09 February 2009

Small wars aren't sexy, but they have me to make up for that

One of the many books that I haven't finished reading yet is Rethinking Military History by Jeremy Black.  Mr. Black examines why military history is often not taken seriously as a "real history".  To be certain, military history is often written more for entertainment purposes more for anything else.  There's no economic history channel nor is there a social history channel, but you can bet that there's a military history channel, complete with computer-generated recreations of the Israeli Air Force decimating every Arab nation, US bombers guiding in bombs, and tanks duking it out in Europe during the Second World War. 

Indeed, military history plays out well on the silver screen.  The major wars of American history--the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War Two, etc have clear-cut good guys and bad guys.  In those wars, the "good guys" win.  They fit neatly into an action-packed two hour extravaganza, complete with explosions.  I mean, everyone loves explosions, right?  Absolutely, we all do.  

But unfortunately, not all wars are won with the cool little cut-away diagrams found in thousands of military technical books.  Nor are they always won in dramatic battles, despite the emphasis placed on destroying the enemy through decisive battle by Karl von Clausewitz, Jomini, and the Civil War wall art which adorns many military headquarters. 

Rather, much of US military history has been dominated by "small wars"--involvement in Latin America, counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, even a campaign in the Soviet Union which conveniently got left out of most history books.  

Every Soldier secretly wants to be the hero in the big battle, but the fact of the matter is, the big battles are far and few between in the world.  Rather, the real contributions to national security, as well as economic and political stability across the globe are being waged by Soldiers purifying water, curing disease, and playing the difficult balancing act of simultaneously hunting down insurgents while building popular support among the populace.  

We live in a world where the best intelligence may not be gleaned from a billion dollar satellite, but from a small child who receives a few life savers.  A water purifying unit or an IV needle isn't expensive, nor is it sexy, but it's incredibly vital for fighting the small wars of the early 21st Century.

I figure my next goal is to bring sexy back...to Small Wars.  

Edit:  I now vow to include more Megan Fox pictures to improve one's awareness of Small Wars!


Guy said...

The Revolutionary War- clear cut? There were more Americans on the British side than the Rebel, not to mention much higher proportions of Native Americans and African-Americans. Useless fact: many black people in the Carib. are descended from black American soldiers who fought for the British and were resettled post-war. Legally it was British and Ethically, well, people might frown on the dodgy deals done by the French and Rebels to kick off the war... ;)

(Hugh Bicheno's 'Rebels and Redcoats' provides a pretty good primer for the new generation of revisionist history about the Revolutionary War).

Also, 'The Patriot', not exactly Hollywood's finest...Rather watch 'Attack' any day.

You missed the interminable documentaries about some minute detail on Wehrmacht camouflage underwear between March 16 and June 2 1941. Oh History Channel, how I love you.

Starbuck said...

I gotta check that out then. I was just using the Revolutionary War as a passing example of how military history plays out well on screen.

Guy said...

Yeah, its the issue with history. I do it all the time with stuff like WW1 because it has such a popular cultural image even though its wrong.

Good luck with the sexy small wars. How about a totty-war ration of 1:1. Every post about Galula can be enhanced by pictures of attractive French ladies. ;)