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America's "small wars," "imperial wars," or, as the Pentagon now terms them, "low-intensity conflicts," have played an essential but little-appreciated role in its growth as a world power. Beginning with Jefferson's expedition against the Barbary Pirates, Max Boot tells the exciting stories of our sometimes minor but often bloody landings in Samoa, the Philippines, China, America's "small wars," "imperial wars," or, as the Pentagon now terms them, "low-intensity conflicts," have played an essential but little-appreciated role in its growth as a world power. Beginning with Jefferson's expedition against the Barbary Pirates, Max Boot tells the exciting stories of our sometimes minor but often bloody landings in Samoa, the Philippines, China, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Mexico, Russia, and elsewhere. Along the way he sketches colorful portraits of little-known military heroes such as Stephen Decatur, "Fighting Fred" Funston, and Smedley Butler. From 1800 to the present day, such undeclared wars have made up the vast majority of our military engagements. Yet the military has often resisted preparing itself for small wars, preferring instead to train for big conflicts that seldom come. Boot re-examines the tragedy of Vietnam through a "small war" prism. He concludes with a devastating critique of the Powell Doctrine and a convincing argument that the armed forces must reorient themselves to better handle small-war missions, because such clashes are an inevitable result of America's far-flung imperial responsibilities.


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America's "small wars," "imperial wars," or, as the Pentagon now terms them, "low-intensity conflicts," have played an essential but little-appreciated role in its growth as a world power. Beginning with Jefferson's expedition against the Barbary Pirates, Max Boot tells the exciting stories of our sometimes minor but often bloody landings in Samoa, the Philippines, China, America's "small wars," "imperial wars," or, as the Pentagon now terms them, "low-intensity conflicts," have played an essential but little-appreciated role in its growth as a world power. Beginning with Jefferson's expedition against the Barbary Pirates, Max Boot tells the exciting stories of our sometimes minor but often bloody landings in Samoa, the Philippines, China, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Mexico, Russia, and elsewhere. Along the way he sketches colorful portraits of little-known military heroes such as Stephen Decatur, "Fighting Fred" Funston, and Smedley Butler. From 1800 to the present day, such undeclared wars have made up the vast majority of our military engagements. Yet the military has often resisted preparing itself for small wars, preferring instead to train for big conflicts that seldom come. Boot re-examines the tragedy of Vietnam through a "small war" prism. He concludes with a devastating critique of the Powell Doctrine and a convincing argument that the armed forces must reorient themselves to better handle small-war missions, because such clashes are an inevitable result of America's far-flung imperial responsibilities.

30 review for The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

    A very interesting work. Boot debunks the myth of an American isolationist tradition, focusing on America's many "smaller" military actions, from the Barbary Wars to the hundred years (1840-1941) that American troops were continuously stationed in China to the Phillippine Insurrection (1900-1902) to the many 20th Century American interventions in Latin America. Surprises abound, the biggest being how Boot convincingly argues that. for the most part, America's interventions happened for idealistic A very interesting work. Boot debunks the myth of an American isolationist tradition, focusing on America's many "smaller" military actions, from the Barbary Wars to the hundred years (1840-1941) that American troops were continuously stationed in China to the Phillippine Insurrection (1900-1902) to the many 20th Century American interventions in Latin America. Surprises abound, the biggest being how Boot convincingly argues that. for the most part, America's interventions happened for idealistic reasons, rather than the usual stereotype that has the U.S. always watching out for big-business interests. Also surprising is Boot's account of how effective America was at fighting anti-guerilla wars, at least up until Vietnam. Boot covers each intervention separately, combining politics with actual battle narratives in a very readable manner. Colorful figures emerge, like Smedley Butler, who for over thirty years was America's foremost (and most successful) soldier, only to become a staunch pacifist upon retirement. Though it is a historical narrative, it is obvious that the author is trying to send a message to today's military leaders, especially in the wake of such post-Vietnam policies as the "Powell Doctorine." The argument is that America has a duty to continue to fight small wars to make the world a safer place (especially after September 11th), but that it should also not encourage our enemies by cutting and running from such engagements after the first casualties. At one point Boot implies that Clinton's ineffective 1998 missile strikes in al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Sudan "emboldened" bin Laden to launch the 9/11 attacks. This point seems underdeveloped and unknoweable. Also, Boot's criticism of the Powell Doctrine is not entirely convincing, since his own history reveals that America's attempts at "nation building" have often failed. Thinking Americans should comprehend that most of the world's peoples (including Americans?) are almost definitely unsuited to Western-style democracy. Our government should formulate foreign policy accordingly.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hai Quan

    " There is this great proverb that says : Until the lions have their own historian , the history of the hunt will only glorify the hunters " ACHEBE ( Not verbatim, only from my memory) Every day is my bad day it seems, when I confront this nauseus blatant self righteous, white wash and self-glorifying from the stinky mouth ( with the foul smell of decomposed corpes) of a white guy ( in this case an extremely intelligent and foxy one) a stream of ill smelled bragging about how "noble " and also ho " There is this great proverb that says : Until the lions have their own historian , the history of the hunt will only glorify the hunters " ACHEBE ( Not verbatim, only from my memory) Every day is my bad day it seems, when I confront this nauseus blatant self righteous, white wash and self-glorifying from the stinky mouth ( with the foul smell of decomposed corpes) of a white guy ( in this case an extremely intelligent and foxy one) a stream of ill smelled bragging about how "noble " and also how" clever" and "courageous " were the bloodthirsty , gold mad mercernary ( politely known as the Marines) in their executing the "small wars" NEVER MIND THE ILLEGALITY , WICKEDNESS of their participation in their Vikingism against other smaller, under developed countries and their ( understandably ) less powerful armed forces .(*) After arming himself with mountains of "knowledge" from tons of books and notes from the prestigious institutions he is now ready to pursue his ambition of fortune and fame. And who can blame him? And what is the obvious choice : To sell his soul to his King-Devil 's or to ( sight !) fight for the miserable , toiling and sweating ( and spilling blood) serfs everywhere ? You tell me. SMALL WARS MY ASS GODDAMIT What do you mean ? Small ? No blood ? No limbs? No spilled out innards? No smouldering villages ? Oh , by the way , these little annoying things hardly ever happened in the U S OF A , Europe, ,England or RUSSIA .....etc..They mostly could be seen in places where the previously mentioned lands where the savages. inhabit , no coincidence. I want to vomit ! Of course they were small (wars I mean) for you. The victims were of no consequence They were only the "collateral" damages , no big deal .They are only " savages " ," dink's " , slant eyed sub-humans ......No big deal ! I need to halt here. To throw up.To vomit. Will be back folks (*) My review of HEART OF A SOLDIER in this website

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    Savage Wars of Peace is a decent, if unsystematic study of American military interventions prior to 1941, wedded to an ideology that has aged like a burn-pit outside Bagram Air Base. I'll tackle the first bit. America has a long history of deploying force overseas, in gunboat diplomacy and putative expeditions stretching back to the wars against the Barbary Corsairs: "...to the shores of Tripoli", as the Marine corps hymn goes. As Toll's magisterial Six Frigates discusses, these early wars we Savage Wars of Peace is a decent, if unsystematic study of American military interventions prior to 1941, wedded to an ideology that has aged like a burn-pit outside Bagram Air Base. I'll tackle the first bit. America has a long history of deploying force overseas, in gunboat diplomacy and putative expeditions stretching back to the wars against the Barbary Corsairs: "...to the shores of Tripoli", as the Marine corps hymn goes. As Toll's magisterial Six Frigates discusses, these early wars were at the pivot of a debate about the power of the Federal government and America's role in the world. The 18th century was marked by constant, if limited use of the Navy and Marines to open Japan, Korea, and China to American trade, and to punish various groups in Malaysia and the Caribbean who had decided that plundering American merchants was better than trading with them. The Spanish-American War marked a distinct change in American policy, with the Philippines and Puerto Rico now directly ruled colonies, Cuba a protectorate, and a newly more assertive posture worldwide. A combination of Teddy Roosevelt's imperialism, and Woodrow Wilson's moralism, summed up in the statement that 'America should teach Latin Americans to elect good men', resulted in repeated interventions in Haiti and Nicaragua, as well as a protracted counter-insurgency in the Philippines, Pershing's putative expedition against Pancho Villa, which nearly resulted in an actual shooting war with Mexico, and the gunboat operations of the China patrol. Generally, small groups of American Marines outfought their local opponents with superior training and armaments. Boot takes a universally uncritical view of the American role in all these operations, arguing that American intervention was broadly popular because Americans provided hygiene and displaced local corrupt strongmen. I'm sure a historian who bothered to read what the locals involved thought would consider otherwise. The final chapter is a brief skip through the latter half of the 20th century. Boot's take is that Vietnam was lost because Westmoreland's war of attrition destroyed American morale at home, and that the COIN side of the Combined Action Patrol (see Bing West's The Village) and Phoenix Program (Herrington's Stalking The Vietcong) showed that the war could be won. If America had the will to intervene as decisively in 1975 as it did in 1972, there'd still be a South Vietnam. This is a conclusion that I'm skeptical of. I think America would have had to intervene again in 1978, 81, etc. There's a brief skip through Desert Storm and Clinton's operations of the 90s. This pure history isn't a bad one, per se, as a military history of forgotten American interventions. My problems are twofold, first Boot agrees completely with Kipling's 'white man's burden' thesis of history, without managing to capture any of the actual zeitgest of period, what I consider to be the highest aim of history. Second, this book includes nothing on the US Army and the Indian Wars, certainly the most protracted and decisive of American Small Wars. The relationship between the genocide of American Indians, the Federal government, and historiography is a complex one, but to write an entire book on Small Wars without discussing Custer or Geronimo is a curious choice-perhaps because it's impossible to fit genocide into Boot's theoretical framework that imperialism is both authentically American and generally good for all concerned. And that theoretical framework is where this book stinks. The book was written in that halcyon 'End of History' prior to 9/11, and published immediately afterwards, before the true nature of the quagmire of Afghanistan and the fiasco of Iraq had sunk in to public perception. Assessing the total cost of the War of Terror and its children is foolhardy, but the total cost cannot be considered anything less than high. Around $45 billion per year, as the Afghanistan War becomes old enough vote, according to the Pentagon's numbers. Perhaps $5.9 TRILLION, according to the Crawford Report. If these are Small Wars, I shudder to think of what a big one would look like. And that doesn't even include the human costs to American soldiers, and to especially the Afghans, Iraqis, and Yemeni (among many others) on the receiving end of "American liberty". Since publishing this book, Boot has gone on to a successful career as a chickenhawk Washington Post columnist and perpetually owned twitter figure. He lacks the truly sublime idiocy of a Thomas Friedman or David Brooks, but he's still out there, saying America should bomb some more people, and getting wrecked on Twitter. I picked this book up for a dollar at a used book sale, I almost decided to toss it away unread when I saw Boot's name on. And I persisted in reading just so I could write a very sarcastic review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    There's the good and there's the bad. The conflicts Boot reconstructs in the first half (or 2/3) of his book are important to learn about. Conflicts like Kosovo and Somalia are military history's norm, not its exception. However, Boot treats his history in the most disappointing way. He adds an addendum to the history books that, unfortunately, often comes across like a history book--cold, calculating, and unabashadly pro-American interest. A more measured approach to America's small wars that de There's the good and there's the bad. The conflicts Boot reconstructs in the first half (or 2/3) of his book are important to learn about. Conflicts like Kosovo and Somalia are military history's norm, not its exception. However, Boot treats his history in the most disappointing way. He adds an addendum to the history books that, unfortunately, often comes across like a history book--cold, calculating, and unabashadly pro-American interest. A more measured approach to America's small wars that delineates the war from more points-of-view than the Marines' would be welcomed. But, of course, that wasn't really Boot's purpose. Again, there's the good and the bad. The Good: Boot makes a strong case against the prevailing American sentiments he clusters as the "Powell Doctrine": America (should) only fights big wars; casualties in small wars are unacceptable; any war not won quickly and decisively is a "Vietnam" quagmire. For that, and for the interesting analysis of the Vietnam war, I give Boot props. But then he overstretches. In the final chapter, Boot argues for continual policing by the United States (with a slight nod to the U.N. in the second-to-last paragraph). He says that American hubris will have fewer costs than American caution. I disagree (or more accurately, reserve judgment), especially when Boot's conclusions are based on evidence gleaned from the USMC's archives. So, while Boot does general history a service, he does the reader a disservice by drawing premature conclusions from less than objective data.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    Quick comments here. Please read this one if you want to truly understand more about American wars/conflicts outside of WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. I truly believe we as military professionals should understand all of our conflicts instead of the ones we were great at and those staring us in the face.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brennan Lauritzen

    Bottom Line: The military history is interesting. The author's recommendations are not grounded. The book begins with describing the brutality of imperialism, and although the military seems to mature with the country's age, victory seemed to be fleeting in most of the cases examined with the countries crumbling after the US stops occupation, and sometimes during--even if the author describes them as successes. The author endorses small wars, and rephrases 'the white man's burden' (to use less rac Bottom Line: The military history is interesting. The author's recommendations are not grounded. The book begins with describing the brutality of imperialism, and although the military seems to mature with the country's age, victory seemed to be fleeting in most of the cases examined with the countries crumbling after the US stops occupation, and sometimes during--even if the author describes them as successes. The author endorses small wars, and rephrases 'the white man's burden' (to use less racial vocabulary) before endorsing the imperial burden entirely. The author pretends that there are no alternatives to military engagement, and therefore didn't examine alternatives (ie Foreign Aid, and regular diplomacy come to mind immediately). Let me repeat he pretended that the alternative to small wars is to do nothing in all cases. The author didn't use criteria to evaluate small wars--descriptive, or qualitative. So there was no measure of success let alone a recipe for it. Although the author states that US occupation was more humanitarian than other powers the author doesn't factor that into successful outcomes. The author doesn't create any estimates for the likely results of the only alternative he presented, non-intervention. The argument for small wars seems to be on faith alone. (Sarcastic) If the US decided to intervene militarily and the costs in number of men committed and treasury are low then by definition it's a good idea. For the most part I agreed with their description of the optimal tactics needed in counterinsurgency and being community-based. I also agree that we should have Soldiers stationed (accompanied tours) throughout the globe instead of continuing the trend of growing domestic bases at expense of a foreign posture (The book doesn't really go into this trend, but while we're downsizing bases in Germany and Japan we should begin accompanied tours in NATO allies further east, as well as budding democracies around the glove if they'll have us). The author states as an analogy to small wars, we would keep jails to punish criminals even if we found out jail wasn't an effective deterrent (this statement is morally REPUGNANT, and makes me think Boot's [small]-warmongering was his foregone conclusion). It's no wonder this is the first author I've ever read who has described Marines as intellectual (and in comparison to the army no less, where we have careers instead of one-term enlistments).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Naeem

    The short version of this book can be had in Kipling's poem, "White Man's Burden." http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/Ki... The title of the book comes from the second line of the third stanza: Take up the White Man's burden-- The savage wars of peace-- Fill full the mouth of Famine And bid the sickness cease; And when your goal is nearest The end for others sought, Watch sloth and heathen Folly Bring all your hopes to nought. This is a version of Joshua Muravchik's Exporting Democracy "democratic ideali The short version of this book can be had in Kipling's poem, "White Man's Burden." http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/Ki... The title of the book comes from the second line of the third stanza: Take up the White Man's burden-- The savage wars of peace-- Fill full the mouth of Famine And bid the sickness cease; And when your goal is nearest The end for others sought, Watch sloth and heathen Folly Bring all your hopes to nought. This is a version of Joshua Muravchik's Exporting Democracy "democratic idealism" or "idealist internationalism" but is better seen, in my view, as simply the return of colonialism. (Not that it went far -- just to the corner store to pick up some cigarettes, a six pack, and some amo.) It is a defense of small wars as a means to raise the natives up to the standards of civilization. I would use this book instead of say, something by Howard Zinn or Chomsky, because I feel it is necessary to allow liberals to feel the full weight of their own only slightly hidden, but nevertheless tangible and real, beliefs in the superiority of white people.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Meyer

    I was truly impressed with the book. The amount of history which isn't taught in today's schools is appalling. When I was still in school (awhile ago) the only small wars ever mentioned and very briefly were the Spanish American war and the Boxer Rebellion. This book goes over all the little wars we have fought since the 1800's up until Vietnam which is included in the evaluation. The history about the subjugation of the Philipines after we took it in the Spanish American war is so eerily like I I was truly impressed with the book. The amount of history which isn't taught in today's schools is appalling. When I was still in school (awhile ago) the only small wars ever mentioned and very briefly were the Spanish American war and the Boxer Rebellion. This book goes over all the little wars we have fought since the 1800's up until Vietnam which is included in the evaluation. The history about the subjugation of the Philipines after we took it in the Spanish American war is so eerily like Iraq it isn't even funny, right down to the whining about torture. History definitely works in cycles and if lessons previously learned are not applied they are lost, case in point Vietnam which the author makes a great case for. For those who complain we are not into nation building they will be rather taken aback at how many times we did exactly that throughout our history in the region of the Carribean and Central America and in other places as well. Our current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are nothing new under the sun for we have done the same things before it is only that we as a people don't know our own history. This book is a must read in order to get up to speed on our past and give us insight on how our future battles should be looked at.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    The United States has been involved in hundreds of small scale conflicts and wars [what we Marines used to call banana wars] to protect American economic and political interests. The Savage Wars of Peace takes a historical look at these wars, their causes and results. A good read for anyone with a desire for general American history.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Roger Burk

    This is an illuminating book to read as the nation contemplates the pros and cons of intervening in the Syrian civil war. It covers the history of America's "small wars," from the Barbary Wars to the Yangtze patrol, then shows how all the lessons learned were wiped out by World War II, leading to a wrong-headed "big war" approach to Vietnam and a subsequent impulse to swear off all foreign interventions. It's instructive to note that though the failures loom large in our memory, the intervention This is an illuminating book to read as the nation contemplates the pros and cons of intervening in the Syrian civil war. It covers the history of America's "small wars," from the Barbary Wars to the Yangtze patrol, then shows how all the lessons learned were wiped out by World War II, leading to a wrong-headed "big war" approach to Vietnam and a subsequent impulse to swear off all foreign interventions. It's instructive to note that though the failures loom large in our memory, the interventions were mostly successful. They were sometimes horrifyingly brutal (causing national scandal), but usually benevolent and constructive, certainly by the standards of the time: imposing the rule of law and a more or less honest and competant government, and building roads and schools and so forth. However, it seems to me that it's not so clear that the long-lasting interventions of the early 20th century were really so successful. It's hard to see any lasting improvement in Haiti, for instance. But perhaps things would have been even worse there without American intervention. Also, we should remember that Vietnam is exceptional for a number of reasons besides the big-war approach to counterinsurgency. Crucially, it was fought by the Americans with draftees, not volunteers. The insurgents had very well-organized and -resourced external support, secure sanctuaries, and support with first-class weapons. The Philippine rebels had none of these. In the end, it was North Vietnamese tanks that rolled into Saigon, not Viet Cong in black pajamas. Boot says that interventions are the norm, not the exception, and we should expect to undertake them from time to time if we don't want to let brutal kleptocrats take over around the world. The Army prefers to concentrate on large wars with near-peer competitors. Big wars promise a straightforward goal, a clear beginning, middle, and end, and total national commitment. There's also presumably more at stake in a big war. I can see the Army now moving to swear off the counterinsurgency wars like Iraq and Afghanistan. But counterinsurgencies have to be fought by different rules, and we shouldn't forget how it's done. We're at least as likely to fight a counterinsurgency as a regular war.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    Max Boot wrote an intriguing book that should have been read by more powerful people than it was. I believe Savage Wars was released in about 2002, and since Boot is well known as a conservative commentator, I don’t understand why the book and its lessons were not better appreciated by like-minded folks in the White House prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Boot makes a compelling case that there are humongous difficulties in dealing with nation-building and counterinsurgency warfare, and Bo Max Boot wrote an intriguing book that should have been read by more powerful people than it was. I believe Savage Wars was released in about 2002, and since Boot is well known as a conservative commentator, I don’t understand why the book and its lessons were not better appreciated by like-minded folks in the White House prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Boot makes a compelling case that there are humongous difficulties in dealing with nation-building and counterinsurgency warfare, and Boot makes that case by looking back at the many small wars the American military has engaged in. Even when those engagements were handled well, they were extremely difficult affairs that involved hardships for the troops, time, and a savvy for far more than just military matters (bureaucracy, diplomacy, and all aspects of running governments). Lessons all unlearned for the first couple of years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Better days have come for the US’s efforts in Iraq, but Boot’s book should have made it far more obvious what the US was in for. His chapter on the Philippines is incredibly important. Another overall theme of Boot’s book is that America’s supposed “way of war,” which involves involvement in huge wars, is not really the American way of war. Rather, the US has spent far more time engaged in small wars, which have also helped establish an American empire of sorts. An empire quite different than many that have existed before it and, according to Boot, better than its predecessors. Well worth the read. Fine book with great snapshots of some hero worship worthy military folks from America’s past.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ian Coutts

    Max Boot sometimes seems like the kind of guy who thinks that there isn't a human problem that can't be solved with a military intervention. That aside, this is a very interesting look at America's "small wars," going right back to the Barbary Pirates. Boot looks at what the US, especially the Marines, got right in fighting these limited little brush fire wars all through the 19th and 20th centuries. He also examines what was in his estimation the most unsuccessful small war of all -- Vietnam. T Max Boot sometimes seems like the kind of guy who thinks that there isn't a human problem that can't be solved with a military intervention. That aside, this is a very interesting look at America's "small wars," going right back to the Barbary Pirates. Boot looks at what the US, especially the Marines, got right in fighting these limited little brush fire wars all through the 19th and 20th centuries. He also examines what was in his estimation the most unsuccessful small war of all -- Vietnam. The Americans knew once how to fight a small war properly, but saw Vietnam on the model of World War Two -- a conventional conflict to be fought with tanks, artillery and bombers. As Boot says, maybe a low-intensity approach -- real hearts and minds -- wouldn't have worked better, but it could scarcely have been worse -- particularly where civilian casualties are concerned. I have a feeling we're all going to see a lot of these small wars in the next few decades, so it's good to have Boot remind us that they can be fought successfully, and generally with light casualties.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kristian Reninger

    We forgot many things that we learned overseas in the era around WWI and up to WWII. The "Small Wars Manual" morphed into the "Operations Other Than War Manual" in my day and was not to be revisted again until Petraeus' 2009 "Field Manual On Counterinsurgency" which was jointly written with the USMC, the one service which achieved success in the 1930's as well as attempted to operate correctly (Ink Blot Doctrine) for a portion of the Vietnam War. The USMC remains both the most flexible and the m We forgot many things that we learned overseas in the era around WWI and up to WWII. The "Small Wars Manual" morphed into the "Operations Other Than War Manual" in my day and was not to be revisted again until Petraeus' 2009 "Field Manual On Counterinsurgency" which was jointly written with the USMC, the one service which achieved success in the 1930's as well as attempted to operate correctly (Ink Blot Doctrine) for a portion of the Vietnam War. The USMC remains both the most flexible and the most intellectually involved of all our services. A good read on all of the above, but I would have liked to have seen the later sections on American Military interventions in the 1990's developedmore fully. Perhaps at it's writting in 2002, not enough time had passed to gain the same level of perspective. Consider this book to be required reading for any and all participants in both current and future versions of "The Great Game."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Reader Variety

    Boot is one of our top military historians, and he makes a compelling case that the U.S. has a deep history in small wars, and we can learn from our past and apply the lessons to the current and future conflicts. Most of early small wars we did not try to stay in the area or conquer - we wanted to get in and out. Though in Philippines U.S. had success only when leaving garrisons in the countryside. Boot makes an interesting claim that if the U.S. had been willing to send 2-3 divisions to Moscow i Boot is one of our top military historians, and he makes a compelling case that the U.S. has a deep history in small wars, and we can learn from our past and apply the lessons to the current and future conflicts. Most of early small wars we did not try to stay in the area or conquer - we wanted to get in and out. Though in Philippines U.S. had success only when leaving garrisons in the countryside. Boot makes an interesting claim that if the U.S. had been willing to send 2-3 divisions to Moscow in 1918 we could have defeated the Bolsheviks. Counterinsurgencies worked best if soldiers did not rotate out, if we used violence only when needed, and if we were able to build an effective native constabulary force.

  15. 4 out of 5

    J. David Knecht

    This book is an outstanding chronicle of the US armed forces prosecution of small wars throughout our history. The author clearly demonstrates his thesis that the US has always been intervening in world affairs since its founding. I am sure that the author's conclusions will be disturbing to many from all sides of the political spectrum today, however his well sourced cogent arguments should inspire reflection about the role of our country in the world going forward. This is whether you agree wi This book is an outstanding chronicle of the US armed forces prosecution of small wars throughout our history. The author clearly demonstrates his thesis that the US has always been intervening in world affairs since its founding. I am sure that the author's conclusions will be disturbing to many from all sides of the political spectrum today, however his well sourced cogent arguments should inspire reflection about the role of our country in the world going forward. This is whether you agree with him or not. Along with Peter Hopkirk's "The Great Game" I would say this is essential reading to understand our ongoing conflict in Afghanistan today.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gregory Klages

    This book is eminently readable. Not only does Boot use a wide-ranging vocabulary, but his narrative style is light and fresh. He turns descriptions of relatively obscure 19th-century imperial battles between usually poorly balanced adversaries into informative, compelling tales. His personal politics are fairly obvious, thought not off-putting (at least to this reader). He is clearly an apologist for American imperial power, though certainly not blind to the risks and negative outcomes that app This book is eminently readable. Not only does Boot use a wide-ranging vocabulary, but his narrative style is light and fresh. He turns descriptions of relatively obscure 19th-century imperial battles between usually poorly balanced adversaries into informative, compelling tales. His personal politics are fairly obvious, thought not off-putting (at least to this reader). He is clearly an apologist for American imperial power, though certainly not blind to the risks and negative outcomes that application and extension of that power has produced in developing or non-developed societies.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chad

    Read this book junior year of college for a book report. As the title indicates (taken from the White Man's Burden) it is a not so veiled defense of American imperialism. Read this book junior year of college for a book report. As the title indicates (taken from the White Man's Burden) it is a not so veiled defense of American imperialism.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Clay Davis

    I learned a lot about the wars America has fought in the past.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Spuckler

    The Savage Wars Of Peace: Small Wars And The Rise Of American Power by Max Boot is the detailed history of the wars that are not common knowledge to most Americans. Boot holds a Bachelor’s degree in history, with high honors, from the University of California, Berkeley (1991), and a Master’s degree in history from Yale University (1992). He was born in Russia, grew up in Los Angeles. He was and editor and writer for both The Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal. He is also the J The Savage Wars Of Peace: Small Wars And The Rise Of American Power by Max Boot is the detailed history of the wars that are not common knowledge to most Americans. Boot holds a Bachelor’s degree in history, with high honors, from the University of California, Berkeley (1991), and a Master’s degree in history from Yale University (1992). He was born in Russia, grew up in Los Angeles. He was and editor and writer for both The Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal. He is also the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. A colleague from work gave me this book to read. I looked at the title and saw "Small Wars" and immediately assumed it was about the Marines. I was, however, only partially right. Ask the average American what wars we fought and you'll get the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Gulf Wars, and Afghanistan. A few might add the War of 1812, Panama, and Korea. Not many realize how many (undeclared) wars America actually fought in its history. I was familiar with most covered in the book from boot camp on Parris Island. The Marines' history is full these small wars throughout Latin America and Asia. Several aspects surprised me probably more than they should have in reading this book. Up until the beginning of the 20th century, American Naval commanders had quite a bit of leeway in making American foreign policy. In an era of very slow communications, quick actions by captains set policy. Secondly, the United States and Britain had a rather cozy, if unofficial, naval alliance. The first part of the book stresses America's naval history and the navy as an arm of American policy and interests. Its rise from six ships commissioned in 1794, (a privileged officer corps, and dregs, foreigners and a high percentage of blacks making the the enlisted ranks) to a premiere navy with an elite amphibious infantry force. An interesting look at the army is also included. Throughout America's history, there seems to be a division of power. The army is successful in big wars and fighting outside of the urban environment. Boot states that even today Marines clear cities and the army prefers to go around them. There is good reason for that too. A very heavy mechanized army finds it hard to maneuver huge M1 tanks down third world streets. Some of this history may be based on tradition. The Marines spent much of the pre-WWI years and the interwar years fighting insurgencies in Latin America. It entered Vietnam as the insurgency fighting force based on experience decades before. Even then, the only small wars manual was written by the Marines. It stated, "Small Wars represent the normal and frequent operations of the Marine Corps." It is the big wars that gain the attention and the prestige in the military...and the budget too. In Vietnam, Khe Sanh is a battle the US wanted. A head to head fight and a way to confront the enemy. The US poured supplies and Marines into Khe Sahn to make a stand that lasted over five months. Once the siege was over, Khe Sanh was immediately dismantled. In the meantime, the Viet Cong built up strength. Forgetting everything the US learned about insurgencies, the US was happy to fight a battle on its terms instead of the enemy's. Sadly, the victory really did not accomplish anything. There are plenty of events covered from the beginning of America's navy through the First Gulf War. The book was published in early 2002 and does not include Afghanistan or the Second War in Iraq although the tone of the US failure to successfully fight insurgencies is clearly set. It is almost as if this book was written in hindsight to the Afghan and Iraq war. I found this book to be very informative and well written. This is an important book as modern warfare is quickly turning into insurgency and counter-insurgency conflicts. The days of large naval battles and large scale tank warfare seem to be over. The new warfare needs to be quick, mobile, and have the ability to operate in urban environments. Boot gives us a history of our past battles and a commentary on the present.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mel Foster

    This was a book that needed to be written--a survey of the undeclared wars of US History. I've been meaning to get up to speed on this subject, and this was a good primer. Most Americans are fairly ignorant of these engagements, and Boot seems really to be writing to his fellow Americans. Boot worked to be objective about the positives and negatives of US engagement and occupation abroad, though he leans towards the positive. In the closing chapter he is the most plainly partisan. He makes the c This was a book that needed to be written--a survey of the undeclared wars of US History. I've been meaning to get up to speed on this subject, and this was a good primer. Most Americans are fairly ignorant of these engagements, and Boot seems really to be writing to his fellow Americans. Boot worked to be objective about the positives and negatives of US engagement and occupation abroad, though he leans towards the positive. In the closing chapter he is the most plainly partisan. He makes the case for the value of small, undeclared wars--as opposed to merely declared wars using overwhelming force. I would have liked to have seen more discussion of the full toolbox of conflict resolution. He alludes to this some in his discussion of strategies that troops use with local forces and communities which cause them to succeed or fail. He takes on popular current views on warfare, with I believe, some success. My favorite quote," The search for a 'vital national interest' was not much of an issue during the Cold War because almost every regional intervention. . . could be linked, rightly or wrongly, to the fight against communism.But since the end of the Cold War, this has become a prime source of controversy. Various critics assert that U.S. armed forces should not be in Kosovo or Haiti or Somalia because, they claim, there is no national interest there. It all depends of course on how one defines "national interests." Isolationists like Patrick Buchanan say that U.S. interests are not threatened unless someone attacks American territory. Interventionists like Richard Holbrooke assert that U.S. interests are threatened even by AIDS in Africa. Who is right?" I would have liked more discussion here about the nature of national interests. I am not sure that it is a virtue to consider only personal security and financial assets 'national interests' as opposed to American values--natural rights, liberty, etc.--and so I agree with Boot raising the question. He has a naturally more trusting attitude towards government's use of force than do I. His closing paragraphs are almost alarming to me, and somewhat incongruous. Can one be both an American Exceptionalist and a supporter of the UN taking over "failed nations?" If not for these closing remarks I would probably say ****.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tommy

    Emphasizes the normality of not so normal war and justifies it through the lens of humanitarianism. Any nation bent on imperial policing will suffer a few setbacks. The British army, in the course of Queen Victoria’s little wars, suffered major defeats with thousands of casualties in the First Afghan War (1842) and the Zulu War (1879). This did not appreciably dampen British determination to defend and expand the empire; it made them hunger for vengeance. If Americans cannot adopt a similarly bloo Emphasizes the normality of not so normal war and justifies it through the lens of humanitarianism. Any nation bent on imperial policing will suffer a few setbacks. The British army, in the course of Queen Victoria’s little wars, suffered major defeats with thousands of casualties in the First Afghan War (1842) and the Zulu War (1879). This did not appreciably dampen British determination to defend and expand the empire; it made them hunger for vengeance. If Americans cannot adopt a similarly bloody-minded attitude, then they have no business undertaking imperial policing. I am not suggesting that Americans prepare themselves to suffer thousands of casualties for the sake of ephemeral goals, but policymakers should recognize that all military undertakings involve risk and should not run away at the first casualty. More important, Washington should not structure these operations with the prime goal of producing no casualties. That is a recipe for ineffectiveness. In revolutionary Russia, Woodrow Wilson and David Lloyd George missed a prime opportunity in 1918–1919 to help topple the nascent Bolshevik regime. There is reason to believe that with slightly more Western help the Whites could have won the civil war—and in all likelihood changed the course of twentieth-century history immeasurably for the better. These examples are worth balancing against the Vietnam analogies that inevitably, tiresomely pop up whenever the dispatch of American forces overseas is contemplated.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Interesting history of America’s small wars that serves as a backdrop for a good, if one-sided presentation of the neocon arguments for increased military intervention. However, I was not convinced by Boot’s arguments for why American foreign policy should be so aggressive for two reasons: First, look at Boot. He is not a warrior, and no one he knows or loves will be negatively impacted by war. Men love war, but Boot loves it for the wrong reasons. He has no skin in the game and never will. Seco Interesting history of America’s small wars that serves as a backdrop for a good, if one-sided presentation of the neocon arguments for increased military intervention. However, I was not convinced by Boot’s arguments for why American foreign policy should be so aggressive for two reasons: First, look at Boot. He is not a warrior, and no one he knows or loves will be negatively impacted by war. Men love war, but Boot loves it for the wrong reasons. He has no skin in the game and never will. Second, America does not have the will to win the wars Boot proposes we involve ourselves in. War requires the will to kill, the willingness to die, and the right to rule. We may have the first two, but international liberalism has precluded the last of these. We will not remake the Middle East or any other part of the world when a majority of America’s media denounces the policies needed to win these wars and replace their values with American ones. The political climate that is needed to make Boot’s program work died with Nazi Germany. Lastly, there is an odd part at the end of the book where Boot defends not going into Rwanda. If there is one place where intervention could’ve done well Rwanda was it. Rwanda was a massacre with primitive weapons and a few thousand trained soldiers could’ve easily stopped the slaughter. I cannot understand why Boot would defend this rather than saying not intervening was a mistake. Especially given his tone in the rest of the book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eric Lanser

    This is an extremely interesting survey of America's "small wars" including: 1. Barbary Pirates in the early 1800s 2. Pacific Islands in mid 1800s 3. China and Korea in the late 1800s as well as the Boxer Rebellion 4. Occupation of the Philippines 5. Polar Expeditions in Russia 1918-1919 6. Banana Wars of the early 20th century 7. Revisiting the various strategies employed in Vietnam with those historical contexts in mind I was particularly surprised to read about the U.S. military operations in China b This is an extremely interesting survey of America's "small wars" including: 1. Barbary Pirates in the early 1800s 2. Pacific Islands in mid 1800s 3. China and Korea in the late 1800s as well as the Boxer Rebellion 4. Occupation of the Philippines 5. Polar Expeditions in Russia 1918-1919 6. Banana Wars of the early 20th century 7. Revisiting the various strategies employed in Vietnam with those historical contexts in mind I was particularly surprised to read about the U.S. military operations in China before and after the Boxer Rebellion. The coverage of the two Russia expeditions was also fascinating. The funny thing about this book was that it was written in 2002, when the war in Afghanistan was already considered a success and the U.S. had yet to intervene in Iraq. Here's a quote: "The Philippine War stands as a monument to the U.S. armed forces' ability to fight and win a major counterinsurgency campaign - one that was bigger and uglier than any America is likely to confront in the future." I'm sure the author was eating his words a few years later. His main thesis is that, based on the Philippines and various missions in Vietnam in which U.S. forces successfully turned the hearts and minds of the population, the U.S. can win a counterinsurgency campaign. Unfortunately, it was this belief strongly held by the proponents of COIN during the Bush Administration that led to the disaster in Iraq.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tim Martin

    Max Boot has written an ambitious and in my mind highly successful book, chronicling all of America's small wars from its founding days through the 1990s, a work that is both authoritative and timely. Boot does not chronicle America's large wars - "conventional, set-piece engagements" generally against large standing armies - and writes that they are not the norm of American military history. Rather the small war, many rather small-scale engagements that often involved few or no casualties, has Max Boot has written an ambitious and in my mind highly successful book, chronicling all of America's small wars from its founding days through the 1990s, a work that is both authoritative and timely. Boot does not chronicle America's large wars - "conventional, set-piece engagements" generally against large standing armies - and writes that they are not the norm of American military history. Rather the small war, many rather small-scale engagements that often involved few or no casualties, has been far more common. In reality there have been four types of small wars engaged in by American forces; punitive (to punish attacks made against American lives or property), protective (designed to safeguard these American lives and property), pacification (to occupy a foreign territory), and profiteering (to grab territory or trade concessions), with some operations serving more than one purpose. Boot chronicles these wars through three major periods of American history; from the late 1700s to the 1890s when the U.S. was a growing commercial though not a military power; from 1898 to 1941 when the U.S. was one of the great powers; and from 1941 when the U.S. was a superpower. Boot notes the changes in mission objectives, strategies, and results in these three eras of American military and foreign policy history. The bulk of this work chronicles these small wars, from the Barbary Pirates war in the early 19th century through our actions in Samoa in 1899, the expedition to China during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, the Philippine War (1899-1902), the U.S. intervention in the Russian Civil War in 1918-1920 (which made for harrowing reading), various deployments and occupations in Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic in the first half of the 20th century (including the famous expedition against Pancho Villa), the actions of the Yangtze River Patrol in China, up to the Vietnam War. This history makes for gripping reading, providing me with a history I know little or nothing about, one filled with personal stories of men who should be famous but who instead are largely forgotten today. We are introduced to such individuals as William Eaton, an "early-day Lawrence of Arabia" who was a U.S. consul to Tunis who helped organized a native and foreign army to dispose the pasha of Tripoli during the Barbary Wars. Another interesting one was Captain David Porter of the U.S. Navy, captain of the _Essex_, who while fighting the British in the Pacific in 1813 crossed 2,500 miles of ocean, put into the Marquesas Islands for repairs, and ended up becoming involved in a native war, trying to annex the islands for the U.S. One of the major stars of this work was Smedly Butler, according to some possibly the greatest Marine who ever lived, who fought in the Spanish-American War, Philippine War, Boxer Uprising, Nicaragua, at Veracruz, Haiti, and again in China in 1927, winning several Medals of Honor, though after retiring becoming an avowed pacifist and opponent of such conflicts. I found his section on the Vietnam War enlightening, analyzing it in the context of the small wars that had occurred before. He notes some of the reasons as to why that war did not end in success; among them the South Vietnamese were trained as a miniature version of the American army, rather than as a much more effective constabulary force - part army, part police - one focused on internal defense, a type that had been highly effective for the US in the Caribbean, the Philippines, and elsewhere; the U.S. was not in direct command of locally recruited soldiers, as South Vietnamese soldiers were often picked for political rather than competence reasons, again contrary to prior U.S. experience in small wars; and one successful program, the Combined Action Program or CAP, which relied on small groups of U.S. soldiers paired with native soldiers stationed to particular villages, concentrating on knowing local villagers and patrolling the region, rather than on ambitious and ultimately frustrating and wasteful "search and destroy" missions in the Highlands and elsewhere, was not adequately supported, despite evidence both in Vietnam and in previous small wars that such programs worked and were even popular with U.S. troops and local citizens. Boot closes the book with a highly useful section on analyzing the future of small wars in American foreign and defense policy. He notes that despite claims that the first Gulf War eliminated the Vietnam Syndrome, American military planners and presidents have been too timid in their deployments overseas, too afraid of generating casualties (particularly for humanitarian missions), believing that the only wars that will achieve any degree of support with the American people are the "sanitized, high-tech warfare" such as was attempted in Kosovo in the late 1990s. Boot writes that not only will this very policy backfire (crippling mission goals and encouraging enemies to attack American forces even more in the belief that any American casualties will force the military to leave their country, among other reasons), but that it is erroneous at its very heart. He writes that in fact the American public is often more motivated in its support of military missions abroad by such factors as the "odds of success and the stakes involved" rather than purely by body count, even if the mission is not purely one dictated by obvious goals centering on national security. He even notes that sometimes casualties can actually increase support for a mission, either for reasons of wanting revenge or notions that those who died should not have died in vain. He cautions that the Powell Doctrine not withstanding (stating that the U.S. should only get involved in wars with a clear national interest, with overwhelming force, and with a clear exit strategy), we will always face wars in which these things will be lacking and that we should prepare for this, wars that while limited in objectives and methods can achieve notable successes.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sam Garcia

    This book is a captivating and thorough account of the small wars in U.S. history. The small wars covered are a case study of national interest, strategic planning, tactical military execution, and political will in the use of the military to implement U.S. foreign policy. Boot has done an excellent job of layering personal stories of individual actors with a clear analysis of the significant strategic lessons of each war to create a book that is exciting to read and relevant. He shows us that t This book is a captivating and thorough account of the small wars in U.S. history. The small wars covered are a case study of national interest, strategic planning, tactical military execution, and political will in the use of the military to implement U.S. foreign policy. Boot has done an excellent job of layering personal stories of individual actors with a clear analysis of the significant strategic lessons of each war to create a book that is exciting to read and relevant. He shows us that the U.S., although not perfect, has a history of policing the globe to make way for global economic expansion, increased public health and education, and protection of human rights. The Savage Wars of Peace is an excellent read for both supporters and opponents of U.S. military intervention across the globe.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Haley

    Okay so this book took me a long time to finish because it is thicc and dense . That being said, it was really great. It included a lot of information I wish I had gotten from the American public education system but Did Not. I tried to pace myself through it (hence why it took so long to read) so I could really digest all of the facts, strategies, wins and failures of the United States Military. While this book was long, it was concise in its explanations and thorough in research. Kudos, Mr. Okay so this book took me a long time to finish because it is thicc and dense . That being said, it was really great. It included a lot of information I wish I had gotten from the American public education system but Did Not. I tried to pace myself through it (hence why it took so long to read) so I could really digest all of the facts, strategies, wins and failures of the United States Military. While this book was long, it was concise in its explanations and thorough in research. Kudos, Mr. Max Boot. Wonderfully informative. Anyways, I would highly recommend reading it if you have any interest in foreign affairs. Or American history.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Fj

    Still Stands 20 Years On Max Boot is one of the few conservative leaning authors who does not dabble in the sanctification of the nation state, founding father worship, or of American exceptionalism. He excels at explaining the quiet parts out loud without using it as proof that the USA is evil. The book provides a forgotten addendum to standard us history books as valuable as a contrast as the 1619 Project or A People's History of the US. He neither glorifies war nor bores the reader. The USA is Still Stands 20 Years On Max Boot is one of the few conservative leaning authors who does not dabble in the sanctification of the nation state, founding father worship, or of American exceptionalism. He excels at explaining the quiet parts out loud without using it as proof that the USA is evil. The book provides a forgotten addendum to standard us history books as valuable as a contrast as the 1619 Project or A People's History of the US. He neither glorifies war nor bores the reader. The USA is convinced that great power conflict demanding big budget purchases is the future...but we are likely to be in small war long before China seizes Taiwan.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    A preeminent book on understanding U.S. military expeditions abroad. Boot does a great job examining how America threw off the yoke of “isolationist” and shifted its strategy to effectively employing its forces overseas to manage its informal empire. Chock full of fascinating information about America’s history of small wars, it’s laid out in a chronological fashion from the Barbary Wars to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps agrees, it’s a must-read for anyone who enjo A preeminent book on understanding U.S. military expeditions abroad. Boot does a great job examining how America threw off the yoke of “isolationist” and shifted its strategy to effectively employing its forces overseas to manage its informal empire. Chock full of fascinating information about America’s history of small wars, it’s laid out in a chronological fashion from the Barbary Wars to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps agrees, it’s a must-read for anyone who enjoys American military history.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joe Collins

    A great overview of the many small wars that the US had fought from the 1800’s to now, and the doctrines that we need to accept in the near future how the future small wars that we will have to fight. The author shows how the different branches all conducted successful counter-insurgencies in the past and how they forgotten the methods that won them. Even if you are not interested in the history of past conflicts, there are very useful nuggets of information on how to succeed in a small war.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    I've been wanting to read a book about the small and forgotten wars that the U.S. has fought over the years. This book educated me on a vast amount of conflicts that I had no idea even went down. From the wars in Tripoli to the current war in Afghanistan, Max Boot is able to explain what happened and why it's important for all the wars he covered (and there are a lot of wars covered). I would recommend this to anyone wanting to learn more about foreign policy, U.S. history, or military history. I've been wanting to read a book about the small and forgotten wars that the U.S. has fought over the years. This book educated me on a vast amount of conflicts that I had no idea even went down. From the wars in Tripoli to the current war in Afghanistan, Max Boot is able to explain what happened and why it's important for all the wars he covered (and there are a lot of wars covered). I would recommend this to anyone wanting to learn more about foreign policy, U.S. history, or military history.

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