War presents a curious paradox. Interstate war is arguably the most carefully planned endeavor by states, yet military history is filled with disasters and blunders of monumental proportions. These anomalies happen because most military history presumes that states are pursuing optimal strategies in a competitive environment. This book offers an alternative narrative in which the pillars of military planning - evaluations of power, strategy, and interests - are theorized as social constructions rather than simple material realities. States may be fighting wars primarily to gain or maintain power, yet in any given historical era such pursuits serve only to propel competition; they do not ensure military success in subsequent generations. Allowing states to embark on hapless military ventures is fraught with risks, while the rewards are few.
Ann Hironaka is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. She studies war, politics, and the environment from a global perspective. Her book, Neverending Wars (2005), examined the intractable civil wars of the contemporary era and the role of the international community in perpetuating these conflicts. Her recent book, Greening the Globe (Cambridge, 2014), examined the historical emergence of the global environmental regime and its impact on national policy and environmental practices around the world.
1. The ambiguity of military planning; 2. The measurement of military power; 3. Military strategy and the lessons of history; 4. Great Power competition and the cause of war; 5. Planning for the First World War; 6. Tanks in the Second World War; 7. The Great Powers and nuclear weapons; 8. The construction of US Cold War interests; 9. Conclusion.