• The Kill Chain

  • Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare
  • By: Christian Brose
  • Narrated by: Christian Brose
  • Length: 9 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Military
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (1,260 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

From a former senior advisor to Senator John McCain, an urgent wake-up call about how new technologies are threatening America's military might.

When we think about the future of war, the military and Washington and most everyone gets it backwards. We think in terms of buying single military systems, such as fighter jets or aircraft carriers. And when we think about modernizing those systems, we think about buying better versions of the same things. But what really matters is not the single system but "the battle network" - the collection of sensors and shooters that enables a military to find an enemy system, target it, and attack it. This process is what the military calls "the kill chain" - how you get from detection to action, and do it as quickly as possible. The future of war is not about buying better versions of the same systems we have always had; it is about buying faster, better kill chains.

As former Staff Director for the Senate Armed Services Committee and senior policy advisor to Senator John McCain, Christian Brose saw this reality up close. In The Kill Chain, he elaborates on one of the greatest strategic predicaments facing America now: that we are playing a losing game. Our military's technological superiority and traditional approach to projecting power have served us well for decades, when we faced lesser opponents. But now we face highly capable and motivated competitors that are using advanced technologies to erode our military edge, and with it, our ability to prevent war, deter aggression, and maintain peace. 

We must adapt or fail, Brose writes, and the biggest obstacle to doing so is the sheer inertial force of the status quo.

©2020 Christian Brose (P)2020 Hachette Books

Critic Reviews

"The Kill Chain is an exceptional - and an exceptionally stimulating - guide to thinking about the military and technological revolutions that will produce a fundamental change to the character of war." (General David Petraeus (US Army, Ret.), former Commander of the Surge in Iraq, US Central Command, and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan, as well as former Director of the CIA)

"Provocative, jolting, superb, and on target! The Kill Chain is all of those things and more. If you read only one book to better understand the challenges facing the US military and the promise of emerging technologies, this should be it." (Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and author of Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character)

"Christian Brose has done the country a great service by writing this important and timely book. The Kill Chain is a powerful and thoughtful challenge to much of the conventional wisdom about national defense. It also offers a compelling vision for how the US military can get beyond business as usual to compete and win in this new era of great power competition. Brose's book should be read by every American." (Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), author of Sacred Duty: A Soldier's Tour at Arlington National Cemetery)

What listeners say about The Kill Chain

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important message but repetitive

Got it. Got it again. Got it yet again. Could and should be condensed into a 10 page essay.

12 people found this helpful

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Good insight

Author is quite well versed in his trade craft.

Worth pointing out, we enjoyed 40 odd years of peace, albeit with a few scares, with Soviet Russia because of the policy of mutually assured destruction. It wasn't until we gave peace a chance that things went off the rails and we ended up with Putin for life.

We can't stop China's buildup, either militarily or economically. Author makes this point cogently. Nor can we ignore their threat to invade Taiwan. It will happen. The question for the President when that day comes is, 'Do we commit American resources to defend an Island thousands of miles away?' An ally, to be sure, a beacon of democracy in an area otherwise prone to totalitarianism, but would we be better off brokering an accommodation between the soon to be belligerents. What about peaceful Japan? What if North Korea crosses the border and the US is faced with the certainty that our entrance into the conflict will bring China in, just like last time, except this time they won't wait until the North Koreans are defeated.

The US fought 3 wars in Asia in the 20th century, one of them unquestionably legitimate, the other two less so. But all three cost tens or hundreds of thousands of American lives and only historians and family members count the costs as too much. Two of the three wars were fought to a standstill.

The conflict with China will take place in the air and on the sea, and they will press their advantage. They watched how an aggressive approach to a US spy plane in the early days of George W Bush's presidency put an end to the coastal flyby's over international waters. They watched how we 'protested in the UN' as they occupied and fortified the Spratley's. And they watched as Obama stood by, refusing lethal aid to Ukraine as Putin's little green man invaded Crimea and shot down a passenger jet. They will call our bluff, they will enforce their version of what the South China Sea is, and they will retake Taiwan one way or the other.

The idea that weapons platform system rethinking and reimaging, while essential, does not change the facts on the ground. The US will pay an unimaginable price if it goes to war in the South China Sea, regardless of how next generation the weapons systems are and how well they communicate. On this point, I don't think I agree with the author. They will, if all else fails, overwhelm with numbers. That has been the lowest common denominator in the last two wars in Asia; in the first it was the atom bombs.

It's instructive to look at the position Beijing has taken with Australia, an important trading partner for China but much smaller and, most importantly, more reliant on trade with China than China is with Australia. Threatening to cut off all trade might have been hyperbole, put Australia's position of China's failure to stop all international travel in the wake of Covid 19 and failure to invite international assistance is textbook China. The Australian publicly expressd anger caused the trading partner to lose face, and there is no more serious offense to those in power.

Thus, one might conclude that there will never be a limited or conventional war between the US and China. An early series of successes on the part of the allies would escalate very quickly and not end until the Chinese believed they had largely prevailed, so as to save face. Moreover, a foreign war will galvanise an indoctrinated population and all traces of dissent, the currently active soft play, such as that we are seeing in Hong Kong now, will reverse into stronger collective nationalism.

Very provocative book, especially on the issue of quantum sensors.

Read it.

4 people found this helpful

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Adapt or die, the stunning choices

This is an incredibly well thought out and presented piece of research and understanding from someone who has the chops to present it. If you want to know what direction our military should go, you have to read this. I passed this book recommendation on to my son, a West Point Grad who is moving into the acquisitions branch of the Army. I told him this book was required reading for his new position.

4 people found this helpful

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Great!

Chapter after chapter, kept me hooked. Relatable material and thoughts.

A must read for all echelons of leadership.

2 people found this helpful

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Dreary subject delivered with a dreary tone.

Excellent subject that talks about what needs to be talked about. Overall subject is dreadful to think about, and the jury is still out if the narrator could have done a better job at making it more lively or if it was the perfect tone.

2 people found this helpful

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platforms vs systems. acquisition corps, listen up

adequately details the victory disease that has plagued decision makers in the congressional-military-industrial complex in the US. Brose does a good job of not just "throwing a dead cat on the table" but offers short-term workarounds and long term fixes to keep our military relevant in the next 50 years. If you hate pork but love innovation, give it a listen.

2 people found this helpful

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Mandatory reading for all US citizens!!!

This is such an important and scary possible unfortunate future for the world. This should be required reading for ALL US politicians and citizens. Leave it to US politicians to screw things up again.

2 people found this helpful

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Sobering look at our defense complex

Very good and thorough analysis of what is happening and what needs to be done to ensure our national defense.

2 people found this helpful

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Anti-China sentiment may be growing in the U.S.,..

Anti-China sentiment may be growing in the U.S., but globally, the opposite is true.

As China has risen in global importance in recent years, the U.S. has become increasingly sidelined and it no longer appears to have policies in place to change that.

China is at war with the US. China’s goal is to establish Global Economic Supremacy by 2049. It is striving to displace the US from global leadership and render other nations its economic tributaries. This war is all about the Chinese people. This war is about Chinese prosperity; Collective effort; Socialism, and the Chinese national glory.

Members of Chinese military support China's military development, opining that the 'Strong-Nation dream of a Great Revival of the Chinese people' can only result from a 'Strong-Army dream'.

And over the past decade, in U.S. war games against China, the US has a nearly perfect record: It has lost almost every single time !!!

2 people found this helpful

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A topic worth knowing about.

The covers recent military acquisition strategy and why that model is dated (and wasteful) because our competition (China) has studied our model and is building their military to exploit our weaknesses. Overall a good thesis and valid points made.

1 person found this helpful