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The Human Face of War


The Human Face of War by Dr. Jim Storr

An important new book on military theory and history by British defense expert Dr. Jim Storr, a retired Lt. Colonel, King’s Regiment and an instructor at the UK Defence Academy, was reviewed in Joint Forces Quarterly ( hat tip Wilf Owen) by Col. Clinton J. Acker III:

The Human Face of War

….Surveying an array of disciplines including history, psychology, systems theory, complexity theory and philosophy, Storr (a former British officer) looks at what a theory of combat should include, then provides one. He goes on to apply that theory to the design of organizations, staffs, leadership, information management and the creation of cohesion in units. In doing so, he takes on many currently popular theories such as Effects-Based Operations, the observe-orient-decide-act loop, the use of postmodern theory and language.

….Storr’s position is best summed up with this passage:”Critically, military theory should not be a case of ‘this is the right course of action’ but rather ‘doing this will probably have beneficial outcome’

I have not read this book, as it is new and not yet released over here but I have to stop here and comment that the ability to make effective, reasonable, probablilistic estimates based on uncertain or incomplete information is perhaps one of the most important cognitive skills for strategic thinking. This applies whether we are discussing decision making in business, sports, warfare or games of strategy.

….After developing his precepts in the first three chapters, Storr uses the rest of the book to deal with the specifics about how to apply those precepts to “Tools and Models”, “Shock and Surprise”, “Tactics and Organizations”, “Commanding the Battle”, “The Soul of the Army” ( a fascinating discussion of leadership styles) and “Regulators and Ratcatchers”….The discussion in these chapters presents a superb treatise on the use of examples and counterexamples to support points of view. A single counterexample is not sufficient to falsify an argument, for there are no absolutes. Rather we are looking for patterns that appear better than others…”

Read the rest here.

2 Responses to “The Human Face of War”

  1. J. Scott Says:

    After reading Col Acker’s review, I bought the book. Not sure I agree with either Col Acker’s observations in the second quote, but I want to read the book to better understand.

  2. zen Says:

    Hi Scott,
    My guess, not having read the book either, is that Storr was drawing a distinction between strategic studies, especially used by a practitioner and real science. While strategic studies would be considered sort of a social science, in my view social science ain’t science, which needs to be falsifiable.
    If it is a jeremiad against falsification itself as argued by Popper, I’d agree with you.

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