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Technology and War

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Eliot Cohen the author of a valuable study of supreme command raised the question: “where did the American way of war derive from?” Most have argued for a larger Western heritage dating to classical times of combining decisive battle, superior technology that is the dividend of rationalism, group discipline, and notions of freedom, audit, and constitutional government.(1) Of course, there was a particularly American variant of Western military practice that grew up on a vast frontier and was the result of the impatient nature of American popular culture and its familiarity with machines manifested best in something like George’s Patton’s romp across central France in the summer of 1944, or the dash up from Kuwait to Northern Iraq in the spring of 2003. Cohen, however, believes the U.S. way of fighting is more complex, incorporating all sorts of non-conventional elements. To make that point, he reviews warfare of the eighteenth-century along the northeastern seaboard of the American continent that rugged two-hundred-mile corridor of mountains, forests, and lakes from Albany to Montreal dubbed the “Great Warpath.”(1) His investigations reveal two less appreciated sources for the way Americans currently fight. One was the birth of a unique, and less remarked upon strain of raiding, ambushing, subversion, living off the land, ad hoc alliance building with indigenous peoples, long-range reconnaissance, and patrolling behind enemy lines.(1) The other was a sort of military populism: non-traditional tactics, by which early colonialists survived against the superior numbers of the French, Indians, Canadians and later their erstwhile British allies were not strictly mandated from on high by officers steeped in formal strategy and tactics.(1) Most of the ways of defeating savage enemies arose from the ground up among observant Vermont militiamen, New England...

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