Talk:Edward Luttwak

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El Salvador[edit]

A recent letter of Edward Luttwak's published in the September 7, 2007 edition of the Times Literary Supplement (London) (online: TLS online; the current URL containing Luttwak's letter (second letter, under the title "Reagan revisited") is [1] ) stated that (my interjection in double parentheses):

... the El Salvador war ((during Ronald Reagan's time in office)) ... was certainly not a "dirty" war. It was a very clean war indeed in which I am proud to have played a small part, by helping villagers defend themselves against guerrillas who refused to take part in elections, and instead attempted to impose a Cuban-style Communist dictatorship by force of arms. When they were defeated by the US-trained Salvadorean army and by village militias, they did participate in general elections and were soundly beaten. ...

The rational mind boggles at the description of El Salvador as "a very clean war"; see, for starters former U.S. ambassador Robert White's writing on this subject and the El Mozote massacre. I've previously read Luttwak and thought him an honest man within the limitations of his worldview -- good writers on military strategy and history are almost inevitably rightwing -- and I was considerably taken aback to see him make such an extraordinary counterfactual claim. 02:31, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

I have added a picture of Luttwak, that was used recently on a think tank website. It is a good likeness. [[Cangrande (talk) 12:44, 5 March 2008 (UTC)]]

Dire predictions for First Gulf War[edit]

He famously and wrongly predicted that the Army would meet disaster if they confronted Iraq head on during the first Gulf War. Reported in "Charlie Wilson's War" among others. Would put it in here but there's a question of balance WP:WEIGHT and I'm not about to look for correct predictions. Student7 (talk) 23:31, 11 March 2008 (UTC)

POV Tag[edit]

I understand that biographies of living persons lean towards being positive, but this article borders on being hagiographic. It is filled with blanket statements about the importance of his work (that are not properly cited). It seriously needs some NPV cleanup. lk (talk) 19:55, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

We can all strive toward making this article more objective. Sincerely, GeorgeLouis (talk) 22:38, 2 June 2008 (UTC) . P.S. I love that word, hagiographic.

I arrived at this article having come upon Luttwak's byline on a piece in "Prospect" likening George W. Bush to Harry Truman; the author's name seemed familiar and I couldn't place it, and I wanted to know more about someone who struck me as obviously deranged. (I read both liberal and conservative journalism, as I don't wish to live in an echo chamber.) After reading the article here, I vividly recalled the NYT Op-Ed piece on Obama being considered a Muslim: "This is not helping the public discourse," would be the best way to summarize my reaction. I say this to provide a context for my remarks.

This article is NOT hagiographic. It does not praise Luttwak for his "keen insight", for instance, or use other evaluative language; it deals very little with the quality of his thought and focuses on quantitative statements. To say that someone's work is widely influential is not to endorse it; to say that Hitler had a major influence on Europe in the 1920s-1940s is an understatement, not an endorsement. The three statements currently marked with [citation needed] are impressionistic rather than biased per se. They raise the question of where the need for citation ends and common knowledge begins. Let's take a statement from the article on Britney Spears, a subject of common knowledge if there ever was one: "The success of the album propelled Spears into stardom, establishing her as a pop icon and "bona fide pop phenomenon", credited for influencing the revival of teen pop in the late 1990s." This is duly cited, with a link to a Billboard biography. That biography, however, is hardly a scholarly product; we accept it as a source because of the "authority" of BIllboard (based on common knowledge), and we assume that the information is true (I have no reason to think otherwise) even though the author doesn't tell us anything about where he got his facts and even though it's more than a little hagiographic. Citing a source or linking to a source doesn't necessarily "prove" anything; it simply shifts the burden of proof.

My point, or question, is this: what are we really looking for when we mark the following statements with [citation needed]:

  • His "Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace" is widely used as a textbook on the subject.
  • Although many professional historians reject his views on Roman strategy, his 1976 book has increased interest in the study of the Roman frontiers.
  • He speaks Italian and is frequently cited by Italian media on political subjects.

Let's take the first one. This is an impression -- a "blanket statement," agreed. That doesn't mean it's biased; it's neutral if true. But the author has probably based this impression on something. I think it's the wrong approach to editing to impugn the author's motives (a wish to write 'hagiography') instead of saying what the problem is and how to fix it: how many copies have been ordered for how many university bookstores? Or something along the lines of "A survey of Ivy League and 20 large state universities found that the book was assigned in at least one course every semester for the last five years." Or anything more statistical and concrete than 'my prof made me read it, so it looms large in my mind.'

Second disputed statement: let's have a citation after the comma noting three or four prominent historians who work in appropriate fields and do this rejecting. Then search the library catalogue of a major university with a top-notch reputation for classical studies or ancient history to see whether books on the subject of Roman frontiers or limes increased after that date; search L'Année Philologique for articles (I think you would in fact find an increase, as this is a subject I'm familiar with). That wouldn't prove causation, only that Luttwak was at the start of a trend, unless you examine some of these and find that they cite him at the beginning of the work, either to build on his thesis or to approach frontier studies from an opposing perspective. One of these may have a statement such as "the work of Edward Luttwark in the mid-seventies has increased interest in the study of Roman frontiers," and there's your citation, you're done.

Third statement: Again, this is an impression that may well be true. How to demonstrate its truth is another matter. Is he a regular commentator on a particular radio program? Is he a 'go-to' source for certain newspapers or journals on particular subjects? Like, if the NYT is writing on sustainable food sources, Michael Pollan will turn up in the story. This is my impression; I wouldn't like to undertake the afternoon of tedious article-searching required to verify it. But where does Luttwak turn up, and on what subjects ('political' is very vague)? I think we should focus on what we want from the article, instead of imagining that the author has a mental altar to Edward Luttwak. Cynwolfe (talk) 14:41, 14 August 2008 (UTC)

Luttwak and the Reagan Admin[edit]

I don't think this article does enough to highlight Luttwak's contributions to the national security strategy of the early Reagan administration, especially Star Wars. Also there should be some mention of his critiques of how capitalism undermines the warrior spirit:


If, as stated, Edward was born on 4/11/1942, he can hardly remember leaving Romania at the end of the war in 1945. Possibly, his account was based on the word of others. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:24, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

This claim has vanished, now. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:39, 25 March 2013 (UTC)


The article describes him as American, but what's the basis for this other than he's lived & worked there for most of his career, since he wasn't born there, didn't grow up there, and there's nothing in the article indicating his parents were American? Clearly he must, by birth, have Romanian citizenship -- does he still hold that? If he served in the British army then he almost certainly also holds (or held) British citizenship. He may well have subsequently become a US citizen/national, but I don't see anything in the article to support that. (talk) 14:10, 4 July 2013 (UTC)

Where are the sources?[edit]

There are far too few sources, almost none, to back up his background, education and achievements. Boils (talk) 05:25, 20 December 2015 (UTC)