Reading and learning are two of my passions and it is my pleasure to share these books with you.I have read them all and have found them to be both insightful and engaging. I encourage your feedback and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did.
Maj Chris Buckham
This review was published in Military Review magazine.
Title: The Counterinsurgent's Constitution: Law in the Age of
Author: Ganesh Sitaraman
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Mr Sitaraman has written a book that tackles the complex issue of
the application of law not only during the execution/prosecution of small wars
in the modern age but also the development of said law from the ground up. He
has approached his subject via three distinct 'gates' in which each provide
background and structure for the subsequent; this method presents and develops
his arguments. His sections: The Law of War, From War to Peace and The
Reconstruction of Order are in and of themselves incredibly complex and worthy
of comprehensive individual examination.
The author's central theme throughout the book focusses upon the
critical interdependence between the three pillars of his Counterinsurgency
Constitution: legitimacy, law and war. While undertaking counterinsurgent
operations, all three of these aspects must be approached concurrently if the
counterinsurgent is to achieve conditions whereby they can revert
responsibility back to the central government, police and national judiciary
and, ultimately, stand-down operations. As one progresses through his book it
becomes increasingly clear how challenging and difficult to achieve are the
tenants that he is espousing; indeed, he is, in effect providing a framework
within which the nature of warfare as traditionally understood is realigned.
The ideas are presented to the reader in a linear fashion but with
multiple 'lanes'. That is to say, the author identifies a concept and pursues
it to a logical and linear conclusion, facilitating understanding for the
reader. However, he does so with multiple concepts concurrently in order to
better clarify the interdependence of his ideas (or as he suggests, the
'organic nature' of the law, war and society). His concepts are not new, nor
are they particularly recent in development, but they are unique to a western
population, government and military steeped in traditions of symmetric war and
relatively quick fixes to issues.
This is an engaging and challenging read both for the concepts
that it espouses and the nature of its presentation. It is definitely a
'thinking' book and he uses it to focus attention on what is, for many in the
West, a new and difficult way of war; one that is specifically suited to the
asymmetric arena. He acknowledges that he does not have the definitive answers
and certainly that international law has not kept pace with the changing nature
of warfare. Additionally, he alludes to, but does not speak specifically about,
the fact that not only has the nature of war changed in and of itself, but also
the level of tolerance amongst society (both within the conflict zones and
domestic populations of the engaging militaries). As an aspect of law and
conflict the counterinsurgent has now to manage expectations in a world of
instant information and 'sound bite' attention spans. Strongly recommended.
This review has been published in the Canadian Naval Review.
Title: The Liberty Incident
Revealed: The Definitive Account of the 1967 Israeli Attack on the U.S. Navy Spy Ship
Author: A Jay Cristol
Publisher: Naval Institute Press
Photographs/maps: 14 b/w//3
On June 8, 1967, during the height
of the Arab-Israeli ‘6 Day War’, units of the Israeli Air Force and Navy
attacked the US intelligence gathering vessel “Liberty”, torpedoing and strafing
said ship multiple times; the result was significant damage to the ship, 34
dead and 171 wounded. Given that the ship was in international waters (12-14 NM
off of the Sinai Peninsula), the attack deliberate and the fact that she was
openly identifying itself as an American ship, significant controversy resulted
that has continued to play itself out over the succeeding years regarding the
reasoning behind Israel’s actions.
This most recent edition of
Cristol’s book expands upon his original copy by incorporating additional
material that has been declassified in the intervening years (his original book
was published in 2002). The author makes it clear at the outset of his position
that the attack was made in honest error by the Israeli’s as a result of a
series of internal communication and Command and Control failures. These errors
were compounded by concurrent failures within the US naval communications
system. The tragedy was made all the more poignant by the fact that the Liberty
itself was exactly where she had been ordered to be and undertaking activities
that she had been directed to perform.
Cristol has included verbatim texts
from the flight recorders between Israeli Air Controllers and their pilots as
well as the same for Israeli naval assets as they track onto target. It is very
clear that there was significant confusion amongst Israeli Commanders regarding
the nationality of the ship; potential identification went from Egyptian to
Soviet to American. Working back from this the author describes in detail not
only the operational deficiencies within the US and Israeli Command systems but
also the subjective factors that influenced decision making. The Israeli Navy
was the poor stepchild of the Israeli military with the Army and Airforce
consistently receiving the lion’s share of funding and public recognition.
Further exacerbating this, inter-service relations between the airforce and
navy were very poor; thus Naval Commanders were actively looking for an
opportunity to grab some of the glory from the war before it was too late.
Cristol’s investigation of this
aspect of the incident is fascinating as it reinforces the impact of the ‘human
factor’ and the ‘fog of war’ on the derailment of the effective execution of
operations. Further, the potential escalation as a result of this
misunderstanding threatened to spin into a global conflagration between the US
and Soviet Union as the US suspected that it was a Soviet submarine that had
attacked the Liberty.
The book is very well written with
a logical and well founded thesis. The author acknowledges the arguments of
those who feel that the attack was in fact deliberate on the part of the
Israeli’s and refutes their points through studied and well-structured
argument. His inclusion of copies of the official reports as well as the
transcripts of the communication logs between the Naval and Air assets of the
Israeli forces and their command centre provides excellent insight for the
reader into the confusion and dysfunction existing within both the US and
Israeli militaries. The production value of the book is very good and it is an
excellent read relating to a side incident often overlooked in the histories of
the 6 Day War.