Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dune: A Model of Political Warfare

If you're looking for some good fiction to read - and you should be, since varied reading greatly increases intellectual dexterity - might I recommend Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune? Though written more than 40 years ago, Dune is not only well written, winning the inaugural Nebula Award for best sci-fi novel, but also touches upon a number of perennial issues.

The story involves a far-flung galactic empire and the feuding dynastic houses within it. (Some have compared the work to Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.) A variety of the tools of statecraft are employed in this struggle: parliamentary politics, economics, intelligence, assassination, insurgency and open warfare. The interrelationship between geography, ecology, culture and political struggle is strongly emphasized. Likewise, the importance of religion and the limits of technology are seen. In the midst of all this political intrigue we see the statesman - the leader possessing wisdom, heroism and moral rectitude.

In a post-Cold War world of irregular warfare, nationalistic movements, transnational terrorists, environmental concerns and rising economic powers, Dune remains a prescient work for any student of political warfare.
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