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War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Todayby Max Boot
"Max Boot, in his meticulously researched new book...does as much as any other writer of recent vintage to bring the fleshy reality of warfare back into view....[A] timely and important work, providing an excellent thumbnail sketch of the sometimes simultaneous strokes of genius, luck, and technological smarts that kings and generals have used for centuries to best their enemies in the field." Paul McLeary, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire CSM review)
Synopses & Reviews
A monumental, groundbreaking work of history that shows how technological and strategic revolutions have transformed the battlefield — from the Spanish Armada to the War on Terror — and how mastery of these innovations has shaped the rise and fall of nations and empires.
In War Made New, acclaimed author Max Boot explores how innovations in warfare mark crucial turning points in modern history, influencing events well beyond the realm of combat. Combining gripping narrative history with wide-ranging analysis, Boot focuses on four "revolutions" in military affairs and describes key battles from each period to explain how inventions ranging from gunpowder to GPS-guided air-strikes have remade the field of battle — and shaped the rise and fall of empires.
Bringing to life battles from the defeat of the Spanish Armada to Wellington's victory at Assaye, War Made New analyzes the Gunpowder Revolution and explains warfareâ€™s evolution from ritualistic, drawn-out engagements to much deadlier events, precipitating the rise of the modern nation state. He next explores the triumph of steel and steam during the Industrial Revolution, including the British triumph at Omdurman and the climax of the Russo-Japanese war at Tsushima, showing how it powered the spread of European colonial empires. Moving into the twentieth century and the Second Industrial Revolution, Boot examines three critical clashes of World War II — the German army's blitzkrieg, Pearl Harbor, and the firebombing of Tokyo — to illustrate how new technology such as the tank, radio, and airplane ushered in terrifying new forms of warfare that aided the rise of highly centralized, and even totalitarian, world powers.
Finally, in his section on the Information Revolution, Boot focuses on the Gulf War, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iraq war, arguing that even as cutting-edge technologies such as stealth aircraft have made America the greatest military power in world history, advanced communications systems have allowed decentralized, "irregular" forces to become an increasingly significant threat to Western power.
"Fifty-eight years ago, the great science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke wrote about an intergalactic commander mournfully recounting how his empire had been defeated. On the starships, the commander said, his unequalled Spheres of Annihilation weapons, guided by all-knowing Battle Analyzer computers, had never performed as expected. An inferior enemy, meanwhile, had moved stolidly into the gaps created... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) by every supertech glitch. Clarke's short story, 'Superiority,' soon entered MIT's engineering curriculum. There it served as a reminder that technology is beguiling, promises great opportunities yet forever tempts its believers to step into the abyss between the laboratory and the battlefield. Three years after history's most sophisticated military demolished Iraq's armed forces, Americans keep falling victim to primitive killers with improvised explosive devices. That makes Max Boot's overview of changes in warfare timely indeed. It arrives just before the latest of what defense intellectuals term 'revolutions in military affairs': the Pentagon's incredibly complicated 'force transformation' from Cold War-era weapons and formations to a 21st-century military in which robot planes and ground vehicles would be controlled by new targeting, imaging and communication technologies in order to allow small teams of networked soldiers to accomplish tasks that before had required divisions. Boot, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of 'The Savage Wars of Peace,' proposes to offer 'fresh insights about the future' by demonstrating how technological advances have changed the course of landmark battles and campaigns — from the early days of gunpowder; to the 19th century's extension of the Industrial Revolution onto the battlefield in the form of railroads, repeating rifles, the telegraph and mass-society armies; then to the 20th century's employment of radio, radar, blitzkrieg and long-range bombing; and finally to the military impact of today's ongoing information revolution. Boot follows five major themes: Technology by itself rarely brings conclusive military advantage, since organization, training and leadership are also necessary to achieve victory; countries that take advantage of military revolutions become 'history's winners'; a winner must still 'know the capabilities and limitations of its war machine'; no military revolution ever confers indefinite advantage; and innovation is speeding up. These are sensible but unremarkable premises: Yes, the next new thing arrives ever faster, and, no, technological advances alone don't dictate the fate of nations. The timeliness of the book's argument is not matched by its conceptual depth. Boot nicely engages the reader with some vividly specific details. (When the 1936 floods ruined a Pittsburgh factory that made a single, crucial propeller part, U.S. aircraft production was disrupted nationwide — providing an insight about the importance of chokepoints that was soon harnessed to cripple specific German facilities during World War II.) Such skillful stitches, however, are almost lost in a coarsely woven tapestry that attempts to display the grander purposes of war. The steady accumulation of contextual errors — of which a random few are offered below — leads the reader to question just how well the author commands his 'course of history.' In America's Civil War, for example, Boot writes that 'the result' of the adoption on both sides of the Minie rifle by 1863 was '620,000 dead soldiers — more than would be killed in all of America's other wars combined.' That's a rubbery statistic, considering that a good third of the war had passed by this time. Boot himself says, 'Most deaths, however, were the result of disease, not gunshot.' After having been beaten by Prussia in 1866, Austria-Hungary was 'slowly picked apart in the years ahead by its various national components,' Boot writes; actually, the Dual Monarchy gained territory over the next half-century, only to dissolve in the general upheaval of empires during two autumn weeks of 1918. 'World War I,' he adds, 'led, then, to the growth of government and the demise of traditional social structures.' It certainly accelerated both processes, but throughout the 19th century, the Atlantic world had seen them gnawing away at every pre-industrial aspect of the social order. Hitler is chided for not having 'possessed the sagacity of a Bismarck and made peace following the victories of 1939-40.' The Nazi leader might then, writes Boot, 'have consolidated the conquests won by his peerless war machine.' This is a startling condescension to Winston Churchill, who became prime minister in May 1940 and who was thunderously determined — backed by his united nation — to reject any settlement short of victory. There was no question of Hitler both dominating Europe and making peace with the resolute British empire. Upon such frustratingly hasty histories, Boot piles repetitions of the obvious: 'By the twentieth century,' he observes, 'economies in the developed world had moved away from agriculture'; 'The attack on Pearl Harbor is one of the most famous, or perhaps simply infamous, events of the twentieth century.' Saddam Hussein's capture 'did not spell an end to the uprising.' Even Boot's apt review of technology in the Iraq War can be reached only through an entire chapter of material already familiar from newspapers. By the close, a chapter on the 'Consequences of the Information Revolution' and an epilogue offer uninspired conclusions: Embrace innovation, prepare to adapt, flatten bloated hierarchies, and remember that 'there is no free lunch.' These are business-magazine insights circa 1987. It's not soldiers being ignorant of basic organizational development that undercuts breakthroughs (or 'revolutions') in technology and doctrine (or 'military affairs'). The March 2003 invasion of Iraq could have been costlier still if our opponent had been able to exploit the connectivity and software failures that occurred among frontline U.S. forces. Arthur C. Clarke's short story ends with the intergalactic commander's heartfelt plea that he not be compelled to share his cell with the 'late Chief of the Research Staff of my armed forces.' It's an appeal that catches the perpetual conflict between warriors who have to get things done here and now and civilian genius forever pursuing ideas beyond the horizon. Derek Leebaert's latest book is 'To Dare and to Conquer: Special Operations and the Destiny of Nations, from Achilles to Al Qaeda.' He teaches foreign policy at Georgetown University." Reviewed by Derek Leebaert, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"[Boot] provides illuminating detail on individual battles, while also assessing the fitness and character of the commanders, as well as the culture of their armies and their missions." New York Times
"Mr. Boot takes a daring — and successful — tack in approaching his subject; rather than attempt to be exhaustively comprehensive, he treats battles like lily pads, jumping from one to the next in quick succession across the pond of history." Wall Street Journal
"Readable and informative, this book provides a valuable overview of how military innovations can abruptly affect the course of history." Library Journal
Advance Praise for War Made New
“Max Boot traces the impact of military revolutions on the course of politics and history over the past 500 years. In doing so, he shows that changes in military technology are limited not to warfighting alone, but play a decisive role in shaping our world. Sweeping and erudite, while entirely accessible to the lay reader, this work is key for anyone interested in where military revolutions have taken usÂ—and where they might lead in the future”
Â—U.S. Senator John McCain
“While much has been in written in recent years about the so-called Â‘Revolution in Military Affairs‛ Max Boot is the first scholar to place it within the broad sweep of history, and in the context of the rise of the West in world affairs since 1500. In so doing, he not only tells a remarkable tale, but he compels us all, even those obsessed solely with contemporary military affairs, to ask the right questions and to distinguish what is truly new and revolutionary from what is merely ephemeral. He has rendered a valuable service, and given us a fascinating read at the same time, so we are doubly in his debt”
Â—Paul Kennedy, Professor of History at Yale University and author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers
“War Made New is impressive in scope. What is equally impressive is its unique interpretation of the causal relationship between technology, warfare and the contemporary social milieu. This is a superb thinking person's book which scrutinizes conventional historical wisdom through a new lens”
Â—Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainor, USMC (ret.), co-author of Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq
“Max Boot's book takes hundred of years of tactical battle history and reduces it to an incisive narrative of how war has changed. By providing such a coherent view of the past, he has pointed us toward the future. What is doubly impressive is how he draws surprising, fresh lessons from wars we thought we knew so much about but in fact didn't”
Â—Robert D. Kaplan, author of Imperial Grunts
About the Author
Max Boot is the author of the award-winning The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, which was selected as a 2002 Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and The Christian Science Monitor. A senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a weekly foreign-affairs columnist for the Los Angeles Times, he lectures regularly at numerous military schools and advises the Department of Defense on transformation issues.
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