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In Search of Lost Glory

by Andrew Robertsvia Military History in the News
Monday, March 9, 2020

For over two centuries, no one has known the final resting place of one of Napoleon’s favorite generals, Charles-Étienne Gudin de La Sablonnière, who disappeared during the French invasion of Russia in 1812. Now, however, his body has been found in a park in Smolensk, one of the key cities that featured in the struggle. Tracking General Gudin’s grave was a joint operation by a team of Russian and French historians led by Pierre Malinowski, largely using historical records.

The Scourge Of Pandemics

by Andrew Robertsvia Military History in the News
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The outbreak of Coronavirus has prompted a good deal of interest in the Spanish Influenza that killed so many people at the end of World War One. 

Quarantines, Soldiers, And Cities

by Ralph Petersvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, February 25, 2020

At the end of a lecture on future threats to the Missouri National Guard a few years ago, I was asked what unexpected event might challenge their capabilities. I replied that a mission impossible would result from an explosively lethal pandemic that triggered quarantines on major cities—their enforcement efforts would fail, due to the physical structures of today’s urban areas.

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.

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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.