- Paperback: 592 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (February 16, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415890195
- ISBN-13: 978-0415890199
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,459,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The American Culture of War: A History of US Military Force from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom 2nd Edition
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'An outstanding volume that is sure to be of interest to faculty and cadets, as well as historians and national security professionals far and wide.' – Lance Betros, Colonel, US Army
'The American Culture of War is a first-rate study that asks big questions and provides answers that are of value to American and non-American scholars alike. It makes a major contribution to the developing cultural approach to military history.' – Jeremy Black, University of Exeter, UK
'Lewis combines a powerful argument with a detailed critique of U.S. strategy since World War II as overly dependant on technology, and shows how these have eroded two traditional American moral concepts: the equal value of every human life and the universal civic responsibility to defend the country.' –Dennis Showalter, Colorado College, USA
'The American Culture of War is a striking and magisterial tour de force. Combining the hard-headed realism and moral indignation of a professional soldier with the keen analytical outlook of a trained historian, Adrian Lewis exposes the political in-fighting, intellectual follies, cultural arrogance, media ignorance, inter-service rivalries, and changes in the national mood that have repeatedly caused the United States to wage its most recent wars in ways that play to its weaknesses rather than its strengths. The American Culture of War should be mandatory reading for policy makers, military leaders, students of military history, and all Americans with the slightest interest in national security.' – Gregory J.W. Urwin, Temple University, USA
'Lewis's book is a manifesto that calls for a revolutionary change in thinking ... Even though the book presents a specific thesis that is merged within the fascinating historiographical debate over the American way of war, it also provides an in-depth discussion of U.S. military history of the past sixty years. ... This is mandatory reading for all those engaged in U.S. military history, and above all should be included in the reading list of the American officer ranks, as well as the decision makers and policy shapers among the various political and military echelons.' – H-War
About the Author
Adrian Lewis is Professor of History at the University of Kansas. He has taught at the Naval War College and at West Point, and is a retired United States Army Major. He is the author of Omaha Beach: A Flawed Victory.
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Although I actually sympathized with quite a few of the author's biases concerning the different armed services, I found his army-centric bias to be a little on the excessive side. Still, his detailing of inter-service rivalries and biases makes for a good introduction into what should probably be a whole other book.
The book looses coherence towards the end, and this problem is compounded by the horrible job done by the editors. You can find grammatical errors and typos on virtually every page of the final third of the book. His transition from explaining how the US military evolved from the end of WWII to recommending a return to a draft seems a bit disjointed, making it seems as if he's just rambling towards the end. His basic premises are easy to grasp, but the writing could still use some work.
The American way of war, as others have pointed out before Lewis, was focused on a citizen-Army, conscripted to fight the war, reliant on technology, and focused on the use of overwhelming force (both firepower and manpower). This method of war tied the American people in with the war, so when the decision to fight was (reluctantly) made or forced on America, we did so as a nation.
Lewis argues that since World War II, the notion of limited war has dominated American military thinking, first as a result of a desire to fight without use of atomic weapons, and now through the use of war as a nation-building tool. While America did raise a large conscript Army to fight Vietnam, the Army's goal wasn't to win the war - the Army's goal was to defend South Vietnam while the Air Force (and Navy, and USMC) tried to win the war technologically by bombing North Vietnam. As a result of Vietnam, the nation ended the draft and adopted the All Volunteer Force. The AVF has led to the rise of a separate military culture and the removal of the American people from the conduct of war, especially post-9/11.
Lewis also blasts the modern American military structure. He argues, convincingly, that the establishment of the Department of Defense, with separate military services, has created a bureaucratic culture where the services are better able to fight for their piece of the military budget than fight to win wars on the battlefield. And, Lewis asserts, Americans have died because of this.
While Lewis's book is full of important observations, it does suffer from some flaws. One is that Lewis, despite using nearly 500 pages to cover his subject, completely skips Grenada and Panama - which is noteworthy because he easily could have fit these into some of his arguments. Also, this book could have used a competent editor: typos abound, extraneous commas make some sentences hard to read, and some passages are just difficult to comprehend. The writing, typos, and commas were so pervasive that it made the book less readable and detracted from the rest of the work - and the only reason this book does not get 5 stars from me.
Although "The American Culture of War" a solid history of the American major military operations since WWII, it is not just a military history -- it is a study of American political and military culture, using history and social sciences to critique the conduct of American warfighting since World War II. Lewis concludes that the nation is too far removed from the warfighting, and "Ultimately, a national, citizen-soldier army is the only guarantee of the security of the nation from external threats, and the only means to ensure that the nation fights just wars." This is an outstanding study that should be read by anyone interested in the modern American military, politics, and foreign policy.