Top positive review
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Engrossing, Thoughtful, Right On the Money
on July 31, 2000
The late Carl Builder researched and wrote this Rand Corporation study in the late 1980s. Its findings on military culture in the different services are as valid today as they were before the end of the Cold War ... perhaps more so.
To understand the behavior of the military services, which sometimes seems contradictory, it is necessary to delve into their cultural make up. Builder does this with clarity and insight based on years of intimate involvement as a defense analyst. The Air Force, for example, is the embodiment of a single idea, one that also happens to be a strategy of war. It is not love of the Air Force but love of flight and flying machines that is the common bond of its members.
The Navy, writes Builder, "jealously guards its independence and is happiest when left alone." It is perhaps the closest thing we have to a state within a state. The Army, on the other hand, is schizophrenic, viewing itself on the one hand as the loyal servant of the nation, but on the other hand the "heady memories of triumph in the closing months of World War II contradict this modest role."
We are left to ponder how conditions in the post-Cold War era, and particularly with the advance of technology, will affect these cultural outlooks and service behavior. Will the Air Force ever accept a pilotless cockpit in one of its planes? Will the Navy, drawn closer to the littorals and within global reach of communications, surrender some of its cherished independence? Will the stunning success of ground forces in Operation Desert Storm supplant the glow of victory in World War II for the schizophrenic Army?
"The Masks of War" is a terrific study and a great read. But it does leave some questions begging for answers. Builder does not explore the culture of the Marine Corps, which comes under the Navy Department. Nor does Builder address the distinct cultures of the reserve components, particularly Army National Guard and the Air National Guard.
This is a great book for the beginning defense analyst and the old pro alike.