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The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power

The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power

4.2 10
by Max Boot

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While the major conflicts in American history have become all too familiar, America's “small wars” have played an essential but little-appreciated role in the country's growth as a world power. First published in 2002, The Savage Wars of Peace quickly became a key volume in the case for a new policy of interventionism. Max Boot shows how


While the major conflicts in American history have become all too familiar, America's “small wars” have played an essential but little-appreciated role in the country's growth as a world power. First published in 2002, The Savage Wars of Peace quickly became a key volume in the case for a new policy of interventionism. Max Boot shows how America's smaller actions—such as the recent conflicts in Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Kosovo, and Afghanistan—have made up the vast majority of our military engagements, and yet our armed forces do little to prepare for these “low intensity conflicts.”

A compellingly readable history of the forgotten wars that helped promote America's rise in the last two centuries, The Savage Wars of Peace is now updated with new material on the repercussions of America's far-flung imperial actions and the impact of these ventures in American international affairs.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Foreign Affairs
“Max Boot's The Savage Wars of Peace makes it possible to revisit that past ‘imperial' tradition and mine it for lessons that might improve the management of today's global order…by reviewing the nation's past, he shows its future.... Thanks to Boot's journalistic sense—he is editorial features editor at the Wall Street Journal—those lessons make for a great story and a compelling read. Boot combines a wide-angle perspective with an eye for detail.”

Business Times
“A book that has become—very much like [Paul] Kennedy's, [Francis] Fukuyama's and [Samuel] Huntington's—‘must' reading in Congress, the Pentagon and among Washington's columnists and think-tankers.”

“By collecting the best exploits from some of the most significant small wars between two covers, [Boot has] done a real public and strategic service.”

The Weekly Standard
“Boot's well-written narrative is not only fascinating reading, but didactic as well.... The events of September 11 give The Savage Wars of Peace an uncanny timeliness and sadly confirm almost all of Boot's dispassionate warnings.”

Los Angeles Times
“Anyone who wants to understand why America has permanently entered a new era in international relations must read [this book].... Vividly written and thoroughly researched.”

The Washington Post Book World
“A fascinating set of case studies worth reading for the stories alone.”

National Review
“This book is not only an eminently readable and entertaining narrative history of America's small wars, but also is a serious analysis of current strategic challenges.... Boot is an exceptional writer and his engaging style is tailor-made for this type of narrative.”

The Washington Times
“An outstanding addition to this body of literature.”

New York Review of Books
“In its high-spirited early chapters, Max Boot's The Savage Wars of Peace recalls Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey and Maturin saga.... In his concluding comments, Boot sets out a thoughtful list of lessons that should have been learned.”

The Economist
“[Boot] tells the story with clarity and verve, rediscovering on the way some lesser-known American heroes.... Clear narrative plus such tales of daring-do are enough on their own to make this book enjoyable. But Mr. Boot is also trying to make a point about the present.... Enjoyable…Informative.”

Everyone's heard of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World Wars I and II. But how many of us know anything about U.S. actions in the Barbary Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, or in the occupation of the Philippines, Haiti, and Nicaragua? How did those lesser-known events influence America's growth as a world superpower? Journalist Max Boot presents fascinating accounts from "the forgotten side of America's military history."
Few books published this decade will be timelier than Max Boot's The Savage Wars of Peace . . . . [A] fine book.
Los Angeles Times
Anyone who wants to understand why America has permanently entered a new era in international relations must read [this book].
Weekly Standard
Fascinating reading...and never more timely than now.
Washington Times
It is a great read with some very solid conclusions...an outstanding addition to this body of literature.
Philadelphia Inquirer
Boot combines meticulous scholarship with great storytelling and provocative opinions. He draws from his research direct lessons for a nation confronting the threat of global terrorism.
Foreign Affairs
A great story and a compelling read. Boot combines a wide-angle perspective with an eye for detail.
Washington Post Book World
Readers who know him from...the Wall Street Journal will come to this book expecting an analytical treatment of low-intensity conflict; they get the analysis but also a fascinating set of case studies worth reading for the stories alone.
Journal of Military History
An entertaining jaunt through many of the expeditions, counterinsurgencies, and (insert your preferred term of art here, that the United States armed forces have undertaken since the beginning of the Republic. Along the way the author offers political analysis that hits its mark time and again.
Policy Review
Entertaining, provocative, and often insightful history...Boot has crafted a thumping good, rock'em-sock'em sort of narrative.
He tells the story with clarity and verve, rediscovering on the way some lesser-known American heroes .... Enjoyable... Informative.
H.W. Brands
An analytical treatment of low-intensity conflict [and]... a fascinating set of case studies worth reading for the stories alone.
The Washington Post Book World
Michael Barone
Excellent.... There are some cracking good stories here...but also some important lessons.
U.S. News & World Report
Christian Science Monitor
Lively and nuanced... Fascinating history... Admirably evenhanded.
Victor Davis Hanson
Fascinating reading.... The events after September 11...sadly confirm almost all of Boot's dispassionate warnings.
The Weekly Standard
Bob McManus
Timely manual on the post-Cold War challenges...Max Boot understands. Read his book; you will too.
The New York Post
National Review
Remarkable... Persuasive... Boot is an exceptional writer and his engaging style is tailor-made for this type of narrative.
New York Sun
Rousing.... Notable... Important.
James Gibney
[Boot has] done a real public and strategic service.
Publishers Weekly
As editorial features editor of the Wall Street Journal, Boot (Out of Order: Arrogance, Corruption, and Incompetence on the Bench) has a reputation as a fire-breathing polemicist and unabashed imperialist. This book addresses America's "small wars" in chronological order, dividing the action from 1801 to the present into three sections ("Commercial Power," "Great Power" and "Superpower") to argue that "small war missions are militarily doable" and are now in fact a necessity. Beginning with a description of going to work on September 11 as the World Trade Center tragedy displaced the WSJ newsroom, Boot quickly gets down to some historical detail: from the U.S. expedition against the Barbary pirates to violent squabbles in Panama, Samoa, the Philippines, China, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Mexico, Beirut, Grenada, Somalia and Bosnia. Examples of wars "that were fought less than `wholeheartedly,' " of wars "without exit strategies" and wars "in which U.S. soldiers act as `social workers' " are decried. Each of the 15 short chapters might have been the focus of a separate in-depth book, so Boot's take is once over very lightly indeed. While America's and the world's small wars certainly seem more and more related, Boot's historical descriptions are too thin to provide a solid foundation for relating one war to another. (May 1) Forecast: Out of Order (1998) was a hit with the chattering classes and remains in print; look for Boot's regular pundit appearances to escalate with the release of this timely title, particularly as the Bush administration continues to contemplate the so-called "axis of evil" in the manner Boot advocates. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The United States has the opportunity to establish a Pax Americana in today's world by jettisoning the Powell doctrine, named after Colin Powell when he was chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and emphasizing military deployment under limited conditions, and instead instituting an aggressive "small wars" strategy. So argues Boot, Wall Street Journal editorial features editor and author of Out of Order. Boot says that small wars, or "low-intensity conflicts," are about "the tactics employed, not the scale of combat" and that they have long been a part of the American story he in fact details several of the more than 100 small wars that America has waged since 1800. Boot claims the marines once had a small-wars manual and were such masters of small-wars tactics that, had such tactics been applied widely in Vietnam, America might have won that war. Although the political-moral ramifications of his argument as related to domestic affairs need more exploration, Boot has written a readable and thought-provoking book one that might well influence the behind-the-scenes debates over the future of military policy, as he hopes. Recommended for public and academic libraries. Charles L. Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State Univ., State College Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Boot (editorial features editor, ) celebrates American interventionism and imperialism, arguing that the military strategies involved in small wars of imperialism have been constant in American history and have demonstrated substantial success in dominating less-developed countries. His narrative history documents wars with the Barbary nations shortly after the American Revolution, numerous invasions of Central American nations, and the expansion of empire into the Pacific and notes that many of these efforts consisted of "low-intensity" conflicts that dragged on for years. He argues that if the U.S. had maintained the same strategy for Vietnam, the nationalist insurgency might have been successfully suppressed. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A thoughtful history cum policy paper on the role of guerrilla warfare in the building of the American empire. No stranger to polemic as editorial features editor for the Wall Street Journal, Boot (Out of Order, 1998) has little use for the so-called Powell Doctrine limiting American soldiers' exposure to the possibility of dying in combat. When applied in Iraq with the decision not to topple Saddam Hussein's government after the liberation of Kuwait, that doctrine may have helped avoid a "Persian Gulf Vietnam," as Colin Powell said it would, but instead, Boot writes, "it turned into a Persian Gulf Hungary, a replay of 1956, when the U.S. encouraged a rebellion against the Soviets and then stood by as the rebels were crushed." An unapologetic imperialist, the author urges that America take its superpower and world-policeman roles seriously, stepping into "small wars" (Haiti, Kosovo, Afghanistan) to fearlessly pursue "punitive and protective missions." Along the way, Boot examines the little conflicts of the past that citizen-soldiers have not much enjoyed but professionals have gladly undertaken: here the suppression of the Filipino revolt from 1898 to1902, there a modest 1871 invasion of Korea and the occupation of the Dominican Republic in 1954. He shrugs aside the specter of collateral damage, asserting that, "although wars against guerrillas tend to be particularly savage, atrocities are endemic to all wars, not just colonial ones." More compelling is his Monday morning quarterback analysis of Vietnam, which he argues could have yielded American victory had it been fought not as a conventional conflict but as a guerrilla war, an approach for which commanding general William C.Westmoreland was neither equipped nor trained. Boot's generally evenhanded approach makes some of his more immodest proposals palatable, and serious students of foreign policy, no matter what their leanings, will want to entertain his arguments. Author tour; radio satellite tour

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Basic Books
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Revised Edition
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6.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"To Conquer Upon the Sea"

Barbary Wars, 1801-1805, 1815

It was 7:00 P.M., and the African night was turning blue-gray beneath the faint light of a crescent moon when the small ship entered the harbor of Tripoli. The two-masted ketch, driven by a light breeze, made a slow, two-and-a-half-hour journey through the cavernous harbor. Visible on deck were half a dozen men in Maltese costume; above them fluttered a British flag. In the distance, at the end of their journey, lay a forbidding stone castle, its ramparts several feet thick and bristling with 115 heavy cannons like needles on a porcupine.

    It was February 16, 1804.

    By 9:30 P.M. the ketch had reached a strangely stunted vessel, lacking a foremast or sails, anchored directly beneath the castle's guns. This was the U.S. frigate Philadelphia, which had been captured the previous fall when it had run aground outside the harbor. Most of its crew now languished in Tripolitan prisons, working as slaves breaking rocks while surviving on black bread. The Philadelphia had been part of a flotilla dispatched from America to the distant waters of the Mediterranean to wage war on Tripoli, whose warships preyed on American merchantmen. Losing the Philadelphia had been a cruel blow to America's hopes—and a big boost to the pasha of Tripoli, whose puny fleet had gained a powerful punch by salvaging the U.S. frigate with its 36 cannons.

    Now the Philadelphia was manned by the Pasha's men. When they saw the small vessel drawing close theyshouted out a challenge. As they did so, the Tripolitan crew double-shotted their guns and made ready to fire. The men on board the smaller ship knew that if they gave the wrong answer they would literally be blown out of the water. The pilot declared in Arabic that this was a Maltese trading boat that had lost both its anchors in a recent storm. He asked for permission to tie up for the night next to the Philadelphia.

    As he spoke, the small craft edged closer and closer. About 20 feet from the Philadelphia, it coasted to a stop ... becalmed in the still night air ... helpless before the guns of the man-of-war. Even across the expanse of two centuries one can almost hear the crew's intake of breath, their hearts thumping in their chests, but the sailors calmly lowered a small rowboat to tie the two vessels together. The small ship's crew then grunted and heaved on the rope to draw the two ships side-by-side. As the smaller ship approached the bigger one, the Philadelphia's Tripolitan sailors finally realized what was going on. A voice screamed, "Americans!"

    The pilot of the smaller vessel, a Sicilian named Salvatore Catalano, yelled in panic: "Board, captain, board!" If the crew had taken his advice many would have fallen into the water. But another voice calmly boomed out, "No order to be obeyed but that of the commanding officer!" Lieutenant Stephen Decatur Jr., standing on deck dressed in Maltese costume, waited a few seconds that must have seemed an eternity until his ketch had kissed alongside the Philadelphia. Then he gave his own command: "Board!"

    "The effect was truly electric," recalled a surgeon's mate under Decatur's command. "Not a man had been seen or heard to breathe a moment before"—some 70 of them had been hiding in the stifling hold—"at the very next, the boarders hung on the ship's side like cluster bees; and, in another instant, every man was on board the frigate."

    The ketch had been captured by Decatur from the Tripolitans the previous December, and was now dubbed the Intrepid. She had made a wearying voyage to reach this point, spending a week at sea being tossed and pounded by a heavy storm. Rats and vermin infested the ship and many of the improperly packed provisions had gone bad. But the sailors and marines, volunteers all, had refused to abandon their mission. Now they swarmed aboard their target, careful not to fire a shot that would alert the pasha's castle. Wielding knives and pikes and cutlasses, the Americans overwhelmed the Tripolitan crew in about 10 minutes. "Poor fellows! About 20 of them were cut to pieces & the rest jumped overboard," Midshipman Ralph Izard Jr. wrote.

    The Americans could perhaps have tried piloting the Philadelphia out of the harbor, but since it did not have any foremast—it had been cut down just before the ship was captured—it would have been tough going. At any rate their orders were to destroy the ship. So the boarders split up into several parties and placed combustibles around the ship. As the wooden hull began to crackle and hiss with the spread of the flames, the Americans jumped back onto the Intrepid in a dense cloud of smoke. The last man aboard was Lieutenant Decatur, who barely managed to outrun the flames roaring out of the hatchways to grab the Intrepid's rigging at the last second. "It is a miracle that our little vessel escaped the flames, lying within two feet of them & to leeward also!" Izard marveled.

    But the Intrepid was hardly home safe. Seeing the tiny ship illuminated by the burning Philadelphia, the Tripolitan gunners in the pasha's castle and the nearby ships blazed away. Luckily for the Intrepid, their aim was poor and the little vessel was unscathed save for one shot through her topgallant sail. As the Intrepid negotiated its way out of the harbor, the hardy Jack Tars (as sailors were then known) laughed and cheered, admiring the "bonfire" in the southern sky. A midshipman captured the spectacle of the Philadelphia burning: "The flames in the interior illuminated her ports and, ascending her rigging and masts, formed columns of fire, which, meeting the tops, were reflected into beautiful capitals; whilst the occasional discharge of her guns gave an idea of some directing spirit within her." In its death throes the man-of-war discharged a broadside straight into Tripoli, before breaking loose of its moorings and drifting closer to the castle, where it exploded with a terrifying roar that further shook the nearby city.

    The tale of this astonishing feat—burning a captured ship while under the guns of the enemy, and not losing a man in the process—reverberated from one corner of the globe to another, gaining newfound respect for the nascent American navy. Lord Nelson of the Royal Navy called it "the most bold and daring act of the age." In reward, the Intrepid's crew received an extra two months' pay from Congress, and Decatur, just 25 years old, became the youngest person ever promoted to captain, then the navy's highest rank.

    Decatur seems to have stepped out of a storybook. One of the handsomest officers in the navy, he had broad shoulders, a slim waist, curly chestnut hair, and dancing dark brown eyes that ladies found irresistible. His future wife, the daughter of a Virginia merchant, was said to have fallen in love with him merely from seeing a miniature portrait of him. She was not the only one enamored of him. A fellow officer wrote, upon first meeting him, "I had often pictured to myself the form and look of a hero, such as my favorite Homer had delineated; here I saw it embodied." A marine private testified: "Not a tar, who ever sailed with Decatur, but would almost sacrifice his life for him."

    Decatur was born with salt spray in his veins: His father, Stephen Decatur Sr., had been a famous naval captain of the Revolutionary War and the quasi-war against France. Indeed the elder Decatur had at one time commanded the Philadelphia, the very vessel that his son now burned. The Decaturs were a prominent Philadelphia family, but Stephen was born on January 5, 1779, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where his mother had fled after the British had occupied their hometown during the War of Independence. His mother, Ann, wanted him to be a bishop but an ecclesiastical life was at odds with his nature; contemporaries recalled him "in every scheme of boyish mischief or perilous adventure taking the lead."

    He went to sea late by the standards of the age: He was commissioned a midshipman in 1798, when he was almost 20 years old, after briefly attending the University of Pennsylvania. His decision to leave the university is cloaked in some mystery. Rumor has it that he wanted to leave the country in a hurry after being acquitted of having struck "a woman of doubtful integrity" who subsequently died. Whatever the truth of this charge, we do know that in 1801 he sailed for the Mediterranean, seeking glory and adventure as a 22-year-old first lieutenant aboard the frigate Essex at the start of the Barbary Wars. Needless to say, he found plenty of both.

    By the time he had returned home from North Africa, Decatur was being fêted and celebrated across the land, making him "America's first nineteenth-century military hero." It is no exaggeration to say that his exploits, by helping to kindle the flames of patriotism, helped forge a new nation out of 13 former colonies not long united under one flag.

    Today Decatur is remembered, if at all, for coining the phrase, "My country, right or wrong." (What he actually said, in a toast, was: "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!") The Barbary Wars in which he made his name are all but forgotten, save as the subject of children's stories about pirates and the first line of the Marine Corps anthem ("to the shores of Tripoli"). Yet they deserve to be disinterred from the grave of history, for it was because of these wars that the United States gained a navy and a marine corps and a role on the world stage.

Barbary Coast

At the turn of the nineteenth century, there were four states—Morocco, Algiers, Tripoli, and Tunis—situated on the northern edge of Africa along what Europeans called the Barbary Coast (from the Greek word for foreigners) and Arabs knew as al-Maghrib (the West). Morocco was and is an independent country ruled by the Alawite dynasty. The sovereigns of the other Barbary states were variously styled as bey or dey or pasha, all Turkish honorifics, and since the sixteenth century they had professed nominal loyalty to the sultan in Constantinople, but in practice, given the weakness of the Ottoman Empire by the eighteenth century, they were largely masters of their own fate.

    To finance their governments they would routinely declare war on a European state and set either naval vessels or privateers to seize enemy shipping. This was a lucrative business: Captured cargoes and captives were auctioned off to the highest bidder, the latter being sent to flourishing slave markets unless they were wealthy enough to ransom their release. Although piracy had declined by the eighteenth century from its heyday in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—when Algiers alone held 30,000 Christian captives—it was still the foundation upon which the Maghrib states built flourishing and sophisticated civilizations. Many European states too had held Muslim slaves in years past, though this practice was dying out by the eighteenth century; America of course continued to hold many African slaves of its own, a few Muslims among them.

    It is tempting to compare the Barbary States to modern Islamist states that preach and practice jihad against infidel unbelievers. It is a temptation best resisted. The rulers of the Ottoman Empire and its North African tributaries were not particularly xenophobic nor especially fundamentalist. By the standards of the day, they were uncommonly cosmopolitan and tolerant in many respects, offering more protection than did many European states to flourishing Jewish communities that played a prominent role in their commercial affairs. Ali Karamanli, pasha of Tripoli from 1754 to 1795, was even said to have been much influenced by his Jewish mistress, a corpulent woman known as "Queen Esther."

    It is also tempting to speak of the Barbary "pirates," as contemporary Europeans and Americans did, but in reality the corsairs of North Africa were no more—and no less—piratical than Sir Francis Drake or Sir John Hawkins, two of the more illustrious figures in English naval history, both of whom operated as privateers, using the authority given them by letters of marque to seize enemy shipping. Americans also resorted to privateers to harass their foes; the U.S. government was so attached to this practice that it refused to sign the 1856 Declaration of Paris outlawing privateering as a weapon of war. As in the American and British navies, the Barbary rulers gave captains and crews a portion of the "prize money" captured by their ships. The difference is that in Europe and America the legally sanctioned capture of enemy merchantmen typically served some larger state purpose; it was not an end unto itself, as it became for the Ottoman regencies.

The European states occasionally attacked the Barbary States but usually found it more convenient to buy them off. Starting with Cromwell's England in 1646, the Europeans chose to ransom their hostages and buy "passports" to allow their ships free passage in the Mediterranean. The British, French, and Dutch also encouraged the Barbary corsairs to target ships belonging to their enemies. Until 1776, American ships were protected by English tribute and the Royal Navy. As many as 100 American merchantmen made annual voyages to the Mediterranean, carrying salted fish, flour, lumber, sugar, and other goods, which they traded for lemons, oranges, figs, olive oil, and opium, among other valuable items. After the Revolution, the enterprising merchants of New England tried to reestablish this lucrative trade but found it dangerous going.

    Morocco captured and then released the U.S. merchantman Betsey in 1784. The following year Algerian corsairs swooped down on the Maria and the Dauphin. Eleven more American ships were seized by the Algerians in the summer of 1793 after Portugal ended its war on Algiers, which had kept Barbary ships from slipping past the Straits of Gibraltar. More than 100 Americans became captives of the dey of Algiers—triggering a debate in the newly established Congress about whether it was time to build a navy. John D. Foss, a young sailor captured aboard the brig Polly in 1793, described a hard life in Algerian prisons. His captivity began when 100 Algerians swarmed his ship, stripped the crew down to their underwear and took the nine Americans back to the city of Algiers, where they were paraded before jeering crowds and presented to Dey Hassan Pasha, who crowed, "Now I have got you, you Christian dogs, you shall eat stones."

    They did not literally eat rocks but they did have to work as slaves, breaking and hauling rocks while clanging around in 40 pounds of chains. Along with 600 other prisoners, they were housed in a dingy fortress, made to sleep on the stone floor, and fed nothing but vinegar and bread that, Foss complained, "was so sour that a person must be almost starving before he can eat it." Slaves who were found guilty of malingering could expect up to 200 bastinadoes—whacks on the feet with a five-foot cane. A slave who spoke disrespectfully to a Muslim could be roasted alive, crucified, or impaled (a stake was driven through the anus until it came out at the back of the neck). A special agony was reserved for a slave who killed a Muslim—he would be cast over the city walls and left to dangle on giant iron hooks for days before expiring of his wounds.

    Other captives were better treated. James Leander Cathcart, captured at age 17 on the Maria in 1785, spent 11 years in Algerian captivity. He progressed from palace gardener to coffeegie (coffee brewer) to various clerical positions and finally became chief Christian secretary to the dey. Although he was bastinadoed on occasion, his situation "was very tolerable." Indeed he bought several taverns and made so much money that he was able to purchase a ship to take him back to the United States, before returning to North Africa as an American diplomat.

    But it was not Cathcart's story (never published in his lifetime) that captured popular imagination in the U.S. Rather American public opinion was inflamed by the books and letters produced by Foss and other captives, chronicling what Foss vividly described as "the many hellish tortures and punishments these piratical sea-rovers invent and inflict on the unfortunate Christian who may by chance unhappily fall into their hands."


Excerpted from THE SAVAGE WARS OF PEACE by Max Boot. Copyright © 2002 by Max Boot. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

Max Boot is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. A contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and the Los Angeles Times, Boot lives in the New York area.

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The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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bookwormMC More than 1 year ago
It is the fate of empires to be despised, and the u.s. is no different. Max Boot details the military action taken outside america's acknowledged wars and the boon that it has been to the world. More often than not, the u.s. has been a force for good even if it suffers the stigma of an imperialistic thug. How might Vietnam have turned out if a counterinsurgency had been pursued instead of big unit fighting. Holds lessons for the current wars in iraq and afghanistan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
By far one of the best books I've read about American history. It includes every Small Wars the U.S has fought. It also focuses on heroes who have been forgotten such as Smedley Butler, Dan Daly, Chesty Puller and many others. Every service member should read this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a well written summary of some of the little-known military incidents in US history. There are a very few typos regarding dates that the reader should be aware of, but they are of little import. The most valuable contribution of this work is to compel the reader to re-evaluate any notions they might have as to the proper use, and misuse, of military power. Most informative is the discussion of the various reasons the US got involved in South American and Carribean situations, reasons that run directly counter to much conventional wisdom in US academic thinking. Mr. Boot's conclusions are convincing, and enlightening. Also, of great interest is his dealing with the US experience in Vietnam, and how the hard-won lessons of the 1920s and 1930s was unaccountably jettisoned by MacNamara and Johnson.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first picked up the book as a suggestion by a guy that I know from work. I was really cautious about reading it and it started out kinda slow, but the more you read it, the better it gets until you really feel it. I really like this book and recommend it to all who enjoy history (both general and military)...
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Savage Wars of Peace Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, Max Boot has written an authoritative treatise about guerilla warfare or small wars in which the country has been involved almost since the beginning of its existence. Contrary to the popular myth, the U.S. military has fought numerous small wars in its history to promote the country¿s interests overseas, often without a prior declaration of war. Boot masterfully explains how the country was first a commercial power before becoming a great power in the 1890s and then a superpower in 1941. Boot guides readers around the world and brings back to their memory some American heroes that are sometimes almost completely forgotten in the general public. Boot also clearly shows that the U.S. military progressively lost its hard-won expertise in waging small wars after WWII with disastrous consequences in some small wars overseas that resulted in the birth of the Powell Doctrine (pg. 318-319). Boot reminds his readers that the U.S. military has to use the Powell Doctrine as a benchmark because of the sui generis nature of small wars (pg. 318-320, 336-341, 352). The U.S. military should continue to nurture its different branches with the same care so that it can fight any type of war with equal efficiency (pg. 331, 350-351). Boot also looks at the Body Bag Syndrome and its nefarious consequences on the deterrence power of the U.S. military in the world (pg. 327-330, 347). Under-commitment and lack of confidence are as dangerous as imperial overstretch and hubris (pg. 352). Most importantly, Boot¿s masterpiece contains some life-saving lessons very useful to the duty-bound Coalition accomplishing its mission in Iraq: 1. The massive development aid, which could make ordinary Iraqis increasingly receptive to the coalition efforts, is a long-term project. The most immediate need is to provide Iraqi cities and villages with security against the irregulars who tax locals for food, shelter, intelligence and bodies (pg. 304). 2. Thanks to the nurturing of mixed, well-trained infantry units stationed in all places not yet pacified, coalition troops know from past experience that they can rapidly improve their urban-jungle-warfare skills (pg. 305, 331). Because of their vulnerability, small outposts in Iraqi cities and villages should be perceived as able to count on massive support, if necessary (pg. 306-307). The Iraqi police are not the right candidate to populate these units due to a lack of both proper training and equipment. No restive place such as Fallujah can be off-limits to the combined action platoons (pg. 307, 311); nor can rebel sanctuaries outside Iraq be tolerated (pg. 316-317). Otherwise, the cancer rapidly metastasizes (pg. 350). 3. An efficient program should be developed or further improved in conjunction with law-abiding Iraqi citizens to identify and neutralize the irregulars after the example of the efficient Phoenix program (pg. 310). By interacting in a friendly manner with the native citizens, the mixed fighting units will be able to win their trust and confidence and gain invaluable intelligence supplied by friendly informants about enemy intentions and movements (pg. 305-307). Furthermore, the close involvement of coalition troops in the daily life of ordinary Iraqis gives them a stake in the war (pg. 306). In addition, slow rotations of key members of coalition forces are essential because building trust and confidence is personal and requires time (pg. 306-307). 4. Some coalition soldiers who independently operate from their Iraqi counterparts have limited friendly interaction with ordinary Iraqis mainly due to linguistic and cultural barriers as well as their isolation in their fortified compounds. Their efficiency in the field is not always optimal for these reasons (pg. 306). 5. The large-scale search-and-destroy strategy alone often is a counterproductive attrition strategy in guerilla warfare due to its fu
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you think you know all there is to know about U.S. military history you will probably find something new in 'Savage Wars of Peace.' Max Boot covers many of the 'small' conflicts the United States participated, many that people know very little. From the Barbary Pirates to the Phillipine action to Somalia, Boot describes in detail the political climate, the reasons behind US intervention, and the soldier's experiences. 'Savage Wars' is a quick enjoyable read.