Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History

Overview

The goal of war is to defeat the enemy's will to fight. But how this can be accomplished is a thorny issue. Nothing Less than Victory provocatively shows that aggressive, strategic military offenses can win wars and establish lasting peace, while defensive maneuvers have often led to prolonged carnage, indecision, and stalemate. Taking an ambitious and sweeping look at six major wars, from antiquity to World War II, John David Lewis shows how victorious military commanders have achieved long-term peace by ...

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Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History

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Overview

The goal of war is to defeat the enemy's will to fight. But how this can be accomplished is a thorny issue. Nothing Less than Victory provocatively shows that aggressive, strategic military offenses can win wars and establish lasting peace, while defensive maneuvers have often led to prolonged carnage, indecision, and stalemate. Taking an ambitious and sweeping look at six major wars, from antiquity to World War II, John David Lewis shows how victorious military commanders have achieved long-term peace by identifying the core of the enemy's ideological, political, and social support for a war, fiercely striking at this objective, and demanding that the enemy acknowledges its defeat.

Lewis examines the Greco-Persian and Theban wars, the Second Punic War, Aurelian's wars to reunify Rome, the American Civil War, and the Second World War. He considers successful examples of overwhelming force, such as the Greek mutilation of Xerxes' army and navy, the Theban-led invasion of the Spartan homeland, and Hannibal's attack against Italy—as well as failed tactics of defense, including Fabius's policy of delay, McClellan's retreat from Richmond, and Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler. Lewis shows that a war's endurance rests in each side's reasoning, moral purpose, and commitment to fight, and why an effectively aimed, well-planned, and quickly executed offense can end a conflict and create the conditions needed for long-term peace.

Recognizing the human motivations behind military conflicts, Nothing Less than Victory makes a powerful case for offensive actions in pursuit of peace.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Lewis' analysis of war as a psychological struggle and 'clash of moral purposes' is lucid and forceful; it's especially telling in his incisive account of Sherman's march through Georgia, and especially provocative in his defense of the atomic bombings of Japan."Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
Thanks to its recent experience of quagmires that drain into simmering truces, America has forgotten that triumph is the proper way to end a war, argues this brash study of military blowouts. Surveying six conflicts, from the Persian invasion of ancient Greece to WWII, historian Lewis (Early Greek Lawgivers) contends that lasting peace requires a shattering victory, “a display of overwhelming force” that “expose[s] the physical and ideological bankruptcy” of the losers and precipitates “an immediate collapse in [their] will to fight.” Lewis's analysis of war as a psychological struggle and “clash of moral purposes” is lucid and forceful; it's especially telling in his incisive account of Sherman's march through Georgia, and especially provocative in his defense of the atomic bombings of Japan. (“To break the Japanese leaders out of their ideological blinders... American leaders needed to kill a lot of Japanese in a visibly shocking way.”) He's less cogent when he tries to distill profound moral purposes from the murk of the Second Punic War or Roman emperor Aurelian's squabble with Queen Zenobia of Palmyra. Lewis's tight yoking of military success with moral superiority sometimes veers close to the notion that might makes right. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691162027
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 12/26/2013
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

John David Lewis is visiting associate professor of philosophy, politics, and economics at Duke University, and senior research scholar in history and classics at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University. He is the author of "Solon the Thinker: Political Thought in Archaic Athens and Early Greek Lawgivers".

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Table of Contents

List of Maps and Illustrations vii
Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: Victory and the Moral Will to Fight 1
Chapter 1: "To Look without Flinching": The Greco-Persian Wars, 547-446 BC 11
Chapter 2: "Only One Omen Is Best": The Theban Wars, 382-362 BC 36
Chapter 3: "I Will Have My Opponent": The Second Punic War, 218-201 BC 68
Chapter 4: "A Prince Necessary Rather Than Good": The Campaigns of Aurelian, AD 270-275 109
Chapter 5: "The Hard Hand of War": Sherman's March through the American South, AD 1864-1865 141
Chapter 6: "The Balm for a Guilty Conscience": British Appeasement and the Prelude to World War II, AD 1919-1939 184
Chapter 7: "Gifts from Heaven": The American Victory over Japan, AD 1945 237
Conclusion: The Lessons of the Victories 286
Notes 295
Bibliography 323
Index 345

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