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  • Oh, By the Way, No Worries: Academia’s Jihad Against Military History is not Succeeding

    Posted by Lexington Green on May 5th, 2008 (All posts by )

    Zenpundit had a recent post critiquing the academic jihad against military history, and I responded, citing to an article by the excellent military historian Robert M. Citino. (I strongly suggest you read all his books, no kidding, especially this and <a href=”this and this and this. They are all superb.)

    Looked at from the perspective of what the academics are doing, it sure looks bleak. But that is only part of the picture. I believe it is an increasingly irrelevant part of the picture. In fact, I don’t know how much good it would do to have the current population of academia teaching this history. They may well do more harm than good. I got a kick out of the story of the history professor who knew only two things about the American role in World War II: The internment of the Japanese and the atomic bombings, both of course presented as American crimes. That would be funny if it were not nausea-inducing, and if my tax money weren’t paying for it. With friends like that, who needs enemies? Of course, academics are supposed to be a very superior breed of person, capable of appreciating subtlety and nuance and complexity and the tangled ambiguity of the world that poor stupid conservatives like me cannot grasp, yadda yadda — unless it is an opportunity to make the USA the villain of the drama. Then a boneheaded bit of simplistic propaganda will do the trick. Cutting a few factual corners to make sure the students get the proper indoctrination is all to the good in that universe.

    But let us turn our backs on this sorry scene, and look to two specific areas that seem far more hopeful.

    First, as Prof. Citino noted, military history is very popular with the public. The late Stephen Ambrose’s books fall into this category, to pick one obvious example. While not necessarily saturated profound new insights, his books are decent and may lead readers to more challenging works. Moreover, there are a huge number of high quality books of military history being published all the time. Clearly, someone is reading this stuff.

    To get an idea of the volume and quality of this river of reading material, check out just the books the military itself reviews.

    I always look at the book review sections of the various military publications, such as Parameters, Military Review, Joint Forces Quarterly , Air and Space Power Journal, Naval War College Review, Pointer: Journal of the Singapore Armed Forces, Canadian Military Journal, Australian Defense Journal, and various others.

    There is a deluge of high-quality military history being produced, and the professional journal reviewers are only scratching the surface. The “books received” sections are always far, far longer than the books reviewed.

    The reviewers in these journals are selecting books that will have relevance and value for a demanding, professional audience. A good review in one of these sources is a solid sign that the book is worth reading.

    So, despite the academic opposition, these books are being produced, in quantity, and are at least reaching a military audience.

    Similarly, if you look at any issue of The Journal of Military History there is a huge number of book reviews in each issue. (It is worth joining the Society of Military History just to get the four journals published annually, primarily for the book reviews.)

    Several publishers specialize in producing very good works of military history. I will mention only one here, since I have so many books from them: The University Press of Kansas. which publishes, inter alia books by Col. David M. Glantz, the foremost expert on the Soviet war effort in World War II..

    There is nothing wrong with the supply side.

    Furthermore, the military has recommended reading lists composed of high quality books. The U.S. Army Chief of Staff’s Professional Reading List, The U.S. Marine Corps Professional Reading Program, U.S. Air force Professional Reading Program, U.S. Navy Professional Reading Program. The Australian Chief of the Army has a very interesting list (the official link is not working). There is also the unofficial list on the
    Small Wars Journal site

    The point here is that the real, warfighting military takes professional reading seriously, and most of it is composed of military history. The current academic pose may be that “lessons from history” are illusory. People who have to go in harms way know better. Sometimes the only way to see through the fog of war is to know what happened in the past under similar circumstances. It is a Hell of a lot better than nothing.

    Furthermore, the web is saturated with military history sites for interested non-professionals, i.e. neither soldiers nor academics. One example of this is the excellent World War One site of the Western Front Association, which has a very good book review section. There are many more like this, covering all possible areas of military history. Many of them are very well done.

    The state of military history, thankfully, does not rest exclusively or even primarily on the academic community. The demand for high-quality military history from the professional military community, and interested civilians, is so great that it can survive with only the grudging interest that the academic community currently gives it. Given the state of the academy in this year of grace 2008, this area of study is probably better off keeping some distance from the intellectual corruption which is unfortunately so pervasive. Military history is too important to be wholly taken over entirely by the current crop of academics.

    The downside is that students don’t get exposed to it in a classroom setting.

    But anyone with any interest in these issues whatsoever has a treasure trove of material easily available.

    In other words, things aren’t so bad, really.

    UPDATE: this is the working link for the Australian Army reading list. It is a long document, with commentary. Very interesting list, as well as comments.

    UPDATE II: Further thoughts here.


    45 Responses to “Oh, By the Way, No Worries: Academia’s Jihad Against Military History is not Succeeding”

    1. david foster Says:

      “only two things about WWII…both presented as American crimes”…check out the children’s history section in any bookstore and you will find the same, which doubtless relates to the reading assignments in school. This is only true of the *Pacific* war, though…thus far, the clerical classes have not yet dared to claim moral equivalence or U.S. villainy in the anti-Nazi war. My sense is that this is changing, and that we will soon see a rash of books asserting that FDR & Churchill weren’t really much better than Hitler and Mussolini.

    2. Mrs. Davis Says:

      The downside is that students don’t get exposed to it in a classroom setting.

      Which, given who’s in charge of the classroom, may not be such a great downside.

      Excellent post. Thanks.

    3. Smitten Eagle Says:


      Though your mention of the reading lists is well-intentioned, I find that most of my peers (junior Marine officers) don’t spend nearly enough time in study. The Marine capstone doctrinal publication, MCDP-1: Warfighting, implores officers to spend at least as much time in study as they do on physical fitness. That is a lot of time, and almost all of my peers fall far short.

      Furthermore, many of the reading lists don’t even focus on military history, but rather include motivational business drivel. An example would be “Who Moved My Cheese.” This crap is NOT what the officer corps needs to be studying.

      Military history as entertainment is exemplified by Ambrose. His books are well-written for the pop military historian who wants to learn what grampa did back in World War II. But his books do not satisfy the requirements of a forward-looking officer corps.

      The types of military history books that need to be studied by the warfighting professionals are by Martin van Crevald, John English & Bruce Godmundsson. The military history classics of Clausewitz & Jomini need to be studied (not just read, but studied.) It is the responsibility of professionals and academics to produce such works that are of limited utility to the general public but are of supreme utility to soldiers, Marines, and others in the chain of command that actually engage in war.

      I would also argue that the dearth of such books, and the dearth of professionals actually undertaking the military history discipline causes the government/military to rely too much on the think tanks and the politicized advisors (the Donald Kagans and the Samantha Powers of the world.) It also forces us to rely too much on the skills of great individuals–the Petraeus’s, the Mansoor’s, the Mattis’s of the world.

      Furthermore, I would argue that the lack of an actual academic military history discipline forces us to rely too much on slick PowerPoint sales jobs. (“Post Conflict Reconstruction?! Ok…I have those powerpoint slides here somewhere.”) No longer is command and staff work reliant on sound principles of military art and science–instead it’s reliant on slick catchphrases (“Shock & Awe”, “Clear, Hold, and Build”). It may be true that the examples I just cited did have actual meanings at some point, but now they’re slogans because there is no military academia of significance that can define such terms.

      We need to establish a military academia that produces works of military history for use by professionals. And it is incumbent of me and my peers in the officer corps to internalize those histories and to embrace the discipline of military history. These are two seperate, but intertwined problems.

    4. Lexington Green Says:

      “the clerical classes have not yet dared to claim moral equivalence or U.S. villainy in the anti-Nazi war”

      Actually, they have. The focus now is on the supposedly criminal Allied aerial bombings of Germany, and how terribly the Germans suffered. The argument is that the crematoria of Auschwitz are equalled by the crematoria of Hamburg and Dresden. This has not caught on widely, but it is the current thrust.

      Smitten Eagle, thanks very much for the inside view. I can only say that solid books exist and are being published, and reviewed in the professional journals. It would be good if there was a serious military academia as you mention. But the material is there if people want to read it and study it. I think the solution to the problem you identify is to simply get like-minded people together to read and study, and communicate what you are doing via a group blog, so that others can tag along and start their own groups. Back in the early 1800s, there was a circle of Prussian officers that included Clausewitz that did the low-tech equivalent, and eventually transformed their army. If the top-down activity is not working, start from the bottom up. I see no other way.

    5. zenpundit Says:

      ” The argument is that the crematoria of Auschwitz are equalled by the crematoria of Hamburg and Dresden. This has not caught on widely, but it is the current thrust.”

      While the title escapes me, I’m aware of this book which was widely ridiculed in the reviews, even by many solidly Left writers. Unfortunately, this was the wedge in the door book that will be the forerunner of others that will be presented in a more reasonable style

      If you recall the mid-1990’s controversy over the Enola Gay display at the Smithsonian that was an apologia for the Japanese Empire, it’s a sign that essentially parts of the multicultural Left have effectively embraced the conclusions and arguments of the 1930’s Fascists regarding western liberal democracy.

    6. andrewdb Says:

      Lex –

      The Abu Muqawama site has an excellent COIN reading list, see here:

      I would also highly recommend the “Other Suggested Reading” lists on the sidebar at the USMC Professional Reading Program site.

    7. Mrs. Davis Says:

      it’s a sign that essentially parts of the multicultural Left have effectively embraced the conclusions and arguments of the 1930’s Fascists regarding western liberal democracy.

      That’s not a recent phenomenon, nor am I certain that it is the proper sequencing.

    8. jerryofva Says:

      David Foster:

      You said: “. My sense is that this is changing, and that we will soon see a rash of books asserting that FDR & Churchill weren’t really much better than Hitler and Mussolini.”

      You don’t have to wait any longer. See the novelist Nicholas Baker’s “Human Smoke.

    9. Ursus Maritimus Says:

      No longer is command and staff work reliant on sound principles of military art and science–instead it’s reliant on slick catchphrases (”Shock & Awe”, “Clear, Hold, and Build”).

      Because that is what fits on a powerpoint slide. Powerpointification has a lot to answer for.

    10. Eric Blair Says:

      I had one college course that touched on military history back in the 1980’s, and it was taught by a Vietnam veteran.

      All the rest of the military history I’ve ever read has been outside of the classroom. I suspect that where most people pick it up.

      One only has to wander into a Barnes & Noble or Borders bookstore to see that military history books are taking up around a fifth to a quarter of the shelf space allocated to history books.

      This wasn’t always the case. I worked for B&N in the early 90’s and the ‘military’ history section was much smaller. But it has only grown over the last 20 years.

    11. Joe - Dallas Says:

      While the atomic bombs on nakasaki and hiroshima may have been quite cruel, the use of the bombs saved over 2 million plus japanese lives. the civilian portion of the government may have been close to surrender (though not unconditiomally) the military wing of the govt which controlled the power was not close to surrender. At best, surrender was 3-4 months away. the japanese food supply and other infrastructure was such that an estimated 1-3 million japanese would have died of starvation if the war had lasted another 3 months. This obviously doesnt count the japanese lives lost in the invasion.

      Our goal in WWII was to transform both Japan and Germany into productive peaceful countries with similar western values. 60 years later, it is clear, inspite of all the damage, we made the correct choice.

      Can the same be said of the current approach of appeasement by the left of the islamic threat? (essentially similar threat)

    12. Mike Says:

      Excellent article. I have to agree with the Marine in that lots of officers don’t focus on the heavy stuff that you can get the most good out of (the Jomini, the Clausewitz, etc.), but I think that any study of military history is at least a start. I think also that we need to put the reading at the correct level. Is Clausewitz going to really help a 2nd LT? Or would “If You Survive” or “Company Commander” be better? Both of those are on the Army Chief of Staff’s Reading list and I have read both. Start with the wrong stuff and you run the risk of turning them off completely.

      I’m in the army and I have my LTs in a reading and battle study program. I am using simple stuff to give them a taste and to focus on their level of warfare (I am having them read “The Bear Went Over The Mountain” by Lester Grau). Its certainly not rocket science (or Jomini), but its short chapters, company and battalion level focus and interesting enough that they can get the reading done without being pushed to do it. A program like that Army and Marine Corps wide I think would do a world of good for our junior leaders.

    13. Cris Says:

      Briefly, whatever military education effort may be lacking in mainstream academia is more than made up for by the informal amateurs, mainly autodidacts, with a sprinkling of professionals. Spread over the country and the world, they connect by online discussion, board and PC wargaming and miniatures conventions, reenactments, etc. Fans, buffs and serious students give the PC campus crowd a disregard, as do many people engaged in other intellectual pursuits.
      My personal interest has led me from the works of Thucidides and Xenophon thru Maurice de Saxe, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, Grant, T.E. Lawrence, Rommel, Patton, Bradley, von Mellenthin and back again, along with many lesser known writings by private soldiers and others.
      Jim Dunnigan’s is great site, and I can strongly recommend Sean O’Connor’s ‘Firefight’ PC game as an example of the high degree of amateur achievement.

    14. Don Meaker Says:

      I think the blame on left of center is correct. I don’t think it is a conspiracy, because the left of center are rather vocal about their opposition to national strength, national pride, national honor, and those who voluntarily perform national service.

    15. Mike R Says:

      Another point to make is that the venues like The History Channel, The Military History Channel, and The Military Channel are popular enough that they rate inclusion on most basic or slightly upgraded cable packages. The general public has a deep and abiding respect for the military, and I believe that they are genuinely interested in learning about the exploits, challenges and hardships of our fighting men and women.

    16. Bruce Bretthauer Says:

      The title you are after is “All the Dead Cities”. It recounts the horrors of being a German under the Allied aerial bombardment. It is a follow-on to an earlier effort that was focused on the RAF “Advance to Barbarism” which maintained that all of the atrocities were on the Western Allies side.

    17. Diggs Says:

      As an insider on the Army side (22 years), I can attest to the lack of professional reading for officers and NCOs in our service as well. There is a professional reading list for every branch, however there is little emphasis on reading these works, never mind reading and understanding the same. Army branch journals contain “and there I was” narratives with very little analysis or emphasis to apply the lessons learned to other situations or branches. We train to fight as a combined arms, but you’d never know it by reading the branch journals.
      The few senior officers I met that saw application of military history as vital tended to focus on one battle that had interest to them, and didn’t bring that level of interest forward into analysis. Army history confirms most of our best were also our brightest. Until the Army accepts that, there won’t be a concerted effort to train the mind as much as the body.

    18. question Says:

      For Mr. Green and any commenters, a question:

      Suppose a college-bound student does want to study military history, with the hope of entering the profession (whether in the military or academia). And suppose his view is that he wants to be of benefit to the military, and write relevant, scholarly but accessible, history that is relevant to upcoming potential conflicts.

      The question: Where should such a student go to college? Or if he wants to pursue a PhD, where should he go to graduate school?

      I’ve heard good things about Ohio State, but it was second hand information. Are there any good schools Mr. Green and others would recommend? I’m too old to go back to school, but I’d like to know so that I can advise young people who might ask.

    19. anon Says:

      Interesting post. I second the University of Kansas Press. I have a passing interest in military history, but my main interest is in law, and Kansas has a list of surprisingly good titles on its back catalogue. For a relatively obscure academic press, that’s pretty impressive.

    20. Dan Says:

      “let alone military history, which need have no central place in history studies.”

      Look in a history book. What are the central points? Usually events. What are the most dramatic events, and the events that change the course of nations and civilizations? Wars. How are wars fought? With militaries.

      Seems to me that military history is a far more central field of study in history than anything, say, the UN has accomplished.

      Don’t you find things like World War I & II, Vietnam, Korea, the Crimean war, the Islamic conquests, the Crusades, the 100-years war, the exploits of Napoleon, Alexander the Great, the conquest of the New World, and so forth in history books even now? Doesn’t it interest you even a little bit how those wars were fought, and what it was like for the people fighting them?

    21. Jeff Medcalf Says:

      When I was in my first semester of college, in my (required) American history class, the professor announced on the first day that we would not be studying any wars, because they distort history and because war is always wrong. I stood up and asked what great change in American society, other than the New Deal and the civil rights movement, came about because of something other than war. I was allowed to drop the class with a Pass (on a class normally letter graded). Apparently the professor thought I’d make too many waves.

    22. Kip Watson Says:

      It’s a stupid attitude to think that ‘we were in the right, therefore we could do wrong’.

      It doesn’t do the West any harm to look at what they did wrong in WWII, or to at least look to see if it certain actions were wrong.

      Was it right and justified to bomb civilians? In every case? What about the firebombing of Tokyo?

      Were the anti-Japanese propaganda campaigns (‘kill Japs, kill Japs, kill more Japs’) necessary, justified and did they achieve anything?

      Was it right to hand over huge numbers of Germans and their allies to the Soviets and Jugoslavs at the end of the war, many hundreds of thousands of whom — guiltless of war crimes — were murdered?

      The Communists were allies of necessity in WWII, but were *they* really any better than the Nazis, or in were they as bad or even worse? Did our friendliness toward them go too far?

      …I personally don’t think it implies we were as bad as Hitler to ask questions such as these…

    23. New Guy Says:

      “let alone military history, which need have no central place in history studies.”

      I think this sentiment, and the fact that it is becoming more prevalent in academia, is a direct result of historical near-sightedness. Today when many think of war, they think of video games or advertising competition between soft-drink companies. Any actual real-world instance of “War”, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, are labeled as “crimes”, or even “genocide”, by too many who consider themselves “teachers”.

      Throughout history, however, it has been war that decided the fate of nations, and the people therein. Those fates were typically set by the WINNERS of those wars, so it would seem that the actions that led to either victory or defeat would be quite relevant indeed.

      Unfortunately, in the current teaching of history, things like civic and personal life seem to be getting far too much attention. Is it worthwhile to know the legal system used in ancient Rome, or the political structure of tsarist Russia?
      Most definitely; however, it would also be important to understand that those realities were possible because Scipio defeated the sons of Hamilcar Barca, and because Peter I bested Charles XII.

      The reason the stories of Scipio and Peter(among others), as well as those of their vanquished opponents, are so absolutely critical to the understanding of history,is because of their relevance to the understanding of the present. Many academics are trying to forge a brave new world by attempting to teach — in their classrooms, to the next generation — a world with no war, no militaries, and no generals. And yet, the fate of such a world, and in fact, any world, rests so heavily upon the the generals and the militaries who would be it’s protectors.

    24. Michael W. Perry Says:

      Let me add another book to those being mentioned:

      Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War II

      Don’t let the fact that the book is a collection of articles written before, during and shortly after World War I deter you from checking it out. The book is very relevant to today’s debates. Chesterton was seeing the leading edge of the anti-patriotism and anti-military mindsets that other posters have mentioned and was a very effective critic of them. At the end of the war he noted how pacifists worked in concert with German militarists, denying Germany’s responsibility for starting the war and thus making the next war more likely. “Pacifism and Prussianism,” he wrote, “are always in alliance, by a fatal logic far beyond any conscious conspiracy.”

      You’ll need to read the articles themselves to see why the “fatal logic” of modern pacifism causes it to work in concert with the likes of Saddam and why it leads them to look for a moral equivalence in wars. Chesterton also deals with other issues that haunt us today, including an over-reliance on international institutions and he explain why a healthy nationalism is the best way to ensure peace.

      Much of Chesterton’s brilliance lay in his ability to understand the core beliefs that drove those he disagreed with, and nowhere is that truer than in his criticism of pacifists, cosmopolitans, and internationalists at the end of the Great War. In 1932, he would go even further, warning that Germany was about to give itself a dictator (Hitler), and, if Western leaders did not come up with and effective way to deter him, the next war would begin over a border dispute with Poland, precisely what happened seven years later. Unfortunately, Chesterton died in 1936, so (unlike Churchill) he wasn’t around to say “I told you so” when his unpopular warnings came true. One British historian has already emailed me that these republished articles may led him to rethink his attitude toward Chesterton.

      And yes, I edited the book for publication, adding introductions and footnotes for readers not familiar with the many intricacies of WWI. When possible, I also added quotes from what his opponents were saying, so readers get both sides of those arguments. Particularly interesting is just how clueless prominent pacifists of the day, such as Norman Angell (winner of the 1933 Nobel Peace Prize), were about the danger Nazism posed.

      –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books, Seattle

    25. Lexington Green Says:

      “Mr. Green and any commenters, a question”

      Here is the list of graduate programs in Military from the Society of Military Historians.

      I suggest you write to every one of the professors on this list, one email each, asking them for their advice about where to go undergraduate. If you make a good impression, you may get good advice and possibly have one of them advocate for you in the admission process somewhere. You should probably join the Society. It is cheap.

      That is my suggestion.

    26. Lexington Green Says:

      “Mr. Green and any commenters, a question”

      When I say send a personalized email to each professor, I mean research each one and refer to their work and books and demonstrate some diligence.

      You may want to send paper mail, with your email address to respond to.

      The only way you will succeed in this is if you get into a program where you have some friends and allies among the professors. If you just go into some college and let it be known that you are interested in military history you will get poor grades, no respect, no references, etc. You need to start building contacts and working this politically from the beginning. Without at least one mentor to protect you, you will not be able to do it.

      That is how I see it.

      Same thing in the private sector, really. Being good is not enough. You need to be good and have people who will protect you.

    27. Alex Bensky Says:

      Oddly enough, the Canadian relocation of its Japanese never seems to get any attention; I guess Canada gets a pass because it’s more politically correct than we are.

      I substitute taught in several suburban Detroit school systems a while back and if the class was doing World War II or somehow we got on the topic, I would discuss why the bombs were necessary to end the war and what would have happened to Japan, China, and across the Far East if the war hadn’t ended when it did. In most cases the students had literally never been presented with such arguments, and those who were aware of them generally had come across them on their own.

    28. question Says:

      Mr. Green, thanks very much.

    29. willis Says:

      “The Communists were allies of necessity in WWII, but were *they* really any better than the Nazis, or in were they as bad or even worse? Did our friendliness toward them go too far?”

      They may not have been any better than the Nazis, but they were fighting the Nazis and not fighting us. There is no record of friendliness to them, only help in every way to the fullest extent possible to survive long enough to let the West build up the strength to invade Normady. It is obvious that from your vantage point now, you have no idea how close everyone was to losing to the Nazis and how devasting that loss would have been to us all. Further, it boggles the mind that you could question our level of support to a country that was for years about the only obstacle to German victory. The fact that Russia suffered about 20 million casualties, while we suffered about 500,000 should tell you a little about where the war was faught and who was protecting who.

    30. Mike Says:

      For Question. I am just finishing up a online grad program from Norwich on Military History. From my experience, schools that are military types tend to have good Military History Programs. Norwich does, VMI did when I went there as a undergrad, Texas A and M is really good. I’d look at some of the Great Plains schools (KU, KSU, UNL) too, they publish a lot of grad A military history (the real detail stuff, not the Barnes and Noble Top 20 stuff) which in my mind couldn’t be done without some focus or interest.

    31. David Betz Says:

      There are good options for people interested in military history and contemporary security studies to study them at the graduate level. The department of war studies at King’s College London

      offers a Masters degree in War Studies entirely on-line:

      There are over a hundred students on the programme now about half of them serving military officers many of those on operational deployment–the other half are civilians often working in security, international relations, journalism or cognate fields.

      I am the academic director of this programme and so clearly a partisan on the matter but frustated and unfulfilled potential students of war need not remain so.

    32. Trent Telenko Says:


      I got the following comment from a friend whom I sent a copy of your post:

      Hunh. Good article. There’s an interesting parallel that I hadn’t thought of until I saw this:

      A few years ago, most of the MPA programs (Master of Public Administration, i.e. How to Be a Bureaucrat, or the MBA for people who are going to work at HUD, DoEd, or various state or local bureacracies — you could also think of it as the advancement pathway for advanced bureaucrats) dropped history as a recommended undergrad major. (The undergrad majors they still suggest are English, economics, political science (especially public policy), various professional programs in the field you want to administer (i.e. counseling if you want to be a mental health bureaucrat, communications if you want to run a government media office, and so on), engineering, accounting, and business. But history went off the list. (This is my recollection from some uproars among historians who had been using the MPA as an example of “a grad program leading to a high paying job that wants history majors.”) IIRC&IOD, since MPA programs are about 75-80% case studies — “Here’s what happened in Arkansas when they launched this program this way” — it turned out history majors didn’t respond well to case studies, didn’t seem to understand how to read them, and kept trying to generalize away from them.

      As a theatre historian I can tell you most theatre history nowadays is no damned use to practitioners, even though the field was founded by practitioners (Ollie Nagler, Mordechai Gorelick, and Robert Jones were designers, Allardyce Nicoll was a business manager, William Poel and Harley Granville-Barker were actors, directors, and company managers — and that’s pretty much it for the first generation of theatre historians in English). One of my mentors for directing spent his last years sparring with his pure theatre historian colleagues who didn’t want him teaching theatre history as part of directing — he had a course called “Historical Problems” which was known to us grad students as “What Would Jed Harris Do?”, “Drawing on Your Inner Zeffirelli”, and many other such nicknames, and was mostly case studies. The historians didn’t like it because it tended to emphasize “successful rather than important directors” as one of them grumbled to the class regularly. My buddy Mark Kittlaus used to say about that professor “Buck is always reminding us his dad owned a restaurant. I wonder if it served important rather than successful food.”

      Anyway, I’m wondering if one part of the reason for the decline in academic military history (aside from its being icky) might be that it’s practical.

    33. JJ Says:

      “Suppose a college-bound student does want to study military history, with the hope of entering the profession (whether in the military or academia). And suppose his view is that he wants to be of benefit to the military, and write relevant, scholarly but accessible, history that is relevant to upcoming potential conflicts…. The question: Where should such a student go to college? Or if he wants to pursue a PhD, where should he go to graduate school?”

      Don’t do it. Academic historians despise military history. It is very, very hard to get a job as a history professor even without having a mark of cain like wanting to specialize in military history.

      If your goal is to write military history, but not to teach, you do not need a PhD. Just do it – go write military history! A PhD is a lot of time and expense for something that is really of no utility unless you want an academic job. It’s a union card, and that’s about it. Plenty of good history is written by people without one.

    34. kire Says:

      “Oddly enough, the Canadian relocation of its Japanese never seems to get any attention; I guess Canada gets a pass because it’s more politically correct than we are.”

      I am an undergrad history student in Canada and trust me all I heard about in high school was how evil we were in regards to the Japanese in Canada. For some reason, the social history of things is deemed in to be much more important…in a survey course of western history in gr 12, our teacher didn’t do anything with military history because it “wasnt that important compared to our social history”. It was crazy enough that for English class in gr 12, which should be about studying lit and such, there was a prescribed book on the Japanese internment and we constantly discussed how evil and horrible the Canadian government was. While the book was good and the episode a definite dark mark in Canadian history, the fact that it was discussed in an English class with no talk against the Japanese, god forbid, makes it seems like the curriculum wants high-schoolers to learn how evil we were and not say how Canada had the 3rd largest per-capita army world-wide in WW2. Sad really.

    35. Lexington Green Says:

      Trent, thanks for passing that on.

      JJ, that is very cynical, but probably accurate. If you cannot go off on a Quixotic venture when you are 19 years old, when can you?

      Kirk, the teaching profession in your country, as in ours, with certain noble exceptions, is committed to the destruction of their own countries. The US teaching establishment is influenced by people like Bill Ayers, who tried to bomb the Pentagon. He is a much smarter and more effective enemy now.

    36. Eva Says:

      At my school, American Military University, you can major in military history.

    37. Dimitri Rotov Says:

      You mention that “There is a deluge of high-quality military history being produced, and the professional journal reviewers are only scratching the surface. The books received sections are always far, far longer than the books reviewed.”

      My own response has been to create blogs that are booklists with each entry being that day’s releases in that particular field. I make the lists for myself as much as for other readers and time being what it is can only produce two of these on an onging basis, Civil War Book News and Long War Book News.

    38. Roadkill Says:

      Most leftist writers set aside their generally anti-war and anti-American rhetoric when it comes to America’s involvement in WWII, largely because the enemy (Nazi Germany) was the enemy of their ideal country — the Soviet Union.

      Before June 1941, while the Nazi-Soviet Pact was in effect and the Nazi’s and the Soviets were carving up Eastern Europe, American anti-war sentiment was strongly promoted by American Communists and other fellow travelers. After the Nazi’s turned on USSR with Operation Barbarosa, however, American anti-war sentiment virtually disappeared. And once we actually entered the war, the leftists became strong pro-war advocates to help save our new ally – the Soviet Union.

    39. Lexington Green Says:

      Dimitri, please add a new comment with links to all of your book lists, please.

    40. Lexington Green Says:

      Kip, I almost deleted your comment because of this “It’s a stupid attitude to think that ‘we were in the right, therefore we could do wrong’. ”

      No one said this, and even if someone had, you don’t start out as a guest at someone else’s place saying they are stupid. I forgave you because I looked at your blog which has some good stuff on it.

      Behave from now on, please.

      The answer in general to your question is that the morality of these actions has been debated for decades and everybody knows where they stand. My take: The Allied bombings of Germany and Japan were necessary and justiified in the face of the aggression from those countries and their own proven willingness to do the same and worse to civilian populations if they had the means to do it. They started it, we finished it. If the firebomgings were so awful, it was up to the aggrieved party to offer peace terms to make them stop. The air attacks netted out to a shorter war and fewer lives being lost on all sides. Richard Overy, possibly the best expert on the air campaigns reached this conclusion, and I agree with him. I disagree that Stalin was “as bad as” Hitler. Maybe to his own people, but their sad fate is not within the scope of our responsibility. Stalin did not declare war on us, Hitler did. Hitler decided to fight us all. He was an idiot. We were not friendly with the Soviet Union. We armed our enemy’s enemy. That is not friendship it is pragmatism. We got them to do the dying. Good. Better their people than ours. That is not moral callousness, it is political realism. As to the prisoners returned to the Russians, they were Soviet citizens in German uniform. Their sad fate is not our responsibility. There was no reason to do anything else with them but return them to the country they came from. They cast their lot with the Germans and the Germans lost. The Germans killed 20 million Russians. The people who wore their uniform were not likely to get a warm welcome.

    41. Kip Watson Says:

      Those things have been debated in recent years, but for a generation after WWII there was little or no debate on any of the many terrible things the allies did.

      I don’t view strategic bombing as morally wrong overall, by the way, but as a tragic necessity (or on occasion a tragic mistake). Likewise our support of the Soviets, although they were worse than Hitler, they were less of threat so we were forced to support them.

      But I do think our attitude toward the Soviets in the last year of the war in Europe, as deplorably naive, and the Western allies cruelty and indifference toward the defeated Axis troops and populations did on numerous occasions reach the point of a crime against humanity. That it was overshadowed by vastly worst horrors doesn’t excuse it, like the drama about the man who commits a murder during the London Blitz; because what does it matter, amidst so much death?

      Of course it matters, and furthermore — for example, Jugoslavia in the 90s — these crimes are still having repercussions.

      That was not my point, though. Who cares what I think. The thing is all these issues have been debated in recent decades because for so long most of them were ignored or worse. There are a few hard Left attitudes in academia (that’s old news), but it is deeply mistaken to see all WWII historical revisionism in this light.

    42. McTaggart Says:

      I once had me one of them-thar Marxist professors. She was right out of the Howard Zinn School of History. Here are some of her “facts”: Pearl Harbor was a setup, Stalin’s purges were okay because it was for the the “revolution”, and Germany and Japan could recover just fine without U.S. aid.

      In my view, the worst History teachers are the ones that blow over wars. They are horrible to a fault. It shows that they are incapable of viewing larger contexts.

    43. Towering Barbarian Says:


      I feel 2 parts of your post deserve a response:

      “Further, it boggles the mind that you could question our level of support to a country that was for years about the only obstacle to German victory.”

      So pay no attention to the fact that the Soviets in point of fact were Hitler’s allies during the seizure of Poland in 1939 or that Stalin’s fight against Hitler was for no better reason than that 2 thieves fell out? o_O

      “The fact that Russia suffered about 20 million casualties, while we suffered about 500,000 should tell you a little about where the war was faught and who protected who.”

      Or it could be an indication that as tacticians the Communists were just that inept and uncaring about their own people, ne? Certainly, no one with any sense could have anything but contempt for Stalin’s use of “penalty brigades” which I presume would be among your “20 million casualties”. I would argue that were it not for the Murmansk Run Russia would now be speaking German. The Germans themselves showed who they feared more when they pulled pilots and troops alike out of Russia in order to try to stop the Americans and the British at the Bulge. So much for the Soviets as allies! ^_^

      The fact is, Feredick Hayek, Gaetano Mosca and Eric Dexler have all pointed out quite rightly that Communists and Nazis were always completely interchangeable human beings and morally indistinguishable. It was sensible to make use of the fact that Orc fought Orc. It was a mistake to be too friendly with the Orc that was on our side afterwards and to fool ourselves into thinking he was ever anything more than an Orc.

    44. Lexington Green Says:

      “The thing is all these issues have been debated in recent decades because for so long most of them were ignored or worse.”



      These issues have been debated since the beginning. They were being debated when the bombings just got started.

      In Britain and America there has never been any absence of soul-searching and discussion about the bombing campaigns, from the very beginning.

    45. Will Selling Says:

      What we need is more instructors like Sam Kinison’s character in Back to School, starring Rodney Dangerfield. Seriously, though, I noticed revisionist history taking place just after returning from Saudi during Desert Storm, both at Bates College, which I was attending, and the public in general. Many people kept saying the “war” started January 16, 1991, when in reality it started August 2, 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. That was also the beginning of the ground campaign, followed by an excursion by the Iraqis into Saudi on January 29, 1991, which included the battle of Khafji. However, those dates and actions don’t show us to be the agressor, so they are lost. Now, most civilians still think Desert Storm was a 100 hour war, which started when we attacked, which was really a counter-attack, on February 24, 1991.
      On another note, after World War II, Gandhi was able to gain inedependence for India from the British Empire through non-violent means. That is true, and yet not the only truth–simply the only one taught in academia. It is also true that Gandhi–probably considered the most peaceful person in the last 100 years–served in the Boer War and Zulu Rebellion, albeit as a non-combatant. That is not taught. Nor is the fact that when Gandhi’s Muslim brethren could see independence on the horizon, they demanded a separate Muslim nation. This was done through intimidation and mass murder, including the Direct Action Day. That battle still continues today, not described as Muslim vs. Hindu, but rather (The Islamic Republic of) Pakistan vs. India. If Gandhi could not avoid war with his Muslim brethren, who can? Obviously, these issues and battles do not fit the politically correct paradigm, and thus are omitted from discussion in most universities.

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