USSTRATCOM Professional Reading List

Professional development is essential to the successful execution of our mission. One key component to professional development is reading and critically thinking about military issues, history, and leadership. The intention is that this list will serve as a guide for all STRATCOM military and civilian personnel to enhance their professional knowledge.



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On China – Henry Kissinger - © 2011, Penguin Press

In On China, Kissinger examines key episodes in Chinese foreign policy from the classical era to the present day, with a particular emphasis on the decades since the rise of Mao Zedong. Drawing on his extensive personal experience with four generation of Chinese leaders, he brings to life towering figures such as Mao, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping, revealing how their different visions have shaped China's modern destiny. With a final chapter on the emerging superpower's 21st-century world role, On China provides an intimate historical perspective on Chinese foreign affairs from one of the premier statesmen of the 20th century.

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World Order – Henry Kissinger - © 2014, Penguin Press

Henry Kissinger offers in World Order a deep meditation on the roots of international harmony and global disorder. Drawing on his experience as one of the foremost statesmen of the modern era-advising presidents, traveling the world, observing and shaping the central foreign policy events of recent decades-Kissinger now reveals his analysis of the ultimate challenge for the twenty-first century: how to build a shared international order in a world of divergent historical perspectives, violent conflict, proliferating technology, and ideological extremism. Taking readers from his analysis of nuclear negotiations with Iran through the West’s response to the Arab Spring and tensions with Russia over Ukraine, World Order anchors Kissinger’s historical analysis in the decisive events of our time.

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Duty! Memoirs of a Secretary at War – Bob Gates - © 2014 Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

From the former secretary of defense, a strikingly candid, vivid account of serving Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When Robert M. Gates received a call from the White House, he thought he’d long left Washington politics behind: After working for six presidents in both the CIA and the National Security Council, he was happily serving as president of Texas A&M University. But when he was asked to help a nation mired in two wars and to aid the troops doing the fighting, he answered what he felt was the call of duty

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Competitive Strategies for the 21st Century – Thomas Mahnken - © 2012 Stanford University Press

This book uses the theory and practice of peacetime great-power strategic competition to derive recommendations for just such a strategy. After examining the theory of peacetime strategic competition, it assesses the U.S.-China military balance in depth, considers the role of America's allies in the region, and explores strategies that the U.S could adopt to improve its strategic position relative to China over the long term.

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Leaders Eat Last – Simon Sinek - © 2014, Penguin Press

Imagine a world where almost everyone wakes up inspired to go to work, feels trusted and valued during the day, then returns home feeling fulfilled. This is not a crazy, idealized notion. Today, in many successful organizations, great leaders are creating environments in which people naturally work together to do remarkable things. Today’s workplaces tend to be full of cynicism, paranoia and self-interest. But the best organizations foster trust and cooperation because their leaders build what Sinek calls a Circle of Safety that separates the security inside the team from the challenges outside. The Circle of Safety leads to stable, adaptive, confident teams, where everyone feels they belong and all energies are devoted to facing the common enemy and seizing big opportunities. Sinek illustrates his ideas with fascinating true stories from a wide range of examples, from the military to manufacturing, from government to investment banking.

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Turn the Ship Around! – L. David Marquet - © 2013, Penguin Press

"Leadership should mean giving control rather than taking control and creating leaders rather than forging followers." Turn the Ship Around! Is the true story of how the Santa Fe skyrocketed from worst to first in the fleet by challenging the U.S. Navy's traditional leader-follower approach. Struggling against his own instincts to take control, he instead achieved the vastly more powerful model of giving control. Before long, each member of Marquet's crew became a leader and assumed responsibility for everything he did, from clerical tasks to crucial combat decisions. The crew became fully engaged, contributing their full intellectual capacity every day, and the Santa Fe started winning awards and promoting a highly disproportionate number of officers to submarine command. No matter your business or position, you can apply Marquet's radical guidelines to turn your own ship around. The payoff: a workplace where everyone around you is taking responsibility for their actions, where people are healthier and happier, where everyone is a leader.

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Counter Space – William B. Scott, Michael J. Coumatos, William J. Birnes - © 2011 St. Martin’s Press

What if North Korea detonates a nuclear weapon in space and silences dozens of satellites? What if an Iranian missile threatens to destroy Israel, while a Venezuelan "research" satellite endangers one of the US’s most promising space initiatives? What if tech-savvy terrorist cells unleash back-to-back horrors in California while national leaders, robbed of spy satellite imagery, are forced to make "blind" decisions?

These are the scenarios of Counterspace, a frighteningly plausible look at threats to the United States and the world. Scott, Coumatos, and Birnes use war gaming scenarios to show how the US Strategic Command might use current and near-future technology to prevent global disaster.

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Character: The Ultimate Success Factor – Dr. J. Phillip London (2013)

Character: The Ultimate Success Factor demonstrates how character, expressed through perspective, action, and resilience, determines success. Based on the personal, corporate and military experiences of Dr. J. Phillip ("Jack") London, a successful defense industry executive, as well as many other real-life examples, the book presents the time-tested lessons behind character-driven success. The book insightfully explains that while a variety of factors form our abilities and influence the events in our lives, character is the key to long-term success. Character is a unique set of moral and ethical qualities that define what you believe in, what you stand for, and what you expect of yourself and others. London asserts that how you act on these qualities - your statement of character - will determine how far you will go; if you succeed or fail. Success is also uniquely defined as acting with honesty and integrity, performing to the best of your ability, and appreciating the people who helped you achieve your goals. Enduring success is never gained by unethical or unlawful means, for dubious purposes, or at great moral cost. The development of character-driven success is unveiled in 17 lessons grouped into five progressive sections. Based on the architectural wedge-shaped piece at the summit of an arch that holds the other pieces in place, the first section is titled Keystone: Character. Expressions of character, from personal behavior to the role and influence of others', form perspectives about success. The second section called Blueprint: Vision, adds the next step of deciding what you want to achieve. While taking the strategic steps of setting out the big picture, character is also developed by using judgment, dealing with change and the unexpected, and identifying unique opportunities to be distinctive. Structure: Action, the third section, focuses on the frequent challenges in achieving goals, such as struggles with taking the first steps, decisiveness, self-expression, and taking the lead. The value of our efforts is examined in the fourth section called Appraise: Resolve. Every so often we need, or are forced, to stop and assess things. Sometimes, it's assessing a risk. Other times, it's assessing whether to go any further. The final section, Build: Momentum, discusses the most important lesson; that we are building ourselves and our future, because we are all a work in progress. This is success in its most genuine and most realistic form.

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Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS – Joby Warrick (2015)

In a thrilling dramatic narrative, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Joby Warrick traces how the strain of militant Islam behind ISIS first arose in a remote Jordanian prison and spread with the unwitting aid of two American presidents. When the government of Jordan granted amnesty to a group of political prisoners in 1999, it little realized that among them was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a terrorist mastermind and soon the architect of an Islamist movement bent on dominating the Middle East. In Black Flags, an unprecedented character-driven account of the rise of ISIS, Joby Warrick shows how the zeal of this one man and the strategic mistakes of Presidents Bush and Obama led to the banner of ISIS being raised over huge swaths of Syria and Iraq.

Zarqawi began by directing terror attacks from a base in northern Iraq, but it was the American invasion in 2003 that catapulted him to the head of a vast insurgency. By falsely identifying him as the link between Saddam and bin Laden, U.S. officials inadvertently spurred like-minded radicals to rally to his cause. Their wave of brutal beheadings and suicide bombings persisted until American and Jordanian intelligence discovered clues that led to a lethal airstrike on Zarqawi’s hideout in 2006.

His movement, however, endured. First calling themselves al-Qaeda in Iraq, then Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, his followers sought refuge in unstable, ungoverned pockets on the Iraq-Syria border. When the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, and as the U.S. largely stood by, ISIS seized its chance to pursue Zarqawi’s dream of an ultra-conservative Islamic caliphate. Drawing on unique high-level access to CIA and Jordanian sources, Warrick weaves gripping, moment-by-moment operational details with the perspectives of diplomats and spies, generals and heads of state, many of whom foresaw a menace worse than al Qaeda and tried desperately to stop it. Black Flags is a brilliant and definitive history that reveals the long arc of today’s most dangerous extremist threat.

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Ghost Fleet a Novel of the Next World War – P.W. Singer and August Cole (2015)

This futuristic thriller takes the reader on a journey to the next global conflict.

The United States, China, and Russia eye each other across a twenty-first century version of the Cold War, which suddenly heats up at sea, on land, in the air, in outer space, and in cyberspace. The fighting involves everything from stealthy robotic – drone strikes to old warships from the navy’s "ghost fleet." Fighter pilots unleash a Pearl Harbor – style attack; American veterans become low-tech insurgents; teenage hackers battle in digital playgrounds; Silicon Valley billionaires mobilize for cyber-war; and a serial killer carries out her own vendetta. Ultimately, victory will depend on blending the lessons of the past with the weapons of the future.

Ghost Fleet is a page-turning speculative thriller in the spirit of The Hunt for Red October. The debut novel by two leading experts on the cutting edge of national security, it is unique in that every trend and technology featured in the novel – no matter how sci-fi it may seem – is real, or could be soon.

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The Case for U.S. Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century – Dr. Brad Roberts (2016)

This book is a counter to the conventional wisdom that the United States can and should do more to reduce both the role of nuclear weapons in its security strategies and the number of weapons in its arsenal. The case against nuclear weapons has been made on many grounds—including historical, political, and moral. But, Brad Roberts argues, it has not so far been informed by the experience of the United States since the Cold War in trying to adapt deterrence to a changed world, and to create the conditions that would allow further significant changes to U.S. nuclear policy and posture.

Drawing on the author's experience in the making and implementation of U.S. policy in the Obama administration, this book examines that real world experience and finds important lessons for the disarmament enterprise. Central conclusions of the work are that other nuclear-armed states are not prepared to join the United States in making reductions, and that unilateral steps by the United States to disarm further would be harmful to its interests and those of its allies. The book ultimately argues in favor of patience and persistence in the implementation of a balanced approach to nuclear strategy that encompasses political efforts to reduce nuclear dangers along with military efforts to deter them.

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Russian Strategy: Expansion, Crisis and Conflict – Dr. Keith B. Payne (2016)

Russian Strategy: Expansion, Crisis and Conflict is based on readily-available and open sources of information, particularly including numerous Russian publications. Russian foreign military actions, defense initiatives, markedly expanded conventional and nuclear arms programs, internal repression, and egregious arms control non-compliance all appear to be elements of an increasingly assertive underlying Russian grand strategy. Moscow’s agenda now includes a deeply-troubling mix of ingredients: increasing hostility towards the West, including expressed military threats via statements and nuclear exercises; expanding programs to produce advanced weapons and delivery vehicles, conventional and nuclear; revisions in military doctrine that place greater emphasis on the coercive use of nuclear threats, including first use; the first annexation of European territory by military force since World War II; blatant arms control noncompliance; and increasing domestic repression and authoritarianism. A reappraisal of Russian grand strategy and its elements is long overdue following two decades of confident Western belief in benign relations with Russia and corresponding confident claims about the dwindling value of nuclear deterrence and “hard” power, and naïve expectations of a perpetual “peace dividend.” This monograph is intended to provide an initial step in that reappraisal.

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2017 DEFENSE POSTURE STATEMENT: Taking the Long View, Investing for the Future – Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (February 2016)

This budget marks a major inflection point for the Department of Defense. Over the last year, Secretary Carter has shifted the weight of the defense budget to focus on five evolving challenges we face – great power competition from a resurgent Russia and a rising China, regional threats from North Korea and Iran, and the enduring need to counter terrorism – because, while the basic elements of our nation’s defense strategy remain valid, today’s security environment demands that DoD be flexible and innovative in response. Armed with a bipartisan budget deal that provided some critical stability for 2017 by setting the size of the budget for two years, this year’s budget, described in this posture statement, drives change by setting its shape and direction: to adjust to a new strategic era, and to seize opportunities for the future. It makes and sharpens breakthrough investments in new operational concepts, in pioneering and dominating technological frontiers (including undersea, cyber, space, electronic warfare, and other advanced capabilities), in reforming the DoD enterprise, and in building the force of the future. The product of a Secretary of Defense who’s determined to be open to new ideas, to fight the fights of today while significantly re-envisioning and recommitting to high-end deterrence for tomorrow, and to care for and leverage the enduring advantage that is and always will be our people, this budget is key to ensuring that America’s military can continue to defend our country and help make a better world for generations to come.

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Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know – Peter W. Singer and Allan Friedman (2014)

A generation ago, cyberspace was a term from science fiction, used to describe the nascent network of computers linking a few university labs. Today, our entire modern way of life, from communication to commerce to conflict, fundamentally depends on the Internet. Cybersecurity and Cyberwar is structured around the key question areas of cyberspace and its security: how it all works, why it all matters, and what can we do? Along the way, the authors take readers on a tour of the important issues and characters of cybersecurity, from hackers and the Stuxnet computer virus to the new cyber units of the Chinese and U.S. militaries.

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Putin's Russia: How It Rose, How It Is Maintained, and How It Might End. – Mikhail Dmitriev, Evgeny Gontmakher, Lev Gudkov, & 7 more (2015)

In this groundbreaking collection, nine of Russia's leading scholars and experts describe and analyze some of the Vladimir Putin regime’s key structural strengths and weaknesses and look at their implications for both the present and the future. As far as the regime’s fault lines are concerned, the evidence presented by the authors shows no reversal, or even narrowing, of these structural dysfunctions in Putin’s third presidential term.

Topics covered here include Russia's political economy, political geography, and politics of federalism; the regime, ideology, public opinion, and legitimacy; and potential defeat and radicalization of civil society. Emerging in these pages is a finely textured portrait of a society rife in complexities, contradictions, and postponed but looming crises.