Reconsidering the American Way of War
US Military Practice from the Revolution to Afghanistan
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: Georgetown University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication
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I began framing the chapters of this book while on a visiting research fellowship through Oxford University’s Changing Character of War program. I enjoyed the better part of a year at Nuffield College, which afforded me access to Oxford’s vast research facilities and a collegial environment in which to work. ...
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This book challenges several longstanding notions about the American way of war. It examines American military practice from the War of Independence to the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan to determine what patterns, if any, exist in the way Americans have used military force against their adversaries. ...
1. American Ways of War: Turns in Interpretation
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In the wake of Desert Storm, retired US Army general William DePuy made some observations about a distinctive American way of war that were both belated and premature. A distinctive American style of war had already been described by the preeminent military historian Russell Weigley two decades earlier. ...
2. American Strategic Culture: An Elusive Fiction
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If the American way of war is a history of contending interpretations, the story of American strategic culture is one of elusive fictions. This is true not only because the concept of strategic culture has been too variously and too broadly defined, but also because it rests on contradictory and as yet unresolved tensions between continuity and change and between uniqueness and commonality. ...
3. American Military Art: A Misleading Analogy
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Military art, the sum of strategic and operational practice, is clearly central to any way of war. However, the term “art” itself is misleading. As Clausewitz noted, war is neither an art nor a science. To think of it as either is to obscure its violent and dialectical aspects. ...
II. American Military Practice
4. The Revolutionary War to the Mexican War
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Henry Wager Halleck, a US Army engineer officer by commission and a lawyer by trade, was prone to seeing the conduct of war as governed by discernible rules. The word intricate, under his pen in 1846, meant interwoven and inviolable. That description might well have held true for the engineering and logistical aspects of war but certainly not for the rest. ...
5. The Civil War to the Boxer Rebellion
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General Sherman’s now famous expression “hard hand of war” is likely the most quoted phrase of the American Civil War, and it is inseparably connected to the debate over whether that war was total.1 Although the debate will likely continue, the expression itself is useful from another standpoint: ...
6. The Caribbean Wars to the Korean War
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By the middle of the twentieth century, American military practice drew from at least two articles of faith. The first was captured in George S. Patton Jr.’s statement that war is an art and not reducible to a formula. The second was reflected in President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s pointed remark about the relative value of plans and planning.1 ...
7. The Guatemalan Coup to the War on Terrorism
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President Johnson’s Promise, delivered in a message concerning appropriations for the Vietnam War, was intended to reassure Congress and the American people that US involvement in Southeast Asia would remain precise and focused. It was a promise that would prove almost impossible to keep. ...
Conclusions and Observations
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Interest in the American way of war may well have begun in earnest in 1973 with Weigley’s landmark work. However, it remains strong today largely because of the desire to understand how the United States, the world’s sole superpower, might use military force in the future. ...
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Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2014