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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
I wish more people, especially members of the media, would read this non political survey of U.S. military history from the early 1600s beginnings of English settlement to the collapse of the Soviet Union and Desert Storm, with extensive bibliographies. This is an excellent map for the beginning student of our military history, charting the territory. It can help us avoid taking too short-term a perspective on current events.

Without this grounding it's easy to believe our current challenges are new. They're not. The U.S. has faced constantly changing threats throughout its history, even as the country itself has continuously changed. U.S. military strength has always fluctuated, expanding in times of threat & contracting in peace. We have gone to war ill-prepared, then triumphed after spectacular military build-up.

We have been in a near constant state of preparing for war, fighting war or recovering from war. Public opinion has usually been divided, including going into the world wars. War has always had collateral damage. It has actually become considerably LESS unpleasant as technology & strategy have advanced. The Civil War, World War I & some battles of World War II were barbaric compared with anything we've seen recently.

Our military has made vital contributions to our economy, technological advance, education and civil rights. Minorities, especially blacks & Native Americans, have played vital roles in our military throughout our history.

The perspective given by Allan R. Millett & Peter Maslowski raises questions such as how could guerrilla warfare be described as a "new" challenge? Guerrilla warfare has been an issue since the Revolution. We ought have a good grasp on it by now.

The book's weaknesses are mostly attributable to it being an ambitious survey. They include gaps in coverage (how did we get from post Vietnam demoralization to Cold War victory?) It's long on facts, short on explanation and analysis (WHY did the Soviets collapse? WHY did we succeed?) It's necessarily superficial & doesn't probe controversy deeply (there's scant attention to the U.S. relationships with Saudi Arabia or Israel).

On the other hand, the book is very good on the relationship between the U.S. & the U.K. It's surprising how late (going into World War I) Britain was still regarded with wariness.

The book is thought-provoking on the unattractiveness (similar to Russia) of the U.S. as an invasion prospect. It also puts into perspective the claim that the U.S. never invades other countries (we've been invading throughout our history).

The book is quite good on the relationship between civilian authorities & the military, on the evolution of military management (professionalization is not a new concept) & on the rise of air power. It also touches on nonfiring Soldiers, an important issue excellently addressed in Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's "On Killing."

In the context provided by this book, it's abundantly clear talk of a "peace dividend" & even the "end of history" after the Soviet collapse was naive. More troubling, history suggests conscription probably isn't gone forever (though it'll take a bigger crisis than the one we face now to prompt a return). The book, though, is good at showing conscription isn't what it's made out to be & its role in nudging volunteerism.

National Guardsmen & Reservists will find here that tensions with the Regular Army have always existed, that the National Guard & Reserve playing a significant role in conflict is nothing new, that Citizen Soldiers have a proud tradition & that there's always been room to raise the standard of the Guard & Reserve.

As a Soldier, it's fun to see pieces of Army history we've already learned out of context fall into place & into perspective & to get a better grounding in, for example, who the people were whose names now live on in the names of Army posts.

Millett & Maslowski's excellent survey is on the U.S. Army Chief of Staff's Professional Reading List (Sublist 1).
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
I have bought every edition of this book primarily for the comprehensive reading guides/bibliography found at the end of each chapter. This time, the publisher has decided to eliminate the reading lists from the book and only make them available on the Simon and Schuster webpage or on the co-author's webpage. The Simon and Schuster webpage isn't easy to use and there are far too many pages to print each reading list. The lists really should have been included at the end of each chapter; now I'm forced to run to the computer after reading each chapter to learn about other good books on the same subject. Hence, I feel as if the book I purchased provides far less value than I was expecting and I am deeply disappointed with my purchase and the practice of the publishers and/or authors to save a few cents in publishing costs by dispensing with the lists found in previous editions.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
I took Maslowski's history class about the U.S. military after 1917 at the University of Nebraska in 2001. "For the Common Defense" was one of the required readings for his class. If you have the chance to take his class, do it, it's informative and entertaining. When most history books just look at the battle statistics and "who did what," Maslowski and Millet's book goes further to illustrate the influence that politicians had on the military establishment. Most students sell their books back to the bookstore when they are done with the class--I decided to keep mine.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
I read David Hackett Fischer's "Washington's Crossing" (2004) and it was excellent. If you read reviews of it on Amazon.com -- everything everyone says there is JUST what I felt in reading it. Wished it would never end and that he'd write all the early history of America.

"For the Common Defense" struck me the same way. A friend of my son's liked it and got it for him. I picked it up by accident and thought, "dull, dull, dull!" and started reading (only because I'm an habitual read-a-holic). As I read, prejudiced by my first thoughts, I still thought, "dull, dull, dull..." Then my eyes started opening and I realized, "This is VERY interesting!" Finally I started reading it aloud to my husband, and now we are soooo excited to realize, "The kids are in bed! We can read THE BOOK!" We relish it -- truly the highlight of our day! We have learned so much. We really didn't know our country before. The authors' lists of books (and their enthusiastic descriptions of their especial favorites) after each section is a most excellent reference for more detailed reading into one's particular area of interest.

"For the Common Defense" is an overview, but of ALL America's military history, with an eye for the telling detail. This is from p. 238: Joshua Chamberlain, commander of the 20th Maine Volunteers, describes the night of December 13-14 at Frederickburg. It's incredible writing, so I called my best friend long distance to read it to her:

"But out of that silence from the battle's crash and roar rose new sounds more appalling still; rose or fell, you knew not which, or whether from the earth or air; a strange ventriloquism, of which you could not locate the source, a smothered moan that seemed to come from distances beyond the reach of the natural sense, a wail so far and deep and wide, as if a thousand discords were flowing together into a key-note weird, unearthly, terrible to hear and bear, yet startling with its nearness; the writhing concord broken by cries for help, pierced by shrieks of paroxysm; some begging for a drop of water; some calling on God for pity; and some on friendly hands to finish what the enemy had so horribly begun; some with delirious, dreamy voices murmuring loved names, as if the dearest were bending over them; some gathering their last strength to fire a musket to call attention to them where they lay helpless and deserted; and underneath, all the time, that deep bass note from closed lips too hopeless or too heroic to articulate their agony."
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
I first purchased this book for a military history class at my college. The book appears intimidating at first glance due to its size. The text really is quite interesting, however, and I found it is not difficult reading. The author does an excellent job at giving a chronological history at America's beginning with the first concepts of a militia and military. All of the major skirmishes, battles and wars are covered as well as a bit of political information. I appreciated the author's conclusive points at the end of each chapter by stating what significance came of the event both militarily and socially or politically. Definitely a text worth keeping after the class is over.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is an essential addition to the library of any military history student. The downside of this book is also its strength. For example, the material is very broad because it covers such a long span of time. The best part about this book is that since it is broad it is a good starting point. Reading the chapters that relate to a topic one wishes to research is a good method to get going in the right direction. It will give one a general understanding of events. It is also a solid secondary source which will point one's research in the right direction rather than complete the whole story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
A very readable and very good overview of the American military establishment and defense policy from the 1600s to the early 1980's. I didn't find any ground breaking analysis or fascinating new conclusions by the authors, but as other reviewers here have stated, and I agree, that may be mostly because of the scope of the project. I felt there were times when they could have said more or dug deeper, but they probably wanted to keep the book to one volume of less than 600 pages, which they did. I felt the book stumbled along a bit after the WWII period and didn't cover the interwar periods as well as it had prior to that. The Chapters on Korea and Vietnam were good but fairly short, and the book essentially ends with the Vietnam War.

For me the most interesting aspect of the book was following the evolution of a defense policy based on common militias and geography to one based on a large standing professional Army/Navy/Air Force and foward defense. Concurrent with the evolution of defense policy was the necessary evolution of the poorly disciplined common militias to the more professional volunteer militias of today (the National Guard) and the political power they yield. Another outstanding aspect of the book are the selected bibliographies at the end of each chapter the general Bibliography at the end of the book. Although somewhat dated now, they still to a large degree make up for the what had to be left out for brevity. They cite many outstanding works in which the reader can find additional depth and insight.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I didn't expect such a deep and expansive tome on military history to be as engaging as it was. Some of the inter-war chapters got a bit dry at times--after awhile the political infighting starts to blend together. But the treatment of the wars was interesting and even engrossing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
I wish more people, especially members of the media, would read this non political survey of U.S. military history from the early 1600s beginnings of English settlement to the collapse of the Soviet Union and Desert Storm, with extensive bibliographies. This is an excellent map for the beginning student of our military history, charting the territory. It can help us avoid taking too short-term a perspective on current events.
Without this grounding it's easy to believe our current challenges are new. They're not. The U.S. has faced constantly changing threats throughout its history, even as the country itself has continuously changed. U.S. military strength has always fluctuated, expanding in times of threat & contracting in peace. We have gone to war ill-prepared, then triumphed after spectacular military build-up.
We have been in a near constant state of preparing for war, fighting war or recovering from war. Public opinion has usually been divided, including going into the world wars. War has always had collateral damage. It has actually become considerably LESS unpleasant as technology & strategy have advanced. The Civil War, World War I & some battles of World War II were barbaric compared with anything we've seen recently.
Our military has made vital contributions to our economy, technological advance, education and civil rights. Minorities, especially blacks & Native Americans, have played vital roles in our military throughout our history.
The perspective given by Allan R. Millett & Peter Maslowski raises questions such as how could guerrilla warfare be described as a "new" challenge? Guerrilla warfare has been an issue since the Revolution. We ought have a good grasp on it by now.
The book's weaknesses are mostly attributable to it being an ambitious survey. They include gaps in coverage (how did we get from post Vietnam demoralization to Cold War victory?) It's long on facts, short on explanation and analysis (WHY did the Soviets collapse? WHY did we succeed?) It's necessarily superficial & doesn't probe controversy deeply (there's scant attention to the U.S. relationships with Saudi Arabia or Israel).
On the other hand, the book is very good on the relationship between the U.S. & the U.K. It's surprising how late (going into World War I) Britain was still regarded with wariness.
The book is thought-provoking on the unattractiveness (similar to Russia) of the U.S. as an invasion prospect. It also puts into perspective the claim that the U.S. never invades other countries (we've been invading throughout our history).
The book is quite good on the relationship between civilian authorities & the military, on the evolution of military management (professionalization is not a new concept) & on the rise of air power. It also touches on nonfiring Soldiers, an important issue excellently addressed in Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's "On Killing."
In the context provided by this book, it's abundantly clear talk of a "peace dividend" & even the "end of history" after the Soviet collapse was naive. More troubling, history suggests conscription probably isn't gone forever (though it'll take a bigger crisis than the one we face now to prompt a return). The book, though, is good at showing conscription isn't what it's made out to be & its role in nudging volunteerism.
National Guardsmen & Reservists will find here that tensions with the Regular Army have always existed, that the National Guard & Reserve playing a significant role in conflict is nothing new, that Citizen Soldiers have a proud tradition & that there's always been room to raise the standard of the Guard & Reserve.
As a Soldier, it's fun to see pieces of Army history we've already learned out of context fall into place & into perspective & to get a better grounding in, for example, who the people were whose names now live on in the names of Army posts.
Millett & Maslowski's excellent survey is on the U.S. Army Chief of Staff's Professional Reading List (Sublist 1).
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book is the same as published several years ago. There was no new material added or revisions done that I could determine. The publication date is even several years old. It is a good book and I highly recommend it to someone who hasn't read the material or wants a nice introduction. But, if you read it within the last 15 years, it hasn't changed.
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