Recension av Peter Hore i Tidskrift i Sjöväsendet nr 1 2020
From Sun Tzu to Hyperwar: A Strategic Encyclopaedia by Lars Wedin (Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences, hardback, US$20/200SwKr) Here is an essential vade mecum for every student and scholar of strategy, the product of one man’s 50 years’ worth of study of strategy. It is a book, however, which the author excuses the reader from reading from cover to cover: instead this is an encyclopaedia, to be dipped into and to be consulted. Yet, the book opens with a concise history of strategy down the centuries which is well worthy to be ‘read, marked, and inwardly digested’. The opening essay covers the history of the subject from antiquity to the present, from Thucydides to the post Cold War and concludes with the statement that the sea will be the most important strategic arena in the 21st century – for its sea lines of communications and its resources.
Fittingly a large part the book is devoted to biographical and bibliographic entries of the ‘thinkers’ and a less detailed ‘key person index’: the Anglo-phone reader might quibble that this thinker or that had not been included. If he or she has read more widely, they might wonder why Raoul Castex is included but not Wolfgang Wegener. Otherwise From Sun Tzu to Hyperwar is bang up-to-date.
It includes a discussion of hybrid war, where Russian Valery Gerasimov is mentioned in the text and he is listed among the thinkers, and British Andrew Lambert’s, and his exposition on Seapower States: Maritime Culture, Continental Empires and the Conflict That Made the Modern which was reviewed in these pages only recently, is also references in this masterly resume of the subject.
However, in a world where strategic thinking is usually dominated by American writers, the Anglophone is going to be jolted by the inclusion here of a large number Classical, European and Asian thinkers. Wedin himself, a captain in the Royal Swedish Navy, has been heavily influenced by French philosophers of whom he names five, Poirier, Couteau-Bégarie, Chaliand, Pénisson and Castex. This is thought provoking stuff – your reviewer is only familiar with two of these names.
There is also a comprehensive bibliography, containing many authors who will be unknown to the Anglophone community, and therefore Wedin’s encyclopaedia will be challenge to many in American and British circles who have not read outside their own language. The main section, or one half of the book, is a matter of definitions and discussions. some of the definitions may not be those accepted in Anglophone staff colleges, reminding the reader that he who commands the vocabulary – and here Lars Wedin certainly does – often wins the argument. Here by presenting some alternatives in Sun Tzu to Hyperwar, Lars Wedin has created a platform for discussion, an invaluable platform which will, I hope, see many iterations.