Anthony King, Command: The Twenty-First Century General – CUP, 2019

9781108700276Just published by my Warwick colleague Anthony King, Command: The Twenty-First Century General – Cambridge University Press, 2019

In the wake of the troubled campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, military decision-making appears to be in crisis and generals have been subjected to intense and sustained public criticism. Taking these interventions as a starting point, Anthony King examines the transformation of military command in the twenty-first century. Focusing on the army division, King argues that a phenomenon of collective command is developing. In the twentieth century, generals typically directed and led operations personally, monopolising decision-making. They commanded individualistically, even heroically. As operations have expanded in range and scope, decision-making has multiplied and diversified. As a result command is becoming increasingly professionalised and collaborative. Through interviews with many leading generals and vivid ethnographic analysis of divisional headquarters, this book provides a unique insight into the transformation of command in western armies.

  • Includes interviews with some of the most prominent generals of the current era (such as James Mattis, David Petraeus and Nick Carter)
  • Contains a highly original and detailed ethnography of the divisional headquarters, based on extensive fieldwork
  • Includes historical research back to the First World War of both counter-insurgency and conventional operations
  • Presents international comparisons of the major western powers (France, Germany, UK and US)

‘A timely study of the transformation of military command from the realm of individual genius to a more collective and participatory style better suited to today’s multifaceted organizations, global distances, and complex environments. King argues that twenty-first century generalship requires not just heroic leadership and tactical brilliance, but the ability to establish networks and empower subordinates in a more collaborative model tuned to the realities of the information age. A controversial argument that is highly recommended reading for military officers and defense policy makers.’ Peter R. Mansoor, author of Surge: My Journey With General David Petraeus and the Remaking of the Iraq War

‘This book is bound to become a core text on contemporary military command. By focusing on the divisional structure Anthony King is able to chart the move from traditional individualistic and hierarchical approaches to a more professional and collectivist approach. This is done using examples of military success and failure, from Monash to Mattis, and from conventional battles to counterinsurgency.’ Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies, King’s College London

‘A fascinating study of the evolution of military command over the past century, explaining how and why many of the challenges of command today are different. Highly recommended – not least for twenty-first-century generals and those who aspire to be.’ John Kiszely, Retired Lieutenant General and author of Anatomy of a Campaign. The British Fiasco in Norway, 1940

‘No one gives a better inside view of what goes on in a combat headquarters than Anthony King. His fieldwork in the Afghanistan War is set against the background of heroic generals in the World Wars, the growth of administrative bureaucracy in WWII, and the shift to counterinsurgency midway through the Iraq War. Throughout, King discerns a growing trend to program combat decisons in a collective of headquarters officers. Apart from the usual studies of generals’ strategies and heroism, King shows how generals have actually commanded their divisions in daily action. On a new level of sociological sophistication, King shows the lifeworld of command – the mesh of individual leaders with the organization that enables and constrains them.’ Randall Collins, author of Civil War Two

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