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Publisher's Summary

"Stunning. Sean McFate is a new Sun Tzu." (Admiral James Stavridis (retired), former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO)

An Economist Book of the Year 2019

An urgent, fascinating exploration of warfare - past, present and future - and what we must do if we want to win today from an 82nd Airborne veteran, former private military contractor, and professor of war studies at the National Defense University.

War is timeless. Some things change - weapons, tactics, technology, leadership, objectives - but our desire to go into battle does not. We are living in the age of Durable Disorder - a period of unrest created by numerous factors: China’s rise, Russia’s resurgence, America’s retreat, global terrorism, international criminal empires, climate change, dwindling natural resources, and bloody civil wars. Sean McFate has been on the front lines of deep state conflicts and has studied and taught the history and practice of war. He’s seen firsthand the horrors of battle and understands the depth and complexity of the current global military situation.

This devastating turmoil has given rise to difficult questions. What is the future of war? How can we survive? If Americans are drawn into major armed conflict, can we win? McFate calls upon the legends of military study Carl von Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, and others, as well as his own experience, and carefully constructs the new rules for the future of military engagement, the ways we can fight and win in an age of entropy: one where corporations, mercenaries, and rogue states have more power and ‘nation states’ have less. With examples from the Roman conquest, World War II, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and others, he tackles the differences between conventional and future war, the danger in believing that technology will save us, the genuine leverage of psychological and ‘shadow’ warfare, and much more. McFate’s new rules distill the essence of war today, describing what it is in the real world, not what we believe or wish it to be.

Some of these principles are ancient, others are new, but all will permanently shape war now and in the future. By following them he argues, we can prevail. But if we do not, terrorists, rogue states, and others who do not fight conventionally will succeed - and rule the world.

©2019 Sean McFate (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about The New Rules of War

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  • 01-18-20

Relevant/ Researched/ Verifiable Points

If the reader can get past the author's ego, there are some very salient points in this book. Highlights:

1. Western powers look at War as binary: either we are at war or we aren't.
2. With that binary outlook, western powers adhere to the Laws of War (large, defined force-on-force, defined endstate).
3. Other countries are running circles around the US, using non-conventional forces and methods to get to their own undeclared end states.
4. Best example: Russia, with its annexation of Crimea and continuing (denied) battle for Ukraine.

Conclusion: No bad guy wants to go toe-to-toe in all-out War with the US, so they find ways around our policies, doctrines, and weapons systems. YES, Sean McFate has some very good points here.

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more rough than diamonds

Lots of interesting anecdotes, but conclusions often directly contradict assumptions. who should be surprised that adversaries strategies are adapted to defeat known strategies? Recommendations are vague and contradictory. For example, McFate suggests influencing hearts & minds is irrelevant in one chapter, then extols it when talking about Russian information warfare. Sad that this guy teaches senior military leaders on anything other than how to use mercenaries.

2 people found this helpful

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A bit delusional and brainwashed but great book

He provides great information but sometimes he only provides one side of the story. Great book overall.

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Justification for Mercenaries

I had a long review planned, but I didn't write it. I recognize McFate is writing for popular culture but damn this a terrible book. He should have his doctorate revoked.

1 person found this helpful

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Refutes Himself Repeatedly...And Never Notices

A small handful of valid points doesn't save this monument to circular logic, partial facts, and self-refuting arguments. McFate begins with some bold statements about the future of war that piqued my interest, and I eagerly awaited his arguments. I will say his brief discussion of the importance of Grand Strategy was reasonable and interesting. However, my initial interest quickly turned to confusion, then annoyance and frustration, as he repeatedly made claims that were either poorly supported, supported by half-truths, or in many cases, refuted by his own examples and arguments without a hint of irony. Examples include:

1. Claiming war futurists who emphasize the importance of technology are the worst form of snake-oil salesmen, then citing Billy Mitchell as one of the best futurists in history...ignoring the fact that Billy Mitchell's futurism was largely predicated on the new technology of aviation.

2. Claiming things like cyber warfare will not have a significant effect outside of influence operations, then claiming that one of the reasons the F-35 is already obsolete is because its millions of lines of code leave it vulnerable to hacking.

3. When trying to prove that "winning hearts and minds doesn't matter," he cites the historical example of the Romans suppressing the unconventional uprising in Judea using brutal, large scale, conventional military tactics...after he spent the previous portion of the book claiming conventional tactics can not win unconventional wars.

4. He follows this "hearts and minds don't matter" chapter with a chapter dedicated to the importance of conducting Influence Operations...which are indeed important, but are also specifically designed to alter people's thinking, i.e., "hearts and minds."

5. Discussing the problems inherent in using contracted private militaries as support for his idea of establishing an American Foreign Legion (an interesting idea that I actually wish he'd explored more), then spending the next chapter talking about how useful mercenary forces are and arguing they should be relied on more, then arguing against mercenaries again later in the book.

6. Most glaring is his repeated derision of leaders who always try to "fight the last war." This in and of itself is not wrong...it's well-tread ground in analyzing military strategy. Yet most of his recommendations involve using Special Operations, private contractors, and tactics that have been (at least somewhat) effective in combating terrorism...in other words, he exhorts us to fight future wars using the tactics of the current war, contrary to the entire premise of his book.

I don't want to turn this into a multi-page analysis, but the above examples are just part of the disappointingly poor arguments of this book. Fortunately, if you don't agree with what McFate says, just keep listening/reading and he'll refute his own argument eventually. Unfortunately, he never seems to realize it. Does that means he's wrong about everything? Not necessarily, but he certainly doesn't make a convincing argument that he's right.

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Great read

a great take on the future of war. Certainly a good read for any leader in the military.

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A must read!

An interesting and important take on modern warfare. Information war, mercenaries, and the Strategic Arts are the paths to continued American primacy as outlined by the author.

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Outstanding!

The west can afford to keep losing Wars. Sooner or later, the west will be defeated forever. Unless we adapt, and fight back! Get this book in the hands of every politician and military member ASAP! Or kiss America goodbye forever.

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Must read for any military or diplomat

Argues conventional warfare is dead and there only exists war and peace in the declining era of nation states. Recommendations come from years of experience and study. Decries the military's eductional systems creating tacticians vice strategic thinkers. As well as the focus on maintaining victory through technologies and equipment vice investment in SOF, a foreign legion, cyber and information capabilities and prioritising supporting branches of the military being on active duty instead of combat arms.

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Perfect timing read this now!

Sean’s book is spot on with the current way war has changed and the US needs to catch up. Beyond relevant this is essential for our leaders to adapt how they think now.

1 person found this helpful