A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918

Author G.J. Meyer does a superb job in this history of the Great War.  Meyer focuses primarily at the national-level leadership, along with top level military commanders.  Meyer doesn’t spend much time discussing the horror of trench warfare, so you may be disappointed if you are looking for soldier stories that show “what it was like.”  However, this book is unbeatable when it comes to examining the political-military interplay at the strategic levels, and is therefore highly recommended for anyone wanting to look at the Great War from a political/strategic perspective.

Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd (Strategy and History)

There are a few books out there on the brilliant Col. John Boyd, but none is as comprehensive when it comes to Boyd’s ideas as Science, Strategy, and War.  Col. Frans P.B. Osinga of the Netherlands Air Force delves deeps into Boyd’s ideas.  Boyd never wrote a book; the body of his work exists now only in the slides he used to brief, as well as in the minds of those who were close to him and heard him brief.  Here, Osinga writes the book that Boyd might have.  To help you understand how Boyd synthesized his ideas, Osinga spends a good deal of time detailing what he calls the “scientific zeitgiest,” or the “spirit of the times” as the context in which Boyd operated.  Like Carl von Clausewitz, Boyd was entranced with the cutting edge of science.  While Newtonian physics and evolutionary biology influenced Clausewitz, for Boyd it was quantum physics and thermodynamics, among many other disciplines.  This book is a must for anyone interested in Boyd’s ideas. I only made it through a few chapters of Blackhearts: One Platoon’s Descent into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death by Jim Frederick before I was compelled to write a post on the toxic leadershipof this story’s battalion commander.  Now, I will finish by telling the rest of the story.

Bottom line up front:  Every single leader in the Army should be required to read this book.It is a study in bad leadership.  If the old adage is true that we learn more in defeat than in victory, then certainly this book has more to teach us than all the war hero books we can buy.

Blackhearts tells the story of 1st Platoon, B Company, 1-502nd Infantry Battalion of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. In the middle of what can only be described as a horrific tour in the most dangerous area of Iraq (at that time), four members of this unit left their post on March 12, 2006, barged into a local Iraqi house, raped their 14-year-old daughter, then executed the entire family.

Read my complete review of this book here.

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t
I’ve devoted considerable time on The Iron Dice to toxic leadership.  This book deals specifically with that subject, although calling it by its less academic, but perhaps more appropriate name.  Assholes are toxic leaders.  This book talks about how to deal with toxic leaders, and even asks the reader to do some self-reflection to determine if perhaps the reader has some toxic tendencies.
Clausewitz: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) is considered by many to have been one of the greatest writers on war. His study On War was described by the American strategic thinker Bernard Brodie as “not simply the greatest, but the only great book about war.” It is hard to disagree. Even though he wrote his only major work at a time when the range of firearms was fifty yards, much of what he had to say remains relevant today. Michael Howard explains Clausewitz’s ideas in terms both of his experiences as a professional soldier in the Napoleonic Wars, and of the intellectual background of his time.
The Art of War (Smithsonian History of Warfare): War and Military Thought
The art of making war is among humankind’s earliest professions, stretching far back before the written word, when heroic deeds in battles were carved on stone or recited through poem or song.In this sweeping, lucid history, Martin van Creveldexplores military thought and strategy, from the earliest Chinese military thinkers to 20th-century perspectives on terrorism. This incredibly comprehensive book provides the reader with a gripping narrative of how war has been waged in ages past and a glimpse of what war may come to look like in the future.

  • Military theories from Chinese thinker Sun Tzu to experts on guerrilla warfare and the terrorism of today
  • Strategies of the Greeks and Romans as they worked to raise armies, discipline them, arm them, and provide them with the means for victory
  • The work of military geniuses Adam von Buelow, Antoine Henri Jomini, and Karl von Clausewitz, theorists who devised strategies still in use today
  • Modern armored air, naval, and nuclear warfare — how technology has changed the face of battle
Many Civil War buffs have called the battle of Chancellorsville Robert E. Lee‘s greatest victory; Stephen W. Sears doesn’t necessarily agree, and in this painstakingly researched book, he offers ample evidence that Lee had luck on his side in the battle. Lee was a great general all right, and his men did fight savagely. But the notion that Union General Joseph Hooker was inept is cast into doubt by Sears, who describes the action of Chancellorsville as most great battle books do–hour by hour. This book is the finest rendition of the battle yet and an interesting thesis for Civil War discussion. Lee’s penchant for aggressiveness and his faith in his troops as unbeatable may have worked at Chancellorsville, but Sears argues that these alone couldn’t win the war. Lee learned this lesson too, a month later at Gettysburg.
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