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Nothing Less than Victory

Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Nothing Less than Victory
    Book Description:

    The goal of war is to defeat the enemy's will to fight. But how this can be accomplished is a thorny issue.Nothing Less than Victoryprovocatively shows that aggressive, strategic military offenses can win wars and establish lasting peace, while defensive maneuvers have often led to prolonged carnage, indecision, and stalemate. Taking an ambitious and sweeping look at six major wars, from antiquity to World War II, John David Lewis shows how victorious military commanders have achieved long-term peace by identifying the core of the enemy's ideological, political, and social support for a war, fiercely striking at this objective, and demanding that the enemy acknowledges its defeat.

    Lewis examines the Greco-Persian and Theban wars, the Second Punic War, Aurelian's wars to reunify Rome, the American Civil War, and the Second World War. He considers successful examples of overwhelming force, such as the Greek mutilation of Xerxes' army and navy, the Theban-led invasion of the Spartan homeland, and Hannibal's attack against Italy--as well as failed tactics of defense, including Fabius's policy of delay, McClellan's retreat from Richmond, and Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler. Lewis shows that a war's endurance rests in each side's reasoning, moral purpose, and commitment to fight, and why an effectively aimed, well-planned, and quickly executed offense can end a conflict and create the conditions needed for long-term peace.

    Recognizing the human motivations behind military conflicts,Nothing Less than Victorymakes a powerful case for offensive actions in pursuit of peace.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3430-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Maps and Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction Victory and the Moral Will to Fight
    (pp. 1-10)

    Americans today have been told to expect years of military action overseas. Yet they are also being told that they should not expect victory; that a “definitive end to the conflict” is not possible; and that success will mean a level of violence that “does not define our daily lives.”¹ A new administration is now bringing more troops into Afghanistan—where American troops have been operating for eight years—but without defining the terms of victory. The change in American military doctrine behind these developments occurred with astonishing speed; in 1939 American military planners still chose their objectives on the...

  6. Chapter 1 “To Look without Flinching”: The Greco-Persian Wars, 547–446 BC
    (pp. 11-35)

    It was the summer of 480 BC, and the Great King Xerxes, ruler of the mighty Persian Empire, son of Darius and heir to the Achaemenid throne, King of Kings and beloved of the deity Ahura Mazda, stood at the head of his army, looking down on the object of his revenge: the Greeks. He had every reason to be pleased, and to anticipate swift victory over a ragtag enemy. For months, the largest military force ever seen had marched and rowed to his command, drinking the rivers dry as city after city sent tokens of tribute and submission. The...

  7. Chapter 2 “Only One Omen Is Best”: The Theban Wars, 382–362 BC
    (pp. 36-67)

    Peace between the Greeks and the Persians meant exactly that: an end to war between the Greeks and the Persian king, not universal tranquillity. The Greeks were now free to fight each other with all the energy and passion their vibrant culture could unleash. Hellenic culture was imbued with a warrior premise—a high valuation placed on warrior prowess, proven in highly ritualized infantry combat—that made it very difficult to prevent a new round of internecine fighting. The defensive alliance in the Aegean Sea created by the Athenians to counter the Persians had brought secure trade routes and sound...

  8. Chapter 3 “I Will Have My Opponent”: The Second Punic War, 218–201 BC
    (pp. 68-108)

    Ancient Greek historians were masters at reporting grand synchronisms in their affairs: implausible parallels between widely separated events, connected by an idea. Such is the story of the battle of Himera, which goes like this: in September of 480 BC, on the very same day that Xerxes mounted his golden throne over the bay of Salamis, one Hamilcar of Carthage, with 300,000 men and thousands of ships, rowed into battle off Sicily, near the town of Himera. He was as confident of victory over his Greek enemies as was Xerxes—and just as shattered by his defeat. The precise dates...

  9. Chapter 4 “A Prince Necessary Rather Than Good”: The Campaigns of Aurelian, AD 270–275
    (pp. 109-140)

    In the centuries after the Second Punic War, the Roman Empire rose to unrivaled dominance over the Western world. After a tumultuous transformation from a republic into a monarchy in the first century BC, Rome brought tens of millions of people into the longest period of peace, law, and stable government yet experienced. But the imperialPax Romanawas based upon the undivided power of one man, and only an unchallenged transfer of command to a new emperor could preserve the peace beyond his lifetime. In AD 192 the succession failed—the first failure since the death of Nero in...

  10. Chapter 5 “The Hard Hand of War”: Sherman’s March through the American South, AD 1864–1865
    (pp. 141-183)

    The leap from the ancient world to the modern is a big one. The rise and overthrow of the medieval religious order, the Greco-Roman rebirth, the Newtonian scientific revolution, and the discovery of political liberty resulted in a new and special focus on the sovereign individual. The Rights of Man—wholly foreign to the ancient world—undermined the power of kings, challenged historical standards of status and nobility, and required a new moral conception of the nature and purpose of government. These developments, along with the concomitant rise in weapons technology, were bound to have important effects on the aims...

  11. Chapter 6 “The Balm for a Guilty Conscience”: British Appeasement and the Prelude to World War II, AD 1919–1939
    (pp. 184-236)

    On September 1, 1939, twenty years and nine months after the armistice that ended World War I, millions of Germans obeyed their leader’s call for another grand slaughter of national aggrandizement. “I demand not that my generals understand my orders, but that they obey them!” screamed Hitler, who got what he wanted.¹ The attack on Poland was the climax of twenty years of diplomacy, economic transfers, and treaties in which most European leaders had worked fervently to avoid violence. They fell prostrate before Hitler’s “Lightning War.” The deepest reasons why so many Germans joined the armies of the Nazis, hailed...

  12. Chapter 7 “Gifts from Heaven”: The American Victory over Japan, AD 1945
    (pp. 237-285)

    Between 1889 and 1931, a nation of seventy million people systematically implanted, into their minds and their society, an ideology of sacrifice to an emperor-god. These ideas soon metastasized into a continental war, launched first against Manchuria in 1931, then against China in 1937. In 1941 a coordinated campaign of attacks was launched against the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, as well as the Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaya, Indonesia, and the islands of Guam, Wake, and Midway. By 1942 the war had reached the Aleutian Islands, New Guinea, and Burma—and it threatened Australia, India, and the west coast of...

  13. Conclusion The Lessons of the Victories
    (pp. 286-294)

    The six wars examined in these seven chapters varied substantially in the pretexts by which they began, the political decisions that brought the opponents to war, the tactics and technology of battle, and the nature and effectiveness of the postwar settlements. But each exhibits a certain underlying cause that led to the initial attacks, followed by a period of stalemate and protracted carnage that was ended only when the side under attack launched a motivated, forthright offense against the center of its opponent’s power. These wars were fought by commanders who were oriented toward solid objectives and who used flexible...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 295-322)
    (pp. 323-344)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 345-354)