Why Study War?

 

An astute observation by Victor Davis Hansen, supported by an excellent quote from J. S. Mill:

Western societies have often proved reluctant to use force to prevent greater future violence. “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things,” observed the British philosopher John Stuart Mill. “The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.” [Read more here.]

Hat tip to Power Line Blog

The linked article is a thorough and detailed answer, which also concludes with a large selection of “best in class” books on various sub-genre of war books.

Published in History
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There are 11 comments.

  1. JoelB Member

    Thanks for highlighting this excellent article. One point VDH brings out is that wars happen when the side that starts it thinks they can win. America’s lack of resolve in finishing the conflicts in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan have led to the continual attacks from Iran on multiple fronts.

    Mayor Pete is trying to say that Trump is so unreliable that our allies fear to support him. It’s the very fact that he follows through most of the time that has the progressives worried. I remember the shock I felt when after driving Iraq out of Kuwait that the American forces stopped. I don’t think I was alone in wanting Bush 1 to go into Iraq and clean house. So who is unreliable?

    Also noteworthy were the comments on the power of public sentiment. 

    • #1
    • June 17, 2019, at 11:07 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. kidCoder Member

    I take Mill with a grain of salt. If someone enjoys entertainment outside what the elites say is the best, that’s not them being wrong.

    • #2
    • June 17, 2019, at 11:21 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. JoelB Member

    kidCoder (View Comment):

    I take Mill with a grain of salt. If someone enjoys entertainment outside what the elites say is the best, that’s not them being wrong.

    Forget Mill then. This was a particularly good article even by VDH standards.

    • #3
    • June 17, 2019, at 1:05 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. EHerring Coolidge

    Those of us who have taken/attended Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, and Air War College (or other Service equivalents) have been heavily schooled in the history and art of war for a reason.

    • #4
    • June 17, 2019, at 2:43 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  5. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    JoelB (View Comment):

    Thanks for highlighting this excellent article. One point VDH brings out is that wars happen when the side that starts it thinks they can win. America’s lack of resolve in finishing the conflicts in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan have led to the continual attacks from Iran on multiple fronts.

    Mayor Pete is trying to say that Trump is so unreliable that our allies fear to support him. It’s the very fact that he follows through most of the time that has the progressives worried. I remember the shock I felt when after driving Iraq out of Kuwait that the American forces stopped. I don’t think I was alone in wanting Bush 1 to go into Iraq and clean house. So who is unreliable?

    Also noteworthy were the comments on the power of public sentiment.

    Our allies lack of commitment to maintain their forces speaks for them. It predates Trump. Our Allies are fair weather friends that will pick from our carcass if we fail.

    • #5
    • June 17, 2019, at 7:41 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Arahant Member

    • #6
    • June 17, 2019, at 8:50 PM PDT
    • Like
  7. Arahant Member

    EHerring (View Comment):
    has the progressives worried. I remember the shock I felt when after driving Iraq out of Kuwait that the American forces stopped. I do

    Straight!

    • #7
    • June 17, 2019, at 8:52 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. quikwit Member

    The title immediately made me think of John Adams:

    I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.

    • #8
    • June 18, 2019, at 9:01 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  9. Suspira Member

    EHerring (View Comment):

    Those of us who have taken/attended Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, and Air War College (or other Service equivalents) have been heavily schooled in the history and art of war for a reason.

    Too bad politicians are not as well-educated in this most important area.

    • #9
    • June 18, 2019, at 9:19 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. Skyler Coolidge

    Arahant (View Comment):

    EHerring (View Comment):
    has the progressives worried. I remember the shock I felt when after driving Iraq out of Kuwait that the American forces stopped. I do

    Straight!

    Agreed. The Bush family is very good at starting wars but very bad at winning them. They were both too invested in the idea of a new world order and that we had to have international support for everything we did. But waiting for support or consensus is the opposite of leadership and invites failure.

    HW Bush’s failure to exploit the victory in Kuwait should go down as one of the most foolish military decisions ever made by an American president. His son did only slightly better. HW Bush’s stupid decision caused the emboldenment of al Qaida and re-emboldenment of Iran. 

    • #10
    • June 18, 2019, at 10:06 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Mim526 Member

    This was the crux of VDH’s excellent article for me:

    A wartime public illiterate about the conflicts of the past can easily find itself paralyzed in the acrimony of the present. Without standards of historical comparison, it will prove ill equipped to make informed judgments.

    These paragraphs read like a basic primer for US foreign policy, and for Americans when considering who to elect as our representatives in government, since it’s government that makes decisions of war and directs our warriors:

    It’s not that military history offers cookie-cutter comparisons with the past.

    Instead, knowledge of past wars establishes wide parameters of what to expect from new ones.

    Military history teaches us, contrary to popular belief these days, that wars aren’t necessarily the most costly of human calamities.

    by ignoring history, the modern age is free to interpret war as a failure of communication, of diplomacy, of talking—as if aggressors don’t know exactly what they’re doing.

    Yet it’s hard to find many wars that result from miscommunication. Far more often they break out because of malevolent intent and the absence of deterrence.

    When citizens of a republic consider whether to war or not to war, it is vital that we’re able to accurately count the cost to ourselves of both. Neither neocon nor progressive views have a good track record when weighing war.

    • #11
    • June 18, 2019, at 9:21 PM PDT
    • 4 likes