Jack Snyder's analysis of the attitudes of military planners in
the years prior to the Great War offers new insight into the tragic
miscalculations of that era and into their possible parallels in
present-day war planning. By 1914, the European military powers had
adopted offensive military strategies even though there was
considerable evidence to support the notion that much greater
advantage lay with defensive strategies. The author argues that
organizational biases inherent in military strategists' attitudes
make war more likely by encouraging offensive postures even when
the motive is self-defense.
Drawing on new historical evidence of the specific circumstances
surrounding French, German, and Russian strategic policy, Snyder
demonstrates that it is not only rational analysis that determines
strategic doctrine, but also the attitudes of military planners.
Snyder argues that the use of rational calculation often falls
victim to the pursuit of organizational interests such as autonomy,
prestige, growth, and wealth. Furthermore, efforts to justify the
preferred policy bring biases into strategists' decisions-biases
reflecting the influences of parochial interests and
preconceptions, and those resulting from attempts to simplify
unduly their analytical tasks.
The frightening lesson here is that doctrines can be
destabilizing even when weapons are not, because doctrine may be
more responsive to the organizational needs of the military than to
the implications of the prevailing weapons technology. By examining
the historical failure of offensive doctrine, Jack Snyder makes a
valuable contribution to the literature on the causes of war.
Subjects: History, Political Science
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