Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My Amazon Review of Andrew Krepinevich's and Barry Watts' "The Last Warrior: Andrew Marshall and the Shaping of Modern American Defense Strategy"

Yoda of the Pentagon

Andrew Krepinevich and Barry Watts have written a hagiographic biography of their former boss. Andrew Marshall, a not well known wonk in the bowels of the Pentagon served our country for over 60 years in developing defense policy. He worked first as an analyst at the Rand Corporation during its heyday in the 1950's and 60's and then established the Office of Net Assessment within the Pentagon, a post where he just retired from at the age of 93. He was the oldest government employee in history and deservedly earned the nick name of Yoda; not bad for a depression era working class kid from Detroit.

Along the way he worked with a who’s who of the leading foreign and defense policy theorists of the second half of the 20th Century. These personages include Graham Allison, Bernard Brodie, Harold Brown, Elliot Cohen, Alan Enthoven, Robert Gates (who wrote the foreword), Charles Hitch, Samuel Huntington, Herman Kahn, Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, Albert Wohlstetter and Roberta Wohlstetter. And this is only a partial listing.

His job at the office of Net Assessment was to evaluate the long term threats facing the United States and to come up with options to counter them. In his work he introduced the organizational economics Herbert Simon to predict Soviet behavior and leading academics on competitive strategy in the business world. As the Cold War was winding down in the mid-1980s he focused his attention on the rise of China and was quick to point out how the revolution in military affairs (precision weapons, computerized command and control and information warfare) in the 1990s would significantly change the nature of future battlefields.

A small gem in the book is that the authors point out that Marshall offered up the best argument in favor of anti-ballistic missiles. He argued that they do not have to, and cannot, stop all incoming missiles. All they have to do is to stop enough of them to create uncertainty in the Soviet Union making them fearful of a counter attack. Hence it works as a deterrent.

Although very wonky, I would recommend this book to readers interested in how defense policy was made in the U.S. over the past 65 years.

The full Amazon URL is:


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