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Failed Wartime Leaders Have A Short Shelf Life In Democracies

by Barry Strauss via Military History in the News
Monday, March 26, 2018

“I have often before now been convinced that democracy is incapable of empire.” So one ancient Athenian politician complained when his countrymen rejected his advice during the Peloponnesian War. “Democracy is acknowledged folly,” said another Athenian politician, after his career took a nosedive. Sour grapes, sure, but not unusual. Today democracy still has plenty of critics.

Chemical Weapons In The Shadow Of Magna Carta

by Barry Strauss via Military History in the News
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Located in rural southwest England, Salisbury has long been famous for its medieval cathedral and its proximity to Stonehenge. It even houses a rare copy of that precious document of western constitutional government, Magna Carta.

Crossing the Rubicon at the 39th Parallel?

by Barry Strauss via Military History in the News
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A historian of ancient Rome is skeptical of the comparisons between Julius Caesar and Donald Trump. After all, slamming a leader we don’t like as “a new Caesar” is one of America’s oldest traditions. It stretches from George III to Lincoln to Obama and now Trump.

Syria: A Long, Long History Of War

by Barry Strauss via Military History in the News
Monday, March 5, 2018

The war in Syria just seems to go on and on, with civilians in the line of fire as often as not. Currently an estimated 400,000 civilians are trapped in Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb and rebel enclave, currently under bombardment by government forces. Fighting since February 18 has killed over 600 people, including many children.

Post-Modern Propaganda: The Gatekeepers Are Gone

by Ralph Petersvia Military History in the News
Friday, February 23, 2018

No plague in history spread with the speed of internet disinformation. We live in an age of hyper-charged propaganda, an onslaught of lies more pervasive than any that came before. Over millennia, propaganda changed minds. Today, it changes governments and subverts institutions. And this flood has burst the dams that, for centuries, kept the foulest waters in check.

The Mud-Level Reason Our Nation-Building Fails

by Ralph Petersvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Our military leaders have just proclaimed a renewed, more-effective policy for Afghanistan, which they assure us will turn around the decaying situation.

We’ll see…

The Real Lesson Of The Thirty Years' War For Today

by Ralph Petersvia Military History in the News
Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Thirty Years’ War in the German states between 1618 and 1648 has been invoked repeatedly in discussing the Syrian conflict, with commentators focusing on the multiple sides in the struggle and the interference by great powers. While those are surface similarities, there have been plenty of multi-sided conflicts and competitive great power interventions. The real lessons we might take to heart are that it’s far easier to get into conflicts that mingle dynastic ambitions, competing faiths, and quarrelsome ethnicities than it is to get out of them; that extended periods of warfare impose disproportionate casualties on civilian populations; and that late entrants have the best chance of winning.

Border Walls, Battles, And Ghosts: The Mexican-American War's Lasting Legacy

by Ralph Petersvia Military History in the News
Friday, February 2, 2018

One hundred and seventy years ago, on February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo expanded the territory of the United States by over 500,000 square miles, not only making it inevitable that we would become a Pacific power, but setting the stage for what may be the most complex border relationship between any two nations. The treaty formally ended our War with Mexico, but accelerated our headlong plunge toward the Civil War, intensifying the debate over the geographical expansion of slavery into our newly acquired territories. 

Tet In Retrospect

by Mark Moyarvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, January 30, 2018

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive. During the Tet holiday ceasefire, Vietnamese Communist forces attacked all of South Vietnam’s towns and cities in order to smash South Vietnamese government forces and incite popular uprisings. Many of the government’s soldiers and policemen were off duty during the holiday, enabling the Communists to infiltrate the towns and cities undetected and strike the first blows. But government forces rallied quickly, and everywhere the population rejected Communist appeals to take part in the uprising. 

Network Concerns

by Mark Moyar featuring Niall Fergusonvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The publication this month of Niall Ferguson’s new book The Square and the Tower has illuminated both the power of networks and the human tendency to overstate the power of networks. For longer than one might expect, tech enthusiasts, corporate executives, social scientists, and military theorists have proclaimed that networks will revolutionize some, if not all, aspects of human existence, generally for the better. As Ferguson’s book explains in devastating detail, their lofty visions have been repeatedly confounded by reality.

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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.