Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Review -- A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ by Walter M. Miller Jr.

This December has been extremely sparse for me when it comes to posting and for this, I guess, apologies are in order. Nevertheless, I'd finished this particular novel for almost the entire month, so there's little excuse for the tardiness of this review.

Having flown as a tailgunner during the Second World War and participated in the destruction of the ancient Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino, Walter M. Miller Jr.'s novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz, is a product of his subsequent meditations on war, knowledge, and faith in the wake of his wartime experiences. The only novel Miller ever published which garnered any significant literary attention, A Canticle for Leibowitz wrestles with several conflicts which are far more poignant today than even were during the early 1960s when the novel was first published.

Before setting pen to paper, Miller had explored a number of themes in short stories published in science-fiction magazines. Among these, he especially focused on the ideas of technological regression and orders of priests that would preserve knowledge against the ravages of time and human ignorance. His experience writing this sort of struggle, combined with post-apocalyptic literature (born from the growing awareness in the 1960s of MAD), his faith and Catholic background, and his own reservoir of memories from World War II, would coalesce into a short story that would become the first segment of A Canticle for Leibowitz.

A Canticle for Leibowitz was originally three novelettes that were originally published in F&SF in the mid-1950s. This is evidenced by the subtle shifts in writing style between the three segments. After heavy editing, the three sections were sewn together into one single narrative of an abbey constructed 600 years after a "Flame Deluge" (read: nuclear holocaust) and continuing for a millennium thereafter. This abbey, the eponymous Abbey of St. Leibowitz, is the actual protagonist of the tale, and the people around it are all supporting cast. The first segment, "Fiat Homo" (i.e. "Let There Be Man") , chronicles the "miraculous events" which lead to the canonization of the former Beatus Leibowitz into the roll of saints. The second, "Fiat Lux" ("Let There Be Light") describes simultaneous struggles that could shape the destiny of the abbey and determine the way knowledge is preserved and disseminated in the future. The final section, "Fiat Voluntas Tua" ("Thy Will Be Done"), describes the distant future, where man is once again reaching beyond the boundaries of the Earth, but is also poised to destroy himself in another Flame Deluge.

One of the most obvious conflicts that Miller wrestles with is that of faith and knowledge. The reader is well aware that Leibowitz was originally a Jew and an engineer in the employ of the U.S. military. However, a series of seemingly "miraculous" coincidences (a chance discovery of articles in a sealed bunker having once belonged to Leibowitz, for example) result in his canonization as a saint in the Catholic Church. This is an extreme irony that should, by no means, go unnoticed. The presence of the mysterious, eternal old Jew that wanders throughout the three sections should rivet the audience's attention on this irony. There's almost a childish ignorance with which the monks handle the newly discovered articles which some might see as mocking. However, I do not (see below). Francis' character is purposely simple and unintelligent, but Miller is certainly not expressing the entirety of the abbey as being as childishly dull. Their knowledge is limited, which is why they work so diligently to preserve what little has survived.

Miller isn't simply presenting a simplistic dichotomy of knowledge vs. faith. The conflict is one of method and attitude, as well as control. This is very much personified through the character of Thon Taddeo, a brilliant young scholar who is nephew of the Mayor of Texarkana (an incredibly powerful kingdom). He achieves the privilege of examining the library of the Abbey of St. Leibowitz, where the only copies of many materials from the world before the Flame Deluge are preserved.

The conflict between preservation and application of knowledge emerges as the highlight of the second segment, and is, indeed, the pivot point upon which the entire novel turns. Thon Taddeo seems to predict the more modern and vocal atheist scientific thinkers of our own era, such as Richard Dawkins. Although Thon Taddeo does not claim atheism outright, he directly challenges the faith of the monks by attacking the very core of their mission--the preservation of knowledge. He embodies the hubris of secular scholarship and scientific achievement.
"Tomorrow, a new prince shall rule. Men of understanding, men of science shall stand behind his throne, and the universe will come to know his might. His name is Truth. His empire shall encompass the Earth. And the mastery of Man over the Earth shall be renewed. A century from now, men will fly through the air in mechanical birds. Metal carriages will race along roads of man-made stone. There will be buildings of thirty stories, ships that go under the sea, machines to perform all works.

"And how will this come to pass?" He paused and lowered his voice. "In the same way all change comes to pass, I fear. And I am sorry it is so. It will come to pass by violence and upheaval, by flame and by fury, for no change comes calmly over the world." --pp. 214
Thon Taddeo's choice of "prince" is not coincidental. That Thon Taddeo also repeatedly refers to Mayor Hannegan of Texarkana as "prince" should not go unnoticed by the reader. Miller was steeped in Catholic lore. By invoking the word "prince," Miller is calling our attention to Ephesians 6:12, which states that a Christian's war is against principalities, powers, and the forces of darkness, not against flesh and blood. The choice of the word "prince" also has a Machiavellian resonance, which will be further expressed in "Fiat Voluntas Tua."

Miller strips Thon Taddeo of his hubris and pride throughout "Fiat Lux." In a later chapter, Thon Taddeo attempts to argue that the species of Man that caused the Flame Deluge was not the species of human that inhabits the post-apocalyptic world. The Abbot rightly dresses him down, accusing him of attempting to distance himself and his colleagues and their scientific achievements from the achievements that caused the Deluge. Dom Paolo, the Abbot, argues with Thon Taddeo that such knowledge must be kept from mankind "until he is wise," and that once science and technology have tied themselves to the terrestrial and the political, then another Flame Deluge is inevitable.
Brief anger flared in the old priest's eyes. "It's time you met our founder, I think," he growled, pointing to the carving in the corner. "He was a scientist like yourself before the world went mad and he ran for sanctuary. He founded this Order to save what could be saved of the records of the last civilization. 'Saved' from what, and for what? Look where he's standing--see the kindling? That's how little the world wanted your science then, and for centuries afterward. So he died for our sake. When they drenched him with fuel oil, legend says he asked them for a cup of it. They thought he mistook it for water, so they laughed and gave him a cup. He blessed it and--some say the oil changed to wine when he blessed it--and then: 'Hic est enim calix Sanguinis Mei,' and he drank it before they hung him and set him on fire. Shall I read you a list of our martyrs? Shall I name all the battles we have fought to keep these records intact? All the minks blinded in the copyroom? for your sake? Yet you say we did nothing with it, withheld it by silence."

"Not intentionally, "the scholar said, "but in effect you did--and for the very motives you imply should be mine. If you try to save wisdom until the world is wise, Father, the world will never have it."

"I can see the misunderstanding is basic!" the abbot said gruffly. "To serve God first, or to serve Hannegan first--that's your choice."

"I have little choice, then," answered the thon. "Would you have me work for the Church?" The scorn in his voice was unmistakable. --pp. 224-5
How similar to the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens does Thon Taddeo sound! He nakedly prefers science to serve a selfish, venal master who cannot even sign his own name. His scorn for religion is incredible. He identifies religion with ignorance and darkness--an identification that is quite prevalent in American "common knowledge" today. Thon Taddeo puts his faith in science and technological advancement and erroneously believes that humans will not repeat the Flame Deluge again.

This results in the advanced setting of 3781, in which the Mayorate of Texarkana rules much of North America and is on the brink of nuclear war with a fierce rival power in Asia. Meanwhile, the abbot and monks of St. Leibowitz prepare to send a ship with their entire archive and the next Pope to a distant colony and continue on. It is in this chapter that the struggle between science and religion unites with a broader overall struggle between ethics and morality--especially regarding the euthanasia of fallout survivors who suffer from a lethal dose of radiation. The callous disregard with which the Mayorate of Texarkana authorizes doctors to prescribe euthanasia for "hopeless cases" disgusts Abbot Zerchi, and he forbids the clinic that sets up in his abbey to hand out euthanasia slips.

The names of the Abbots are as interesting as their personalities. Miller is astute and carefully sets up a scenario of beginning-to-end for the earth. "Fiat Homo" is the rebirth of the world, as the title ("Let There Be Man") suggests. Abbot Arkos' name hearkens back to the Book of Genesis, since his name is drawn from the ancient Greek work ἀρχή meaning "origin," "beginning," "first cause." Abbot Arkos is plagued by doubts regarding the enrollment of Leibowitz among the canonized saints. Dom Paolo, who dominates "Fiat Lux," is a much different character, who stands at a crossroads between ages. He battles his physical ailments valiantly in order to secure a future for the Abbey of St. Leibowitz and the Church as well. Abbot Zerchi closes the book by dominating "Fiat Volantus Tua" with his unwavering moral courage and determination to do what he believes is right, no matter the cost. The alphabetic play from A to Z in the names reflects Miller's speculative future as having a definite beginning, as well as a most certain end.

Throughout the novel, there also appears a certain old, weatherbeaten Jewish man who surfaces in each segment of the novel. He is still searching for the Jewish Messiah, and is apparently deathless (perhaps due to a mutation from radiation). Through him, Miller invokes the legends of the Wandering Jew of legend. However, he puts a very different spin on the character than is found in medieval folklore. The Jew (who is called Benjamin by Dom Paolo) assists Brother Francis' discovery of the hidden fallout shelter and its contents by scrawling "צל" (Hebrew letters tsade and lamedh) on the entrance--events which lead directly to Leibowitz's canonization.

I feel I should also mention how Miller handles mutation in this novel. Especially at the end, when mankind has fully realized and rediscovered the fruits of its technological manifest destiny, the children of the first Flame Deluge still walk among the unaffected, a poignant irony as the Mayorate of Texarkana stands on the brink of participating in a second Flame Deluge. Much of this is encapsulated in Rachel, the infant unconscious second head that grows from the shoulders of the elderly Mrs. Grales. Mrs. Grales begs for Rachel to be baptized, even though she has never been conscious. Abbot Zerchi is witness to Mrs. Grales'/Rachel's transformation at the end, in which Miller seems to suggest symbolically (through Rachel that is) that the mutants shall inherit the Earth.

Importantly, Miller reminds us of the role of the Catholic Church as a preserver of knowledge. The erroneous image of the Dark Ages after the collapse of Rome being a time of widespread ignorance is prevalent in the atheist forum. But that is simply so much propaganda. The reality is that the Church played a vital role in preserving knowledge through scriptoria. The statement that history is written by the victors is largely false--history is written by the literate who care. This is the reason we have lavish histories of the "barbarian" Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England, but no histories of the various Celtic nations of pre-Roman Gaul or the advanced kingdoms of medieval sub-Saharan Africa. The truth is that without the Catholic Church, Western European history would have been as blank and empty as other "barbarian" peoples'.

Ronald Numbers says in Myths and Truths of Science and Religion that there is no evidence that "the Church prohibited autopsies and dissections during the Middle Ages" nor "killed off ancient science" nor "suppressed the growth of natural philosophy." The Age of Enlightenment was made entirely possible by the preservation of knowledge provided by the Catholic Church during the whole of the medieval period.

Miller taps us on our shoulder and sets his Abbey of St. Leibowitz forth as an encapsulation of the entire Church during this so-called "Dark Age." Their struggle to preserve knowledge and the meticulous care they take in copying manuscripts and illuminating them is folded into their faith. From one angle, this reverence for the knowledge, even if poorly understood (such as Francis' illuminated copy of the circuit blueprint), may seem absurd, as if Miller were mocking his subjects. However, Miller understands the power of ritual and symbolism, especially in the Catholic faith. This deep reverence ensures care and preservation of the original materials. Miller doesn't shrink from the negative side-effects, such as the conflict in the abbey over the lighting machine borne from a sentiment that preservation of knowledge has nothing to do with application. Nevertheless, Miller boldly confronts our assumptions regarding darkness, stupidity, ignorance, and the Church. Indeed, the Abbey of St. Leibowitz had been singularly responsible for building and maintaining the school in the nearby town of Sanly Bowitts (which had "achieved a fantastic literacy rate of eight percent") in "Fiat Lux."

There is much more to write about this novel. It's a immense masterpiece--carefully written and revised by its author. Miller's work is rife with hidden meanings and carefully crafted writing. His characterization is phenomenal. Each person is fully defined and realized. Nevertheless, the most important character of the story is the Abbey itself, and its inhabitants create a picture of a bastion of faith, determination, curiosity, humility, and moral courage on its behalf. Miller's prose is adequate, although in "Fiat Lux" (and moreso in "Fiat Volantus Tua") he digresses into lengthy passages in which characters ruminate on the fate of mankind and the destiny of the Abbey a bit much. Regardless, this novel is a deep and multi-layered work of exquisite genius, and certainly demands a re-read sometime in the near future. It definitely deserves to be enrolled in the literary canon.

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
Style B+
Substance A+
Overall A

Monday, December 6, 2010

History Book -- CARNAGE AND CULTURE by Victor Davis Hanson

I'm a big fan of Victor Davis Hanson as many of you are aware. Well, apparently, though it was a dominant force in the world of military history for about ten years, his theories seem to have drawn a great deal of poignant criticism from some key military historians, particularly John A. Lynn, author of Battle: A History of Combat and Culture, although he has been supported by the esteemed John Keegan, author of The Face of Battle.

One of the errors that most readers and analysts seem to make is to assume that Hanson is arguing for the "universal soldier." He is, in fact, not, in my opinion. What he is doing is, from a classical perspective, analyzing trends in the way Westerners fight (particularly against non-Westerners) and draws a number of conclusions from this. His basic thesis is that there are a number of factors that have been embedded in Western culture ever since the Graeco-Roman era. These provide a solid bedrock of cultural heritage which we unconsciously draw upon when we wage war. These factors are political freedom, capitalism, individualism, democracy, scientific inquiry, rationalism, and open debate.

I would agree.

First, let me assess Hanson's primary text on this subject, Carnage and Culture. It is this book that draws the lion's share of criticism, perhaps justly so. Hanson begins with the concepts of freedom, decisive battle, and the concept of the citizen-soldier, and cites a number of sample battles, Salamis, Gaugamela, and Cannae as examples. Then he moves on to landed warriors, rationalism, and scientific inquiry and capitalism, at Poitiers, Tenochtitlan, and Lepanto, respectively. He finishes with discipline, individualism, and open debate at Rourke's Drift, Midway, and the Tet Offensive. Each battle showcases one of these traits, and is used as a vehicle to illustrate how (often) that trait intermingles with the others in order to create a cultural mindset within the fighters and the army itself.

This tactic of showcasing certain battles is very strong in some areas, and weak in others. Gaugamela is a great example of decisive battle, but it doesn't demonstrate how that is a common concern of Western commanders and cultures. An entire book could be written solely on the trait of decisive battle, and still have solid counter-attacks that the concept was born in the modern era that produced von Clausewitz. Similarly, the chapter on Poitiers is especially weak in demonstrating how landed infantry are superior, as well as how they are a constant throughout Western warfare. Actually, in my opinion, landed infantry, much like decisive battle, aren't so much constants, but ideals, and indeed, I would have chosen several battles from the Hundred Years' War (a Western vs. Western conflict) over any other engagement as a prime example of what landed yeoman infantry are capable of on the battlefield (despite the fact that they were mostly archers and not shock infantry).

This is actually Hanson's greatest weakness--he doesn't seem to realize that he's discussing ideals. He admits that Western armies don't always fight in a "Western style," and in this he is correct. What he needs to clarify is that these ideals are embedded into Western culture as part of our Graeco-Roman heritage.

This idea of a cultural heritage from Greece and Rome is very much a part of the classical historian's mindset, and would seem extremely foreign to the new researcher of cultural history or cultural studies, who, in a quite postmodern or Foucaultian manner, would prefer to see history as a series of disconnected epistemes/discursive formations bereft of continuity. To the classical historian, this is an absurd concept, because we see influences of the Bronze Age directly impacting the thought-processes of later Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic Greeks through myth, story, and heroic epic--these periods were not disconnected, and not even the break of the Dark Ages of Greece could wipe out cultural memory.

According to Chester G. Starr, former adviser to my former adviser (Steven Sidebotham), in his Origins of Greek Civilization, Western civilization is unique because of it's Greek heritage of secular thought and rationalism--ideas that evolved during the Archaic and into the Classical periods, and are not found elsewhere. This is a common thread throughout the studies of ancient Mediterranean cultures, and seeing that Hanson is a classicist, it is unsurprising that he would have adopted just this sort of concept.

The strongest chapters in the book are the first (Salamis), and the fifth through eighth (Tenochtitlan, Lepanto, Rourke's Drift, and Midway respectively), and especially the eighth (Midway). I'm familiar with some of Hanson's sources, especially the firsthand work by Fuchida Mitsuo, entitled Midway: The Battle that Doomed Japan, which, from a Japanese perspective, clearly makes Hanson's point about individual initiative for him. Initiative is also observed throughout most of the other battles cited--as I've said, Hanson wants to emphasize the continuity aspect of these cultural characteristics.

The final chapter on the Tet Offensive (open debate) compares the stasis of Athens during the early Peloponnesian War to America during the late 1960s and the Vietnam War. While the comparison is apt, and does a lot to prove his point about internal dissent, he turns it into an indictment of the American media system and journalistic sensationalism that essentially lost America the war (although Westmoreland's foolish strategies and reluctance to take the war to North Vietnam were mentioned). This chapter could have been stronger if Hanson's own political agenda (one I albeit agree with, however) could have been put aside so that the author could focus more on how political dissent strengthens Western fighting capacity. This chapter actually seems at odds with itself, describing how open dialogue can be crippling (admittedly, he cites these cases as extreme), whereas in previous chapters he likened open dialogue to individualism and described how it increased the effectiveness of fighting forces at previous battles. Rather than citing it as a trait, I'd label open debate as a consequence of individualism and freedom within Western culture.

Hanson's other weakness is in portraying Western culture as monolithic, despite his own admonitions that it is, by far, not. In my opinion, he over-plays his hand throughout the book, leading to responses like Lynn's Battle. Lynn isn't going to tackle this from a classical perspective, that much is certain from his book's preface. I agree with Hanson that there are a number of Graeco-Roman cultural traits that have been passed down through Western civilization--traits which have, at times, been suppressed or superseded by the demands of the moment or the time period. I would argue that often these traits are mere ideals, not often or always realized, or perhaps realized only in parts of the Western world from time-to-time. However, the undeniable truth (in my opinion) is that these traits continually do surface, and typify Western civilization. They are a part of us, whether we like it or not.

The reason they surface is, I think, due to something my friend, Kevin, has said:
Hanson is highlighting the way Westerners think. Reducing it, or bending it, to something larger or smaller, completely misses his point. And thus throws his implicit warnings for the land of the free, right out the window.
I would honestly have to agree with him. It is a lot about how we think, but how we think is shaped by our culture. Nevertheless, not all of us think like this, and not all of the time, either. Personally, after living in Korea for 2 1/2 years, I can certainly say that individualism, open dialogue/disagreement, rationalism, concepts of civic militarism, and egalitarian freedom are quite alien to non-Westerners. Yes, South Korea is supposedly a democracy, and there is supposed to be discontent with the current Korean president, but these ideas do not and cannot translate to the individual in everyday life--which is Hanson's key point. Many of these battles were won because of the individual decisions to buck the system or to innovate. These are certainly not unique to Westerners solely, but the ease with which we perform these actions is part-and-parcel with our culture and with our success.

이순신 (Lee Sun-shin), Korea's greatest national hero, in many ways embodies these ideas of individual initiative, rationalism, and civic militarism. And while he died a hero, he was despised, hated, and the Confucian mandarins in the Choson court constantly tried to grind him down and make him stay in his place. He was even thrown into prison. Here in the East, this sort of thinking is anomaly and anathema to the native culture. For us, it is our greatest strength.

Friday, December 3, 2010


This book has got too much going on in it for me to just dive head-first into a review of it without sitting back and trying to organize it in some fashion--hence the headings. So, I'll begin with the purpose of the book, Lynn's model, and round it out with some of the interesting claims that he makes regarding a variety of hot topics throughout his work.

The Premise
John Lynn set out with this book to refute the idea of the "universal soldier" (with direct reference to the Buffy Sainte-Marie song). In addition, his research brought him into conflict with a number of other premises and theories regarding military history, especially Victor Davis Hanson's idea of a Western Way of War, as espoused in his Carnage and Culture (my thoughts on that work are here).

Hanson's argument is that a number of characteristics are consistent in Western military culture throughout history, from the Greeks to the modern age. These include technological superiority through free-market capitalism, individualism, enfranchisement in society, discipline, a desire for decisive shock combat, rationalism, open debate, and democratic ideals. As I stated in my commentary on Carnage and Culture, I think Hanson overplayed his hand. Well, Lynn zeroes in on this, specifically, and presents an attempt at refuting Hanson throughout this book.

The Model
Thoroughly outlined in his Appendix, Lynn describes a model for analyzing military culture at any point in time and space. He essentially divides culture into a relationship between the discourse of war (the ideals, rhetoric, and concept of what a culture envisions as war and how to conduct it) and the reality of war (the actual waging of a war). These two aspects of military culture are in a constant dialogue with one-another, and each has an impact on the other.

For example, Lynn discusses the medieval period as a great example of the discourse on war being different from the reality. The discourse on war envisions a romantic, chivalric form of armed contest between knights. The reality is the raiding of civilian targets to force the enemy out of his castles and into the field--behavior brought about by the difficulties in logistics and payment of the armies. When the two forms of warfare come into dialogue with one-another, the reality of war is found to be so repugnant that a "perfected" form of war is created--the tournament.

Similarly, the Napoleonic discourse on war clashed with the reality of war at the opening of the 20th century. Decisive, frontal assaults were useless in the face of trench warfare and machine-guns. As Bloch predicted, wars turned into great sieges. Maneuver had to be introduced into warfare, which eschews decisive frontal shock and attrition in favor of penetrating a weak point, bypassing strong points, and tearing apart the enemy from the inside.

The Strengths
Lynn tackles a number of Hanson's poorly held assumptions, such as the idea that the "Western Way of War" has been constant. This needed to be directly confronted, and Lynn does a good job at meeting it head-on. He certainly points out a great many instances where specific characteristics that Hanson attributes to Western warfare were absent, such as among the chivalric nobility during the medieval period, the Enlightenment armies of the 17th century, and the rigid model of Greek warfare.

Lynn also takes to task a number of other vital issues in military historiography, most notably the controversial analyses of racism in the conduct of the Second World War in the Pacific. This chapter is probably Lynn's best and most vital, since it is a case study of two vastly different cultures with irreconcilable discourses on warfare engaged in a merciless struggle. Lynn annihilates a number of charges regarding racism in the American decision to drop the atomic bomb, and addresses the controversies regarding the casualty projections for Operation Downfall.

Most important, however, is Lynn's application of his theoretical model to the conduct of the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq, and his insistence that our discourse on warfare be altered to adjust to the realities of combat against terrorism in those countries. His advice is vital--Lynn sees our rejection of terrorism as a form of warfare to be a weakness in our ability to effectively combat it. This plays into the American failure in Vietnam a great deal. Hanson chalks up our loss in Vietnam to the media and discontent at home, citing battlefield victories, the swift recovery of our losses during the Tet Offensive, and massive numbers of Viet Cong and NVA casualties to our ability to adapt to guerrilla warfare, as evidence of our ability to have won that war. Lynn doesn't directly tackle Vietnam, although he clearly sees our inability to adapt our discourse on war to the reality of the Vietnamese people's situation as a major factor in the American defeat. In my opinion, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

The Weaknesses
Lynn's weakness, however, is that Hanson's thesis actually manages to hold true, regardless of the discourse of war. The reality of war usually favors the side with the greatest number of Hanson's "Western Warfare" characteristics. For example, Lynn fails to take into account the actual reality of the Battle of Crécy, which was won by a shield-wall of dismounted knights and the yeoman farmers of rural England wielding longbows--i.e. the enfranchised members of different strata in English society won the battle against the "noble, aristocratic, chivalric cavalry charges" by the "flower of French chivalry. This would repeat itself at the Battle of Poitiers and the Battle of Agincourt.

Lynn's examination of the Second World War also avoids Hanson's thesis when dealing with the reasons the Japanese discourse on war was less effective than the American discourse on war. While the chapter is a fantastic refutation of a number of arguments regarding the dropping of the atomic bomb and the impact of racism on American conduct in battle, it fails to address the strengths that Hanson ascribes to American military forces in comparison to the weaknesses of the Japanese in the American battlefield victories.

Lynn's treatment of the sepoy in British India actually misses Hanson's point entirely. The sepoy married his own culture's ideals of the kshatriya warrior-caste to more "Western" methods of discipline, shock infantry, high technology, enfranchisement, etc. Lynn has no explanation for why the British sepoy overcame similar units raised and equipped in the European style with similar technology and trained by European advisers, but commanded by native Indian regimes. Although I am not an expert, I would venture to guess that Hanson's argument for a Western Way of War holds more water than Lynn would like to believe, and it is the infusion of a Western military methodology into a native Indian ethos which adapted the kshatriya to Western war that enabled the East India Company to conquer the continent with the sepoy.

Most personally aggravating was Lynn's cursory examination of ancient Greek warfare. The Greeks practiced a limited form of warfare that was guided by principles of duty and honor laid out in The Iliad and The Odyssey, yes. But it was also a hedgehog meant to defend the yeoman farmer against barbarians and mounted nobles during the Greek Dark Ages, an anarchic period that followed the Mycenaean feudal era and preceded the rise of the polis. The warfare was limited because the stakes were limited, as was the technology. When the technology advanced and the stakes were higher, the discourse was by-and-large abandoned in favor of reality. The Athenians did not behave according to the Greek discourse very often during the Peloponnesian War, as is evidenced by their defeat of Spartan forces at Sphacteria.

To this end, Lynn doesn't seem to recognize that nations will fight wars at a level of intensity based on what is at risk. The Greek city-states were absolutely cut-throat and ignored rules whenever their entire polis was in jeopardy, for example. An examination of Geoffrey Blainey's The Causes of War may have benefited Lynn; it is quite possible that the decision to go to war not only effects the conduct of the war and the discourse of the war, but the reasons for fighting may even explain why wars can be limited in their scope and conduct. Compared to World War II, the Korean War was not fought realistically by either side. The war aims were not total victory, but themselves limited as a reflection of the nuclear threat. Thus, if the stakes between two Greek city-states are not survival, but a strip of farmland, limiting the scale of the conflict and the methods of combat is perfectly acceptable and reflects the reality of the situation at hand. Lynn doesn't tackle the issue of limitations-on-warfare-due-to-war-aims. The aims of a war have a great deal to do with the discourse, conduct, and reality of that war.

My Conclusions: Lynn vs. Hanson
The point I'm trying to make here is, simply, that Hanson's concept of a universal Western discourse on war illuminates a number of vital points regarding how, exactly, armies can effectively win wars--Hanson's Western Way of War seems to play more to the reality of war than to the discourse on war. In short, the army that is most adapted to the reality of war is the most likely to be victorious. And, if we adopt Hanson's characteristics as the most effective forms of discourse when compared to reality, Western militaries are more likely to adapt their discourses on warfare to the reality of the situation.

Consider--the Enlightenment armies of the 17th century were largely disenfranchised peasants who had no individual initiative and were not permitted to question their officers. Compare this to the sudden reformation of the French Army during the Revolution, and their astounding victories against old Enlightenment-style armies of the passing era. Why did the Revolutionary armies win? Because they exemplified a number of Hanson's lauded Western characteristics; they were comprised of newly-enfranchised citizens, officers trusted their subordinates, and individuals took initiative when they saw opportunities to advance their forces to victory. The reality is that enfranchised "peasant armies," if disciplined and motivated, will fight better than similarly equipped and disciplined conscripts and disenfranchised dirty infantrymen that are despised by their own officers.

Hanson is correct in his analysis from a specific perspective--the most effective armies in history have been the ones that display the traits he describes. It also just so happens that those traits crop up most often in Western militaries. The truth is, many of these traits were laid down for us by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and although Lynn is correct--time, technology, and space alter military discourse--I think Hanson's claim that these are a part of our overall Western heritage is 100% correct as well, for the simple fact that Hanson's traits constantly resurface in the most effective militaries. Hanson simply overplayed his hand by implying that these traits are axiomatically omnipresent throughout Western militaries across space, time, and technology. Lynn rightly attacks this idea of a military continuum--there is a vast amount of cultural disconnection between the Graeco-Roman discourses on warfare (which themselves evolved and shifted due to changing socio-political and economic situations) and the discourses of the medieval period (which were more a product of the ancient Germanic warrior-codes and bardic saga with a strong infusion of Christianity).

Lynn's discourse-reality model is a vital contribution to the field of military history. In my opinion, it fails to unseat Hanson's concept of Western military strength, but it does pinpoint a great many flaws in Hanson's argument that must be addressed and accounted for. What honestly needs to occur is for Hanson to go back to the drawing board and revise his own theory in light of Lynn's scholarship. I'm not advocating for a Hegelian dialectic, here, however, I do believe that Hanson's theories need to be taken on socratically, in order to purge them of error. Hanson's theory holds a lot of water, and Lynn doesn't refute it entirely successfully. What Battle does, however, is demand a revision of Hanson's theory that is much more solid and reflective of reality.