The Human Face of War


The Human Face of War by Dr. Jim Storr

An important new book on military theory and history by British defense expert Dr. Jim Storr, a retired Lt. Colonel, King’s Regiment and an instructor at the UK Defence Academy, was reviewed in Joint Forces Quarterly ( hat tip Wilf Owen) by Col. Clinton J. Acker III:

The Human Face of War

….Surveying an array of disciplines including history, psychology, systems theory, complexity theory and philosophy, Storr (a former British officer) looks at what a theory of combat should include, then provides one. He goes on to apply that theory to the design of organizations, staffs, leadership, information management and the creation of cohesion in units. In doing so, he takes on many currently popular theories such as Effects-Based Operations, the observe-orient-decide-act loop, the use of postmodern theory and language.

….Storr’s position is best summed up with this passage:”Critically, military theory should not be a case of ‘this is the right course of action’ but rather ‘doing this will probably have beneficial outcome’

I have not read this book, as it is new and not yet released over here but I have to stop here and comment that the ability to make effective, reasonable, probablilistic estimates based on uncertain or incomplete information is perhaps one of the most important cognitive skills for strategic thinking. This applies whether we are discussing decision making in business, sports, warfare or games of strategy.

….After developing his precepts in the first three chapters, Storr uses the rest of the book to deal with the specifics about how to apply those precepts to “Tools and Models”, “Shock and Surprise”, “Tactics and Organizations”, “Commanding the Battle”, “The Soul of the Army” ( a fascinating discussion of leadership styles) and “Regulators and Ratcatchers”….The discussion in these chapters presents a superb treatise on the use of examples and counterexamples to support points of view. A single counterexample is not sufficient to falsify an argument, for there are no absolutes. Rather we are looking for patterns that appear better than others…”

Read the rest here.

5 thoughts on “The Human Face of War”

  1. Okay, I’m going to ask the obvious “dummy” question:

    Isn’t doing what will probably have a beneficial outcome the right course of action? You know – because it’s probably beneficial? I suppose I will have to read the book to see, and perhaps it’s all about options rather than black-and-white-right-and-wrong….

    Stop with the book posts! Must. Read. Books. Already. Bought!


  2. “Isn’t doing what will probably have a beneficial outcome the right course of action? You know – because it’s probably beneficial?”

    You would think, however the conundrum for military organizations is that they need a doctrine and training in order for a large body of men to carry off difficult, coordinated, operations under the fire and chaos of combat, but adoption of training and doctrine by a hierarchical and bureaucratic organizaton tends to ensure it is carried out inflexibly and by rote. What is needed is active thinking and adaptive response in real time by commanders who understand doctrinal ideas but think creatively.

    Partly this is the legacy of Jomini and the much earlier 1GW/parade ground drill of Europe’s military revolution launched by Gustavus Adolphus that created modern combined arms and infantry eqipped with firearms. While the King of Sweden was a creative general, it evolved into a mechanistic approach to warfare. And originally it made good sense, maximizing the effect in battle of very expensively equipped troops by exquisitely drilling them to repeatedly deliver murderous fire in perfect unison, no matter what happened. Unfortunately, the drill mentality got way out of hand in both the Prussian and Russian armies. One of my professors, in referring to the obsession that many 18th and 19th C. European officers and monarchs had with ceremonial drill, called it “paradomania”.

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