Military History in the News

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The Vietnam Documentary and Military Lessons

by Bing West via Military History in the News
Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Military History Working Group at Hoover concentrates upon logic, facts, and trends communicated via the written word. At the same time, more people in all strata of society are basing their judgments upon social media and digital images. Consider: almost 60 million people watched Steven Spielberg and Tom Hank’s Band of Brothers miniseries. Video attracts audiences one thousand times larger than bestselling books.

Responding To Hurricanes While Assuming No More Wars

by Bing West via Military History in the News
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The 1938 hurricane season resulted in 700 fatalities. The lack of technology to provide early warning caused that high number. In the current cases of Texas and Florida, casualties are far less because we have early, accurate warning and have learned how to prepare. But since we cannot change nature, we cannot prevent the physical damage and so Congress appropriates vast sums—likely to exceed $150 billion—to repair.

Treat North Korea Like Other Nuclear-Armed Adversaries

by Bing West via Military History in the News
Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The backward tyranny of North Korea has again conducted a nuclear test and fired a ballistic missile. This has garnered global attention, including much discussion of what should be done in response.

Civilians Win Wars, Too

by Kori Schakevia Military History in the News
Thursday, August 31, 2017

Shielding civilians from warfare has not always been routine practice. Homer tells of Troy in flames, soldiers of the Greek alliance raping, pillaging, and burning the city to the ground. Thucydides recounts how in 427 B.C. the Athenians nearly killed all the rebellious Mytilenean men and enslaved their women and children, but ultimately executed only the leaders of the revolt. Over a decade later in 416/5 B.C, the Athenians failed to exercise restraint and did bring about that very punishment against the neutrality-seeking Melians.

The Generals

by Kori Schakevia Military History in the News
Thursday, August 24, 2017

Press coverage of President Trump’s national security team has routinely described Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, White House chief of staff John Kelly, and Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as “the generals.” It is a convenient framing for those who fear a Trump presidency, for whom the three constitute “the adults in the room,” or alternatively the sinister undercurrent to military predominance in policy making, and for the President’s supporters, for whom the three are proof of the President’s seriousness of purpose.

Time For New National Heroes

by Kori Schakevia Military History in the News
Wednesday, August 16, 2017

After the violence in Charlottesville, mayors around the country are having to decide whether to take down statues of Confederate icons like Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. As part of that national dialogue, we might want to consider whether it remains appropriate to have military bases named for soldiers who took up arms against the government of the United States of America.

Considering Preemptive War

by Kori Schakevia Military History in the News
Thursday, August 10, 2017

President Trump set off a rhetorical hand grenade this week, threatening North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” The Secretary of State rushed to reassure Americans that there was no imminent threat and they could “sleep safe at night.”

Passchendaele At 100

by Andrew Robertsvia Military History in the News
Monday, July 31, 2017

The centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, has been the big military history story in the news this week, with the British press covering it far more extensively than any other Great War centenary story, except perhaps that of the first day of the Somme Offensive last year. With over 1.5 million soldiers from almost every part of the British Empire having taken part in the battle—which lasted from July 31 to November 6, 1917—it has also been extensively covered in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. The French also contributed six divisions of 180,000 men.

A Fake False Flag

by Andrew Robertsvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, July 25, 2017

An article in the British Daily Mail was entitled “Did the British plant a bomb at the 1940 World’s Fair to kill two NYPD officers and bring the U.S. into World War II?” It was one of those classic newspaper headlines to which the answer is “No,” but which helps sell papers anyhow. The bomb that went off on July 4, 1940 was originally planted in the British pavilion of the World’s Fair in New York, which also contained the Crown Jewels and an original copy of the Magna Carta, and a member of the pro-Nazi Bund organization was deported over the incident.

Feminine Spycraft

by Andrew Robertsvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Times of London report that Mata Hari, the notorious World War One double agent, owed her downfall to MI5 rather than to the French secret service comes at a time when the British domestic security service could do with some good news, even if it is one hundred years old. Still reeling from the shock of three terrorist attacks in two months in London and Manchester this year—two of them perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalists who were known to the organization—perhaps MI5 can learn something from the superb professionalism of their forebears in 1916.

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Wars, terrorism, and revolution are the daily fare of our globalized world, interconnected by instantaneous electronic news.

Military History in the News is a weekly column from the Hoover Institution that reflects on how the study of the past alone allows us to make sense of the often baffling daily violence, not by offering exact parallels from history, but rather by providing contexts of similarity and difference that foster perspective and insight—and reassurance that nothing is ever quite new.