Chris Blattman

This is the novel of the next world war, and it’s great


1313099932668866964Finally someone besides Todd Moss has combined social science with pulpy beach-reading thrillers. Suresh Naidu turned me onto P.W. Singer and August Cole’s Ghost Fleet during one of our morning runs, and you should think of this as our combined book review.

In short, China attacks the U.S. Anything past this point is a minor spoiler. If you don’t want to hear more, then simply know that the book was good fun and more thought-provoking than any security paper I’ve read in a long time. So I say buy it.

First you should know that some war bloggers hate it. Here are Noel Maurer‘s many posts, which mostly raise technical and technological complaints.

Nonetheless, some of my favorite insights, some of which come from Suresh:

  • Economists who think about the pros and cons of globalization and trade have not even begun to think about the security implications of their policies.
  • The inherent superiority of dumb warfare when smart weaponry becomes too good.
  • Walmart is a weapon of mass destruction.
  • The maxim “always take the high ground” means orbit, at least.
  • Sadly there were no Chinese political scientists and economists run counter-insurgency randomized trials.
  • It would have been a better book if there were a moral justification for Chinese aggression that made an average American see America from the outside, uncharitably.

Personally I don’t know the authors’ politics. I only know Singer from his early books on child soldiers, before he got into writing about the U.S. military. But, intentional or not, the book strikes me as excellent nationalist propaganda. Even a liberal idealist like me found myself sneering at NATO, offshoring, and those Chinese devils. It is possible you will be subtly turned on to a President Trump. You have been warned.

6 Responses

  1. Whoa — Chris, I haven’t even gotten around yet to blasting the stupidity of Chinese counterinsurgency!

    Goddammit, now I have to write the damn thing. Ghost fleet is truly truly terrible.

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