Book Review: The Battlefields of the First World War: The Unseen Panoramas of the Western Front by Peter Barton

The Battlefields of the First World War: The Unseen Panoramas of the Western Front by Peter Barton is one of the most visually stunning books about WWI I have ever read.  This work is more than just a history of British participation on the Western Front.  It makes use of officially produced trench panoramas to illuminate conditions of trench warfare better than almost any other pictorial record of WWI I have run across. The book itself is 358 pages in length with a bibliography, picture credits, list of further reading, and index.  In addition, and one of the things that makes this book outstanding it includes two CD-ROMs that contain … More after the Jump…

Why Does the West Seem Incapable of Winning Wars Anymore? – Part 7

A reluctance to follow traditional, pre-world wars law of war. This point harks back to point #1 and is both a result of and reaction to the high cost of the two 20th century world wars.  In the contemporary world the traditional laws of war, that is the agreed upon rules that predate Geneva are considered too harsh.  It has apparently never occurred to an academic that the laws of war are harsh for a reason, as though war is supposed to be some collegial contest like a sporting event.  They substituted ideals for a realistic appraisal of effectiveness. Let’s use an example. Traditionally, when a city or other fortified … More after the Jump…

Why Does the West Seem Incapable of Winning Wars Anymore? – Part 6

A post-World Wars Western (read European or nation-states settled by Europeans) reluctance to accept casualties in the prosecution of a war (note: this does not apply to non-Western countries which often suffer very high casualties) It is obvious to any student of history that post-World War II Western military success is defined in terms of Western casualties suffered and not military/strategic objectives achieved. Think about it this way.  We can all probably agree that the perception is that the people in the West will not tolerate high casualties in military operations.  That is conventional wisdom at least since the 1970’s.  I am not convinced it is true.  I think if … More after the Jump…

Why Does the West Seem Incapable of Winning Wars Anymore? – Part 5

A reluctance to prosecute war to the extent necessary to achieve victory even when a realistic definition of victory was elucidated. This one should be a no-brainer as recent American experience has shown that stupidity very much exists at the top of American strategic thinking at least, which is compounded by clueless media talking heads who I am more and more convinced actively wish to see Western society fail.  Clausewitz says that war naturally tends to extremes but in reality never gets there. This point goes back to deciding what determines victory.  Clausewitz is undoubtedly correct in his assertion that ultimately victory is in fact using force to compel the … More after the Jump…

Why Does the West Seem Incapable of Winning Wars Anymore? – Part 4

Wars are no longer fought to achieve victory but to achieve often nebulous goals short of the actual defeat of the enemy and often were unrelated or even contrary to national strategic interests. This one is a personal bug-bear of mine.  It has been common in the post-World War II world for Western nations in particular to set nebulous and generally unattainable war goals.  The submission of an enemy state is often not an objective and when it is even when achieved international pressure limits making a total victory truly stick.  This is not helped by unrealistic expectations on the part of the public that military victory can be achieved … More after the Jump…

Why Does the West Seem Incapable of Winning Wars Anymore? – Part 3

Example: The Israeli bombing of a hospital in Gaza and use of white phosphorous munitions during Operation Cast Lead in 2008 During the 2008-2009 Israeli-Gazan war there were back and forth allegations that Israel had deliberately bombed hospitals in Gaza in violation of the Geneva Convention.  Israel responded by claiming that Hamas was using these hospitals as shields.  The general consensus since then has seemed to be that elements of Hamas and their leadership did indeed use hospitals as shelter but that has not been widely reported in the West.  Another was the claim that Israeli use of White Phosphorous artillery shells is a war crime because white phosphorous is … More after the Jump…

Why Does the West Seem Incapable of Winning Wars Anymore? – Part 2

Modern interpretations of the law of war are flawed from a war winning perspective This point cannot be hammered home enough as it is the root of the problem with Western war making in my opinion.  The establishment of the UN post-World War II and the ratification of a new set of Geneva conventions on the conduct of war in 1949 have radically changed the Western approach to war and following those rules have had a major impact on the West’s inability to decisively win the wars they have fought.  In fact, it could be argued, and I do that post-war notions of war making have led to unsatisfactory peace’s … More after the Jump…

Book Review: The Battle of Agincourt edited by Anne Curry & Malcolm Mercer

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author and/or publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] October, 2015 was the 650th anniversary of the French defeat at Agincourt during the Hundred Year’s War. The Battle of Agincourt is a new volume released by the Royal Armories in commemoration of the battle featuring all new scholarship and the latest research on the battle and the campaign of which it was a part. First as always, some details about the book itself. This is a coffee table sized book with 273 pages of text separated into 3 parts … More after the Jump…

Why Does the West Seem Incapable of Winning Wars Anymore? – Part 1

I got to thinking about the question at the title of this post a few months ago.  Being me I started doing some research and then put my thoughts down in what ended up being a fairly long paper for some casual writing.  Rather than dump it all at once I am going to serialize it into parts and probably publish one part every 2 weeks to a month until it is done.  I am going to put it here and also on my survival site because I think the issues it brings up are relevant in that arena as well.  What I hope to do is provoke some discussion … More after the Jump…

The Battlefield of Cannae: a Site Visit

The Battlefield of Cannae: a Site Visit The Battle of Cannae in 212 B.C. is perhaps the platonic ideal of what a decisive victory should look like.  Western commanders have been trying to replicate it since it happened over two millennia ago.  It was the final in a series of crushing defeats suffered by the Romans in the second Punic War to Hannibal Barca the other two being the Battles of Trebia and Lake Trasimene; one day I will visit these sights as well.  I covered the battle in a post almost exactly five years ago here: http://www.military-history.us/2010/10/rome-and-cannae/.  This past summer while on vacation in Italy I finally got around … More after the Jump…

The Battle of the River Plate

The Battle of the River Plate was the first naval battle of World War II and the only battle of World War II to take place in South America or its waters.  The Graf Spee was one of three Deutschland Class “pocket battleships” built by the Germans in the interwar period to get around treaty restrictions imposed after World War I.  The three ships were the Deutschland, Admiral Scheer, and Admiral Graf Spee.  All three ships were to be destroyed during the course of the war. The ship was designate to act as a commerce raider and was at sea when the war began.  After getting new orders she began … More after the Jump…

The Battle of Berlin – 16 April – 2 May, 1945

Throughout 1944 the German armies on the Eastern Front had been pushed westward across Poland and into Germany proper.  During the winter of 1944-1945 the front had stabilized roughly along the river Oder and inside historically German territory.  In front of Berlin three Russian Fronts (1st & 2nd Byelorussian plus 21st Ukrainian) faced two greatly understrength German Army Groups (Army Group Vistula & Army Group Center).  A Russian Front and German Army Group are roughly synonymous units within the army structure although at this point in the war German Army Groups were pretty much army groups in name only often being the size of reinforced Corps or even divisions due … More after the Jump…

Gallipoli, 1915: Analysis of a Glorious Failure

The Allied invasion of Gallipoli and its subsequent failure represented perhaps the greatest lost opportunity of the First World War.  There is every reason to expect that if the invasion of Turkey had been successful then much the same results would have accrued to the Allies then as were to accrue twenty-eight years later when the Allies successfully invaded Italy in the Second World War.  The tangible results of the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943 was the capitulation of the government of Mussolini, and the diversion of up to sixteen German divisions in Italy that could have been more profitably used in France.  Additionally, one of Germany’s most capable … More after the Jump…

Reading and Military Service

There is an interesting piece on Medium.com recently about basic training and encouraging new soldiers to read.  I read, and read a lot, and have always tried to encourage others to read, not only my fellow soldiers when I was in the Army, but people in general. I find that the idea of having a reading list and free copies of said books available to basic trainees to read in their less-than-copious free time is an awesome idea and I am chagrined that I did not do it when I was a Drill Sergeant at Fort Knox many years ago. I don’t necessarily agree with all the titles on the … More after the Jump…

The Hattin Campaign and the Triumph of Saladin in 1187

Medieval politics make modern politics look like child’s play.  If any act from medieval times highlights this it is the Hattin Campaign of 1187 in which the entire military might of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem was destroyed because the Christians themselves collectively acted stupidly due to internal political factors in the face of an existential external threat.  The final campaign of the Kingdom of Jerusalem is best seen as an object lesson of what happens when you let internal politics direct external actions. In 1186 Guy de Lusignan became king of Jerusalem through his wife Sibylla after the death of Baldwin V while in his minority.  The coronation was … More after the Jump…