Ways Of War: American Military History from the Colonial Era to the Twenty-First Century, by Matthew S. Muehlbauer and David J. Ulbrich
About a week and a half ago or so, I happened by chance to catch a call by one of the authors of this particular book (David Ulbrich) in one of my LinkedIn groups for Norwich University seeking for people to buy his book on sale (it was still expensive). Being the sort of person who reads too many books and makes far too little money to be able to pay for such a price (since the book alone costs about a week’s worth of groceries!), I decided to find a way to read the book for free. As it happens, the co-author was kind enough to share some links to a couple of scholarly journals I had not yet volunteered to read books for, so I did so, joining the Michigan War Studies Review as well as contacting the Army Historical Institute. As it happens, I found the book for review on the Michigan War Studies Review, and managed to get it in the mail today.
Looking through the book, I see that it is about 500 pages and covers a very large scope. Flipping through it idly I see that it covers a chronological scope and seeks to cover issues of strategy, tactics, operations, logistics, as well as concerns like politics and war & society (including the impact of war upon women). The combination of elements chosen appears to have been done to make the book broadly appealing both to those whose interests are more about the interaction of the military and its behavior with politicians and society at large as well as those who want a more in-depth examination of military matters. Given the length of time covered in one volume and the scope of materials, it appears as if the writing is very straightforward, leaving more nuanced and detailed discussion to more narrowly specialized works about specific wars or campaigns or battles.
As someone who has taken my fair share of courses on military history, I have taken at least two courses that could have easily used this text. This book is being marketed for students for use as a textbook or as a supplement for study, and from the looks of it, this book could easily be used on the graduate or undergraduate level. As a broad-based work that covers the entire scope of American history after the age of discovery, astute readers will probably be able to recognize parallels between different periods of American history. I know that in one of my own papers in a course on American military history as a graduate student that I looked at the Janus-faced nature of war which had one face towards small wars against outmatched enemies who tended to fight in nontraditional ways (similar to the counterinsurgency efforts against the Taliban in Afghanistan) and another face towards European-style conventional wars against its peers (like the Mexican American War or the World Wars). I imagine, given this book’s contents, that something along this nature will be discussed at more length then it was possible for me to write in the 2500 or so words I had available to me. It looks like the Michigan War Studies Review wants between 1500 and 2500 words about this particular book from me. Here’s hoping I can get that done next week sometime. I have, after all, two other scholarly book reviews to write as well before then. I can’t say that war is necessarily an enjoyable subject to think about, but it is an important aspect of American history (and the history of just about every other nation or society as well), so this book will take up at least a couple day’s worth of my reading.