Military history has not been very popular after the Vietnam War. Perhaps the unease is because war itself is felt to have little utility in a postmodern world. No longer are disagreements said to arise from good squared off against evil, but rather from faulty discourse and misunderstandings between two nearly indistinguishable sides offering competing “narratives.” Recourse to violence, it seems nowadays, reneges on the promises of the Enlightenment: surely disputes result from ignorance and thus can be settled through proper talk and shared insight. More often the lessons of war lie not in military history, but are to be found in what our universities now offer as “Peace Studies” or “Conflict Resolution Theory.”

When it comes to our martial past, we in our present pride tend to cast moral aspersions on history’s Neanderthals: those benighted combatants on both sides who, unlike ourselves,...


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