Books

War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Today by Max Boot

Mark Yost
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Someone who is keenly interested in the bigger implications of the strategies and tactics of the war on terror is Max Boot, one of today's most astute observers of RMA, Pentagon-speak for the Revolution in Military Affairs.


War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Today

Publisher: Gotham
ISBN: 1592402224
Author: Max Boot
Price: $35.00
Length: 640
Formats: Hardcover
US publication date: 2006-10
Amazon

The war on terror is entering its sixth year, and George W. Bush's most recent tactical move is to surge 20,000 troops into Iraq to secure Baghdad and other al-Qaeda safe havens. I say "tactical move" because the latest plan put forth to the nation is nothing more than that.

In the bloody chess match between Western civilization and militant Islam, which has been simmering for at least two decades and may rage for an additional 10, it is but one move in many thousands. For Washington's chattering class, far more interested in how Iraq and the war on terror can be used for their own personal political gain than what it means for the present or future evolution of military doctrine, it is but the latest sound bite with which to tar their opponents and further empower their own party.

Someone who is keenly interested in the bigger implications of the strategies and tactics of the war on terror is Max Boot, a senior fellow in national-security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and one of today's most astute observers of RMA, Pentagon-speak for the Revolution in Military Affairs.

His first book, The Savage Wars of Peace, looked at the long-term effect of some of the "little wars" that took place in between the Revolutionary, Civil, two World, and Cold wars. His latest book, War Made New, looks at the larger trends that defined and advanced warfare and doctrine over the last six centuries. He is, all hyperbole aside, a modern-day Thucydides, telling the story of war and why it matters.

In this rich and highly readable tome, he focuses on four revolutions in technology and doctrine: The Gunpowder Revolution, the two Industrial Revolutions and, the one we're currently in, the Information Technology Revolution. While Boot looks at some of the larger conflicts that engulfed continents and redrew maps, he also looks at some of the lesser conflicts that had implications well beyond their immediate scope and aftermath -- battles and wars that may have involved but two minor combatants, but whose lessons and developments resonated for centuries.

Lest you think this is dull, dreary stuff that only doctoral students of martial minutiae could appreciate, rest assured, it is not. Boot is not only an excellent historian, but also an excellent writer. Furthermore, he explains the implications not just for armed conflict, but also for military and political alliances, coronations, and redrawn boundaries around the globe.

"The French invasion of Italy in 1494 inaugurated the modern age in which warfare, which had been relatively static for a thousand years, was to change with bewildering and accelerating rapidity," Boot writes. "This process would lead some states to domination, others to oblivion. It would profoundly disturb the balance of power first within Europe and then in the rest of the world, giving rise to the Western hegemony that has not been eclipsed even to this day."

Boot also is smart enough to know that, regardless of what Nancy Pelosi and Anderson Cooper tell us, we cannot possibly understand the full implication of what's going on in Iraq today. Boot does offer a few well-reasoned deductions in the book's final chapters, based on his thorough understanding of military history.

For instance, Boot understands that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was fighting more than al-Qaeda. He was waging war against a military bureaucracy that in some ways was still wedded to the doctrines that were developed to defeat the Soviets on the plains of Eastern Europe and was slow to adapt to the insurgent warfare of urban Iraq. In short, Rumsfeld was trying to change the way America fights wars.

Like Boot, Rumsfeld does not believe technology alone can defeat an enemy. Despite all our stealth aircraft and smart bombs, the thinking soldier is still the greatest weapon we have. But Rumsfeld understood that if we could leverage both our advanced information technology and our vastly superior Special Operations Forces, we could defeat a numerically superior enemy with a smaller, lighter, more-lethal force.

The Rumsfeld doctrine has largely been a success in Afghanistan: " ... the U.S. military showed in Afghanistan that a combination of highly trained commandoes and precision weaponry -- a high-low mix of technologies -- could subdue, at least temporarily, even a land renowned as a graveyard of empires," Boot writes.

Where Rumsfeld may have overplayed his hand is in Iraq. In his unflinching desire to prove that the doctrine could work in the hostile urban environments of Ramadi and Fallujah, he perhaps lost sight of the politics of the war in Iraq.

The Democrats, aided by their ever-willing accomplices in the media, didn't have the patience to see the strategy through. Instead of embracing the revolution Rumsfeld was trying to foment at the Pentagon, they used it and his enemies within to drive him out of office and convince the American people that Iraq was a debacle -- the wrong war, at the wrong time, in the wrong place. Unfortunately, as Boot makes clear, it may be 100 years before we know who was right.

___

ABOUT THE WRITER

Mark Yost is a writer in Lake Elmo, Minn. He covered defense issues for Dow Jones and served in the U.S. Navy. He is the author of Tailgating, Sacks and Salary Caps: How the NFL Became the Most Successful Sports League in History.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image