Military History

This is a brief conceptual model of “Long Wars” as socio-economic phase-transitions. I’ll draw an analogy with sandpiles. The wars are the avalanches on the slopes of the sandpile.

Wars like the Peloponnesian War and World War I elude easy explanation. Thucydides tried to explain it, but the local causes seem insignificant to the scale of the multi-decade long wars.

Instead, the wars are caused by a large number of small events because of changing economies and political ideas.

StrategyPage describes the role and duty of the CSM. The CSMs are the “old soldiers” that keep the army rolling.

(Continuation of Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV)

By 1912-1913, General Pershing pacified the Moro Islands and built a coalition of tribal and religious leaders while managing to create a Moro central government.

There was an opportunity to create an independent Moro State, separate from the Catholic Philippines during this time. Instead, a serious of inane political moves by Woodrow Wilson’s Administration squandered opportunities and left a miserable political situation in the Moro Province. The US Army did a better job of governing than the President and Congress.

(Continuation of Part I, Part II, and Part III)

Some Moro tribes on Sulu island continued resistance against American rule for over a decade of on and off fighting. The Americans used a lot of “soft power” through markets and religious influence to calm the population. In particular, the US relied on the Sultan of Sulu as a spiritual leader of the Muslims. The US also contacted the Ottoman Empire and receive the Turkish Caliph authorization to rule over Muslim people.

(Continuation of Part I and Part II)

Between 1901 and 1904, there were numerous small rebellions in the Moro Province. The American legal reforms and military presence was uneven and asymmetrically affected some datus and religious leaders more than others, which explains why the rebellions occured at seemingly random intervals as each individual datu reached his own breaking point before rebelling.

These rebellions would be led by individual datus and typically consisted of only one to two hundred men. Captain Pershing was one of the officers in charge of suppressing these revolts.

(Continued from Part I)

At the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, Spain ceded control of the Philippine Islands to the United States for a mere $20 million. According to Articles III and IV of the Peace Treaty, the grid coordinates of the ceded territory included Mindanao and the Sulu islands, despite the fact that Spain never conquered these Muslim ruled territories. America technically owned an independent region of Muslims numbering some 300,000.

Unlike the Spanish, the Americans never tried to Christianize the Muslim population, but its administrative policies produced mixed results and often incited rebellions as much as subduing them.

The US captured the Philippine Islands from Spain during the Spanish-American War; one of the territories it controlled were the Muslim Moroland. The Moros are a Malaysian tribal society on the Sulu archipelago and the larger island of Mindanao.

The US Army fought sporadic small wars over the course of decades in Moroland. It adapted to guerrilla warfare in jungles and Muslim suicide attacks (the juramentados). Notably, the US Army worked very closely with the Sultans, the tribal leaders, and religious scholars during the war. It displayed a kind of cultural intelligence and awareness that is unexpected for its era.

A prominant figure in the Moro Wars was a young officer, Captain John J. Pershing. “Black Jack” Pershing was a great counterinsurgency fighter, which is somewhat forgotten since he is best known as America’s commanding general during World War I.

Some problems in logistics never go away. Infantry have carried 60-70 pounds of equipment and supplies into battle throughout history. The gear changes, but infantry always carry lots and lots of supplies.

Armies found ways to improve strategic mobility for extended and long-distance operations. Equipment and supplies could be carried overseas by ship or by different types of land transports. Yet the same old problem remains. As two armies close together, strategic mobility is gradually reduced to almost nothing. At that point, infantry carry 70lbs of equipment right into battle using nothing more than the power of their backs.

Maj. Stephen Nitzschke gives a unique explanation of Vietnam. He uses a complex adaptive system model to explain the process driving events behind the war.

…the perpetually novel environment faced by agents within the complex adaptive system reaffirms the Clausewitzian notion that war is never an isolated act, and its results are never final. Cas theory tells us that time spent searching for an optimal ‘end state’ is better spent making a series of progressive improvements. With each improvement comes new opportunities for exploitation. Quick action will replace the measured response in an attempt to outpace the enemy’s ability to adjust to changing circumstances.

cas histories may turn out to be far superior to the traditional narrative form of history

The Chinese announced their new Type 99A2 Main Battle Tank. They are boasting that it is an equal to the American M1 Abrams MBT.

Jane’s report on the MBT is now up too.
The Type 99 is a glorified T-72. I’m more interested in it’s computer targeting system, which determines whether the tank is useful in combat or if it’s just for show on the parade ground.

This is an ongoing series. Part I: The Fall of Rome. Part II: The Legionaries

The Roman economy reached a high level of sophistication and complexity that was not reached again until the Renaissance.

Ward-Perkins’s fairly short history is packed with the latest archeological knowledge. He rebuts two myths – 1) That the Roman Economy was primitive 2) that the Germans did not destroy the Civilization

The Germanic Invasions and the Dark Ages left Europe intellectually and economically stagnant for almost a thousand years. If all civilizations are equal, where were the German mathematicians of the 500s AD?

Since I’m talking about the Fall of Rome, was the military responsible for the fall? Did they fail to adopt new tactics, or fail to foresee new technologies? I do not believe so. What is remarkable is the superiority of the Roman legionaries throughout the collapse of the Empire. There just was not enough of them.

The most interesting point in modern scholarship is there was no structure decline in the Roman Empire prior to the fall. Previous generations of historians simply assumed that the Roman military or political structure must have weakened or failed, but there is little evidence to support this hypothesis.

Over a century of time, from 376-476 AD, the Roman Empire suffered a series of exogenous shocks from foreign invasions which destroyed its economy and political system.

The fall of Rome demonstrates how vulnerable economic structures are to hostile attack.

There’s two new books about the fall of the Roman Empire: Bryan Ward-Perkins The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization; and
Peter Heather, The Fall of the Roman Empire.

These historians were intereviewed here. Part I and Part II. Both argue against the new revisionist histories which claim that the Roman Empire was culturally transformed by Germanic Migrations. The archeological evidence says otherwise. The Roman Empire fell due to the invasions and its sophisticated economy collapsed.

The Charioteers came from the steppe and conquered many of the agricultural civilizations during the second millennium BC. The Greek Minoan-era Civilization, the Babylonian Empire, the Indus River Valley Civilization and the Egyptian Empire were all destroyed by Steppe Charioteers. Economic trade collapsed and Eurasia entered a dark age.

The Charioteer revolution in military history came from the long animal husbandry of horses which produced a more powerful steed capable of pulling light-weight wooden chariots. The Steppe nomads combined this with the newly designed composite bow. These tools gave them the decisive edge in battles against the infantry armies of the agriculturalists.

The Noble Savage is a myth. The idea of a noble savage implied that our modern world was defective – that romantic simplicity was superior to our cut throat world. The French called this “romancing the mud” and for good reason. People without historical memory idealize the past and assume mankind declined in morality and virtue.

We live in a world where individuals are less likely to meet a violent death than ever before in history. Steven Pinker looks at the evidence and wonders why.

Victor David Hanson argues the need to revive the studymilitary history. KC Johnson has made similar points. Academic ignorance of military and diplomatic history has weakened our understanding of warfare and foreign policies. In this vacuum, utopian fantasies take root. Without specialized knowledge, people can make absurd conclusions.

What moves nations? This was once the question of history. History provided context and understanding of the mechanisms behind human development. Ignorance of foreign policy is bad enough. But the loss of interest in the “hard” fields of history – Economics, Technology, Politics, Classics and Military – weakens out ability to understand what moves nation.

Did you know few die in war? More people are murdered by their own governments than killed in warfare. Which, if you think about this rationally, is really the point of war.

I take the concept of honor and oaths seriously.

There is a curious omission in the Officer oath which implies a serious responsibility. An American Officer does not swear to obey. They are still legally bound to obey orders, but are not morally bound to do so.

The Finnish Motti is an excellent example of distributed operations. It was the most famous tactic of the Finnish-Soviet Winter War of 1939. Finnish light infantry encircled vastly larger numbers of Soviet troops on narrow roads, cut them into isolated pockets, and destroyed them one unit at a time.

The Soviets won a pyrrhic victory in the Winter War after overwhelming the Finns through sheer numbers. Even still, the Finns fought so well that the Soviet victory was marginal. The Finns saved their sovereign and independent government through military ingenuity. The Soviets suffered at least 400,000 casualties, compared to the 20,000 Finnish dead.

The Pookie is the strangest military vehicle I have ever seen. It’s a ultra-light weight vehicle with a protective V-shaped armored cabin for the driver. The Rhodesians built the Pookie to clear minefields and roads.

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