A Short History of War
The education of an officer goes far beyond the comprehension of tactics and operational skills required to wage war. The warrior must have at his command as complete a knowledge as possible of the larger context in which he acts. He must be ever aware of the consequences of his actions on the battlefield as they influence not only the outcome of the battle, but the larger questions of strategy and politics within whose context wars and battles are fought in the first place. Expanding the context of the officer requires, therefore, an understanding of the history of war.
There was, perhaps, a time when it was possible to provide officers with a list of lessons that served them well for the rest of their careers. Such a time has long past, rendered irrelevant as the process of change in weapons technology, politics, and operational doctrine moves faster with each passing year. Moreover, the larger strategic, political, and social milieu within which these changes occur is in itself caught in the swirl of change. Under these conditions, what a military institution of higher learning can achieve is to expand as widely as possible the informational context within which officers must exercise their intellects while insuring that they also develop the mental capability to deal with larger numbers of variables interacting simultaneously. The study of history holds the promise of conferring such skills.
A Short History of War offers the reader a brief, but relatively comprehensive, overview of the forces that have shaped the development of armies, weapons, and war throughout the ages. Its broad thematic approach conveys that sense of historical context within which solders have had to act over the millennia. The reader will immediately recognize that there is little new in the current debates over force structure, weapons, tactics, and operational skills that has not gone before. The reader will also realize that those nations that did not accurately understand the context in which they carried out their policies paid a terrible price for their ignorance. The risk of similar mistakes is just as great today, and the price to be paid for ignorance often much higher. This book conveys a central lesson, drawn from history, for all modern warriors: if the soldier of the present is to deal with the challenges of the future, his first task is to relearn and understand the past.
WILLIAM A. STOFFT
Major General, U.S. Army