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This is something between a review and a commentary on a book that inspires much thought. I hope it will become what it is clearly intended to be, a standard American university undergraduate textbook. If Professor Lynn ever gets to read this: my compliments, sir. Lynn’s thesis in _Battle_ is that combat in warfare is best understood as being shaped by culture. In particular, he identifies a relationship in every human society between the historical facts (“The reality of war”) and the manner in which the culture of each society represents and explains war to itself (“the discourse on war” – borrowing a useful term from cultural studies). This is a powerful historical analytical tool, set out in detail in the book’s Appendix. It also provides a valuable link between traditional military history, the history of battles and fighting, and the wider history of popular culture. Lynn’s thesis is itself neither true nor false, but rather a perspective on war that bears further examination. Lynn undertakes to deal with over 2,500 years’ worth of global military and cultural history, “from Ancient Greece to Modern America” (from the book’s dustjacket). Very wisely, rather than trying to cover everything, he selects specific periods and regions for each of his eight chapters, opening each with a description of an archetypal battle and then using this to discuss the impact of culture on the warfare of the period. He is a specialist on 18th Century warfare, and one risk that any period specialist takes in writing broad-brush history is a reliance on secondary sources for other periods. Lynn is pleasantly open about being derivative. He pays generous tribute to those historians on whose work he has drawn, particularly Pradeep Bura for the Indian sections of his Chapter 2 on warfare in ancient Asia. For the sections on Clausewitz in Chapter 6 he provides a good summary of the interpretations of Azar Gat and Peter Paret. But in other chapters Lynne’s choice of who to thank betrays his unfamiliarity with the period. He relies heavily on Kenneth M. Pollack for his Chapter 8 on Egyptian fighting effectiveness in the 1973 October War, perhaps not realising that his own conclusions are very close indeed to those of Edward Luttwak and Dan Horrowitz in 1975, whose work he dismisses briefly. Lynn supplements his main thesis on culture with an excellent second insight: in all societies, there is never a perfect fit between the reality of war and the discourse on war; but when they are badly out of step with each other then either the society changes the discourse, or the society itself is forced to change, often by military defeat. Disappointingly, he fails to make much of this idea, which features only intermittently in his book. He discusses in his Chapter 3 the gap between discourse and reality in Anglo- French warfare in the Hundred Years War, but gives no mention at all to the war discourses of non-European peoples, including those of North and Central America, in the face of European colonial expansion from the 16th to the 20th Centuries; or to the crisis caused by the failure in the European discourse on war at the start of the First World War. These are perhaps subjects for further books. It is an old and very annoying critic’s trick to complain that a book has not included or discussed something: no book can include *everything*, and _Battle_ is already long enough. Lynn also makes it clear in his methodology section what he is doing. Nevertheless, his selection of examples and periods does cause some real problems with both the book’s narrative and conclusions. This is the place to mention the most obvious, which is that Lynn confines most of his book entirely to land warfare, never even touching on the theory of naval or air warfare; the names Mahan and Douhet do not appear in his index. Then when he reaches the 20th Century, his Chapter 7 on the Second World War focuses on the Pacific War against Japan, and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs, when neither the book nor the reader is prepared for the sudden change of direction. The Epilogue to _Battle_, discussing the 9/11 attacks on New York, only serves to underline the restrictive nature of the book’s focus on organised land warfare undertaken by states as the norm. The lack of a strong theme and overall continuity is reflected in the book’s structure, with chapters that are rather too self-contained. For ancient Chinese and Indian warfare Lynn relies almost entirely on theoretical texts rather than on actual examples of warfare; for the 1973 October War he consciously reverses this approach, and announces that rather than examining the discourse of Egyptian warfare he will rely entirely on the historical events. But an Egyptian discourse on the October War certainly exists, including the great memorial erected beside the Suez Canal celebrating the war as a major Egyptian victory. This lack of continuity weakens Lynn’s central thesis, but also reveals his own honesty as a historian: the link between war and culture is not in fact as strong as he would like it to be, and he does not assert that war is entirely cultural. Rather than being the central spine of this book, the theme of culture functions as a peg on which to hang Lynn’s separate chapters. He is quite prepared to argue *against* the thesis of culture as the determinant of warfare, going to some lengths to refute the proposition that the American conduct of war against Japan, including the two atomic bombs in 1945, may be explained by cultural racism. If his real focus is very much on such debates within the specifically American academic community, it is hard to criticise an American university academic for this in a book aimed at American students. At this point it is necessary to step back a little from the book, to examine its wider context. It is often asserted (especially by the modern military) that armies have only one function – to win wars, or even to win battles. This is completely untrue; armies have always performed a very wide variety of functions, in peace and war. In appreciation of this fact, and to forge greater links with the wider academic community of historians, from the 1960s onwards military history expanded its horizons considerably under the influence of sociology to adopt what was known at the time as the “war and society” approach (or sometimes “the new military history” – although there were some distinctions between these terms). In much the same way, just as mainstream history in the 1990s shifted its ground to take ideas from anthropology and to embrace both literature and cultural studies, so military history joined in the debate about war and culture, which has taken military historians into many new paths. But what remains true about armies is that, despite all these other functions, they are distinguished as being substantial bodies of men who use lethal force in a highly organised and deliberate manner: they kill people in large numbers for a reason, or threaten to do so; although in some cases only a small minority within the army engages in actual killing. As Sir Michael Howard pointed out in the 1970s, the failure of many “war and society” studies has been that they “forget what armies are for”. There is much less danger of this with the present cultural approach to warfare, which stresses particularly the individual experience of killing. The most prominent weakness of Lynn’s thesis in _Battle_ is represented by its title. Throughout history there have been many forms that the use of lethal force by armies can take. One of these forms was the highly concentrated activity – in time and space – called a “Battle”. From the earliest records onwards battles consisted of armies representing the available manpower of each belligerent, measured in tens of thousands (a range of between 5,000 and 140,000), fighting in an area no more than ten miles square for no more than a day, with losses of about one-third on the winning side and greater losses up to annihilation for the loser. Any departure from these parameters, such as the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, was unusual and always noted at the time. Despite technological advances of which the most important was gunpowder, the range and effectiveness of weapons remained roughly the same, and so did mobility based on horse and on foot, and generalship based on line of sight command. This form of battle lasted until about the 1820s in Europe, and the late 1890s elsewhere. Then under the impact of industrialisation and its accompanying massive social and political changes, this form of battle started to disappear. Its last occurrences in Europe were in the 1870s, and by the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 it had visibly gone, to be replaced by a form of industrialised conflict so different that it took most of the 20th Century to develop the theories and vocabulary to understand it. Although the term “Battle” was retained for convenience, the actual event no more resembled a pre-industrial battle than a US Cavalry Regiment of the 21st Century resembles its 19th Century ancestor. This transformation in warfare receives virtually no attention in Lynn’s book, which as its title suggests argues for a high degree of continuity between the experiences of battle throughout the ages. Lynn devotes Chapter 4 to European warfare in his own 18th Century, specifically mentioning the lack of technological change in this period as enabling him to emphasise culture, followed by Chapter 5 on 18th Century India and much of Chapter 6 on Napoleonic warfare, but then skates through the greatest period of industrial and technological development in history to arrive at Saipan in 1944. Given these choices, it is not surprising that he is so dismissive about the impact of technology on warfare. While it remains the province and prerogative of historians to study pre-industrial battle, Lynn is surely wrong to omit such a fundamental change from consideration. The retention of the term “Battle” to the end of the 20th Century and beyond in popular understanding (although not in professional military terminology, where it has long been replaced) is itself an example of a gap between present American discourse and reality in war of which Lynn in this book appears to be ironically unaware, and which was all too clearly revealed by 9/11. Many different explanations have been offered for war’s conduct, either in the case of individual wars or war as an institution. But the philosopher’s stone for military thinkers has been to identify a single central factor in war – that whatever else war might be, *this* factor determines its nature. (Imagine trying to do this with any other fundamental human activity: what is the single explanation for “literature” that holds true around the globe and throughout history, for example?) As Lynn discusses, the idea that war is best understood as a branch of politics (although it owes much to both Thucydides and Machiavelli) is of course most associated with Clausewitz. If I have understood Clausewitz properly, his position was that although warfare itself is an activity beset by the irrational and the unpredictable, the motives for conducting war are themselves comprehensible by human reason. This does not mean that politicians, commanders and soldiers are entirely “rational” in their decisions and actions, but that those decisions and actions seem rational to them, and are aimed towards a result that human reason can understand. So, no-one says “today I choose to do something really stupid which will lead to my death and to the defeat of the cause for which I am fighting, when there is a better choice available to me”. Lynn actually provides a good illustration of this in his discussion of Japanese and American combat motivation in the Pacific in World War II. The Japanese preference for suicide rather than capture may have appeared irrational, the American reluctance to take prisoners may have appeared as cultural racism, but both made perfectly reasonable sense given the experiences, beliefs and information available to both sides at the time. This belief in an underlying rationality to the conduct of war came under severe criticism in the 1990s from such writers as Huntingdon, van Creveld and Keegan, who sought to replace politics or reason as the central determining factor of warfare with culture. It is down this path that Lynn is travelling when he argues, with considerable dry humour, that “Clausewitz is culture”. One of the practices of orthodox Clausewitzians that infuriates their critics (notably Sir John Keegan) is their argument that everything is “really” politics; that it is only a case of understanding the “real” motive behind the action in war, which will invariably turn out to be political. This is the familiar debating trick of arguing the definition of words, and is almost to equate the political with reason. But one advantage of the Clausewitzian approach to warfare is that, if you believe that your enemy and his actions are at least rational from his perspective, then by definition you believe that he is human like yourself, that you may be able to come to terms with him, and eventually to make peace; or that, as a historian, you may come to understand his motivation. In contrast, one distressing aspect of the argument that the central determinant in warfare is culture is that “cultural” can too easily equate to “irrational”; rather in the way that archaeologists or anthropologists label an artefact as being “for ritual purposes” when they cannot determine what it is for. If your enemy is irrational then, again by definition, there is no possibility of dealing with him and he can only be coerced or killed. A mid-position, only slightly less objectionable, is the belief that only scholars of the same culture (or gender, ethnicity, class) can understand a people’s thinking and values, even when they lived in a different era. This demand for an exclusive “our history” represents what Sir Jack (J.H.) Plumb in the 1970s identified as “the sanction of the past”, not so much the study of history for what can be learned as its pillaging for support for one’s own present- day aspirations. But an alternative form of the belief that warfare is “about culture”, to which Lynn seems to hold, is that people fight in a manner best explained by the wider context in which they live; understand that context and you will understand the people. In this sense, an appreciation of the impact of culture teaches patience and even tolerance: if your enemy’s (or historical subject’s) behaviour appears irrational then that is because you have not understood him yet. We have come full circle: is that understanding cultural or political, or even social? The only sensible answer is that this is the wrong question to ask, since the division is itself an artificial one, and that human behaviour is a mixture of all such factors, in war or otherwise. It is possible to argue that each war is unique in itself, and that the experiences of each participant are also unique; it is also possible to argue that the different wars exhibit common characteristics or patterns (or “principles” a la Jomini) and that there is something universal in our human experience of war. Lynn does not bother with the first of these approaches, but dismisses the second both at the start and the end of his book as the fallacy of the “universal soldier”, arguing instead that individuals and armies at war can only be understood in their unique cultural framework. In fact evidence can be cited, including first-hand evidence from soldiers at war throughout history, in support of all three positions. This is because they have nothing to do with military history as such, but with the fundamental and irresolvable philosophical issues of individual free will, hereditary and environment. The best explanation for Lynn’s choice is itself the context in which _Battle_ has been written and its intended readership: in recent years the dominant ideology in the United States including its academic institutions has become multiculturalism, and it is natural that its students should be interested in different cultures at war. A main preoccupation of _Battle_ is the examination of selected recent assertions by cultural historians regarding warfare. Lynn takes as his chief straw target the thesis advanced by Victor Davis Hanson in _The Western Way of War_ (1989) and _Carnage and Culture_ (2001). I should stress here that I have not read Hanson in the original, and I am taking Lynn’s word for what Hanson says. As summarised by Lynn, Hanson’s thesis is that a uniquely Western method of fighting wars arose in classical Greece based on the willingness of city-state culture to fight set-piece battles with heavily- armed foot infantry and accept heavy casualties, and that this form of warfare has distinguished Western warfighting culture from that of the rest of the world ever since. Lynn has no difficulty at all in demolishing this thesis, which is unhistorical in the extreme. It is even questionable whether the classical Greeks may be regarded as uniquely “Western” or whether they originated close-quarters battle in any meaningful sense; the evidence cited is thin, and may be compared to the experience of the Egyptians at the battle of Qadesh in 1300 BCE, about the earliest battle for which enough evidence exists for a reconstruction. Arguments for any major or long-lasting cultural superiority in warfare are really a form of consolation myth, based on the belief that although the enemy may be powerful, victory for our side is pre- ordained by history. For those who wish to take this further, a good collection of case studies of cultural superiority claims about various armies, and their lack of historical basis, is S.P. Mackenzie’s _Revolutionary Armies in the Modern Era_ (1997). What is surprising, given Lynn’s familiarity with 18th Century warfare, is that he fails to mention that Hanson’s thesis in its broad sense is far from original, but has antecedents going back at least that far. As the Marshal de Saxe wrote to Frederick the Great in 1745: “It seems to me that in all periods there have been two basic methods of conducting war, and each has its own advantages. The Romans followed one way, and all the peoples of Asia and Africa have followed another. The first procedure supposes exact discipline and gains permanent conquests. The second is carried out through raids, and passes in an instant”. (Quoted in Duffy, _The Military Experience in the Age of Reason_, page 268). A very similar argument was advanced by Callwell in his classic work _Small Wars_ of 1896. As an example of cultural prejudice rather than history, Saxe’s identification of the Oriental as “other” would bring joy to Edward Said’s heart. But the argument may well have some validity if the distinction is made not between races or continents, but between societies around the world based on stability and landholding and those that are not. Is this a “cultural” distinction? The use of the term “culture” in _Battle_ is in fact so elastic that everything becomes culture, and culture becomes everything. Again, an example may be drawn from Lynn’s own specialist period of 18th Century Europe. He points to the limitations imposed upon themselves by the states of western and central Europe in making war, and concludes that these were cultural limitations. Certainly these limitations did not apply to their conduct of war elsewhere: the Seven Years War 1757-1763 fought with restraint in Europe was also the French and Indian War fought with savagery in the Americas. European armies also used “savages” from the fringes of European civilisation as light raiders and terror troops, including Hungarian Hussars and Russian Cossacks, Croat light infantry and Highlanders from Scotland. One could almost say of this period: tell me the way that you make war with your neighbouring state and I will tell you if you regard it as part of the same wider European civilisation. But was this cultural behaviour? The practice of fighting with armies raised, paid for, disciplined and controlled by the state had arisen as a reaction to the experience of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) in which an earlier system of war largely by mercenaries had broken down, and central Europe had been devastated as a result. Reluctant to risk any repetition of this, 18th Century European states feared that in trying to win an individual war they might destroy the system of stability on which they all depended for their continuing existence. Remarkably, Lynn makes absolutely no mention of this: the only reference to the Thirty Years War in _Battle_ is in the context of women camp followers. This situation of roughly equally balanced states fighting limited wars while conscious that war might outrun their control has occurred several times in history. The 18th Century model was studied by American theorists of Limited War in the 1950s in order to understand the nuclear Cold War better. A very similar situation prevailed at the time of Sun Tzu in ancient China. Viewed this way, was European restraint in warfare in the 18th Century cultural or political? Lynn also notes a similarity in ideas of restraint between the writings of Sun Tzu and of Jomini. Was the culture of post-Napoleonic Europe the same as that of China of the Warring States Period, or were they simply both facing the same grand strategic military problem? Lynn also fails to distinguish, at times when it is important to do so, between national or civilian culture, and the military culture of the army itself. In some societies the two have been virtually indistinguishable, such as France of the High Middle Ages. In other cases, a military culture has been significantly different from that of its parent civil society, such as the British Army of the later 19th Century or the US Army of the later 20th Century. Again to take only one example of the problems that this causes, Lynn argues that the Egyptian battle plan for the Suez Canal crossing of October 1973 was based on a recognition of national military culture: a large but institutionally clumsy army made a very deliberate assault based on set- piece drills and firepower in order to maximise its own strengths and minimise those of its enemy that was much more skilled in manoeuvre and rapid response. But, other than the presence of the canal itself, this Egyptian plan bore strong similarities to that of the British Eighth Army for the Second Battle of El Alamein in October 1942 (fought on Egyptian soil), used for exactly the same reason, and with even greater final success. Any actual connection between the two plans is conjecture, although in October 1967 Montgomery visited Egypt for the 25th anniversary of El Alamein and lectured to the Egyptian Staff College. Presumably no-one would argue a close cultural connection between Great Britain of the 1940s and Egypt of the 1970s, but there was a similarity in military “culture” between the two armies. More prosaically, once more they came to the same solution to the same military problem. To summarise, _Battle_ is vintage wine in a new bottle: the military historian’s belief that study of fighting is not only compatible with the study of war and society, but central to its proper understanding, fitted into the context of modern American academic preoccupations with cultural issues. If the fit creaks rather, then this is a reflection of the problems of the cultural approach to military history; but every approach has its own problems. The result is a stimulating book that provokes both argument and further ideas. Stephen Badsey