Archive for the ‘war’ Category

The nerves of war are not revolution, but money. Seriously, Cicero’s dictum that “the sinews of war are money” remains accurate. If you doubt it, just read analysis of DoD’s new budget. From an historian’s perspective, I think that we often forget this basic fact when trying to assess military innovation. One of emphasis of my 14th-century research has been that we need to distance ourselves from the phrase “the rise of infantry,” which tells us little and obscures the fact that there were many periods throughout “medieval” history in which infantry was an important or even dominant combat arm. To my mind, Stephen Morillo, in Warfare under the Anglo-Norman Kings, basically wins the argument when he says on page 181 “[M]oney strengthens central authority, strong central authority tends to favor good infantry.”  (I’ve been reading Morillo’s work for a small project I’m trying to wrap up over break.) Now, whether the pursuit of war leads to new ways of accumulating money is still debated. Recent works such as David Parrott’s outstanding The Business of War suggest that the relationship is more complicated that we thought.

Thankfully, I think we have moved past “revolution in military affairs,” discussion of which seems to have dropped off after 2010. Interestingly, there have been a couple important articles this month on the RMA phenomenon, one from the always-interesting War on the Rocks titled “Top 10 Failed Defense Programs of the RMA Era.”  The other is a fascinating review of Krepinevich and Watts’ new biography of Andrew Marshall, director of the Office of Net Assessment and the person largely responsible for introducing the RMA theories that many historians have used in Parzival-like wanderings for the last thirty years. It’s possible we might be seeing a new resurgence of the concept, which I don’t think would be a good thing. Lt. General H. R. McMaster has expounded in multiple venues on the intellectual bear-traps posed by the RMA, and I think the director of ARCIC has been proven right far more often than wrong.

This isn’t to contest Emile Simpson’s recent talk at the IISS, regarding the trends in current and future conflicts. I think in this, as in much else, Simpson’s work is fascinating and on track. But as an historian, I would say that as a general rule it is societies that make war, not militaries. If you want to understand a given conflict, study the societies waging it. Don’t be so focused on bellum that you forget the pecuniam, and by extension the societatem, that keeps the gears of war turning.

November 11

Posted: November 11, 2014 in war
Tags: , ,

The days before Veterans Day, it seems, have gradually become an occasion for debating  the place and role of the military in American society. There’s great political and social media hay to made of November 11. And money–if you search “Veterans Day 2014” in Google News, most of the first pages of results are about sales and deals and marketing.

I believe that an educated, engaged citizenry is essential to a democracy, and that part of that engagement consists of seriously discussing the use of military force by our government, and the relationship of the American military to American society.  But I’ll post an overview of recent debates on these topics some other time. Instead, here are four columns worth reading on Veteran’s Day:

Scott Glew, “This Veterans Day, What Will Your Commitment Be?” at the Star Tribune.

Ashley Fantz, “5 Ways to Honor Veterans Beyond Veterans Day,” from CNN.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, “After War’s Trauma, Words Don’t Work,” the final column in Legacies of World War I.

And this 2010 Memorial Day column by Andrew Bacevich, which is as relevant in November as it was in May.

Medieval news

Posted: December 18, 2013 in medieval history, military history, war

So, I was finishing up a fairly provocative post on military revolutions (so-called!), but WordPress on my iPad isn’t refreshing properly, so that’s not going to happen this morning. Things have been crazy these last couple days with finals coming up, but despite all that the dissertation is actually coming along very nicely. Two things are happening, both interesting from my point of view: one, I’m getting really excited at the prospect of defending in the spring, and two, I’m actually liking my project more, not less, as it comes to its end. So, huzzah for winter break!

In the mean time, here are a few medieval and military links that are worth looking at. Some you may have seen, others you might not have seen.

Medieval wall paintings uncovered in England….well, Wales actually. It IS an important distinction. But who doesn’t like a good St. George painting?

Marc Morris, whose work I admire very much, has a post today about the Lady Edith, Edward the Confessor’s widow, who passed away this day in 1075. As Morris remarks, if they had had children, there probably wouldn’t have been a Norman conquest.

Jail-break, Lancelot style. Oh, and if you don’t know about the Twitter or Tumblr feed of “Sexy Codicology,” you should.

There’s a great exhibit of WW2 propaganda going on at the National WW2 Museum in New Orleans, till mid-February.

And to cap it off, my friend Maj. Bill Nance (now Dr. Bill–congrats!!) drew my attention to this utterly awesome Christmas poem redux: Santa Clausewitz.

Ok, that’s it for now. Stay tuned for some military revolution next…