Margin of Victory
Five Battles that Changed the Face of Modern War
Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 2016, 288 pages
Book Review published on: April 14, 2017
In most endeavors, it is critical that you set the conditions early to achieve success. For an author, that usually translates into crafting opening chapters leading to an impactful and beneficial conclusion. Unfortunately, many authors develop a conclusion as an afterthought and the benefit to the reader is minimal, if at all. One author who has displayed that he understands condition setting is Douglas Macgregor. His latest volume, Margin of Victory, perfectly utilizes an outstanding beginning to build an even better conclusion.
Within Margin of Victory, Macgregor continues to focus on a subject that he has passionately written and spoken on for well over two decades: the transformation and restructuring of the U.S. Army. To reinforce his recommendations on the above, he has selected five battles fought in the last one hundred years. He believes these battles (Battle of Mons, 1914; Battle of Shanghai, 1937; Destruction of Army Group Center, 1944; Counterattack across the Suez, 1973; and Battle of 73 Easting, 1991) highlight the armies, which were built to fight in future conflicts and not past wars, had themselves set the conditions for success. He opines it is a condition that the U.S. Army has not presently set.
For many readers of Military Review, Macgregor’s body of work should be very familiar. For over twenty years, the retired Army officer has focused on providing his thoughts and recommendations on transforming and restructuring the Army. Previous books such as Breaking the Phalanx: A New Design for Landpower in the 21st Century and Transformation Under Fire: Revolutionizing how America Fights were exceptionally thought-provoking and relevant. His latest effort certainly possesses the above characteristics.
As addressed above, Macgregor chose five battles to support his beliefs on the organization of the Army today and the future. Readers seeking significant treatment of each of these battles have clearly selected the wrong volume. Macgregor provides a very concise discussion of each battle, and within this discussion, he weaves analysis on why either side may have been significantly aided or hindered by their earlier decisions on transformation or restructuring. I believe these chapters superbly set up the author for the focus of his book—the conclusion.
An excellent summary of the focus of Macgregor’s conclusion is provided in one of the author’s final paragraphs. He states, “Still, even in reduced economic circumstances, Americans must cultivate a new margin of victory lest they end up without good strategic options. A laser-like focus on military organization, technology, and human capital with one eye on today’s needs and the other on tomorrow’s challenges is indispensable.” Macgregor delves into each of these areas within his highly beneficial conclusion. He not only opines on what changes must occur within the Army now to assist in the fight today and tomorrow’s fight, but also offers how the changes should be implemented.
In summary, Margin of Victory will not disappoint readers acquainted with Macgregor’s previous work or those new to it. As with past efforts, it is highly readable and relevant. Will you agree with all of his recommendations? No! However, it will lead you to think and inevitably come up with your own recommendations. That is the beauty of a Douglas Macgregor book. It lends itself to dialogue and debate on an incredibly important topic.
Book Review written by: Frederick A. Baillergeon, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas