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Letter to the Editor: Lacey vs. Luttwak

• November 13, 2022 5:00 am

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What an interesting review of my book—Rome: Strategy of Empire ("Roman Rebuttal" by Edward Luttwak, November 6). To the best of my knowledge, this is the first review of one of my books written by a reviewer who shows no signs of having read it.

How do I know that?

Well, he starts with: "Now that yet another book (number 19, I think) has appeared to challenge…"  If he had read even the introduction, Luttwak would have discovered that my book is the first book-length defense of his position in almost five decades. I suppose he is so used to being attacked that he assumes any book on the topic must be another attack.

The second clue is that he wrote an entire review without addressing a single section of my book. It seems that he looked at the title and then checked the index for his name… neglecting everything else. So, instead, we are treated to a diatribe of how many languages Luttwak speaks, that he studied economics, that he writes about missiles, that he loves plays by Aeschylus, that he did some work for the secretary of defense, and that he misspelled a word in his dissertation.

We also learn that "female" Ph.D.s attacked his position on Roman strategy. Just asking, what does it matter if his attackers were "female"?

You would think Luttwak would be grateful to me for decisively proving that both of his female detractors (Susan Mattern and Kimberly Kagan) were wrong, as are all of his "male" Ph.D. detractors.

His only criticism of me is that I am not a classicist, which is something I address at length in my introduction. The book was peer-reviewed by four of the most renowned classicists still living. They did not discover any problems in my historical recounting. So, I am wondering what problems Luttwak discovered, as he did not mention a single troubling point that he found in the book.

My favorite part of his review is at the end, where he finally (but briefly) addresses my work to accuse me of doing something I explicitly avoided and addressed in my introduction. It is a pity to see Luttwak stuck in the past with the works of Mommsen (written over 150 years ago), when the field has progressed so much in just the last few decades. It is quite clear from the review that Luttwak has not bothered to keep up on the mass of recent scholarship.

It was a very good review… assuming the reader was looking for a short biography of Luttwak.

Dr. James Lacey
Horner Chair of War Studies
Marine Corps War College