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Margin of Victory: Five Battles that Changed the Face of Modern War Hardcover – June 15, 2016
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�Douglas Macgregor�s latest book combines masterful campaign studies and thoughtful analysis of their long-term implications for today�s military establishments.� � The Journal of Military History
�The challenge is for a nation�s military system to successfully adapt to changes in warfare. Although seemingly disparate, these battles are linked together with a logical theme, which makes for an informative and thought-provoking work.� � Military Heritage
�Macgregor makes many profound recommendations based on significant historical evidence. This is a must-read for strategic leaders seeking ideas on military reform. In what I have read about future strategy and the defense innovation (including the Third Offset), few to none of Macgregor�s proposals are being considered. The focus is on technology improvements�mostly in regard to ISR and autonomous systems�and not the fundamental changes Macgregor champions. They deserve serious consideration.� � Joint Force Quarterly
�In Margin of Victory, Macgregor includes the Battle of Mons in 1914, the Battle of Shanghai in 1937, The Red Army�s destruction of Germany�s Army Group Center in 1944, the Israeli Defense Force�s counter-attack across the Suez Canal in 1973, and the Battle of �73 Easting in 1991. The reason for the selection of these battles is that each shows the imbalance between victor and vanquished had roots in the reforms that the victorious side enacted well before the war began. Macgregor wants the U.S. to begin a serious study of what it lacks in dealing with 21st century war in order to avoid finding out too late that its solutions are not adequate to provide victory.� � U.S. Military History Review
�What does it take to win a war? West Pointer, combat leader, and renowned military thinker Douglas Macgregor answers that question in this engaging look at five major battles during the last century of combat: Mons 1914, Shanghai 1937, Belorussia 1944, Suez 1973, and Iraq 1991. You may not yet know much about these great clashes, but when you read this book, you will. More than that, you�ll know just what it takes to fight and win.��Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, USA (Ret.), author of Why We Lost: A General�s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars
"Margin of Victory is an extraordinarily informed and informative study that is unreservedly recommended for personal, community and academic library Military History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.��Midwest Book Review
�Margin of Victory is a worthy read with several well-considered recommendations that will prompt critical thinking and debate among senior military leaders and others in the defense community about how we fight�and what it might take to win the next war.��Parameters
�Macgregor offers guidance for future conflicts, stressing the importance of strategy and geopolitics over ideology if nations are to effectively fight and win future battles.��Military History
�Douglas Macgregor�s superb analysis points to a wholesale restructuring of the American military�a general staff and cadre of officers with lifetime expertise in such issues as cyber warfare or distinct third-world regions and cultures, not cookie cutter products trained to fill slots to refight World War II.��Jon Basil Utley, publisher, The American Conservative
�All told, however, Macgregor has written another powerful critique of the American way of planning and developing strategy for war. His lesson for policy makers and strategists alike is that 'whenever new military concepts and technologies appear, the complex interaction of national culture, bureaucratic interests, and economic power does not automatically work to support them. . . .[W]hen conditions change and the margin of victory suddenly narrows, frailties and vulnerabilities concealed from view inside the armed forces . . . suddenly produce catastrophic failure.' He asserts that Washington needs to focus on its long-standing and still primary strategic concern, namely, prevention of a hostile power from dominating the Eurasian lands. He argues that the American military must increase its force levels, notably those of the Army. And he advocates for the creation of what he terms a 'national defense staff' (in other words, a general staff) 'to guide the application of American military power,' encompassing integrated capabilities across service lines.��Naval War College Review
�Macgregor opines that the United States has foolishly taken on the role of �global policeman,� and that in the modern environment the resources for an American margin of victory are �thinner than ever.� Faulty decisions by policy makers, organizing for the last war instead of the next, and failing to heed changes in technology are all pitfalls that can lessen the margin of victory. The case studies presented here have been carefully researched, are well written and expertly analyzed. Whether or not they support Macgregor�s thesis of current shortsighted American defense policy is left to the reader�s judgment.��Journal of America�s Military Past
�Douglas Macgregor has a brave tank commander's perspective on modern warfare and a restless refusal to accept the status quo when soldiers must pay for their officers' lack of higher critical thinking or preparation for combat. By revisiting five major battles of the past hundred years he shows in moving detail how a mixture of foresight and failure to plan ahead impacted the fates not only of soldiers' lives, but of whole nations. A salutary�and wonderfully readable�lesson for us all today.��Nigel Hamilton, author of The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941‒1942
�Margin of Victory is highly scholarly study of five battles that changed the way future wars would be fought. It gives deep insight into the changing face of modern war. Douglas Macgregor powerfully argues the United States should give attention to reshaping its war strategies, organization, structure, technology, and leadership to avoid any defeat in the future. It will equally benefit students and experts of war, as well as those who actually fight.��The Washington Book Review
�Margin of Victory is a superbly original and readable book. In brilliant accounts of five exemplary twentieth-century battles, Col. Douglas Macgregor shows how shaping armies and their doctrines to meet the challenges of past rather than future warfare produces defeat and how organizing and equipping forces for the future can bring victory. Margin of Victory will be given close attention by America�s competitors overseas. Those responsible for organizing and directing the adaptation of the U.S. military to emerging realities need to give it equal attention.��Ambassador Chas W. Freeman Jr., United States Foreign Service (Ret.), former Assistant Secretary of Defense, U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield and Desert Storm
�It is a measure of Douglas Macgregor's power as an analyst, historian, and writer that even readers who differ with some of his conclusions will enjoy and learn from his argument. This is the rare book on military policy that is both interesting and important.��James Fallows, correspondent for The Atlantic and author of Blind Into Baghdad: America�s War in Iraq
�Douglas Macgregor, one of our finest military visionaries and reformers, has written a stirring account of five battles of twentieth-century warfare of great historical importance. Margin of Victory compellingly illustrates the need for nations to understand and apply both strategy and geopolitics before engaging in military action in this new age, where the guiding principles have changed dramatically.��Carlo D�Este, author of Patton: A Genius for War
About the Author
Col. Douglas Macgregor USA (Ret.) is a decorated combat veteran with a PhD in international relations from the University of Virginia. He is the author of five books and is the executive vice president of Burke-Macgregor Group LLC, a defense and foreign policy consulting firm in Northern Virginia.
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In sailboat racing the race is often won or lost before the boat ever hits the water. If the hull is not perfectly formed; perfectly painted; and perfectly clean before it gears up, then the boat starts with an automatic embedded penalty factor – it goes slower. What the author has done with this book is demonstrate that wars are won or lost 10-20 years before they are fought, based on whether the nation-state devises an effective grand strategy and properly develops a balanced approach to organization, technology and human capital, with human capital being most important.
This book is an historically-based indictment of the political and economic mismanagement of national security, and it is particularly brutal on the fact that we do not have a Department of Defense with a national defense staff that is able to achieve unity of command in relation to strategy, operations, tactics, and technology – instead we have four separate services – very selfish services – who work with military-industrial-political partners to loot the public treasury to their own ends, producing a military with too many flag officers, outdated or dysfunctional equipment (the F-35 and the USS Gerald Ford come to mind, and impoverished neglected and often abused enlisted personnel and company grade officers.
Across five world-changing battles, apart from the documentation of how the battles were decided decades in advance, the author has done superb research into the minds of the commanders on both sides of each of these five battles, and their perceptions of higher, adjacent, and enemy commanders and units.
The author is compelling in showing how each of five major battles were virtually inevitable in their outcome because of positive or negative decisions made decades before by specific sets of actors in the UK (1914), Japan (1937), Germany (1944), Egypt and Israel (1973), and the US (1991.He is compelling in his criticism of the present US obsession with spending trillions on technology while neglecting human capital and persisting with dysfunctional criminally corrupt organization (my adjectives, not his). I will throw in here General Bob Scales, USA (Ret) documented observation that the infantry, 4% of the force taking 80% of the casualties, gets 1% of the Pentagon budget – a budget that consumes 60% of our FY 2015 disposable income, 16% of our total income, while we spend more than the next ten peer and non-peer competitors (from China and Russia to Iran and Turkey) and create a military that cannot win wars.
This leads to the other major strategic points in this book. First, grand strategy is about waging peace and avoiding war, but it demands a military that can move and win the first fight. Second, the occupations and military investments we have been making have domestic opportunity costs (imagine what 5 trillion would have bought if invested in free education, infrastructure, renewable energy, and community-building at home, instead of in the military-industrial complex and the destruction of other countries).
I have a number of margin notes; just a few are provided here.
+ The military cannot reform itself. Senator John McCain receives praise from the author as does his House counterpart, they know we are broken, but there are not enough people like the author (and I would add, me) who are being drawn on to create a new National Security Act that goes beyond Goldwater Nichols to break the backs of the service crime families and create a coherent whole within which the services are capabilities providers, not mandarins who will lie, cheat, and steal to their own ends. [See the Army monograph, Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession – I will say that in my own experience I have found the Navy and the Air Force to be vastly more unethical than the Army – witness the F-35 and the USS Gerald Ford.]
+ The first thing that breaks in war is communications – already broken going into war are timid unimaginative flag officers. The author emphasizes over and over again that the culture and education and initiative of the enlisted personnel and company grade officers are the root of enabling victory, on top of prior organization and prior intelligent investment in balanced technology that can be relied upon to work.
+ Air power is vastly over-rated. A 40-day air campaign in the area where the battle of 73 Easting took place killed 2 tanks at very great cost in time and munitions; in sharp contrast – and the sub-text of this entire book, a handful of US tanks killed fifteen T-72 tanks in three minutes and in the course of a few hours, a total of over 70 enemy tanks, 70 armored fighting vehicles, 44 trucks, and 32 bunkers (all of which the US Air Force failed to hit).
+ Naval power is vastly over-rated given the proliferation of access denial technologies and the incompetence of the US Navy in mine clearance. With pervasive surveillance and existing technologies, the US Navy can be sunk by mid-level opponents, not only peer challengers.
+ The Israelis and the Americans are making a huge mistake in over-investing in the Air Force and cyber-offensive capabilities, while neglecting everything else but particularly armored ground forces and human capabilities development. He does credit the Israelis with having a vastly better culture that fosters initiative across both enlisted and officer ranks.
+ We should close all our bases overseas and tear down our pre-positioned equipment stocks on land and sea, and instead focus on a very large standing Army at home that can test new organizations and technologies, scale quickly, and be delivered quickly. I have to agree, having written a grand strategy monograph for the US Army that recommended precisely the same approach.
+ Most if not all of our “lessons learned” from Afghanistan and Iraq are fraudulent. The flag officers and the senior executives in the Department of Defense do not want to admit the depth and breadth of their failure and their inability to win wars against peer competitors as well as entrenched indigenous rebels.
+ The US does not understand history, with references made to both China and Iran, each of which is actually engaged in a defensive campaign, not an offensive campaign.
+ We are not ready to assert our power in the four global commons (the high seas, the atmosphere, Antarctica, and outer space.
The author concludes with a few sensible prescriptions that must be demanded by the public and Congress, they will never be considered by the entrenched service mafias:
01 We need a grand strategy that rebalances the instruments of national power and forces unity of command within the military; it must be complemented by a national military strategy that stops all of our elective occupations and campaigns that are creating terrorists and displaced persons. [See my CounterPunch article, “The National Military Strategy: Dishonest Platitudes”.]
02 We must reinvent our entire C4ISR constellation to protect against the collapse of our satellites while providing the protected and robust tactical and operational bandwidth that does not exist today (to which I would add, an end to our self-imposed emissions quagmire).
03 The ground force must be air-mobile as General Eric Shinseki envisioned, but it must be built around air-transportable armor surrounded by everything else in armored mobility form including artillery, engineers, infantry, and able – with a proper Air Force and Navy – to enter any target area from all sides, not simply through one obvious and easily closed down port and airfield. I totally agree with the author on the urgency of redirecting the Air Force toward proper attention to strategic lift.
04 We need a national defense staff of “purple” professionals who will not lie, cheat, and steal for their services but will instead see and nurture the whole. We need joint force commanders that own all service elements assigned to them and do not have to “negotiate” with each individual service commander when they want something specific.
There is much more in this book, the above summary notes are how I will remember this book into the future. There is no question in my own mind but that the US military is committing moral and intellectual suicide by failing to embrace the ideas of this author and others like him, we few, we happy few who really do believe that the truth at any cost wins wars and wage peace. The ultimate warrior is the one who stops wars from starting in the first place – that is not what the military-industrial complex, its bankers, and its corrupt political servants want. To his enormous credit, Senator John McCain seems to be focused on hearings and legislation that might become his greatest legacy – a functional integrated cost-effective military that is not frittered away occupying countries to steal their resources while displacing millions of refugees that inevitably migrate toward the West.
Other books that complement this book:
935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Moral Integrity
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025
The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government
Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II--Updated Through 2003
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace, Revised and Enlarged Edition
Defense Facts of Life: The Plans/Reality Mismatch
Grand Theft Pentagon :Tales of Corruption and Profiteering in the War on Terror
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
Best wishes to all,
Robert David Steele
An American Grand Strategy: Evidence-Based, Affordable, Balanced, Flexible
There are other books that examine this but typically examine failure to learn the right lessons after a war. Still other works focus narrowly on technical innovations in weaponry, organization, and/or tactical concepts resulting from lessons learned.
What is different about MARGIN OF VICTORY is its focus on how some institutions did not extrapolate contemporary trends to characterize future national security environments, but came up with new kinds of forecasts breaking with conventional wisdom. Indeed, these militaries were able to envision far more accurately what types of conflicts they would be fighting in the future, rather than merely mirror the kinds of wars they had fought in the recent past. Macgregor’s case studies are intended as exceptions to the well-worn notion that nations always prepare for the next war or campaign as if they were fighting the last one.
While military history buffs will appreciate the author's perspective as an accomplished combat leader in describing these battles in the first five chapters, this book is meant to inform senior defense policymakers, military officers, and defense reform advocates who are seriously concerned about American national military strategy. Macgregor enjoys a well-established track record for creative thinking, conditioned by a soldier’s sense; he does not disappoint in his concluding chapter, spelling out what needs to be done to prepare the United States for the next war.
This is a timely book as the U.S. Defense Department grapples with the dilemma of configuring the military to fight wars of choice against much less capable adversaries (Iraq and Afghanistan), or prioritizing development to win against near-peer competitors if (or when) war is forced upon the United States.
Macgregor has fired a heavy salvo in the ongoing debate on the future size, shape, organization, and characteristics of the U.S. military. Those with an interest in how history should or should not influence national strategy formulation or who are simply curious about alternative views on defense reform will find MARGIN OF VICTORY a provocative and satisfying read.
Read this book for the real story of the Battle of 73 Easting, if nothing else.