Masters of War: History's Greatest Strategic Thinkers : The Great Courses: Military

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Andrew R. Wilson
  • Series: The Great Courses: Military
  • 12 hrs and 12 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

From Napoleon's revolutionary campaigns to the way insurgency, terrorism, and nuclear weaponry have defined the nature of warfare in the 21st century, the results of military strategy have changed the course of history. These 24 thought-provoking lectures give you an inside look at both the content and historical context of the world's greatest war strategists.
From the triremes and hoplites of ancient Greece to the Special Forces in 21st-century Afghanistan, strategy is the process by which political objectives are translated into military action - using the means at a nation's disposal to compel an enemy to bend to its political will.
In this concise and rigorous survey, Professor Wilson introduces: Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War; Sun Tzu's famous The Art of War; Machiavelli's strategy for a republic with a citizen-army; Jomini, Clausewitz, and the Napoleonic revolution in warfare; the development of naval strategy and the rise of airpower; Mao Tse-tung, David Galula, and Roger Trinquier's reflections on insurgency and counterinsurgency and their influence on the U.S. Army's Field Manual 3-24; Just-war theory, from Thucydides' Melian Dialogue to Operation Iraqi Freedom; nuclear war, terrorism, and other strategic challenges for the 21st century.
You'll come away from this course with new insight that will allow you to take an informed, active interest in political and military debates - which ultimately will determine the course of our nation.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this course are those of the professor and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Good beginning - weak end

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I would recommend the first half of the book. As long as the topic is history and war from past centuries, the professor is very insightful. This is also the case when he talks about modern wars that did not involve the U.S. When it comes to wars the U.S. fought, the storyline is overly biased towards official U.S. political and military opinon and does not critically question motives and conduct.


What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

The history of greek wars and up to and including the french revolution is great. The lessons are insightful and highlight well the development of warfare and it strategic and tactical conduct.

As soon as he comes to the role of the U.S., the class gets incredibly weak. His lesson on the Second Iraq war from a perspective of a "Just war" is a definite low point due to any missing criticality and an overly biased view in favor of official U.S. policy. Just a view examples.
1) He talks at length about the justification in light of the "Just War" theory that president Bush gave (several minutes), yet then fails to mention how questionable this all was in practice, especially with respect to the claimed W.M.D. He reiterates Bush's view that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a threat to the U.S., yet makes no effort at all to look into this rather controversial claim.
2) He highlights how well U.S. soldiers treated the Iraqi population, which I believe is certainly true (especially as it has to be viewed in the light of a war situation), yet he fails to mention to torture scandal in Iraq.
3) In the rebuilding phase of Iraq, he says it is easy to criticize it, but does not elaborate further very much, certainly not on specific points that would be negative to the U.S.. Yet at the same time, he highlights that the U.S. did not ask for reparations from Iraq as a positive point (which is at least questionable given the justification of the war as intended to free the Iraqi people from tyranny and that in comparison to the U.S., they are very poor).

Conspicously absent is an in depth treatment of the Vietnam war. Vietnam is certainly treated in a lecture when it comes to the interplay of the political side and the military. But the ultimate reasons for the loss of the Iraq war and the lessons to be learned from it are only mentioned briefly.


Was Masters of War: History's Greatest Strategic Thinkers worth the listening time?

Yes, but skip the more modern part.


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- Hoefling

Great Introductory Overview of Strategic Concepts

What did you love best about Masters of War: History's Greatest Strategic Thinkers?

This may seem like a cliché, but what Carl Sagan did for science, Prof. Wilson has done for Strategy. I am a civilian with no military background. I found Prof. Wilson’s lectures interesting, well-structured, and informative. The lectures have a just the right balance of factual dissertation and storytelling to keep the listener engaged. These lectures have left me with a better mental framework for applying strategic thinking to my own decisions, and for understanding the actions of others on the larger world stage.


What was one of the most memorable moments of Masters of War: History's Greatest Strategic Thinkers?

Prof. Wilson’s attention to the importance of a back-and-forth dialog between civilian and military leaders actually changed my preconceived notions in that area.


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- John H. Heitmuller "Johnny"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses