Essentially, this book argues that:: the greater that military power and resources are pursued under the belief of military defense - the greater the propensity for military resources to be used offensively.
Military power is one of the primary sources of national power. For many countries, military power has in essence become a national resource. Yet today, almost every country with significant military resources claims that its military power is pursued strictly for defensive purposes only. However, despite these claims of military defensiveness, most countries of significant world power have developed an inherent "offensive bias" within their military doctrines and organizational structures. Hence, the old maxim that `the best defense is a good offense' is taken quite literally by world power militaries - much more so than John Q. Public realizes.
This book explores this innate propensity within strong military cultures for an "ideology of the offensive". When this innate, military offensive bias is taken to the extreme, political efforts can be abandoned in lieu of an offensive first-strike capability under the sincere belief (not guise) that such offensive first-strikes are necessary in order to take advantage of strategic `windows of opportunity'. Hence a military first-strike offensive attack is literally pursued in the name of military `defense'.
Although this book was first written in 1992 and primarily deals with significant wars of the past (e.g. W.W.I), it explores a highly current and credible concept. For any simple, competent, military analysis will reveal that this book quite aptly describes the recent kinetic energy of military power as exercised by the Bush Administration against Saddam Hussein / Iraq.
Appropriately, this is book does not present any value judgement as to whether or not such offensive wars in the name of defense are morally or politically good or bad. Rather, this book presents an operational judgement of what inherently takes place in the generation of war for the pursuit of peace.
What makes this book so timely in today's world affairs is the recent Bush Administration decision to pursue an offensive war in the name of defense against Saddam Hussein / Iraq. The United States has long professed (and deeply believed) that its military power is strictly for defensive purposes only. And under the umbrella of this deep belief, in cannot be denied that the current Bush Administration has actively pursued a totally new US military doctine - offensive war in the name of defense - which has resulted in the US occupation of Iraq.
This analysis is not presented as a value judgement as to whether or not this recent US offensive against Iraq war is morally or politically good or bad. However, it cannot be denied that such recent military offensive actions by the United States will forever change world perception, opinion and concern about how the United States may exercise its vast technologically advanced military power in the future. And this world perception, opinion and concern about the exercise of US military power will undoubtedly affect world politics.
More importantly, the political nuances of this recent US offensive first-strike war against Iraq present even more anecdotal, high quality evidence that this military theory as presented by the author (Jack Snyder) is both timeless and highly credible in understanding the nature of war. As a senior military officer of more than 27 years active duty, I strongly believe that this book is `a must' for any serious student of war (especially against the paradigm of war as a continuation of policy by other means).