War In Peace: Conventional And Guerrilla Warfare Since 1945, edited by Robert Thompson
This book is admittedly a bit disappointing. That does not mean it is an unworthy book to look at, because it very much is a part of its time and place and perspective. Unfortunately, that time and place and perspective are in the early 1980’s and from milquetoast Western “better red than dead” cowardly academic historians who were too attracted to leftist ideologies to view the Cold War as anything other than a morally equivalent struggle between two rival power blocs. The editor of this work (as well as the authors who contributed to it) show a comical lack of prophetic ability in predicting the end of the Cold War, although they correctly note Islamic terrorism as a problem, which is some accomplishment, I suppose. As this book is written and structured with a cold war perspective, the book fails to rise to the levels it could have if the people involved had approached the subject with a bit more insight than they did. Again, though, this book is worthwhile for looking at how a book with modest geographical achievements and not a great deal of insight can approach the subject of conflict in the postwar world, and that is at least worthy of a few good laughs while one reads.
This book is about 300 pages and divided into various sections, many of which deal with the same conflicts. Although the scope of this book is about 35 years worth of world history from World War II to the early 1980’s, there is a clear focus on a few conflicts. The book begins with an introduction by John Keegan, and then the author moves to the Chinese Civil War, Greek Civil War, the early undeclared Cold War, and Korea. The author looks at the French war in Indochina and then the Malayan Emergency and the Suez conflict of 1956, which is divided into the Anglo-French and Israeli conflicts. After that there is a look at the Mau Mau terror, conflicts in Cyprus and Aden, the Algerian Revolution, the Hungarian Revolt of 1956, the Congolese War of Independence, Castro’s Revolution in Cuba, late Portuguese colonial wars, the Biafran war of Independence, the Six-Day war, various South American urban guerrillas, and the Vietnam War. There is a discussion of the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, the Yom Kippur War, the lengthy fighting in Zimbabwe, various Ethiopian conflicts, international terrorism, the balance of military affairs in the late Cold War, the troubles in Northern Ireland, and the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. After ending with a discussion of the early part of the Iran-Iraq War, the book ends with a glossary, chronology, bibliography, index, and acknowledgements.
Admittedly, there are some drawbacks in the sympathy one has in looking at the contemporary history of the past. This book has some terrible maps that demonstrate a distinct lack of artistic ability on the part of the people who made this book, who thought that a large quantity of maps could mask the poor quality of what was provided. The main flaws of this book result from the expectation that the Cold War would continue for the foreseeable future or that it would end in a nuclear attack, which there are bad maps showing the fears of the authors. What this book does not recognize is the importance of logistics to warfare, and the critical examination of the reason why so many Western nations in the postwar world lacked the nerve to support benign imperial rule or to allow others to rule relatively benignly. This book is written to appeal to the sort of person who wanted to believe that they understood the bipolar world after World War II without thinking that this world was soon to be upended by the collapse of the Soviet Union without a conflict, and therefore not to be included in whatever future volumes of this book existed.