"The Savage Wars of Peace" by Max Boot

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The Savage Wars of Peace by Max Boot

Small Wars and the Rise of American Power

This book was one of my best buys since the book covers so much history in such great detail. Max Boots says that the American military plans for large wars like World War II and Korea, but has an extensive history of fighting small wars. His book is on these small wars. You should know that this book was written before 9/11, but the preface covers his reaction as we watched from a subway entrance as the 2nd world trade center fell.

Max Boot writes in the introduction that the Marines have landed on foreign soil over 180 times between 1800 and 1934. The book starts off with the Barbary Wars. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I know that nothing will stop the eternal increase of demands from these pirates but the presence of an armed force, and it will be more economical & more honorable to use the same means at once for suppressing their insolencies. Boot called this era “to conquer Upon the Sea.” After that period is the “butcher and bolt” era. During this time, “Yankees arrive with the best of intentions, but soon found themselves sucked into the vortex of war.” That era covers a wide verity of combat action from 1813 thru 1859. Then he covers the Boxer uprising in China and the Philippine War. Here is an amusing story from that time. “Along the way [to the Philippines], the cruiser stopped at Guam, a Spanish possession. The ship fired a dozen shots at the ancient Spanish fort guarding the capitol. There was no return fire. Instead, a Spanish officer came out to the cruiser to apologize for not having any powder; otherwise, he declared politely, the fort would reply to the Charleston’s ‘salute.’ When the poor fellow heard that Spain and America were at war, he promptly surrendered.” The book also covers combat action in the Caribbean from 1898-1914, the invasion of Haiti from 1914-1934, the hunt for Poncho Villa, US troops in Russia (1918-1920), China (1908-1940), lessons learned: the USMC Small Wars Manual, lessons unlearned: Vietnam, the Powel Doctrine, and small wars in the 21st Century.

I will close this review with the last paragraph of the book.

“One final bit of advice, based on the lessons of history. In deploying American power, decision makers should be less apologetic, less hesitant, less humble. Yes, there is a danger of imperial overstretch and hubris-but there is an equal, if not greater, danger of under commitment and lack of confidence. America should not be afraid to fight ‘the savage wards of peace’ if necessary to enlarge the ‘empire of liberty.’ It has been done before.”