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Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War
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Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  212 ratings  ·  20 reviews

• Why did the American-led coalition in Iraq fail to wage a classic counter-insurgency campaign for so long after the fall of Baghdad?
• Why was the sophisticated Israeli intelligence service so thoroughly surprised by the onslaught of combined Arab armies during the Yom Kippur War of 1973?
• How did a dozen German U-boats manage to humiliate the
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 5th 2006 by Free Press (first published 1990)
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Oct 25, 2010 rated it liked it
An impulse buy from the bookgrocer when they were having a sale.

An interesting read and at the price( $4 ) good value.

Attempts to look at why certain military operations fail and looks at one example for each of their types of failures. The choice of examples was personally interesting as they covered several of my minor interests ie Yom Kippur, Korea, France 40 and Gallipoli and I will probably add a couple of their referances to my reading list.

There are no real surprise in the book if you kn
Dec 19, 2012 rated it liked it
A solid look at some of the larger operational failures beginning with Gallipoli. As one reviewer noted, there is nothing really ground breaking for those who are familiar with the events discussed. The value of this work lies in the fact that the authors succinctly outline, in one place, why these failures happened, and what should have been the take aways for each side. It was an easy read, and quite fascinating.
Jun 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Some decent case studies and great food for thought. Sadly, Cohen does his normal shtick--tells good history but has to bend over backward to show how it supports his reductionist theory. I would not hesitate to use the book as a jumping-off point for broader discussions of the historical case studies that Cohen examines in the book.
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have to admit that due to the cover (my copy is different than this one) that I expected something different. However, as a retired Canadian Army officer and student of military history, I was more than happy to read the examination that Cohen and Gooch provided of five particularly spectacular failures in military history: Pearl Harbor (though not one of the big five examined more thoroughly) the American Anti-Submarine Warfare efforts in 1942, Israeli Defence Forces during the opening days o ...more
David Watts
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Good book that analyzes why misfortunes happen in war: Gallipoli, the French surrender at the beginning of WW2, beginning of the Yom Kippur War, anti submarine war fare off the US coast in 1942 and Chinas entry into the Korean War. Looks at each as a failure to learn, to anticipate and adapt.
Dedmanshootn dedmanshootn
Nov 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
definitely worth the read
Petr Toman
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was ok
Neexistují špatní vojáci, jen špatní důstojníci. Kniha rozebírá největší chyby a důvody porážek válek a konfliktů v 20. století.
Nov 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
A fine analytic methodology presented to show how to understand complex failure in war time is presented with case studies of Pearl Harbor, Korea, France 1940, the Yom Kippur War. The heart of their method is the development of a matrix show the hierarchy of organizations involved from the civilian heads of state down to the field units cross referenced with the multiple functions involved in the failure that led to catastrophe. They try to highlight how failures at one level can impact failures ...more
Mannix Nyiam ii
Nov 29, 2016 rated it liked it
As the authors noted, military organisations are built on a strict hierarchy of rank and authority. Consequently, there is a natural proclivity to focus on the effectiveness of generals when analysing military misfortunes. While acknowledging that good generals make a huge difference (e.g MB Ridgway in Korea, 1951), the authors provide an analytical construct to assess the causes of military debacles. They categorise the causes of such under 'failure to learn', 'failure to anticipate' and 'failu ...more
Elwin Kline
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military
This was a recommended read for a college course I took back in 2015 combining military history and psychology, the class was titled "Principles of War." I really enjoyed the course and learned a lot.

This was before the age of everything being on .pdf (at least for online college classes) and being a good student and wanting to really dive into my class with the best intentions, I purchased all the supplemental readings that went along with the course.

Hands down, this was #1 of batch. Being 12
Riley Haas
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
"It's difficult to understand how anyone can sit back and not worry about the huge numbers of deaths covered in these battles. When I was a kid, I was all in to military history and I didn't care. Now I feel differently.
That being said, their approach makes sense, not just for militaries, but for any organization. They make some very valid points, from an analytical perspective (excusing that they are talking about battles). For me the value is in their approach, not in the subject matter."
Nov 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended for the military history buff who not only wants to know what happened by why. This was a detailed examination of various pivotal battles in the 20th Century. I would recommend this book for those who already have a good military history knowledge as the authors can get a little technical at times. This is definitely a good I can see military leaders putting on a required reading list.
Gil Burket
Nov 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: military-history
The book is intended to be an academic study of the structural failures of military organizations through history.

Frankly, I thought the academic portions were overblown and self serving.

As far as the case studies, such as the initial US defeat in Korea, these are excellent and descriptive.

An excellent read for a military professional.
Sep 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are interested in military history--and I am--this is an excellent study of failure in war, and it's causes. The authors stress the importance of organizational and systemic failures, rather than just the failure of leadership. ...more
Stuart Moss
Dec 31, 2016 rated it liked it
This book would have been great before 9/11 but with the constantly changing battlefield since that awful day, it is hard to apply some of the lessons Cohen is trying to present. I did learn from this book and suggest it to all who are interested.

Stuart Moss
Oct 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military-science
This is a book about the huge mistakes that military leaders and militaries have made in great wars. It is an analysis with flow charts and trade trees. It includes failures like how the US misjudged and mishandled the Uboat war off the American eEast Coast in 1942.
Bill V
Jul 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This a very dry book, written mostly for people who are into political and military structure and organization. The role of intelligence is explained in considerable detail and what it's supposed to do and not do.
There is quite a bit of sloppy editing and misspelling.
Jan 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Analysis of failure from an organizational viewpoint. Not bad.
Oct 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
An analysis of modern day military losses.
Aug 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
So far so good. Making me remember lots of other books about war. I'll have to write a review when I'm done to fix it all in my mind. ...more
Jesper Jorgensen
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Nov 22, 2012
Andrew Schneider
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Shevon Mackey
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Everly Reynolds
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Feb 11, 2013
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I am an academic who has been fortunate in many ways - beginning with my family, but to include teaching at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, the country's leading school of international relations; serving in government, most recently as Counselor of the Department of State from 2007 to 2009; and having the freedom to move from political science, my original dis ...more

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“Since 1870 a commander has seldom if ever been able to survey a whole battlefield from a single spot; and in any case he has had little opportunity—although sometimes a considerable inclination—to try. For the modern commander is much more akin to the managing director of a large conglomerate enterprise than ever he is to the warrior chief of old. He has become the head of a complex military organization, whose many branches he must oversee and on whose cooperation, assistance, and support he depends for his success. As the size and complexity of military forces have increased, the business of war has developed an organizational dimension that can make a mighty contribution to triumph—or to tragedy. Hitherto, the role of this organizational dimension of war in explaining military performance has been strangely neglected. We shall return to it later—indeed, it will form one of the major themes of this book. For now we simply need to note its looming presence.” 0 likes
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