Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Booknotes: Southern Strategies

New Arrival:
Southern Strategies: Why the Confederacy Failed edited by Christian B. Keller (UP of Kansas, 2021).

Ultimately, the Confederacy collapsed because it was defeated militarily by the US, and numerous books, book chapters, and articles have been devoted to explaining the many internal and external factors (both on and off the battlefield) that contributed to that result. Edited by Christian Keller, the director of the US Army War College's Military History Program, the six essays in Southern Strategies: Why the Confederacy Failed adds to that existing body of work by applying a new framework of analysis. Its series of discussions comprise "the first-ever analysis of Confederate defeat using the lenses of classical strategic and leadership theory. The contributors bring over one hundred years of experience in the field at the junior and senior levels of military leadership and over forty years of teaching in professional military education. Well-aware that the nature of war is immutable and unchanging, they combine their firsthand experience of this truth with solid scholarship to offer new theoretical and historical perspectives about why the South failed in its bid for independence."

The essays selectively reexamine a number of ways in which the Confederacy was responsible for its own demise. More from the description: "The contributors identify and analyze the mistakes made by the Confederate political and strategic leadership that handicapped the prospects for independence and placed immense pressure on Confederate military commanders to compensate on the battlefield for what should have been achieved by other instruments of national power. These instruments are the diplomatic, informational (including intelligence and public morale), and economic aspects of a nation's capability to exert its will internationally. When combined with military power, the acronym DIME emerges, a theoretical tool that offers historians and national security professionals alike a useful method to analyze how a state, such as the Union, the Confederacy, or the modern United States, wielded or currently wields its power at the strategic level."

Half of the chapters enter specific campaigns into the discussion (the 1862 Valley Campaign, the 1862 Maryland Campaign, and the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign), while the rest look that the flaws in Confederate economic/financial policy, diplomacy, and Trans-Mississippi strategy. "Each essay examines how well rebel strategic leaders employed and integrated these instruments, given that the seceded South possessed enough diplomatic, informational, military, and economic power to theoretically win its independence. The essayists also apply the ends-ways-means model of analysis to each topic to offer readers greater insight into the Confederate leadership's challenges."

Reminding readers that the issues behind Confederate failure were complex and numerous, Southern Strategies "offers fresh and theoretically novel interpretations at the strategic level that open new doors for future research." It is also hoped that the volume "will increase public interest in the big questions surrounding Confederate defeat."

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