Strategy Strikes Back ReviewPosted on April 02,2019
By MajGen W.F. Mullen
Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict
Edited by Max Brooks, John Amble, ML Cavanaugh, Jaym Gates
U of Nebraska Press, 2018
There is a never ending debate as to whether fiction can actually be useful for military professionals to spend their valuable and limited time reading. I do spend some of that time with fiction because it makes you think of things differently and many times I have asked the question, “why can’t we…?” when I come across something really unique in fiction. The approach taken by Strategy Strikes Back is different from any I have encountered before and if the measure of a good book is how much it makes you think, then I think it is indeed a good one.
The authors have used the popularity of the Star Wars saga to illustrate points with regard to strategy, which, whatever the context of the story, is about using ways and means to reach a given end or ends. While I found the detailed knowledge that some of the authors have regarding the entire Star Wars saga disturbing (kind of like the Star Trek enthusiasts who take up the study of the Klingon language) and more than a bit strange, their approach to strategic issues did serve to illustrate some of the challenges we have faced as a nation when trying to achieve policy ends. The difficulties in working with indigenous forces to foster an insurgency against a much great power were well illustrated, but I think I would have preferred to work with Ewoks than some of the folks we have worked with over the years. I also found the example of “overplaying one’s hand” and totally ignoring the will and determination of one’s opponent very interesting. I for one would not want to have to explain the loss of not only one, but two Death Stars to higher authority. Talk about not learning from one’s mistakes!
In all, while I did not find every chapter relevant, with some being unclear to me as to where they were trying to go, the book is interesting enough to take the time to read it. It makes you think differently and that is always a good thing. For those who are fans of the Star Wars saga, if the lessons the book imparts sink in and stay embedded in “brain housing groups” because of their association with examples from the saga, so much the better.