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Rise of the Western Way of War

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At the start of the sixteenth century, Europe appeared the least impressive of the global civilizations, certainly the least likely to achieve a dominant position in the world. Europe was little more than a conglomeration of small, nasty states and cities, sharing a common religion and a common, ferocious desire to fight each other. Moreover, that common religion was about to be shattered by the Reformation.

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The western way of war consists of five foundations that have shaped a significant amount of military cultures; the foundations are superior technology, discipline, a finance system, innovation, and military tradition. Perhaps people believe that discipline is not one of the most important foundations of the western way of war, since people tend to emphasize technology. However, discipline is the key to maximizing the other four foundations before and during conflict. Historian Geoffrey Parker agrees that technology can give a military advantage, but it is not sufficient without superior discipline

That is because discipline consists of the ability of armies to act within battle plans even when not supervised, obey orders, exercise loyalty, and restrain their fears when faced with danger. Discipline as a western way of war has influenced military cultures from the Roman Empire to today’s militaries. Discipline shaped military cultures by how they prepared for war, effectively giving them the ability to act during combat and expanding commander’s operational reach, thus aiding in conflicts throughout history and increasing the likelihood of defeating the adversary. Discipline influenced how militaries prepared to fight and win wars, such as conducting drill and training before going to war. Drill instilled discipline and was essential to the way troops behaved during war.

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In brief, what passes for debate on matters relating to national security is a sham. Thus are we invited to believe, for example, that General Petraeus's appointment as the umpteenth U.S. commander in Afghanistan constitutes a milestone on the way to ultimate success. Nearly 20 years ago, a querulous Madeleine Albright demanded to know: "What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?" Today, an altogether different question deserves our attention: What's the point of constantly using our superb military if doing so doesn't actually work? Washington's refusal to pose that question provides a measure of the corruption and dishonesty permeating our politics.

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