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History of two and a half millennia of development of western art of war - obviously a monumental task and a book penned by acomplished historian attempting to tackle this topic must automatically rank very high in the reading list of any student of military history. My personal expectations for this book were very high indeed. Four months after opening it for very first time and after countless occasions on which I had to exert all of my will power to resist the temptation to put it down and never pick it up again, I have finally read its final page and am now left wondering if it was worth my time and effort.Ill be frank straight of the bat and admit that I have literally countless problems with this book and ideas presented in it, but will limit my critique to a couple of fundamental issues. Perhaps the most important one is that I disagree with authors basic approach to the topic and the conclusions he comes to. Authors point of view, at least as far as I understand it, is based on two fundamental assumptions. The first of these defines basic structure of all armed forces throughout 2500 years - light infantry, mobile and most often equipped with missile weapons, heavy infantry, purpose of which is shock combat, light cavalry equipped similarly to its infantry equivalent, but with superior mobility and finally heavy cavalry, equivalent to heavy infantry, but once again more mobile and able to deploy more rapidly than its foot equivalent. The advantage/disadvantage relations between these different troop types are according to Mr. Jones permanent throughout the ages and work a bit like rock, paper, scissors game. The surprise here is that according to the author, the light infantry and cavalry are the superior weapon systems. The other fundamental assumption of the author concerns the strategies available to the combatants. These are equally simple as troop classifications or in fact simpler, because according to the author there are only two of them - combat-oriented or logistics-oriented. Each of these strategies can be of either persisting or raiding nature and each of resulting combinations can be used in either offensive or defensive manner. Finally, the author asserts few basic, but pretty much immutable rules by which all warfare must obey. Advantage of defense versus offense (under precondition that both sides use similar weapon systems) and advantage of retreat versus pursuit are perhaps the most important ones, closely followed by necessity of adequate ratio of force relative space if the objectives are to be achieved and finally the logistical constraints.With these basic preconceptions (they are naturally a bit more complex, but I hope you get the gist) as square one, the author then proceeds with the chronological study of military history of western world and arrives after some 700 pages to a rather surprising conclusion - the more things change, the more they stay the same! In broad strokes, the development of military art of western world has according to professor Jones reached its pinnacle in classical period and with the exception of few major developments, such as increased articulation of military units, effects of socketed bayonet on both the defensive and offensive capabilities of the infantry and disappearance of horse cavalry from the battlefield due to overwhelming firepower of infantry being the most significant ones, the military development in the western world has been pretty much running in circles, chasing its own tail for 2500 years. This conclusion will undoubtedly appeal to some readers, but to me it is an incredibly frustrating and unsatisfactory over-simplification.Another major conclusion of the author is perhaps even more perplexing. According to professor Jones, combat-oriented strategies are inferior to the logistic ones, especially if those are based on raiding principles. This proposition is baffling for one simple reason - if there is one characteristic that is typical of western art of war, it is its very atypical aggressive pursuit of decisive battle with the opposing armed force. Ever since the time of classical Greece (despite the authors attempts to make a big thing of Sparthas logistical strategy during parts of Peloponnesian War), the goal of military operations of western cultures was predominantly the destruction of the opposing army. This fact is recognized by such prominent historians as John Keegan or Victor Hanson Davis, and in the final pages of this book, albeit obliquely, also by the author himsel. And yet, the inevitable conclusion one has to draw from the analysis presented by this book is that this approach, despite its predominance over two and a half millennium and despite giving the western world global domination in last five centuries, is ineffective and simply wrong. Thus, the reader is presented by something of a paradox - a book making a claim to providing the definition of western warfare is in essence saying that what actually took place throughout all these years was the wrong approach.In comparison with my main objections against the fundamental ideas and conclusions provided by this book, the final problem Ill address in this review may very well be a minor issue. I cant however leave it unmentioned, as it annoyed me beyond all reason throughout this book. A major component of professor Jones analysis consists of a selection of battles and campaigns that in his opinion illustrate his points. Many of these examples come from classical period. I am almost petrified to make this grave statement regarding such an esteemed historian as Archer Jones, but I cant help but question his knowledge about military history of that period. On several occasions I was simply flabbergasted by what I read. For example, the Spartan martial capability is reduced by the author to a one trick pony-level. According to the professor, they used some sort of right-angled approach toward enemy line in an attempt to exploit the natural drift of phalanx formation to the right. Lets disregard the fact that there are no primary sources that describe such a maneuver - true, Spartans always placed themselves on the right flank, but only because it was a place of honor. Lets also discount the fact that the natural drift of phalanx formation to the right was well known by every every general in Greek city-states. It is however impossible to dismiss the purely logical argument that says that if Spartha relied on a single trick, it would hardly achieve the status it held for hundreds of years. Such argument is especially weak, if one also remembers that flanks of hoplite armies were habitually covered by swarms of peltasts, which according to the author himself, were superior to heavy hoplites! The author tells us that Theban victory at Leuctra was due to Epaminondas finally realizing how to counter Spartan one trick pony-move and using Theban Sacred band to outflank the supposed flankers. He fails however to mention the massive phalanx formation that opposed the Spartans on the right flank in that battle as well as the REAL innovation introduced by Epaminondas - the refused flank maneuver.Another example of a very odd interpretation of available primary sources in a presentation of a battle can be found in authors analysis of Zama. Here, professor Jones claims that Hannibal intended to outflank the army of Scipio in a copy of maneuver he used at Cannae. How one can arrive to that conclusion is simply beyond my understanding. Not only was Hannibal inferior in cavalry strength due to defection of Masinissa, but his dispositions of infantry suggest no such intentions. If anything, Hannibals deployment is shockingly unconventional when compared with his other battles and indicates in every respect that he intended to fight a battle of attrition.Leuctra and Zama are but two examples of battles and campaigns that in this book are in my opinion presented in very strange manner. Things are getting better as the book progresses toward medieval period and beyond, but classical examples are used repeatedly throughout the book to prove various points. Since those examples are in my opinion malformed to be begin with, any conclusions based on them sounded hollow to me.Because of the reasons mentioned above, but also for other reasons I wont go into, I found this book a very difficult and frustrating read. While parts of the book are indeed very informative and the analysis provided by the author is at times indeed quite brilliant, the fundamental conclusions to which the he arrives simply dont sound true to me. Having finished it, I had more questions and objections than answers. Mostly however, I felt relieved that I arrived to the end of the book with which I didnt agree and which turned out to be a chore rather than a pleasure to read.

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