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19 February 2006

Small wars

The nature of unconventional warfare is surprisingly enduring, as is the direct experience of war itself over the centuries. For all of the innovation in technologies, armaments, and the very record of war itself, some lessons remain starkly engraved. These become our narratives, repeated and relayed from generation to generation so that knowledge may at least have its shadow handed down - for no one can truly yet adequately convey the visceral experience of combat to another. It is a life experience that has no equal - it must be gone through first hand.

However, our narratives have been shaped in recent decades by media sources which are not often helpful and certainly not favourable. The myth of the burned out Vietnam conflict veteran, despite being convincingly debunked by data profiling actual veterans and the efforts to expose many frauds and charlatans that have misappropriated the name for their own male compensatory fantasy; haunts us still. The myth of the Cold War as bloodless, despite the loss of so many brave men in the shadows. The myth of Desert Storm as surgical and "clean".

Worse yet is the complete lack of narrative structure regarding the small wars in countries of Latin America, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere that have predominately characterized the military instrument in American foreign policy for decades. It is rare to see these brushfire conflicts and forgotten campaigns highlighted in contemporary discourse.

For this reason, we refer the readers to the latest posting over at Belmont Club regarding just such a fight. And for those seeking follow-on, Max Boot's Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power is also well worth the read.

For in this century, these are the narratives that will be of value in shaping our response to the wars we must fight, not the "good wars" of WWI & WWII. The ground may even be the same as our earliest conflicts.