The Public Interest

War as a Whole

Eliot A. Cohen

Summer 1982

BOOKS on defense policy are frequently disappointing. For example, of these five, not one can be recommended to the general reader, and only two to the specialist (and even those with reservations).  Why this is the case is a question worth pondering. Despite the intelligence and application of the authors, these books are uniformly narrow and sterile. The problems that afflict all of these books afflict writing about defense issues generally: the failure to consider war as a whole and the failure to understand it as something unique. The fault lies both in the failure of writers to understand the phenomenon they are dealing with and in the complexity of the phenomenon itself.

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