Arming Without Aiming: India’s Military Modernization
Stephen P. Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta, Brookings Institution Press, 2010, 223 pp.
This informative, concise book describes a rising India’s attempts at defense modernization. India has enjoyed rapid economic growth, but according to the authors, an unwieldy military acquisitions process and an indifferent governing class threaten to hamstring modernization efforts. The country’s armed forces have been expanding as New Delhi has assumed a more assertive role in its volatile region and international affairs generally and as it considers potential threats from its two nuclear-armed neighbors, China and Pakistan. Given this increased assertiveness and the disappearance of the Soviet Union, the traditional military patron from which New Delhi received very favorable terms of trade, the country has been looking for new sources of arms. India has long preferred to develop military technologies indigenously, but has largely failed to do so, and it has been expanding defense acquisitions from countries such as Israel and the United States. Cohen and Dasgupta emphasize India’s “strategic restraint,” a long-running Indian tendency that has led the country to avoid the use of force as a policy instrument and has influenced the course of its military modernization. They also highlight India’s historical preference for ironclad civilian authority over the military, even at the cost of military preparedness. Arming Without Aiming contains brief chapters on nuclear weapons and police modernization, but focuses primarily on the army, navy, and air force. It concludes with recommendations to guide U.S. policy toward India’s military and nuclear arsenal. The book is an excellent resource for those already familiar with Indian and South Asian strategic issues. —ERIC AUNER
The Missile Defense Systems of George W. Bush: A Critical Assessment
Richard Dean Burns, Praeger, 2010, 198 pp.
Despite what the title suggests, Richard Dean Burns, emeritus professor of history at CaliforniaStateUniversity, does not limit the scope of his book to the Bush administration. He critiques the history of U.S. attempts to construct ballistic missile defense systems, tracing U.S. missile defense policy from the Eisenhower administration to the present. Burns shows how “overblown” reports, such as those from Team B in 1976 and the Rumsfeld Commission in 1998, that exaggerate the danger posed by ballistic missiles have strengthened a belief over the years that missile defense is the solution. At its core, however, Missile Defense Systems is a narrative of how “political demands for deployment” of these systems have led to the entrenchment of missile defense in U.S. strategic thinking. Burns concludes that missile defense has become embedded in the U.S. military-industrial complex for two reasons: Political considerations have become paramount when discussing missile defense policy, and Congress has not seriously reviewed the costs and capability of these systems. His book is a useful primer on the antecedents of the current debate over the value of U.S. missile defense and an excellent companion piece to Victoria Samson’s American Missile Defense. (See ACT, June 2010). Although Samson examines the technical aspects of U.S. ballistic missile defense systems, Burns focuses on the policy aspect of missile defense. —MATT SUGRUE