I’ve mentioned my forthcoming book, Surprise Attack, a few times but since it is now available for pre-order I wanted to give it a bit more formal introduction. In researching and writing Shadow Warfare, I became intrigued with the fact of how much new historical information has become available over the past decade or so. That includes not only government document releases and a huge amount of oral history but records from non-traditional sources ranging from professional and historical journals. Deep internet searches have made a range of sources visible which previously were only known to specialists in certain areas – my recent blog posts in regard to new findings in regard to the Navy and Joint Chiefs role in regard to the Trinidad and Zapata plans for landings in Cuba are an example. The first clue to that was an article in a very special interest naval history journal. As it turns out military unit histories and unit journals are a prime source of information generally not visible or used in past works.
The other thing that jumped out at me in the Shadow Warfare research, was how much information accepted as “common knowledge” in regard to events of the last few decades is called into question by the facts now available – or can be seen to represent political worldviews or agendas rather than real history. It’s clear that to some extent talk radio and TV as well as internet social media have fueled that situation – if only there were built in “fact checkers” for such things the world might be a saner place. My own experience suggests that over 90% of the “news” emails I get via social media have an agenda and are either only partially true or totally false. Another aspect of the problem is that “contemporary” books often come into the market weeks or months after current events. Given that the full history of virtually any significant event – especially one with political ramifications – takes years and sometimes decades to become truly visible (since the real primary sources remain protected either by national security classification, legal concerns or just simple CYA) such books are at best “first cuts” at real history. Problem is, that those books remain on the market for years and continue to have an impact long after new information is available.
Stu Wexler and I went to great lengths in Shadow Warfare to use as many of the very latest sources available and to be as balanced as possible about historical events, issues and activities which are politically sensitive. This gained us some attention from reviewers who noted that such balance is not necessarily found in much of what goes into print these days – but much less in the way of attention or plaudits from media folks who want something truly sensational or something that is playing to a particular “base” and therefore guarantees immediate viewers, listeners, acceptance and endorsement. In any event, when we finished with Shadow Warfare, which addresses the covert and clandestine history of the last 60 years, I decided I would take a deep breath and begin to dig into the more conventional side of America’s military history. I’ve long been immersed in Cold War history, but given what we had found in looking at the new data on the covert/clandestine side, it seemed that a fresh look might offer some new and potentially different insights.
The result of that effort will be available in early fall. Surprise Attack delves into the evolution of threat and warnings intelligence, of planning and preparedness against conventional, nuclear and terror attacks and most especially into a study of how well everything works under the stress of actual attacks and crises. It devotes considerable attention to the performance of the upper levels of both military and civilian command, especially the evolution and effectiveness of what is known as national command authority. And while I try to maintain the same degree of “balance” as in Shadow Warfare, readers will find much which will be considered controversial and not necessarily comfortable. Which of course is what good history tries to do, it doesn’t sell as many books as certain other approaches but that’s just the way it goes.
If any of this piques your interest, be the first person on your block to pre-order Surprise Attack, it won’t cost you anything now and it would make my publisher really happy. Just check out my web site for the appropriate links: