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introduction Warfare and state building have been inextricably intertwined since prehistory . From the time of the great river valley civilizations wars have played a crucial role in determining the nature of a state. In recent times researchers such as William H. McNeill and Bruce D. Porter have studied warfare’s contribution to state building in modern Europe.1 What these works fail to address is how effectively these states have conducted military operations. Furthermore, these historians generally lump most of the Western European nation-states into one category. Their military success has more often than not been attributed to their abilities to harness the resources for war rather than to their armed forces’ innate operational abilities.This is not to say that there are no studies of individual armed forces’ military effectiveness. Case studies of the combat effectiveness of European states include Victor Davis Hanson’s works on ancient Greek warfare, Geoffrey Parker’s work on Spain’s army in the Netherlands, and John Keegan’s overview of the European armies from the medieval to the modern era. The main difference between these works and those by Porter and McNeill is that they concentrate on a particular time period and do not seek to offer a long-term evolutionary perspective on combat effectiveness. What these works all share, however, is a generalized assumption about the nature of European warfare, specifically, that the ‘‘Western’’ way of war is inherently superior to the ‘‘non-Western’’ way. Hanson, in his book The Western Way of War, states that the fifth-century Greeks evolved a Western way of battle that called for a ‘‘decisive’’ confrontation between foot soldiers that sharply contrasted with the non-Western style of ambush, skirmish , ritual conflict, and single combat between heroes.2 Parker, in his landmark work The Military Revolution, notes that Western invaders were distinct from the tribal societies of America, Africa, and Asia in that they ‘‘fought to kill.’’3 State-organized military forces like those of Mughal India were inferior to theWest because they ‘‘remained[,] essentially, aggregations of individual heroic warriors.’’4 This idea is further developed in Keegan’s A History of Warfare. In it Keegan articulates a clear distinction between ‘‘Oriental’’ and ‘‘Western’’ war cultures. He characterizes the former by evasion, delay, and indirectness with the central goal of restraint. In contrast, ‘‘Western’’ militaries celebrated the ruthless face-to-face battle. In the eighteenth century, when the gunpowder revolution added a technological edge to this style of xi Introduction warfare, the final element in the superior Western style of warfare was put in place.5 Perhaps the fullest expression of theWestern military culture’s superiority is found in Hanson’s book Carnage and Culture. In it Hanson greatly expands his thesis on Western military superiority. He notes that in the 2,500 years since the Greeks introduced a decisive type of direct infantry confrontation, the West has continued to dominate the world with its military superiority. However, Hanson goes beyond a mere focus on the West’s military superiority ; instead, he develops a comprehensive, albeit unconvincing, argument that the West developed a congruent superiority in intellectual, political, and economic arenas.6 A far more thought provoking and qualified study of military culture can be found in John Lynn’s book Battle. Lynn offers a more modest but ultimately far more prescient thesis that argues for the importance of the cultural approach to military history. What sets Lynn’s refreshing approach apart from the staid stereotypes of Hanson, Keegan, and Parker is his acknowledgment that each case study in his book is unique and does not fall into a neat Western or non-Western category.7 The notion of inherent Western military superiority has even spilled over into the study of South Asian militaries. In his book Societies and Military Power Stephen Peter Rosen embraces Keegan’s and Hanson’s notion that the Western military establishment’s superiority comes from the societal structures that underpin it. However, Rosen’s thesis is more focused because he chose to concentrate on India rather than the entire ‘‘Orient,’’ and he based his case on a specific examination of the social structures generated from India’s caste system. Rosen’s central thesis is that Indian armies were always weaker than European armies because they maintained close links to Indian society. As a result, these armies reflected the caste and ethnic divisions that plagued Indian societies and...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780803240612
MARC Record
OCLC
60714474
Pages
440
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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