to decrease the number of casualties in a potential war with Germany was more than understandable, yet it persuaded German forces to invade France from Belgium. Had France relied on a less successful technique, such as trenches, Germany might have chosen a frontal attack, which France would have been able to intermit.

My favourite section, however, is Chapter 4, where Luttwak describes reasons why democratic leaders make for terrible war commanders, writing that the necessity for transparency, the duty to explain actions to civilians, and the desire to be re-elected contradict the paradoxical logic of warfare. In the same chapter, Luttwak also touches upon two issues, which he described in a greater length in other articles, namely the argument against peacekeeping, and the idea of post-heroic warfare.

The former discusses the point that by interrupting conflicts and demanding peace treaties to be signed before the war reaches its natural end, we are only prolonging the conflict by letting all sides rearm. (Luttwak's conviction was later confirmed by several quantitative studies, including Monica Duffy Toft's article Ending Civil Wars: A Case for Rebel Victory?) The latter introduces an idea, also against a common sense logic, that the most powerful states, militarily, technologically and economically, are no longer able to defeat their weaker opponents because of development – when death among young people becomes uncommon and parents expect all their children to reach retirement, justifying casualties becomes difficult for any government. And when a state is more concerned with keeping its soldiers alive than with winning a war, Luttwak writes, military victories are hard to accomplish.

Strategy: A Logic of War and Peace is not a book for everyone – it is not always easy to read, and it demands a basic understanding of strategy from its readers. However, if you are a student of international relations, history, or security studies, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. I read the opening chapter during my university studies in the past, and I am happy that now I am out of school, I had the chance to finish the book and comprehend Luttwak's argument in its entirety.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
588 reviews27 followers
September 5, 2017
"If you want peace, prepare for war." This book should be called "The PARADOXICAL Logic of War and Peace," because Luttwak's main contribution is to illustrate how the logic of daily life is turned on its head in warfare. In the preface, Luttwak explains: "...the logic of strategy seemed to unfold in two dimensions: the 'horizontal' contentions of adversaries who seek to oppose, deflect, and reverse each other's move - and that is what makes strategy paradoxical; and the 'vertical' interplay of the different levels of conflict, technical, tactical, operational, and higher - among which there is no natural harmony." Luttwak goes on to explain that in war, what works best in peace may be the worst choice; don't take the direct route or be predictable, for example. Don't presume that what works on paper will work in the field (reminiscent of Clausewitz, and Luttwak even uses his term, "friction"). Recognize that every victory comes at a high enough cost that an immediate subsequent defeat is possible. Sometimes the best tech is the lowest; every tech will meet a countertech and your super-advanced modern wonder might be undone by something cheap and off-the-shelf. It is possible to lose because of the costs of a successful defense. The greatest virtue of war is that, in destruction, it consumes the ability to continue it indefinitely (57). Negotiating ends to war might be worse than fighting to the bitter conclusion. Humanitarian assistance is anything but. On p67, Luttwak overlaps with Schelling's Arms and Influence, noting that nuclear weapons have removed optimism from war, so that balance doesn't have to be experienced to be accepted, at least in terms of nuclear capabilities. The game may be rigged for war (212) if both sides want peace but know that their pursuit of it would incentivize the other side to seek dominance. Overall, Luttwak is a realist in his own right, despite his digs at Waltz and systemic realists. He is a game theorist in his own right, too, but with an understanding of the irrationality of the game. Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace complements other classics (Junger's WWI reminscences as well as Schelling's own look at logic in the post-nuclear weapons/pre-ICBM era).
Profile Image for Anatoly Gladky.
102 reviews6 followers
December 12, 2018
Интересно о военном противостоянии стран. О том как «непобедимые» оружия устаревают после выхода. Всегда найдется противодействие. Советую.
481 reviews16 followers
August 6, 2018

An incredible tour de force that examines the paradoxical trade-offs of military campaigns. Victory is shown to contain the seeds of defeat and vice versa.

A variety of lessons learned are clearly presented and illustrated with historical examples in an understandable manner. His discussions on blitzkrieg, defensive depth, culmination points and guided vs unguided weaponry alone are worth the the price of admission. He discusses the pros and cons of using the element of surprise, the irrationality of over-expenditures on nuclear weapons, over-preparation, implementing new technologies, being over or under cautious.

Though a small part of the book, starting on pp61 he gives a scathing condemnation of NGOs. In spite of altruistic intentions they are unable to protect the weak and often provide cover for insurgents. He has nothing but scorn for UN "blue helmets" who are both under-trained and underpaid, have no incentive to risk their lives in order to fulfill their mission and who are often on the take to supplement their salaries. NGOs often wind up supporting the very conflict they oppose, as in Somalia, by purchasing protection from the local war bands.

He also criticizes relatively well paid and well supported NATO troops as being hampered by being both overly cautious and bureaucratic. He cites several examples in Bosnia where a fleet of expensive Apache helicopters brought in to deal with insurgents could not be deployed

Luttwak sees war as an exhaustive process that eventually comes to a conclusion - and that NGOs interfere with and cruelly prolong the suffering of war. The analogy would be keeping a dying person on life support and in pain for months and years on end. (I reluctantly concede that he is generally right, however in the limited cases such as the Sudan or Rwanda where the goal was physical genocide I still hold out for intervention, though Luttwak does suggest an alternate strategy. )

The middle section of the book deals with the technical, tactical and operational concerns of military strategy as they apply in offense, defense and in interaction with the political sphere. He categories air, naval, nuclear and space based warfare not as strategies but as dissimilar tools subject to the same considerations of strategy. Terrific insights throughout.

The last section deals with "Grand Strategy" wherein a military command integrates the different sub-strategies of its forces with the national and international goals that they serve. The author considers the use of the availability of force as a tool of persuasion, where it is effective, and where it is not.

Luttwak's reasoning is enlightening and worth listening to. The book is the equivalent of a full course in the subject of Strategy and should be of interest to both the military historian as well as anyone who has to realistically deal managing scarce time and resources One of the best non-fiction books I've ever read in a long long time!
Profile Image for Нестор.
490 reviews5 followers
August 17, 2022
Попытка семимерного осмысления войны. Как это, спросите вы? А я скажу вам, что это - смесь Гегеля, Маркса, Клаузевица и "Краткого курса истории ВКП (б)", хотя последний автор читал и несколько невнимательно.

А если серьезно, то это - очень важная книга для понимания событий 2022 года. Думаю, что я ещё несколько раз перечитаю эту книгу в ближайшие годы. Рекомендую ознакомиться и вам. Такого описания и понимания Второй мировой и других воен двадцатого века вы ещё не встречали.

Profile Image for Jeremy.
566 reviews11 followers
August 23, 2019
I'm not sure what I was expecting, just thought the author sounded like an interesting person and decided to check this out. It is quite densely written, but may be interesting to the person looking to learn more about this topic. One overarching theme is the paradox of war, that the best way to secure peace is to prepare for war.
Profile Image for Dmitry Zlokazov.
25 reviews2 followers
January 7, 2018
1. Memorable 3
2. Social Relevance 2
3. Informative 2
4. Originality 2
5. Thought Provoking 3
6. Expressiveness 1
7. Entertaining 1
8. Visualization 1
9. Sparks Emotion 1
10. Life changing 1

Total 17/10 = 1.7
29 reviews
May 5, 2020
Accessible for the amateur (me) but extremely dense and interesting.
Profile Image for Joseph Monaco.
14 reviews
July 26, 2020
Really enjoyed this one. I've seen a lot of the theory embedded here come alive during military operational-level planning.
Profile Image for Billy.
90 reviews11 followers
April 18, 2008
Luttwak defines strategy as “the conduct and consequences of human relations in the context of actual or possible armed conflict.” He maintains that strategy is unique in its paradoxical logic, a reality illustrated by the old axiom that if one desires peace, then one should prepare for war. This example of paradox is simply the first of many from a world history rich with conflict. Luttwak’s case studies are many and varied, almost to the point of distraction. In one telling example, Luttwak shows the paradoxes of economies of scale applied to military technology. Technological efficiency can be easily measured, helping decision makers pursue the most economical and effective weapons (the ratio of input to output). Yet the greater production possibilities for a given weapon leads to greater exposure for enemies who ultimately adapt, thereby undermining its effectiveness. Such is the “dynamic paradox and the resulting ironies of reversal at the technical and tactical levels” of conflict.
To Luttwak, conflict is inevitable. He dismisses the relatively recent field of scholarship known as “peace studies” and focuses on military conflicts much like an economist might look back on the booms and busts of markets. Because conflict is inevitable, peace is merely a precursor to future engagements. Luttwak notes that these factors are realities of human existence, but still historians should view each conflict as unique in its own right. He then offers advice on five distinct levels of strategy: technical, tactical, operational, theater strategy, and finally grand strategy. The first three levels are relatively small in scale, while the latter two levels are much broader in operational and planning scope. Together, they form a “definite hierarchy,” one that does not impose “a one-way transmission from top to bottom,” but instead a fluid process. Such definitions are laid out with precise examples in clearly divided chapters. These case studies and historical examples lend themselves to a quasi-social scientific framework reminiscent of Neustadt and May. Ironically, such studies fly in the face of Luttwak’s own advice that each conflict is unique.
Strategy’s date of publication, 1987, coincides with superpower nuclear tensions. To be sure, Luttwak thought about and engaged in the nuclear debates of the day. He notes that with regards to “nuclear weapons, the perceptual balance that was once achieved only in the midst of war, when its costs were experienced in the flesh, is now in effect before war begins.” True, but nonetheless he makes distinctions between nuclear conflict and more “traditional” forms of engagement. Utilizing May and Neustadt’s suggestion to think like a historian, Luttwak reveals that great powers can, do, and will continue to fight “conventionally,” avoiding the unacceptable use of nuclear weapons. Such suggestions speak to superpower tensions and show Luttwak’s implied caution regarding superior Soviet ground forces. The long term message: paradoxes of strategy hold true even for nuclear weaponry and can be applied to strategies of “deterrence.”
Policymakers should take heed of Luttwak’s case studies, many of which speak to the use of diplomacy as an extension of military might. For example, Luttwak’s case study of “Mahan’s Fallacy of Composition” notes that British Sea Power—while certainly formidable and a central component to Britain’s place in global politics—was only effectively utilized for so long because of an equally successful foreign policy that emphasized a European balance of power. Put simply, policymakers understood the role of foreign policy as an extension of military power. Such insights wash away the illusion of peaceful coexistence over the longue duree. These case studies also enforce Luttwak’s incipient argument that preparing for war ensures peace; it is only for how long peace will be maintained that policymakers cannot know. Unfortunately, it is doubtful that practitioners of strategy and warfare will keep Luttwak’s suggestions at the ready, especially during the heat of battle. Arguments for applicability aside, Strategy should at least give today’s military strategists something to think about when they are not fighting a battle.
Profile Image for Jonathon Dyer.
30 reviews6 followers
May 15, 2016
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz famously wrote, "War is the continuation of politics by other means." As pithy and understated as this may be, Clausewitz has been proven to be correct on this count time and again, even in as short a time as the first eighth of our current century. Mass conflict has always featured as a foundation-stone of the human endeavor, and an all too quick recourse when negotiation fails or offence is taken. Please don't misunderstand me. War is arguably the greatest tragedy of our species; it is the uniform event that diverse cultures use to punctuate their courses of history. I am no fan of war, but I am convinced that its study and comprehension is crucial if future conflicts are to be avoided, or at least curtailed or foreshortened.

Strategy: the Logic of War and Peace is the book for anyone who wants to understand the complexities of how war is prosecuted, and how easily advantage can turn to opportunity for the enemy. Luttwak's consideration if his subject it exhaustive. Strategy: the Logic of War and Peace is not an easy read. It is written in simple English, presented clearly enough for even this Arts graduate to understand. Every page, however, introduces a new concept or principle, building on those that have come previously. The book covers every conceivable aspect of making war in the abstract (illustrated with copious examples of successes and failures). Did I mention it was exhaustive?

I believe Strategy achieves what the author set out to do. It is a survey of how wars are won and lost, and Luttwak manages to draw essential lessons out of every example, all the while peppering the work with his own dry, Clauswitz-ian wit. It is a formidable work.

I read this because I'm something of a student of history and several respected voices have recommend it to me over the years. I'm glad I read it, but I think I would only recommend it to those who either have a working interest in the field or those with a lot of time on their hands. Prospective captains of industry should perhaps stick to Sun-Tzu.
Profile Image for Ferhat Culfaz.
227 reviews10 followers
August 11, 2016
Interesting book covering Grand strategy: strategic, tactical and operational aspects of War and for Peace. A bit too much technical detail of war and those sections should be skipped. Not as good as his first magnum opus, Coup d'etat. The first paragraph of the last chapter of this book on strategy some a up Grand Strategy nicely:

"My purpose has been to uncover the workings of the paradoxical logic in its five levels and two dimensions, offering a general theory of strategy in the process. Readers may find that it explains the twists and turns of history more persuasively and with fewer discrepancies than mere common sense, though of course the only real test of any theory is its ability to predict, given enough information. The one thing that no theory can do is to prescribe what should be done, for that depends on values and goals. I leave the derivation of rules of conduct, practical schemes of action, and complete grand strategies to those who have powers of decision in a specific time and place. Theory can only suggest how their decisions should be made: not by narrowing down complex realities to identify simpie choices and "best" answers for each separate problem, but rather by comprehending all five levels in both dimensions, to find solutions that achieve a tolerable harmony among them all. Then mere adequacy is enough to prevail, without need of superlative strengths or skills. The greatest captains of military history, from Alexander the Great to Napoleon and beyond, were all defeated by less famous enemies, just as the brilliant Rommel was defeated by the infinitely mediocre Montgomery."
32 reviews
April 3, 2016
Довольно интересная книга, но, на мой взгляд, слишком много теории и мало практических примеров. Умиляет попытка полемики переводчика/редактора с автором посредством примечаний. В принципе это более-менее нормально, если взять перевод Второй мировой войны Черчилля, то там будут примечания какого-то отечественного историка, которые иногда именно исправления неточностей, а иногда выглядят как попытки оправдать определённые поступки советского руковдства. Но в этой книге у выпускаещего состава, видимо, взыграли чувства, и они начали задавать вопросы автору касательно современного миропорядка и современной политики Китая. Это издание 2011 года, когда ещё не было ни Арабской, ни Крымской весны. Интересно, как многословны оказались бы переводчики и редакторы, будь книга написана позже и будь в ней сказано что-либо про Украину и нынешнее положение дел.
11 reviews
June 7, 2016
This book is essential for anyone interested in understanding warfare or conflicts. Luttwak presents as a central thesis that all war (and peace) is paradoxical. Paradox arises because the enemy is a living, thinking, acting person, dedicated to fouling your plans and making your goals and tactics irrelevant.

He highlights the necessity of trying to anticipate how your neighbors and opponents will react to new techniques, tactics, operations, etc. It is by far one of the best general introductions to the different levels of warfare: technical, tactical, operational, strategic, and diplomatic.

Luttwak takes the examination of strategy to a level not seen since Clausewitz, and much more readable.
Profile Image for Chris.
52 reviews9 followers
November 20, 2014
Edward Luttwak has an incredibly ability to rock the strategic Casbah. His Ph. D. dissertation started a unending debate on the nature of the Roman frontiers, Roman conceptions of foreign policy and Roman strategic planning that rages to this day. In this work he writes a compelling plucky little book on a number of strategic concepts and the nature of strategy overall. Clausewitz would blush in envy, although many of his ideas are a hyper complex version of some points made by Clausewitz. The book is an excellent read. This book is highly recommended.
19 reviews
June 15, 2011
Insightful book on how strategy uses its own paradoxical logic rather than normal linear logic. Strategic decisions must encompass five levels of analysis (Vertical Dimension: Technical -> Tactical -> Operational -> Theatre -> Grand) and then further examine the decisions at the horizontal grand strategy dimension (diplomacy, economics, intelligence, propaganda etc.)
81 reviews8 followers
August 1, 2012
Brilliant. It took Luttwak three pages to demolish the central argument of BH Liddell Hart's life thesis. I loved Liddell Hart. While I have enjoyed and benefited from other works of Luttwak, this Strategy shows both his comprehension of his field and his brilliance.
1 review
Want to read
August 1, 2012

표제/책임표시사항 戰略 : 戰爭과 평화의 論理 / Edward N. Luttwak 著 ; [국방대학원 역]
발행사항 [서울] : 國防大學院, 1993
형태사항 272p. ; 26cm
주기사항 원표제: Strategy : The logic of war and peace
참고문헌 : p.266-272
국립중앙도서관 원문정보 데이터베이스(database)로 구축됨
분류기호 한국십진분류법->392.3 듀이십진분류법->355.43
자료이용안내 원문정보는 디지털도서관 디지털열람실을 예약하신 후 이용
Profile Image for Dale.
66 reviews5 followers
February 4, 2016
This book assumed that the reader has extensive knowledge of the majority of the major conflicts in the 20th Century and their leaders. Without that knowledge, it's hard to follow the author's point.

Also, I'm pretty sure that the author doesn't know what the word "paradox" means.
Profile Image for Marguerite.
7 reviews5 followers
September 19, 2012
This is for my history class on Germany's response to its own wartime atrocities. Fun stuff!
46 reviews3 followers
January 17, 2015
В свете современных событий очень актуально
Profile Image for Sergey Derevtsov.
2 reviews3 followers
July 29, 2014
Отличная книга! Умеючи читая, можно спроецировать правила на все аспекты жизни.
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