Rated 5 out of 5 by RoyT Excellent Eye-Opener!
This is an eye-opening course in a new area of study for me. Professor Wilson has succeeded in his mission to ensure that I “…will never again be able to watch the nightly news or read the daily paper without thinking about Thucydides, or Machiavelli, or Mao” (Course Guidebook, Page 3). The course merits a wider viewership than the usual military buffs and specialists, as it contributes to making one a much more well-informed citizen on a matter of critical importance. Professor Wilson is an excellent guide: his lectures are well-crafted and delivered in a clear and easily understandable manner, and are supplemented by a great number of useful visuals.
I particularly enjoyed seeing otherwise familiar figures in a new light, specifically Thucydides (building on Kenneth Harl’s excellent TC course, the Peloponnesian War) and Machiavelli. It was also good to finally go beyond name recognition for such other ‘masters of war’ as Sun Tzu, Jomini, Clausewitz, Mahan, and Corbett, with Professor Wilson expertly explaining the thought and impact of each on strategic thinking about war. As well as detailing the expected political and military background (including pertinent tactical and operational details), he provides just right amount of historical details and social, technological, economic, and cultural context to enhance one’s understanding. This really made the course more interesting and compelling for me.
Professor Wilson makes the case that strategic thinking must be grounded in the complexities of context, that “Strategic analysis involves objectively weighing the risks and rewards of different courses of action—thinking through the chains of cause and effect in each action before making a move. The best way to develop skills in strategic analysis is to study the classics of strategic theory and test their utility across a range of historical cases” (Page 4). He does this in an admirable fashion, not only in top-notch explanations and justifications for the enduring influence of the ‘masters’ (for instance, Al Qaeda finds useful material in the 4th century B.C. Sun Tzu and the early 19th century Carl von Clausewitz, as well as Mao Tse-tung), but also in testing each of these ‘masters’ in historical case studies. In doing so, Professor Wilson demonstrates their strengths and limitations, and in the process provides excellent treatments of incredibly numerous wars and other conflicts, right up to the present day challenges posed by the possibility of nuclear war and, increasingly, the actuality of terror.
Clausewitz, as Professor Wilson reveals in a “confession” at the end of lecture 10, provides the framework for the course, being “the masters’ master”. Most notable are the now familiar injunctions in his ‘On War’ (1832), that war is “…a continuation of political competition between states by military means” (Course Guidebook, page 70) requiring military subordination to political leadership. According to Professor Wilson, ‘On War’ is, in effect, “…the first and fullest exposition of strategic theory.” He even goes so far as to use Clausewitz’s framework/principles in analyzing earlier masters of strategic thinking. This perspective, combined with Professor Wilson’s richly detailed context for so many really interesting historical cases, makes this one of the outstanding TC courses for me.
I am looking forward to a second viewing and dipping in here and there as a refresher on specific themes and wars/conflicts.
February 3, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Asaad Eye opener
Very well written and well presented course.
Dr. Wilson delivers a very thorough, yet easy to grasp, analysis of the history of war strategy, with an outline of the most influential strategic thinkers in history, and their schools of thought. He explains how the strategic theories evolved in response to the new advancement in war machine technologies, and in response to the different political and social changes that happened through the course of human history.
I specifically liked the way he used the different strategic theories when analyzing the recent military conflicts. It was a kind of case study, and it helped me to better understand the course, and to appreciate the role of strategy in war, and in life in general.
All the lectures were excellent and engaging. To name only few: the ones on the Napoleonic wars, and on Mao Tse-Tung theory of revolutionary war, were exceptionally brilliant.
But the crown of the whole course were the lectures on Terrorism, it was really an eye opener. I rarely came across anything that enlightened me the way these two lectures did. It will change the way you analyze what is happening around you.
December 15, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by PLD2013 Great Overview of the Strategic Thinkers/concepts
Ok, let me be upfront and state that due to my profession, my interest was both personal and professional and as a result my review may be colored by those facts. Having said that though, I think this course was extremely well done and well thought out in its coverage of strategic thinkers and concepts.
The professor is very knowledgeable on all of the areas (which is good to see since he is an instructor at the Naval War College...) and I believe makes what could be difficult concepts much easier to understand by linking the ideas with historical events. As an instructor, he is a good speaker, interesting to listen to and important if you have the audio only version, has a good voice to listen to - doesn't drone for example.
To the person not familiar with strategic thinking but considering this course, I think that it is given at an appropriate level that any person with an interest can understand the concepts and as importantly, learn enough that you can form your own opinions about the strategic concepts. You do NOT need to be a military or security professional to enjoy this course.
I purchased the audio download version and found it very sufficient to understanding the course material. I never found myself wishing I had purchased the video version.
December 6, 2014
Rated 4 out of 5 by sodacat Much more than just war strategy
Parts of this lecture went over my head. Parts of it are so specific to exact moments in time that I'm dubious as to their use in any field.
But other parts of this course have caused me to think about the nature of conflict, about why it happens and what it causes, and those parts are going to influence the way I think for the rest of my life. That is the highest praise I think i can impart on an educator.
September 25, 2014