Never Wars covers the United States color-coded war plans that were created by Joint Army and Navy Board (the predecessor of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) in the early 20th century. These plans covered various scenarios for wars against other nations such as Canada, Britain, Mexico and even China. Although the theme of the book is to show the evolution of American strategic thinking, Pardoe showcases the alternate history potential of these plans since if just one of them had been implemented it would have changed the entirety of human history.
I found that some of the most interesting plans were the ones that we knew the least about, like the plan for a war with the British Empire in the mid-1930s. What was surprising about this plan was the evidence that our top generals saw the United Kingdom as a greater threat to America then Nazi Germany. Not only was this a sign of incredibly bad judgement, but it is also terrifying to think how pro-Nazi America was leading up to WWII. Along with overall coverage of the plans, Pardoe also comments on how successful some of these plans could be if implemented and pointed out moments where American intelligence was lacking.
Never Wars is a non-fiction counterfacutal history, so don't pick it up expecting a thrilling anthology of alternate history wars. In fact, the book can be dry at times, especially when Pardoe quotes long sections from the plans themselves. As an attorney who spends much of his day going over legalease, even I found the way soldiers write agonizing to read. Nevertheless, the dryness may just be a characteristic of counterfactual histories in general, as I felt the same way when I read Frank Harvey's Explaining the Iraq War.
Overall I found Never Wars to be an engaging book with an interesting subject written by an author with a real love for alternate history. Along with the aforementioned dryness, there were some formatting and spelling errors, but otherwise I can honestly recommend this book to readers who enjoy military history, war gamers looking for fun new scenarios and alternate historians crafting a different war for their version of America.
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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.