To Boldly Go Cover

To Boldly Go

Leadership, Strategy, and Conflict in the 21st Century and Beyond

Edited by Jonathan Klug and Steven Leonard

Casemate, Philadelphia, 2021, 304 pages

Book Review published on: November 25, 2022

To Boldly Go: Leadership, Strategy, and Conflict in the 21st Century and Beyond is an edited ensemble of literary works that uses science fiction as a backdrop to understand conflicts and resolutions within political and military contexts. The editors, Jonathan Klug and Steven Leonard, gather more than thirty writers’ works from around the globe. These are experts who are well versed in leadership and strategy, senior policy advisors, and analysts who examine future conflicts using the lens of science fiction. Klug is a U.S. Army War College professor and military strategist and historian, who has received awards in prior stints teaching military history at both the Air Force and Naval Academies. His equally esteemed coeditor, Leonard, is an award-winning faculty member at the University of Kansas who chairs graduate programs in organizational leadership and supply chain management. He is also a senior fellow at the Modern War Institute at West Point and has authored, coauthored, and edited five books.

Klug and Leonard assemble thought-provoking essays from a diverse range of thinkers from the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. These essays address applicable subjects that business, educational, and military leaders will find intriguing. A good portion of the thirty-one articles highlight lessons that can be learned from the science fiction genre that are both relatable and entertaining. The articles allow readers to use their imaginations to think about the future of military leadership, teaching and learning, and civilian-military relationships. Various themes of conflict are addressed such as the nature of strategy, strategic competition, ethical dilemmas in technology use, and the essentials of leadership. Each of the chapters address works of science fiction to include books, short stories, movies, and television series, to explore contemporary challenges in leadership, strategy, and conflict.

The insightful forward and introduction are followed by six distinct sections that host thematically related concepts. Part one examines leadership and the art of command. Part two investigates military strategy, planning, and decision-making. Part three explores ethics, culture, and diversity from a mostly secular humanist perspective. Part four delves into cooperation, competition, and conflict. Part five focuses on complex relationships between humanity and technology. The final section, part six, assesses the dark depths of leadership, from toxic and destructive leaders to the impact of leading in trauma.

The authors convey the various nuances of leadership throughout the book’s essays. One writer focuses on leadership traits such as loyalty, trustworthiness, wisdom, forward thinking and kindness while another author focuses on leadership methods such as adjusting one’s perspective, when necessary, to know and trust the team, that an excess of structure hampers performance, and to build adaptive teams as displayed by Ender Wiggin in Ender’s Game. One author rightly concludes that it is extremely difficult to define the exact attributes of future commanders because other key attributes can be overlooked, thus precluding emergence of a potential military genius. One chapter addresses transformational leadership with merits of setting high standards, mentoring and empowering subordinates to develop their full potential, using The Last Jedi as its template.

Strategy and strategic concepts are well explained in several essays. One author lays out four insights for strategic thinkers and planners, highlighting the vital importance of ensuring focus on the strategic end state as more important than the conflict itself. Another essay uses the Old Man’s War series to emphasize the importance of strategic empathy and strategic narcissism in oneself and the enemy in order to accurately comprehend input received from the intelligence community. Studying these strategic concepts enables one to discover strategic level critical analysis and premortem has in strategic and operational planning.

The book has many redeeming qualities yet also has a few detractions. The third section includes a chapter that overtly discredits Christianity and its adherents, labeling Christians as barbaric and violently militant fanatics who kidnap, enslave, rape, and murder. While some actors in the name of Christianity have committed atrocities, these actions are totally antithetical to the biblical teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and the writings of his apostles within the New Testament. Additionally, many of the direct quotes use profanity unnecessarily to convey a point. Despite these, this book is a must read for all strategists and military leaders at any level as well as State Department personnel who work with a variety of people from different cultures.

Book Review written by: Stephen S. Harvey, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas