This shot at military SF from another blog has already caused quite a discussion at SFConsim-l. Thanks to commenter VonMalcolm for passing along this link!
Brief pause for those who haven't already read it.
One response that some commenters on the original post made, and it is a fair one, is that the author is technically correct, but misses the point. War fiction, in fact, is not about war. It is about soldiers. The first Western war story wasn't about the Trojan War, but an argument of fellow soldiers over incidental spoils that boiled over, with consequences on the battlefield.
Amateurs may study tactics while professionals study logistics, but storytellers never waste precious story time on the supply chain. Well, except for the occasional convoy story, or the frigate genre, or any story featuring a battle fought over a bridge or pass or other strategic point of communication. In fact the supply chain figures quite a bit in war fiction - usually because the other side is trying to interfere with it.
I think the author's intended point is not that war stories, in space or elsewhere, should be treatises on Clausewitz, but that they should be informed by Clausewitz - that the wars being fought should make sense as conflicts, not just provide a handy excuse for characters to blow up lots of stuff including each other. In fact it is logistics and similar background factors, including ultimate war objectives and grand strategy, that drive when, where, and how the people at the front of the spear end up fighting each other.
Case in point, Starship Troopers. (I already made this comment on SFConsim-l, but I reserve the right to plagiarize myself.) The disconnect in Starship Troopers is between the nature of the war and its tactical conduct.
Heinlein is barely short of explicit that it is a racial war of extermination. Close paraphrase, "Both races are smart, tough, and want the same real estate." Characters tell us without saying it that the civilian colonists on Faraway were wiped out. Heinlein delicately does not go into what will happen to the Bugs if the humans win.
But the first part of the war we see, the raid on the Skinnies, makes no sense in that sort of war, because the Skinnies make no sense in that sort of war.
The Skinnies are apparently a slippery midrank power playing both sides, and subject to political influence through punitive raids. They also provide an intelligence channel into what is making the Bugs feel the pain. All of which makes perfect sense in an ordinary great power war - but in a genocidal war of implacably hostile aliens?
The Human-Bug War should have been a pure contest for control of space, followed by the winner wiping out the loser. And no third power had motive to do anything but stay out of the way, and hope to pick up some pieces afterward - or at least stay off the winner's menu. But that would not yield a tactically interesting war story, so Heinlein told a foreground story that belongs in a very different sort of war.
Point in contrast, the War of the Ring. It too is implacable, and it has its slippery player, Saruman, so slippery he ends up falling. But he is integral to the story, and so is the military strategy of the eventual winners, an 'indirect approach' straight out of Liddell Hart. The warriors may be fighting for their homes and families in Rohan or Gondor, but from strategic perspective they are all expendable and it is all a feint, to draw off the Eye of Sauron from the one thing it should be watching for.
So really this is all about fantastic fiction 101: If you invent a background, it should fit the story you are telling. If the story involves battles, they should fit into a coherent war. Even Heinlein didn't quite get away with breaking that rule.
Related post: Back in early days I took a look at logistics.