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2,500 Years Of The Usual Suspects

by Ralph Petersvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, February 18, 2020

As competing powers gnaw at the last bleeding morsel of Syria—Idlib province on the Turkish border—what’s remarkable isn’t that these offspring of ancient empires are fighting, but that they’ve been fighting each other for millennia. No bursts of genocide or epochs of oppression could finish off the major players engaged: Arabs, Turks, Persians and, not least the last inheritors of Byzantium (represented by Vladimir Putin, self-proclaimed defender of Orthodox Christianity). 

The Golden Age Of Mercenaries

by Ralph Petersvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, February 11, 2020

“Mad Mike” Hoare, the most-notorious mercenary leader of the Cold War, died on February 2nd, at age 100. Best known for leading his “Wild Geese” through the turmoil of post-independence Africa—where he served various paymasters, including the CIA—Hoare was a pitiless killer who cultivated a swashbuckling public image. 

March Routes, Trade Routes, Plague Routes

by Ralph Petersvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, February 4, 2020

War and trade have been the great abettors of epidemic disease throughout history. Despite remarkable advances in public health practices, sanitation, medicine, and awareness over the past century and a half, the old patterns persist, if—for now—on a less-lethal scale. Just a decade ago, United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal carried cholera to Haiti. Thousands died. As you read this, a multi-sided conflict in eastern Congo and its vicinity challenges health workers struggling to fight Ebola.

A Vietnam “Deal” for Afghanistan?

by Bing Westvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, December 17, 2019

In late November, President Trump announced that peace talks with the Taliban had resumed. “The Taliban wants to make a deal—we’ll see if they make a deal.” Mr. Trump said. The president has said he is tired of American soldiers acting as policemen in a remote country of scant strategic significance. Afghans are tribal, with little loyalty toward the Kabul government awash in factionalism and corruption. 

The Cost For Saving A Life

by Bing Westvia Military History in the News
Monday, December 9, 2019

A few weeks ago in Afghanistan, the Taliban handed over one American and one Australian citizen in exchange for three high-level Taliban prisoners, including a leader of the notorious Haqqani terrorist network. President Trump praised the swap, tweeting (November 20, 2019, 1:45 p.m.), “Let’s hope this leads to more good things…” The reaction by the Congress and the mainstream press in America was muted but positive in tone.

Thanksgiving Redux

by Bing Westvia Military History in the News
Wednesday, November 27, 2019

In describing the first Thanksgiving in 1621, the prominent Pilgrim farmer Edward Winslow wrote, “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together…many of the Indians coming amongst us…by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” About half of the small Pilgrim party had perished since landing at Plymouth the preceding year. 

American Naval Initiative—The Next Time Around

by Bing Westvia Military History in the News
Wednesday, November 20, 2019

In November of 1942, the U.S. Navy wrested the warfighting initiative from imperial Japan and set the course toward victory. Less than a year after Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor and proclaimed that all of Asia belonged to Emperor Hirohito, American successes in two naval battles permanently altered the course of the war. In the words of the Naval War College, the “operational initiative” lay with the American Navy.

Comrade, Can You Spare a Swine?

by Christopher R. O’Deavia Military History in the News
Friday, November 8, 2019

As the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) takeover of mainland China recede into recent history, a look at the Communists’ heritage suggests that for all its foreign-exchange reserves and tech manufacturing know-how, and despite its military hardware and far-flung infrastructure investment portfolio, China may not have come that far.

Marshalling The Troops: The Proliferation Of Defense Cooperation Agreements In The Age Of Alliances

by Christopher R. O’Deavia Military History in the News
Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The announcement that the United States had signed a new security agreement with Greece in early October highlights the increasing use of bilateral “defense cooperation agreements,” or DCAs, during an era of multilateral security alliances covering large geographic regions and numerous countries.

October Man: Mikhail Gorbachev

by Christopher R. O’Deavia Military History in the News
Friday, October 18, 2019

October is the month for bringing in the harvest and consolidating power. According to his biography on the Gorbachev Foundation website, the last leader of the Soviet Union is proud of his ability to detect a fault in a combine harvester just by the sound of it. His acumen with agricultural machinery—learned from his father—helped the younger Gorbachev become the youngest winner of the Order of the Red Banner of Labor award for his part in bringing in the bumper crop of 1949 at the age of just seventeen. The award helped secure him a place at the Moscow State University, where he studied law.


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.