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Examines the various factors that impelled leaders on both sides of the conflict in World War II to respond to immediate problems with actions resulting in effects that were often neither planned nor foreseen. Both Great Britain and Germany drifted into an escalation that ended in the wholesale bombardment of cities and civilian populations, when neither had originally planned any such action, and serves as the author’s lesson to show us how decisionmakers can respond once more to provocations and counterreactions. Emotional pressures, the fog of war, and judgments blurred by wishful thinking can produce decisions, even self-destructive decisions, and lead down an inexorable path to all-out, total war. More than thirty years after its initial publication, and to celebrate RAND’s 60th Anniversary, RAND is proud to bring this classic work back into print in paperback and digital formats.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction: The Problem

  • Part The Evidence

  • Chapter Two

    Prewar Developments — Britain

  • Chapter Three

    Prewar Developments — Germany

  • Chapter Four

    Blitzkrieg and Sitzkrieg

  • Chapter Five

    The Transition to Total War

  • Chapter Six

    Sowing the Wind

  • Chapter Seven

    Ends and Means

  • Chapter Eight

    The Whirlwind

  • Chapter Nine


  • Part Reflections

  • Chapter Ten

    The Asymmetrical Attitudes of the Two Sides

  • Chapter Eleven

    Pressures for Escalation

  • Chapter Twelve

    Speculations on the Future

  • Appendix A

    A Note on German Explanations for the Assault on London

  • Appendix B

    Selective Chronology

  • Appendix C


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