War is changing. Unlike when modern military doctrine was forged, the United States no longer mobilizes massive land forces for direct political gain. Instead, the US fights small, overseas wars by global mandate to overthrow dictators, destroy terrorist groups, and broker regional peace. These conflicts hardly resemble the total wars fought and expected by foundational military theorists such as Carl von Clausewitz, yet their paradigms are ingrained in modern thinking. The twenty-first-century's new geopolitical situation demands new principles for warfare -- deemphasizing decisive land victory in favor of airpower, intelligence systems, and indigenous ground forces.
In Thoughts on War, Phillip S. Meilinger confronts the shortcomings of US military dogma in search of a new strategic doctrine. Inter-service rivalries and conventional theories failed the US in lengthy Korea, Vietnam, and Middle East conflicts. Jettisoning traditional perspectives and their focus on decisive battles, Meilinger revisits historical campaigns looking for answers to more persistent challenges -- how to coordinate forces, manipulate time, and fight on two fronts. This provocative collection of new and expanded essays offers a fresh, if controversial, perspective on time-honored military values, one which encourages a critical revision of US military strategy.
"Meilinger has produced a remarkable work that challenges the received wisdom of Clausewitz's On War, offering another paradigm as to how to wage combat in our modern global environment. In his wide-ranging historical and analytical treatment, Meilinger argues for a new lower risk, lower cost method of employing American military force that capitalizes upon air power, special operations forces, and generating local indigenous support. Extremely well-written, Thoughts on War represents a major contribution to current military thought. For depth of historical research and operational understanding alone, it should be read by all military professionals." -- John A. English, author of Patton's Peers: The Forgotten Allied Field Army Commanders of the Western Front, 1944--45
" Thoughts on War offers relevant and refined ideas about warfare. By challenging conventional military doctrine, revisiting classic principles of war, and reflecting on the American military experiences, Meilinger presents a new strategic and operational paradigm for how to fight and win tomorrow's wars with reduced risk and cost. This book will appeal not only to military professionals, but to scholars and civilian policymakers as well." -- Colonel John Andreas Olsen, Royal Norwegian Air Force, editor of Routledge Handbook of Air Power
"The dozen essays in this volume address a broad range of subjects. Their individual quality affirms the breadth of Meilinger's scholarship and the depth of his perception. Yet each piece speaks as well to a common theme: movement away from the Clausewitzian paradigm of war as cataclysm towards a paradigm of indirect means and asymmetrical methods that lower costs and risks. Meilinger's demonstration of the perils and consequences of using new weapons to fight in old ways merits wide circulation and serious discussion." -- Dennis Showalter, recipient of the 2018 Pritzker Military Museum and Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing
"For too long, military options offered to meet the needs of national security, and military strategies have been burdened by anachronistic tenets of classic military theorists who formed their theories in the pre-industrial age. Thoughts on War makes clear that warfare is fundamentally changing and a new paradigm of war has emerged. This book is a work of significance and a must-read by all involved with national security institutions -- particularly the US military." -- Lt. Gen. David Deptula, USAF (Ret.), Dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies
"Once in a generation comes a book on military affairs that demands instant attention -- and this is one such. Erudite, provocative, and insightful, Phillip Meilinger's Thoughts on War ranges widely across the fields of military science and history, skewering cherished icons and showing how misinterpreting the past has led to a dangerous complacency that has afflicted military thinkers and commanders alike. This timely work demands discussion in every war college and should be on the shelf of every professional service member in America's joint forces." -- Richard P. Hallion, former Johnson Chair of Military History at the Army War College, former Historian of the US Air Force, and curator of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum