How Wars Are Won: The 13 Rules of War from Ancient Greece to the War on Terror

How Wars Are Won: The 13 Rules of War from Ancient Greece to the War on Terror

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by Bevin Alexander
     
 

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Even as we head into twenty-first-century warfare, thirteen time-tested rules for waging war remain relevant.

Both timely and timeless, How Wars Are Won illuminates the thirteen essential rules for success on the battlefield that have evolved from ancient times until the present day. Acclaimed military historian Bevin Alexander’s incisive and vividSee more details below

Overview

Even as we head into twenty-first-century warfare, thirteen time-tested rules for waging war remain relevant.

Both timely and timeless, How Wars Are Won illuminates the thirteen essential rules for success on the battlefield that have evolved from ancient times until the present day. Acclaimed military historian Bevin Alexander’s incisive and vivid analyses of famous battles throughout the ages show how the greatest commanders—from Alexander the Great to Douglas MacArthur—have applied these rules. For example:

• Feign retreat: Pretend defeat, fake a retreat, then ambush the enemy while being pursued. Used to devastating effect by the North Vietnamese against U.S. forces during the Vietnam War.
• Strike at enemy weakness: Avoid the enemy’s strength entirely by refusing to fight pitched battles, a method that has run alongside conventional war from the earliest days of human conflict. Brilliantly applied by Mao Zedong to defeat the Chinese Nationalists.
• Defend, then attack: Gain possession of a superior weapon or tactical system, induce the enemy to launch a fruitless attack, then go on the offensive. Employed repeatedly against the Goths by the Eastern Roman general Belisarius to reclaim vast stretches of the Roman Empire.

The lessons of history revealed in these pages can be used to shape the strategies needed to win the conflicts of today.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This is a book whose argument would be more effective had the author not apparently refocused his manuscript after September 11. Alexander, a journalist and writer of general audience works on military subjects, challenges the relevance and effectiveness of the "Western way of war" as articulated by, among others, Victor Davis Hanson and John Keegan. That model emphasizes intense, direct conflict focused on decisive battles whose outcomes are determined by relative loss rates. Alexander's "13 rules," in contrast, emphasize indirection: striking at weak spots, employing deception, paralyzing systems as opposed to killing men. Though the research bases of Alexander's case studies are uniformly thin, he does not seriously abuse his evidence. Most of the battles he cites in demonstration of a particular "rule" more or less support the argument. Cannae, for example, is an appropriate example of a battle of encirclement. Yet Alexander (How Hitler Could Have Won World War II) also seeks to connect his "rules of war" directly to the contemporary "war on terror." In this case, the drastic asymmetries between the adversaries make the relationships to historic battles fought by more similar forces difficult to establish. Alexander usually winds up postulating a connection rather than demonstrating it. The link, for example, between operational-level "cauldron battles" like those fought in Russia in 1941, and the tactics employed by the U.S. in Afghanistan against the Taliban, is at best tenuous, if not entirely inferential. Alexander's case should not be dismissed, but is best approached with intellectual caution. As the U.S. prepares for war, look for interest in this title to be high. (On sale Oct. 29) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Using the works of Sun Tzu as a framework, Alexander has formulated 13 rules by which wars are won: striking at enemy weakness, feigning retreat, striking at a weak spot, etc. He devotes a chapter to each rule, describing famous battles that serve as examples of his rules in action, and then concludes each chapter with a post-9/11 implication as to the rule's application to the future of warfare. Some of Alexander's works, such as Lost Victories and How the Great Generals Win, show much original insight; others, like The Future of Warfare and How Hitler Could Have Won World War II, are not exceptional. The present work could be seen as a sequel to How the Great Generals Win, as it describes many of the same battles, and, logically, the great generals (from Napoeon and Genghis Khan to U.S. Grant and Erwin Rommel) utilized many of these principles for victory. His implications for the future are not especially thought-provoking, but this book can still serve as an excellent introduction to his work. Alexander's writing style is fluid, and his insights into many of the battles original. Recommended for military collections.-Richard Nowicki, Emerson Vocational H.S., Buffalo, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Alexander (How Hitler Could Have Won World War II, 2000, etc.) illuminates each of his 13 "rules" by using historical conflicts where conformity to one of the rules carried the day. Of concern to readers is how the rules might apply today in combating terrorists. One could simplify these rules by pointing out that the military is taught to exploit above all the element of surprise coupled with the ever-popular concept of divide-and-conquer. In parallel thought, Alexander lists, among others, holding one place, striking another while employing a superior weapon. He extensively discusses warfare from almost everywhere, including the final ousting of the British from New York by George Washington, Napoleon's various exploits, Civil War battles, and others in both world wars, Korea, and Vietnam. All are well reported. Lastly, he takes up the tragedy of September 11. Today, war is no longer conducted en masse, since it is far too dangerous. Rather, increasing attention must be given to preventing attacks by small groups of suicide-bent individuals using novel means of destruction like commandeered commercial aircraft striking at weakness. For warriors as well as the general public.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307421036
Publisher:
The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/18/2007
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
557,157
File size:
4 MB

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