A set of essays devoted to the shadowy ground on which the guns have ceased their roar, but could resume it at any moment.
War has its uses, as the various contributors to this anthology show, from the conquest of land and resources to the removal of a threat real or perceived. Editor Moten (History/United States Military Academy) offers a fresh view. The old notion that the end of a war is marked by victory just doesn’t work any more, for today, writes military historian Roger G. Spiller, “you will search in vain for any definition of victory in American military doctrine.” The ideal of victory still exists, of course, but a more pragmatic end seems to be a rather surprising one, at least coming from the pen of a serving officer: “In every war the aims of all sides, no matter how opposed at the beginning, gradually converge toward an agreement to stop fighting.” The rub would seem to be in that word “gradually,” as these essays reveal. Peter Maslowski rebrands the Indian Wars as the “300-Years War,” an eminently sensible take on the matter. Theodore Wilson looks at the Cold War as an extension of World War II, with peace not really breaking out for generations. The view of conflicts previously considered open and shut becomes more complicated here, with the American victory in the Mexican War coming to look very similar to the supposed “mission accomplished” in the Iraq War, complete with roadside bombs and guerrilla attacks. Some wars go on and on without apparent effect except to tire everyone out, but some have lasting influence—as with the Civil War, which, Joseph Glatthaar writes, transformed the U.S. Army “from a stumbling, inefficient, and ill-disciplined volunteer force into a progressive, sophisticated, efficient war-making machine.” Other contributors include Andrew Bacevich, Ira Gruber and Roger Spiller.
Of considerable interest to students of military history, strategy, tactics and geopolitics—and useful in making sense of the headlines, too.