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pscheyer comments on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject - Less Wrong

167 Post author: lukeprog 16 January 2011 08:30AM

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Comment author: pscheyer 25 June 2015 05:29:01AM *  6 points [-]

Subject: Warfare, History Of and Major Topics In

Recommendation: Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, by Peter Paret, Gordon Craig, and Felix Gilbert.

I recommend this book specifically over 'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu or 'On War' by Clausewitz, which seem to come up as the 'war' books that people have read prior to (poorly) using war as a metaphor. The Art of War is unfortunately vague- most of the recommendations could be used for any course of action, which is sort of a common problem with translations from chinese due to the heavy context requirements of the language. Clausewitz is actually one of the articles in Makers of Modern Strategy- the critical portions of On War are in the book, in historical context.

The important part of Makers of Modern Strategy is that each piece (the book is a collection of the most important essays in the development of military thought through the ages, starting with the medieval period and through nuclear warfare. I have other recommendations for the post-nuclear age of cyberwarfare and insurgency and I'll post them separately.) is placed in context and paraphrased for critical details. Military strategy is an ongoing composition, but the inexperienced read a single strategic author and think they have everything figured out.

This book is great because it walks you through each major strategic innovation, one at a time, showing how each is a response to the last and how each previous generation being sure they've got everything figured out is how their successors defeat them. My overall takeaway was one of humility- even the last section on nuclear war has been supplanted by cyber and insurgent warfare, and it is a sure bet that someone will always find a way to deploy force to defeat an opponent. This book walks you through how to defeat naive and inexperienced combatants in a strategic sense. Tactics, as always, are contingent on circumstances.