War Made New: Technology, Warfare, And The Course Of History: 1500 To Today, by Max Boot
This book took quite a while for me to read, but it was certainly a worthwhile read, and one that has a lot of appeal to it. If you have an encyclopedic interest in military history and various real and supposed military revolutions , this book will have much of interest. This is a book that manages to balance several serious concerns, giving praise to the United States and its military (as well as nations like Israel) who have done a good job so far in dealing with the information revolution while also cautioning the American military establishment (and American readers) against overconfidence because the American military is so powerful at present. In general, given the author’s complex point and very lengthy discussion, I think that in general the author does a good job at presenting the way in which technology, techniques, and warfare have changed over the past 500 years. Is this book perfect? By no means, but it is a generally good book and that is something to appreciate. For most readers looking for military history and willing to deal with this book’s length that will certainly be enough.
Concerning this book’s scope, it is epic enough that in order to go into the depth he wishes, the author chooses to limit which battles and campaigns he discusses, making it clear that there is certain selectivity involved. Overall, the book is almost 500 pages in length apart from its lengthy bibliography and endnotes. The book is divided into two parts that look at war in the last 500 years from a viewpoint of there being four revolutions up to the present. First, the author discusses the gunpowder revolution by looking at the battles of the Spanish Armada, the battles of Gustavus Adolphus in the Thirty Years’ War, and the battle of Assaye, bookended with the rise of the age and the consequences of the age, which are sections included in all of the other parts as well. Then the author discusses the first industrial revolution with a look at the battle of Koniggratz, the slaughter am Omduram, and Japan’s stunning victory at Tsushima. The second industrial age is examined through Germany’s conquest of France in 1940, the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, and the firebombing of Tokyo in March 1945. The fourth part of the book looks at the information revolution and Desert Shield/Storm, Afghanistan, and the Second Iraq War. There is a short fifth section on revolutions to come along with an epilogue and a lot of acknowledgements. Throughout the author gives a great deal of critical analysis about failures and successes and ways that money and power were not always guaranteed ways of leading to victory for nations.
Yet although this book is very good, it is not by any means a perfect book. Part of this comes from the author’s own biases, such as a hostility to religion and to moral factors when it comes to the military. One gets the sense that the author is upset that popular support of war and military operations is tied to moral behavior in those operations, leading to more difficulty in achieving outcomes without unacceptable and immoral consequences. The author also shows a strange inability to wrestle with the civilian helpers of war, neglecting the vital importance of civil aviation to US effectiveness in the aerial warfare of World War II or to the general success that came from investment in human elements as well as technological improvement. Although democracy is not necessarily a handmaiden of warfare, those nations that did not increase the achievements and capabilities of their citizenry have consistently failed in warfare over the past few centuries. This is certainly a lesson that contemporary nations would do well to understand and wrestle with.
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