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 JacquesChouette Wow!
All I can say is Wow! I feel that this is one of the better courses that I have watched from the Great Courses.
Dr. Wilson makes clear what the different theories on strategy are and how they relate to each other. Before this course, I had heard of Sun Tzu, Machiavelli and Clausewitz but I had never heard of Jomini, Mahan or Corbett.
I especially liked the first part about the Sicily expedition, having previously watched the Peloponnesian War course by Dr. Kenneth Harl and from having lived close to that part of Sicily for a time. I also liked the how Dr. Wilson explained why the Japanese felt the need to attack the US fleet at Pearl Harbor and why all their battle plans were always looking for that one decisive victory.
I am writing this review just after the terrorist attacks in Paris, France and my only quibble is that I feel this course was recorded too soon. I have found myself thinking numerous times while watching the lectures that someone in the White House should take the time to watch this course. It would have been nice to hear what Dr. Wilson would have said about today's events and how well the current administration is following the writings of the Masters of War.
November 19, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by MarleysGhost Finally An Understanding of Why Sun Tzu is Studied
Video Download Reviewed
I became very tired of quick quotes from the "Art of War" being used to justify irrational business behavior, so it was a relief to learn a bit more about that work from someone who had studied the work in depth and was in a position to compare it with other studies on strategic thought and action.
Professor Wilson is most knowledgeable and explained clearly and succinctly not just early writers such as Sun Tzu and Thucudides but carrying their ideas through to the (almost) present day.
I particularly enjoyed learning more about Machaivelli,moot quite the black hat I had presupposed. Also I found the discussion about Clausewitz interesting, as well as the comparison of Mahan and Corbett and their influence as to the war in the Pacific.
And on a final note loved the discussion as to the Japanese success in the Russo-Janenese war and their failure from the very beginning of of the decision to attack Pearl Harbour in WWII.
Professor Wilson's delivery is measured, clear and calm, although appropriately animated at times. He also provides recommendations for further reading.
November 14, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by cmf49 Great Course for Professionals and Civilians
I'm in the profession of arms and would recommend this course to young and experienced personnel alike to continue their professional military education.
This recommendation shouldn't intimidate civilians. You will gain much from this course even if you aren't studying this material for your profession.
I hope this professor will do more courses in the future. I'd like to see him do an entire course dedicated to COIN or airpower.
September 28, 2015