Strategy Strikes Back


Strategy Strikes Back

How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict

Edited by Max Brooks, John Amble, ML Cavanaugh, and Jaym Gates 
Foreword by Stanley McChrystal

272 pages


October 2020


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eBook (EPUB)
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May 2018


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eBook (PDF)
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May 2018


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About the Book

The most successful film franchise of all time, Star Wars thrillingly depicts an epic multigenerational conflict fought a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But the Star Wars saga has as much to say about successful strategies and real-life warfare waged in our own time and place. Strategy Strikes Back brings together more than thirty of today’s top military and strategic experts, including generals, policy advisors, seasoned diplomats, counterinsurgency strategists, science fiction writers, war journalists, and ground-level military officers, to explain the strategy and the art of war by way of the Star Wars films.

Each chapter of Strategy Strikes Back provides a relatable, outside-the-box way to simplify and clarify the complexities of modern military conflict. Strategy Strikes Back gives Star Wars fans and aspiring military minds alike an inspiring and entertaining means of understanding many facets of modern warfare in a book as captivating as Star Wars itself.

Author Bio

Max Brooks is a writer, public speaker, nonresident fellow at the Modern War Institute at West Point, and senior resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare project. He is the author of World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War and the coauthor (with John Amble, ML Cavanaugh, and Jaym Gates) of Winning Westeros: How Game of Thrones Explains Modern Military Conflict (Potomac, 2019). John Amble is the editorial director of the Modern War Institute. A former U.S. Army military intelligence officer, he is a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. ML Cavanaugh is a nonresident fellow at the Modern War Institute and a U.S. Army strategist with global experience. Jaym Gates is a science fiction editor and author, with more than a dozen anthologies to her credit. Stanley McChrystal is a U.S. Army general (ret.) who led the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq during the Persian Gulf wars and was top commander of American forces in Afghanistan.


"Illuminating."—Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs

“Over the course of history, our single greatest vulnerability has been a failure of imagination. Strategy Strikes Back confronts that vulnerability. The future may not evolve precisely as these authors suggest, but evolve it will. As it does, we will discover that some of tomorrow’s challenges will prove to be timeless, and others surprisingly new. Learning to imagine now will be time well spent.”—Gen. Martin Dempsey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

"This assortment of imaginative and fun analyses is an absolute essential for any military theorist, strategist, critic, and lover of the Star Wars saga that to this day, continues to inspire, expand, and hold a profound sway in our imaginations."—Christopher S. Poppleton, Aviation Digest

Star Wars is just as much a foundational mythology of our time as The Iliad was a long time ago. Strategy Strikes Back ingeniously uses that world far, far away to help readers take a look at our wars here today.”—P. W. Singer, best-selling author of Wired for War and coauthor of Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War

"You might be forgiven for thinking the never-ending Star Wars franchise was simply a cash cow built of sequels, spin-offs and toys. But the space saga is actually helping further the discussion about military strategy right here on Earth."—Chad Jones, San Francisco Chronicle

"Anyone with a basic knowledge of the Star Wars universe is sure to enjoy the creative parallels used by these esteemed authors to simplify complex topics. Avid fans with deep knowledge of this universe cannot help but embrace these parallels, think through them more deeply, and dig even deeper into them as they try to support or argue against the authors while also showing off their superior knowledge of their favorite series of movies."—Steve Luczynski, Strategy Bridge

"Strategy Strikes Back succeeds . . . in illuminating the parallels between war-fighting in speculative fiction and the real world. It opens strategic thinking to non-expert audiences, and prompts experts to reason creatively about the role of force—and indeed the Force—in establishing and maintaining political order."—Stephen Dyson, H-Diplo

"Strategy Strikes Back highlights what good science fiction and serious reflection on pop culture can do: bring the (strategic) dilemmas of the current age into stark relief."—Erin Simpson, War on the Rocks

"This may be the most innovative and interesting book on military strategy ever published. . . . This volume takes a completely different approach to explaining both the eternal nature and modern intricacies of strategy, politics, and conflict by using the popular Star Wars movies as a common frame of reference for discussing the many issues and challenges modern practitioners of the strategic arts face."—Jerry Lenaburg, New York Journal of Books

Table of Contents

Stanley McChrystal
ML Cavanaugh
Max Brooks
Part 1. Society and War
1. The Case for Planet Building on Endor
Max Brooks
2. The Jedi and the Senate
Jim Golby
3. Distant Warriors: Are Clones and Troops Too Separate from the Societies They Serve?
Crispin J. Burke
4. On Destroying Alderaan
Mick Cook
5. Civil-Military Relationships in Star Wars
Daniel D. Maurer
6. How General Grievous and Vulture Droids Foreshadow Conflict’s Fast Future
Raq Winchester and Fran Wilde
7. From Princess to General: The On- and Offscreen Rise of the Woman Warrior
Erica Iverson
Part 2. Preparation for War
8. Tarkin Doctrine: The Empire’s Theory of Victory
Kelsey D. Atherton
9. How Not to Build an Army: The Empire’s Flawed Military Force
Mick Ryan
10. The Jedi and the Profession of Arms
Steve Leonard
11. The Right Fleet: Starships for Strategic Purpose
BJ Armstrong
12. Why We Need Space Marines
B. A. Friedman
13. Jedi Mind Tricks: From the Reel to the Real
Jean Marie Ward
14. Lightsabers and Death Stars: Military-Technology Lessons from Star Wars
Dan Ward
Part 3. Waging a War
15. Hybrid Star Wars: The Battle of Endor
James Stavridis and Colin Steele
16. Han, Greedo, and a Strategy of Prevention
Chuck Bies
17. The Logic of Strategy in Space
Steve Metz
18. Darth Vader and Mission Command
Jonathan Bratten
19. The Battle of Hoth: A Critical Analysis
Andrew Liptak
20. Why Military Forces Adapt, Even in a Galaxy Far, Far Away
Chuck Bies
21. Dispatch from Hoth: When the Blood Runs Cold
August Cole
Part 4. Assessment of War
22. Darth Vader’s Failed Counterinsurgency Strategy
Liam Collins
23. Why the Jedi Won Fights, Not Wars
John Spencer
24. Why the Galactic Republic Fell: An Imperial-Network Perspective
Van Jackson
25. Why the Empire Failed
Theresa Hitchens
26. Star Wars, Cyclical History, and Implications for Strategy
Kathleen J. McInnis
27. Suffer, the Weak Must: A History of the Galactic Civil War
Craig Whiteside
28. A Strategist, Yoda Was Not
ML Cavanaugh
Epilogue: The Lessons of Star Wars
ML Cavanaugh

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