History constantly reminds that in warfare, almost nothing is genuinely new, and lessons learned from centuries past are as valid as those garnered from today’s fight.
The newest must-read for modern military scholars was written in 1896. British Col. C.E. Callwell’s book “Small Wars: Their Principles and Practice” looks at the nature of a small-war enemy — in Callwell’s case, drawing from experience in the Afghan and Boer wars — and the shortcomings of strategic attack in such wars.
It is this theme that Capt. John Bellflower, a deputy staff judge advocate at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., picks up to lead this issue’s cover package. Bellflower analyzes air power in the context of small wars and sees in the shock and awe of American air power vs. the modern insurgent a parallel with classic history: that of David vs. Goliath.
Dr. Milan Vego, professor of operations at the Navy War College, further examines the utility of relying heavily on technologically superior network-centric weaponry against an insurgent enemy. Again, history’s pages, from late 18th century’s failed theories of “mathematical” warfare to Field Marshal von Schlieffen’s plan, show the vulnerability of technological might when it reduces the war fighter to a “human system-of-systems.”
And Lt. Col. Mike Bullock validates those history lessons with his here-and-now experience, most recently as a Canadian Forces exchange officer with the British 1 Armoured Division in Iraq. His conclusion — with asymmetric fights, NATO should consider anything rather than a visible boots-on-the-ground conventional force.
Seth Cropsey, meanwhile, delves deep into that wartime classic the “Iliad” and provides a treat of a read that walks us through the many lessons of military leadership that lie in Homer’s epic tale of anger, fate, war and humanity. The stuff of warfare heroes, Homer shows, remains the same through the ages, be they gods or mortals.
And Tom Donnelly’s superb essay on why Donald Rumsfeld failed examines the complexities and contradictions of a defense secretary who was both exceptionally qualified for the job yet also unable to set aside his preconceptions and transform himself, even as he pushed the Pentagon to transform.