THE BOOKSHELF

DEFENSE WILL NOT WIN THE WAR, W. F. Kernan, Lt. Col., U. S. Army; Little, Brown & Co., 193 pp.

Colonel Kernan's title was announced to a public eager to hear that the United States should and must attack if it wants to defeat Nazi Germany. The idea is eminently sound, but it is not new. Every isolationist in the country before December 7 loudly pointed out that Hitler could not be defeated until American boys marched down Unter den Linden, and since that time cartoonists and editorial writers in every major paper in the country with the exception of the Chicago Tribune have pounded on the theme of attack.

But unfortunately only a very few pages of Colonel Kernan's very short book are devoted to a military proof of how attack and attack alone can win this war. The majority of his space he spends on expanding his basic idea in two directions, both of which seem to lead him into the mires of confusion and false proof. First he tries to generalize on his thesis and to prove the need and validity of the attack at all times and under all possible situations. Second, he tries to reduce his thesis to specifics and claims that an attack on Italy this spring is the touchstone needed to start Germany on the down grade.

In both cases he neglects with no more than a passing scoff the maxim that an attack cannot be made with a reasonable hope of success unless a number of calculable and near-calculable military factors weigh on the side of the attacker. He cites his favorite General, Foch, who sent a marvelous message to the bumbling "Papa" Joffre before the First Battle of the Marne stating that his center, his right, and his left were in terrible shape, that the situation was excellent, and that he was attacking. He forgets, it would appear, that the situation was excellent only because an active defense had lured the Germans on and tempted them to abandon partially the Schlieffen plan. When he cites the Battle of Marathon he forgets that it is the classic example of the "double envelopment," a military term meaning that you let the enemy dig his own grave and then shovel him in. One cannot discard the defense as valueless with a scoff and a biting remark. Colonel Kernan disregards the two most sensational defenses of modern times--those of Russia in 1812 and 1941--which did not develop into counter-attacks until the time was ripe.

As for the Italy scheme, it sounds like another example of the Gallipoli at which Colonel Kernan rails so effectively. Unless he has information on the present control of the Mediterranean which is unknown to the layman he would appear to speak unwisely. He may continue to dismiss the value of sea power with the pat chapter title "Mahan Was Wrongl," but until he brings facts rather than sarcasm to bear on the Admiral's theory, control of the sea lanes will still have a certain appeal to warring powers and the Mediterranean will still be a difficult "mare nostrum" in which to maintain lines of communication.

Perhaps in the end we can align ourselves with the Washington admiral who told the press that he agreed with Colonel Kernan's title but couldn't vouch for the validity of all his theories. The only difference is that the admiral hadn't read the book.