A Short History of War
The idea for this volume came originally from Dr. Gary Guertner, Director of Research for the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College. The War College is tasked with the mission of educating some three hundred American and foreign military officers of all services in the discipline of strategic analysis and formulation. As an integral part of this educational experience a great emphasis is placed upon the study of history to provide a context in which these future leaders are able to examine and solve contemporary problems. As military men, quite naturally the study of history occupies a large part of their academic curriculum. The difficulty arises from the fact that many of our students have had insufficient time throughout their careers to study history prior to attending the War College. The press of their command and staff responsibilities has simply been too great to provide the time and leisure that the study of the past necessarily requires.
A Short History of War is a primer of military history that stresses the major developments in weaponry and warfare within an historical framework that is compact and quick to read. It provides a common informational base upon which to build the longer, more substantive, and more detailed study of history that the students are required to master at the War College.
To be sure, no history of warfare and weapons of this length can make any claim to completeness. That is why we have included a bibliographic essay in an effort to guide the student toward readings that can provide the rich detail of historic events that this work cannot. There are, no doubt, any number of multivolume works that will be far more rewarding to the serious student of the subject. However, deeper research into the discipline requires an initial stimulus. By providing the reader of A Short History of War with a broad treatment of an immensely complex subject, we hope that the book will lead to greater individual efforts to learn more.
It is impossible to stress too strongly the importance of historical context when, as many of our students will eventually be asked to do, military leaders are required to understand contemporary problems of strategy. In America, history seems to be devalued more than in other countries, perhaps because our own history is so recent. Americans often approach world problems as if they are happening for the first time and, for Americans, this may indeed be the case. But the world is very much older than America, and the rich context of human experience has much to offer and teach. Military and political leaders run great risk if they fail to understand the historical and human context in which their decisions are likely to be played out.
Nothing has been said here that is not well understood and repeated often by the faculty of the Army War College in their seminars. We are also aware that the students understand that a major purpose of their education here is to expand the frame of reference through which they see the world. In achieving that goal, in our view, there is no substitute for the study of history. If A Short History of War has any value, it does so insofar as it contributes to this end.