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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.

Sputnik I—The Beeps Heard Round The World

by Christopher R. O’Deavia Military History in the News
Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Space Age opened in October 1957 when the Soviet Union’s Sputnik I became the first satellite to orbit the earth. Launched during the International Geophysical Year, Sputnik I orbited earth every 96 minutes for 21 days, traveling more than 40 million miles as it transmitted a steady beep signal that was soon recorded and broadcast to American radio listeners. The satellite itself was visible to viewers in the United States during dawn and twilight, providing directly observable evidence that the United States—for the moment at least—was trailing its chief geopolitical rival in the emerging technology that would define the balance of power in an era of nuclear stand-off.

Alliances: Past, Present, And Future

by Williamson Murrayvia Military History in the News
Monday, September 30, 2019

In the 1930s, the British military pundit B. H. Liddell Hart argued vociferously that traditional British conduct of war in the seventeenth and eighteenth had represented a strategy of minimal commitment to the wars on the European Continent while focusing on a blue-water strategy to attack the enemy on the periphery. Thus, Britain’s effort in the First World War with its emphasis on the British Expeditionary Force in France had been a terrible mistake. He could not have been more mistaken. 

Intelligence And Imagination

by Williamson Murrayvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Military historians tend to spend far too much time on the combat arena in which armies, navies, and air forces contend. Yet, underlying their performance is the organizational behavior of intelligence agencies which should be responsible for guiding and framing their actions and reactions. Nothing displays this more clearly than a comparison of the cultures of the British and German intelligence organizations during the Second World War. The latter was hierarchical, compartmentalized, and separated the military from the civilians. Within the German system, there was virtually no tolerance, much less interest in, passing opinions and original ideas up the chain of command. But perhaps the greatest weakness in German military culture was the general contempt for intelligence and its purveyors.

Who Carried the Burden in the Second World War?

by Williamson Murrayvia Military History in the News
Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Over the past several decades, as historians have unraveled the archives of the Red Army after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new narrative of the history of the Second World War that has emerged has emphasized the fighting on the Eastern Front as the crucial theater of the war in Europe. Certainly, the casualties that the Soviet peoples endured were far beyond the losses the Western Allies suffered, while the fighting on the Eastern Front contributed substantially to breaking German ground forces. Yet, an overemphasis on Soviet casualties, no matter how impressive, fundamentally distorts the extent of the effort that the Western Powers waged against the Third Reich.

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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.