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Grant, Sherman, And The American Way Of War

by Williamson Murrayvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Russell Weigley, one of America’s leading military historians in the twentieth century, used Sherman’s 1864 scorched-earth March to the Sea that made “Georgia howl,” as an example of the American way of war. While there is some truth in Weigley’s description, he missed another aspect of the framework within which Grant and Sherman broke Confederate resistance and ended the Civil War: namely logistics and the problems that it raised for Union strategists in waging the war.

The Relevance Of World War I

by Williamson Murrayvia Military History in the News
Monday, October 16, 2017

In the decades before the First World War, vast scientific and technological changes altered the face of the globe. Those changes had immense implications for the world’s military institutions. The invention of the internal combustion engine, nitroglycerine, smokeless power, barbed wire, the telephone, and medical advances had all changed the civilian world and seemed to have major implication for the conduct of war. They did. Most military experts calculated that such technological changes would lead to quicker wars. In that respect, they were wrong.

The Vietnam War Documentary: Doom And Despair

by Bing Westvia Military History in the News
Thursday, October 12, 2017

Ken Burns recently released a documentary entitled “The Vietnam War: An Intimate History.” The script concluded with these words, “The Vietnam War was a tragedy, immeasurable and irredeemable.” That damning hyperbole neatly summarized 18 hours of haunting, funereal music, doleful tales by lugubrious veterans, and an elegiac historical narration voiced over a collage of violent images and thunderous explosions.

The Ghost Of The Athenian Past

by Williamson Murrayvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

In 483 B.C. Athenians struck a particularly rich vein at their silver mine at Larium. The immediate political question confronting the Athenian democracy was what to do with the horde of silver that had just fallen into its hands. The obvious solution was to divide the riches among the citizens, but the great strategist and politician, Themistocles, argued for a different use of the money. He urged that it all be spent to build up the Athenian fleet. At the time, most Athenians believed their success at Marathon in 490 B.C. against the Persian invaders had eliminated the Asiatic threat.

Deter the Cyber Weapon from Being Employed

by Bing Westvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

At different historical periods, weapons emerged that changed how armies fought. Four millennia ago on the flat plains of Mesopotamia, the Assyrians employed the chariot—predecessor of the tank—to dominate all opposing tribes. In the twelfth century A.D., Genghis Khan’s horsemen swept out of Mongolia, employing highly mobile firepower—superb riders equipped with short bows—to terrify the more civilized peoples living along the western edges of Europe.

The Vietnam Documentary And Military Lessons

by Bing Westvia 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 Westvia 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 Westvia 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.

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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.