The Arts and Crafts of War
February 12, 2007 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Send me to war college.

I've developed a new interest in war and strategy, and am interested in reading and learning more. There's already been some good threads to start with, but I want more.

Here's what I have: Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, the Five Rings and Robert Greene's entertaining strategy books. I'm trying to get better at chess. I'm looking for more books on war and tactics, historical books with a highly military bent (even fiction like The Virtues of War), and war games for the Mac that aren't resource-harvesting Starcraft-y games. Websites would be good too.
posted by Bookhouse to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might take a look at college military history syllabi available online. Here's the syllabus of one good course; there's enough reading on there to keep a person busy for a while.
posted by phoenixy at 8:10 PM on February 12, 2007

I'm old, and I used to play board wargames. You might like Web-Grognards. That site's emphasis is board wargaming, but it covers computer wargaming as well.
posted by Fat Guy at 8:12 PM on February 12, 2007

While this kind of study is a good thing, it won't help you with chess.

You can do a hell of a lot worse than to read some of the Dunnigan books, particularly "How to make war" and the most recent revision of "A Quick and Dirty Guide to War". (It gets updated periodically as the world political situation changes. I think the 1996 version is the most recent one, so it's a little out of date.)

I also highly recommend "Victory and Deceit". It's a history of how lies have helped win battles and wars.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:24 PM on February 12, 2007

Best answer: Here's the Command and General Staff College's Military Survey reading list, but you may be more interested in Readings in American Military History, particularly the Background and Context section.

As for a personal recommendation, The Passing of the Armies is by far the best firsthand account of war written by a general that I've ever read. Granted, I'm not that well-read... but again, this is a personal recommendation.

You can locate further resources at the US Army War College's library.
posted by cog_nate at 8:36 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

"All Day Permanent Red" by Christopher Logue.
An amazing re-telling of the first battle scenes of "The Illiad".
posted by Dizzy at 8:38 PM on February 12, 2007

"The Guns of August," by Barbara Tuchman. Strategy, the outbreak of World War I, history, diplomacy, and some of the finest writing you'll ever come across.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:41 PM on February 12, 2007

I really enjoyed Makers of Modern Strategy, an essay collection edited by Peter Paret, and The Patterns of War Through the Eighteenth Strategy by Larry H. Addington.
posted by frieze at 8:49 PM on February 12, 2007

John Laband, The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation. The story of Shaka, the white colonization of Africa, and the ensuing clash. Fascinating.
posted by goetter at 8:55 PM on February 12, 2007

I recommend everything by John Keegan. A History of Warfare in particular.
posted by saraswati at 9:33 PM on February 12, 2007

Best answer: Check out the War Nerd column. He's an asshole but he seems to get it right.
posted by spork at 10:02 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

you might enjoy nick paumgarten's piece in a recent issue of the new yorker on robert greene: Fresh Prince - Hip-hop's Machiavelli (PDF).

(you will find the book in question quite enjoyable, should you lack formal education.)
posted by krautland at 10:19 PM on February 12, 2007

He's an asshole but he seems to get it right.
you have to be one in order to achieve the other.
posted by krautland at 10:20 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding War Nerd - he's a bloodthirsty little tike, but he writes very well, and doesn't varnish anything. That said, some of my professional soldier friends who I've forwarded his stuff on to have questioned some of his assertions and assumptions, especially about hot conflicts like Iraq.

Re: Mac wargames - I'd be interested in this too - any recommendations?
posted by Happy Dave at 1:44 AM on February 13, 2007

Best answer: Regarding wargames, anything from the small Battlefront development team is well worth investigating, particularly the Combat Mission series. The Australian Defence Department has licensed a version of CM:AK, which I guess could be considered a strong recommendation.

The Battlefront forums are well worth checking out, too. Their games seem to attract the real 'grogs' who love to share and argue their (insanely, obsessively) detailed historical knowledge.
posted by boosh at 2:55 AM on February 13, 2007

Can't give you any specific links but the exact name of the discipline you are interested in is called Security Studies. Your local library is sure to have at least a shelf of security literature you can happily delve in. :)
posted by ruelle at 6:08 AM on February 13, 2007

Best answer: The Combat Mission series is excellent. The Close Combat series (the originals, not this First to Fight nonsense), which I think was available on the Mac, is one of my favorites.

The US Army FMs, particularly FM 3-0, Operations will provide a wealth of highly distilled thinking on combat. Other classics in the library include FM 7-8 Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad and FM 7-85, Ranger Unit Operations.

Bear in mind the axiom "amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics." For most of the last century, the US has fought by shipping more soldiers, food, and bullets overseas than the enemy can resist. It doesn't make for either gripping reading or a sexy wargame--Gary Grigsby's World at War is an amazing game that does logistics justice, but it's astoundingly dry, even for a wargame.
posted by Nahum Tate at 9:43 AM on February 13, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody.

He's an asshole but he seems to get it right.

After reading a few of his columns, this seems right on.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:39 PM on February 13, 2007

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