Return to Waterloo

by Leveret

One of the most underrated American periodicals is the City Journal which has been put out by the Manhattan Institute each quarter for the last 20 years. To mark its second decade, the Winter quarter is themed around the past, present and future of cities.  It’s all online here.

Anyway, the reason I bring up City Journal is that it has a fascinating article by the classicist Victor Davis Hanson on the future of warfare. Hanson is a true lover of Western civilisation and heavily promotes the restoration of Classical Studies. I know The Rhetor owns his seminal work Who Killed Homer? and is favourably disposed towards VDH (despite his rejection of Queer Theory)

Anyway, as a military historian, VDH’s bona fides are questioned by no-one. The thesis of Tomorrow’s Wars is that we cannot discount the possibility of decisive pitched battles between large armies (a la Stalingrad, Waterloo or Hastings) being resurrected in future wars.

I remember some years ago when Antony Beevor published Berlin and he was asked by some interviewer if it could ever happen again. Beevor dismissed it out of hand saying that large conscript armies were a thing of the past – made redundant by new technology. VDH basically concurred.

So what’s changed? Well basically VDH points out that we have gone in and out of periods where pitched battles were rare before, and cites several geopolitical scenarios that might drag us back into an age of decisive confrontations. To wit:

Waterloos or Verduns may revisit us, especially in the half-century ahead, in which constant military innovation may reduce the cost of war, or relegate battle to the domain of massed waves of robots and drones, or see a sudden technological shift back to the defensive that would nullify the tyranny of today’s incredibly destructive munitions. New technology may make all sorts of deadly arms as cheap as iPods, and more lethal than M-16s, while creating shirts and coats impervious to small-arms fire—and therefore making battle cheap again, uncertain, and once more to be tried. Should a few reckless states feel that nuclear war in an age of antiballistic missiles might be winnable, or that the consequences of mass death might be offset by perpetuity spent in a glorious collective paradise, then even the seemingly unimaginable—nuclear showdown—becomes imaginable

Read the whole thing here

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One response to “Return to Waterloo

  1. You will find that Classical Studies is alive and well. What VDH and his cohort Heath are lamenting in ‘HKH?’ is really the demise of the classical education system – though they tend to confuse the two. I am a fan of the Liberal Arts system and in an age where technology threatens to take over the majority of menial labour I am inclined to think the time has come for its revival.

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