Military Adaptation in War: With Fear of Change

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Military Adaptation in War addresses one of the most persistent, yet rarely examined, problems that military organizations confront: namely, the problem of how to adapt under the trying, terrifying conditions of war. This work builds on the volume that Professor Williamson Murray edited with Allan Millett on military innovation (a quite different problem, though similar in some respects). In Clausewitzian terms, war is a contest, an interactive duel, which is of indeterminate length and presents a series of intractable problems at every level, from policy and strategy down to the tactical. Moreover, the fact that the enemy is adapting at the same time presents military organizations with an ever-changing set of conundrums that offer up no easy solutions. As the British general, James Wolfe, suggested before Quebec: “War is an option of difficulties.” Dr. Murray provides an in-depth analysis of the problems that military forces confront in adapting to these difficulties.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Murray's analysis of the leadership of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding during the Battle of Britain is alone worth the price of the book."
David T. Zabecki, Military History

"Williamson Murray has crafted a compelling argument that adaptation in war is a difficult, problematic process."
Captain Stanley D. M. Carpenter, Proceedings

"This is a rich field to be explored, not only by academics and military historians, but, most importantly, the armed forces themselves – but Murray could not be expected to cover everything. He has produced not only an excellent historical account of adaptation in twentieth-century warfare, but a forensic dissection of the common factors and approaches that can be applied to improve the chances of a military organisation successfully adapting to future challenges. It is the best single volume study of the subject yet written, and deserves a place on the bookshelf with Smith’s The Utility of Force and Cohen and Gooch’s Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War - and alongside Sun Tzu and Clausewitz."
Ben Barry, Survival

"… an important work for those interested in the events it covers, as well as for anyone concerned with how armed forces tick."
A. A. Nofi,

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781107006591
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/31/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 889,359
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Williamson Murray is Professor Emeritus of History at The Ohio State University. At present he is a defense consultant and commentator on historical and military subjects in Washington, D.C. He is co-editor of The Making of Peace (with Jim Lacey); The Past as Prologue (with Richard Hart Sinnreich); The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300–2050 (with MacGregor Knox); Military Innovation in the Interwar Period (with Allan R. Millett); and The Making of Strategy (with Alvin Bernstein and MacGregor Knox).
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Table of Contents

Preface; 1. Introduction: the background to military adaptation; 2. The historical framework of adaptation; 3. Complex adaptation: the Western front 1914–1918; 4. Flawed adaptation: German adaptation and the opening battles of World War II; 5. The battle for the British Isles: June 1940–May 1941; 6. Adaptation in the air war: RAF bomber command and Luftwaffe's air defenses (15 May 1940 to 7 May 1945); 7. The 1973 Yom Kippur War; 8. Conclusion: adaptation and the future.
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