- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (December 26, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691162026
- ISBN-13: 978-0691162027
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,187,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History Paperback – December 26, 2013
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Lewis' analysis of war as a psychological struggle and 'clash of moral purposes' is lucid and forceful; it's especially telling in his incisive account of Sherman's march through Georgia, and especially provocative in his defense of the atomic bombings of Japan. (Publishers Weekly)
"John David Lewis offers a superb appraisal of how ancient and modern wars start and finish. This chronicle of some 2,500 years of Western history is replete with a philosophical analysis of why nations fight, win―and lose. His insights and conclusions are original and fearless―as well as timely and welcome in the confused war-making of the present age."―Victor Davis Hanson, author of Carnage and Culture
"This book's argument is powerful and provocative, and Lewis is a good storyteller and scholar. Ambitious, stimulating, and thoughtful, this book makes a strong case for the value of the strategic offensive, and engages with the kind of problems that everyone should be thinking about today."―Barry Strauss, author of The Spartacus War
From the Back Cover
"John David Lewis offers a superb appraisal of how ancient and modern wars start and finish. This chronicle of some 2,500 years of Western history is replete with a philosophical analysis of why nations fight, win--and lose. His insights and conclusions are original and fearless--as well as timely and welcome in the confused war-making of the present age."--Victor Davis Hanson, author of Carnage and Culture
"This book's argument is powerful and provocative, and Lewis is a good storyteller and scholar. Ambitious, stimulating, and thoughtful, this book makes a strong case for the value of the strategic offensive, and engages with the kind of problems that everyone should be thinking about today."--Barry Strauss, author of The Spartacus War
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"Rome was wrong; the peace of Scipio Africanus was good, and the Romans could have preserved it by just mediation of the Carthaginian complaints. The Romans appointed a successor to Masinissa in 149; they could have ended the Numidian attacks. It is to Romans' eternal shame--there is no credit due here--that they slaughtered a former enemy that had accepted peace and was living by its word.
"Readers tempted to interpret the thesis of this book as the need for total destruction of an enemy's population centers should consider the decades that followed the Second Punic War, when former enemies were at peace, with the needless sacrifice of that peace in the destruction of Carthage--and the civil unrest and violence that followed in the next generation for the Romans. . . .
"The Second Punic War remains the example of a successful victory," says Lewis at chapter's end. The Third was "a needless and unforgiveable slaughter."
The idea that "might makes right" is nowhere in the above. Nor is it to be found elsewhere in the book. Lewis in fact explicitly states that the opposite is true. After showing how the "relative commitment of each side to its moral cause . . . affected the outcome of [each] conflict," Lewis says that something more than just commitment is involved. "The truth," according to Lewis, "matters"--"the strongest power belonged to those who were, in fact, right, if those who were right knew it."
"This may be unfashionable to say today--in an intellectual climate that sunders fact and value, and understands moral claims as inherently contested matters of opinion--but it remains a demonstrable fact that the Spartan and Confederate slave systems were morally debased and that the freedom upheld by the Thebans and the Union was good.
"The political autonomy upheld by the Greeks, as well as the political relationships between Rome and its Italian allies, was superior to the alternatives presented by Persia and Carthage. Certainly, the war between America and Japan in 1945 was not fought over morally equivalent options--not if peace and prosperity for millions of people are valued.
"The tragedy of Munich is in the failure of the British to recognize that their own moral norms could become weapons when manipulated by a vicious dictator. The British and the Americans--like the Greeks--became truly unbeatable when they grasped how right they really were. As the war progressed, public exposure of the enemy's actions strengthened the victor's knowledge of its own moral rectitude and discredited their former enemies' failed policies in their own eyes."
The overall lesson of Lewis's book is to take ideas seriously, especially moral ideas. Those interested in how such ideas have influenced history will enjoy this clearly-written and often-engrossing book. But they should not look forward to or reject it on the grounds that it supports a "might makes right" viewpoint. It does not. And hopefully this review--or "response" to be correct--shows that.
here we are 200 years later bombing the sons of the ottomans, isis at the very same spot we stopped in 1804, sirte, with our most moden weapons, b2's. the casus belli ist unchanged: piracy and kidnappings, evil. in between lie 200 years of incessant wars from atatuerk to rommel and eisenhower and hillary clinton.....incredible. but wait, theres more: carthago and the punic wars, then the visigoths....i think libya has been plowed over for centuries by swords and bombs and tanks. and there is no end in sight....nothing unless we get total unconditional victory there!
i hope victor davis hansen completes that book!
Much as I loved the substance of the book, however, I must criticize the often sloppy conversion in the Kindle edition, which I read. (At least I hope the same errors aren't in the print edition!) Words are missing, spaces within a word where it is obv iously unintentional, typos abound. For just one concrete example: the ultimate conclusion of the book, in its last sentence, misspells the Latin phrase: "Sic [sic!] vis pacem, para bellum" - it is, of course, supposed to be "si".
4 stars because the sloppy editing ought not to keep any lover of history from appreciating the substance of this book, but needs to be remarked upon nonetheless.
When we fail to look at history and learn, we continue to make the same mistakes, over and over.
John David Lewis uses history to tell us in clear language what we need to do - nothing less than victory.