Reconsidering the American Way of War

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cover art
232 pp.,
Hardcover
ISBN: 9781626161399 (1626161399)

232 pp.,
Paperback
ISBN: 9781626160675 (1626160678)

eBook
ISBN: 9781626160682


May 2014
LC: 2013034006

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Reconsidering the American Way of War
US Military Practice from the Revolution to Afghanistan
Antulio J. Echevarria II
Challenging several longstanding notions about the American way of war, this book examines US strategic and operational practice from 1775 to 2014. It surveys all major US wars from the War of Independence to the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as most smaller US conflicts to determine what patterns, if any, existed in American uses of force. Contrary to many popular sentiments, Echevarria finds that the American way of war is not astrategic, apolitical, or defined by the use of overwhelming force. Instead, the American way of war was driven more by political considerations than military ones, and the amount of force employed was rarely overwhelming or decisive.

As a scholar of Clausewitz, Echevarria borrows explicitly from the Prussian to describe the American way of war not only as an extension of US policy by other means, but also the continuation of US politics by those means. The book's focus on strategic and operational practice closes the gap between critiques of American strategic thinking and analyses of US campaigns. Echevarria discovers that most conceptions of American strategic culture fail to hold up to scrutiny, and that US operational practice has been closer to military science than to military art.

Providing a fresh look at how America's leaders have used military force historically and what that may mean for the future, this book should be of interest to military practitioners and policymakers, students and scholars of military history and security studies, and general readers interested in military history and the future of military power.
Antulio J. Echevarria II is a retired US Army lieutenant colonel and is currently the editor of the US Army War College Quarterly, Parameters. He is the author of several books, including Clausewitz and Contemporary War.
Reviews
"It is the best synthesis of the American way of war discourse to date and a must-read for students, scholars, service personnel, and government officials interested in military history."—On Point

"Antulio Echevarria II has written an excellent book for historians, military professionals, and others with a good grasp of the history of America's wars. However, his concise survey of over two hundred years of American military strategy and operations will also be useful in college courses."—Michigan War Studies Review

"Provides valuable synopses of the most important campaigns and explains what they reveal about developments in military practice, demonstrating the variety of ways in which US leaders have adapted their approaches to military force to fit the circumstances."—Foreign Affairs

"Provides a valuable counterpoint to a topic relevant to current debates about American strategy and policy. It is always beneficial to understand clearly from whence one comes before determining where one ought to go."—Lieutenant Colonel Brian L. Steed, US Army, Proceedings

"Asserts quite convincingly that what people actually did is at least as important and instructive as what they thought or said."—US Military History Review, Robert S. Ehlers, Jr.

"Reconsidering the American Way of War is a thoughtful, rich, and convincing examination of how and why the United States has used military force to accomplish national objectives throughout its history. Echevarria dismantles the various proponents of a unique American 'way of war' by proving that  US military practice has always been shaped by the politics of the moment. His thesis that there is no unifying theory is refreshing in its clarity and rife with strategic and operational implications. This book demands attention; a must-read for military officers, politicians, academics—and pundits—who all too often ignore the inherently pragmatic nature of the American approach to war in their attempts to shape the policy debate."—David E. Johnson, director, chief of staff of the Army Strategic Studies Group and author of Fast Tanks and Heavy Bombers: Innovation in the U.S. Army, 1917-1945 and Hard Fighting: Israel in Lebanon and Gaza

"A must-read for those convinced that there exists an 'American way of war' that emphasizes overwhelming mass and crushing victory no matter the strategic goals. Echevarria's brief but remarkably thorough survey of American military history highlights enormous variety in military practice, no consistent achievement of overwhelming mass, and far more attention to political control than is commonly acknowledged."—Thomas McNaugher, Professor & Director of Studies, Center for Security Studies (CSS), Georgetown University

"This book is both the best analysis of the American way of war debate and a provocative historical interpretation of how the US has waged war. An essential contribution to one of the most significant issues in current US military policy."—Brian McAllister Linn, Ralph R. Thomas Professor of Liberal Arts, Texas A&M University

Table of Contents
Preface

I. Preludes
1. American Ways of War: Turns in Interpretation
2. American Strategic Culture: An Elusive Fiction
3. American Military Art: A Misleading Analogy

II. American Military Practice
4. The Revolutionary War to the Mexican War
5. The Civil War to the Boxer Rebellion
6. The Caribbean Wars to the Korean War
7. The Guatemalan Coup to the War on Terrorism

Conclusion and Observations
Bibiography
Index