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Learn from Enemies

Posted December. 22, 2007 05:41,   


How could Britain, who had been a small country at the outer area until the 16th century, manage to beat the Spanish Armada; the invincible Spanish fleet? How could Japan rise alone and defeat China and Russia at a time when so many African and Asian countries were surrendering to Western powers?

This book, “Made in War,” whose original title is “War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Today,” starts with these questions. Interestingly enough, author Max Boot, an American expert on military and diplomacy found out the answers from wars. According to him, Britain and Japan jumped into the ranks of powerful countries by building up military capabilities, waging wars, and winning the wars.

He didn’t stop at giving these clichéd explanations, and went on to explore how they gain victories, a point that makes this book look like something new, which attracts readers.

He delved into a 500-year history of war beginning in the 16th century and uncovered factors that have led to victories. The exemplary battles include the fight between the Spanish Armada and British naval fleets in 1588, the clash between Britain and India’s Marata Alliance in 1803, the Tsushima battle where Russia fought against Japan in 1905, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, America’s attack on Tokyo in 1945, the Gulf War in 1991, the Afghanistan war in 2001, and the Iraq War in 2003.

Mr. Boot analyzed that the key to Japan’s victory in the early 20th century was Japan’s thorough preparation in assessing not only enemies’ military capabilities but also its ideology and culture before going to war, and Japan’s flexibility to embrace its enemies’ culture and ideology.

This speaks volumes. What this means is that winning wars needs social and human resources above and beyond arms and operation tactics, because the first undergirds the latter. In other words, war is not merely a matter of competing with guns and swords, and a superb military might doesn’t always guarantee a victory.

In this context, one can find reasons why Russia failed in Afghanistan, and the U.S. faced many hurdles in Vietnam. They bit the dust because they failed to change strategies by taking into consideration the current times, as well as places and enemies they fought, the author states. When combined with a paradigm shift and self-innovation, military might is able to bring a victory. It is fascinating that the author reached this conclusion after surveying a myriad of past wars and battles. Readers will surely find insights in this book in the current era where countries all over are engaging in cut-throat competition with one another.