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The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of Us Warfare Hardcover – June 1, 2003

3.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A leading U. S. military analyst offers a timely and useful survey of the history of special operations. Dunnigan (How to Make War; The Next War Zone; etc.) claims a history for commando missions going back to Neolithic hunting parties, and names the famous raid on Troy, in which Greek soldiers hid themselves inside a wooden horse, a "classic commando operation." His relatively speedy discussion of elite forces in the centuries leading up to the Second World War is somewhat uneven, as he tends to claim every small, highly-skilled category of soldiers (such as the English longbowmen and the German Stosstruppen-storm troops-of WWI) as part of the Spec Ops lineage. When he gets to the WWII ("a Golden Age for commandos") and after, however, he provides a valuable roster of major special operations forces (including Soviet Spetsnaz and British SAS). Joining this are fine and comprehensible narratives of their roles in Vietnam, Afghanistan, the Falklands, the first Gulf War and most recently the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Throughout the book, he also weaves in analysis of the influence of early elite forces on the development of their more numerous contemporaries. This is perhaps not an indispensable history, but it is certainly a valuable one.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Citadel; First Edition edition (June 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806524154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806524153
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,762,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Collins on March 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Dunnigan's book is certainly timely. Special Operations Forces (SOF) from all US services (USCG included), and allies have been making headlines in Afghanistan and Iraq for almost two years. The "Quiet Professionals", contrary to US Media propaganda, generally eschew ANY sort of public attention. For the reader with an interest, and little background, in Special Operations then, finding surveys/histories is problematic. After giving a history of special operations forces and their derivation, the author shows how some of the selection methods are applied to many first-world nation's volunteer forces; thus making them also "perfect soldiers" into the 21st Century. His best work is the short history of warfare, where "warrior cultures" are bested by military professionals (US military bureaucrats spouting about "warrior ethos" take note). His descriptions of operations in Vietnam, the Gulf I/II and Afghanistan are quite good as well. The "reservations" I refer to above have to do with some of his linkage and conclusions. While it's probably fair to link the fieldcraft of neolithic hunting parties with that of SOF (John Keegan's belief is that the arduous selection and training is designed to reinstill those skills that our ancestors grew up practicing.), it's going too far to consider them "commando/SOF" units in any sense. WW1 Stosstruppen were simply line-infantry given some retraining in tactics and new weapons, no special selection or skills in operating behind enemy lines was given or expected. Also, the author gets some details wrong, details that could've easily been corrected had the manuscript been reviewed by someone with SOF experience-but this is minor.
Overall,some good information, but some stretching of history to fit his thesis, keeps me from recommending this book completely.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book gives a decent overview of 'Special' or 'Elite' forces, and their role in modern day warfare and counter-terrorism; all very interesting and timely. However, I found the contents amateurly structured and VERY repetitive. At times I thought I had accidentally lost my place and was re-reading whole chapters. With each new heading, much of the same information was reiterated, without actually casting much new light on the topic. There are also a few redundant instances of numbers being thrown around for the sake of sounding 'scientific'.
Also, if I'm paying good money for a hardcover book, I expect someone to have done more than a cursory MS Word spellcheck, like maybe proofread it before it goes to print...
Other reviewers have also noted some factual errors, and I noticed some topics the writer dismissed as "murky" (especially if casting Special Forces in a negative light), and declined to comment further. I found this odd, since some of these topics are well-known to anyone with any interest in the post-Viet Nam military and a matter of public record.
In short, this book would have benefitted from a good editor.
If you're new to the topic, you could do worse, but I would recommend Tom Clancy's Special Forces for information, and Robin Moore's The Hunt for Bin Laden and Charles Beckwith's memoirs concerning Delta Force for both information AND a good read.
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Format: Hardcover
When I first read the title of this book I thought it was a little hocky but I figured I would get past it and just enjoy the book. As I started reading it did not take long to realize that this book was not going to be an intellectually challenging read. As a matter of fact several times I just wanted to ditch it.

First of all the book is written like it was intended for a high school age audience. There is very little in depth examination of how Special Operations Forces (SOF) came to be. There are plenty of references to various historical and political events but not much beyond saying "this happened".

Dunnigan attempted to organize the various chapters by some sort of connection but often it fails and there is no orderly flow to the reading. He skips forward and back in time way too much which made reading difficult sometimes in trying to figure out where he was going with the chapter.

There is repetition throughout the book. You will read about some event and then a few pages later read about it again in only the slightest context change. Cut out the repetition and you could easily shave off 25 pages.

He casts World War II as the Golden Age of Commandos as where it all began as we know SOF to be today but then goes on to not mention the 1942 raid at Dieppe which showed what commandos could not do (massively scaled operations), barely mentions the German glider attack on Eben Emael in which a platoon of basically commando trained German engineers took out an "impregnable" Belgian fortress and last but not least completely fails to mention Otto Skorzeny's rescue of Mussolini.

At every given chance he gushes over US Marine Corps as being just one big special operations organization.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
AWFUL.Read about 50 pages, then skipped a few pages to see if it got any better and it didn't. Ended up just calling it done and throw it away and ended the pain. I'm sure I didn't pay much for the book, I am a little cheap, but I would say you wouldn't get your money's worth if you got this book for free.
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