(by Edward Luttwak) (1968)
The only good thing about the film Casino Royale (1967) is the moment when David Niven recalls Lenin as a ‘first-class organiser…second rate mind.’ This cool, matter-of-fact, revolutionary, cookbook for a coup is rather the reverse of that characterisation. It’s a impressive assembly of material, from necessary pre-conditions, to the strategic and tactical aspects of coups d’état, sprinkled with apt historical instances.
A masterpiece of concision, yet where the book meets it margins, we see what Luttwak recognises as the “difficulty of predicting human behaviour.” So whilst the book is a worthy Machiavellian guide to the overthrow of established order, in practise it is nothing without that most dangerously human of qualities: zeal. Think Lenin, Castro, Atatürk. We don’t get much sense of that here, inevitably. And Luttwak has very little to say about the winning of hearts and minds post-coup (perhaps a sequel is indicated).
But it is still a subversively interesting work from a fairly contentious and always interesting scholar and geopolitical analyst (we note reports of his current involvement in the high-tech hunt for the Roman loot of Alaric’s horde in Calabria, buried circa 410AD).