Report for the Military Conflict Institute
July 1994
John Sloan


The author intends the book to address the r eader on three levels

(1) the presentation of specific facts describing the content of military history,

(2) the development of generalizations about the nature of warfare in specific times and places as well as the course of its development during prehistoric and historic times,

(3) the philosophical outlook and conclusions Keegan wants the reader to draw from his exposition.


Page 60

Keegan begins this chapter and page with the statement of the core of his philosophy and by inference the purpose of the book.
"to look forward to a future in which recourse to war has been brought under rational limitation should not lead us into the false view that there have been no limitations on warmaking in the past."
The book itself is a passionate effort by Keegan to provide support for this effort to bring warmaking under rational limitation. By implication he believes such an effort is critical for civilization.
He goes on to point out that the "higher political and ethical systems attempted to impose legal and moral restrictions both on the use of war and its usages from early times."

Despite pointing this out, he persists in denying that war is a "continuation of politics".
He writes, "the most important limitations on warmaking however, have always lain beyond the will or power of man to command."
Keegan goes on to show that he means by this that geographical factors place natural limitations, but the sentence itself sounds like he thinks that absent such factors "beyond man's control" man would be unable or less likely to restrict warfare.
He ignores quite a few eras in which warfare in the West was in fact restricted by mutual agreement of the parties involved.

Page 80: "At a hopeful time in human history, a time of effective disarmament and of the adoption of humanitarianism as a principle in world affairs, the layman naturally seeks reassurance that the drafters of the Seville Statement have right on their side".


1. politics is not related to warfare;
2. modern politics and the culture that spawns it is liberal, hence benign, and even humanitarian in purpose and nature;
3. the horrors besetting modern society therefore are generated by an autonomous "warfare" run amok in a cultural setting that fostered it;
4. this situation may be corrected by establishment of a class of "warriors" dedicated to the common good of world civilization, who will be able to suppress whatever violence is manifested by evil minded individuals.


The solution, only hinted at in the final pages, is to turn all control over to a one world state, which will deploy a corps of specially trained "warriors" who like Plato's Guardians, will enforce civilized behavior on recalcitrant mankind.


It is not a conventional military history
It is not a refutation of Clausewitz
It is not an inditement of Western (European) Civilisation
It is a passionate and emotion laden plea for an end to war through world government.


Page 6 - Burning of Moscow
Page 7 - Cossack "cruelty"
Page 21 - Politics played no part in World War I worth mentioning
Page 27 - "Politics is practiced to serve culture."
Page 27 - Bouganville's reports of Tahiti - noble savage - were correct.
Page 32- Mamelukes - A different culture but he ignores the internal and external politics
Page 36 - No son of a Mameluke could become one.
Page 63 - He misunderstands Soviet concept of "permanently operating factors".
Page 65 - Galley warfare was amphibious with fleets tied to land armies
Page 71 - Description of location of Adrianople is faulty
Page 72 - Direction of flow of Russian rivers wrong
Page 72 - Location of headwaters of Dnieper wrong
Page 73 - Location of Russian Zasechnaya Cherta wrong
Page 75 - "none of the regimes founded by Genghis or his immediate successors lasted for more than a century." - very wrong
Page 86 - He mentions Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, and Margaret Mead. He rightly notes the great influence Margaret Mead's _Coming of Age in Samoa_ had. But he never mentions that Margaret Mead has been exposed as a fraud and her book as a figment of her over active imagination as well as cover up for her own sexual propensities.
Page 147- Location of Russian Zasechnaya Cherta wrong again
Page 150-151 "All the works of siegecraft available to commanders before the invention of gunpowder were, therefore, devised between 2400 and 397 BC." "The taking of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099 with a siege tower was an exceptional event." -wrong


Page 151- "We ought therefore, to treat with extreme reserve all representations of siegecraft and siege engines, if offered as evidence of their importance in the art of war at any time before the gunpowder age. "Assyrian wall-paintings and sculpture reliefs of royal triumphs under the walls of cities are no more to be relied upon as testimony of contemporary actualities than the heroic portraits of Napoleon by David and Le Gros..." - wrong for ancient military and wrong for medieval military as well
Page 176- The Egyptian army at Quadish "appears to have had fifty chariots and 5000 soldiers".
Page 178: Location of Palestine wrong.
Page 178: The Persian army continued to rely on the chariot. - no it did not 'rely'
Page 180: "gateways" between Europe and Asia, "the western gateways - at each end of the Caucasus mountains, in the gap between the Caspian and Aral seas, and around the top of the Black Sea into the Adrianople corridor - which are narrower and easier to defend."
Page 184: "the province of Dacia (modern Hungary)" - no it was in part modern Rumania
Page 205: It is unlikely that Mongol armies "included contingents of armored cavalry." - no, not only Mongols but many Turkic peoples
Page 207 The Mongol system "included no means for legitimizing the rule of a single successor". - the election system was considered legitimate.
Page 223-4:"Military sociologists take as their premise the proposition that any system of military organization expresses the social order from which it springs." Here Keegan mentions Stanislav Andrzejewski (he calls him Stanislav Andreski)
Page 257: Keegan gives a good summary of the Persian and Peloponesian wars, but does not mention the importance of sieges. He notes the decisive Spartan victory at Aegospotami, when the Athenian fleet was destroyed and the city cut from its grain supply. This naval battle had nothing to do with an adjacent land battle or army. This contradicts Keegan's earlier assertions about Greek naval battles being tied to land campaigns.
He then mentions as well the Athenian-Persian naval victory over Sparta's navy at Cnidus in 384: another naval battle not tied to a land campaign or ground forces.
Page 259- the Persian army was still centered on a chariot nucleus. - no it was not

Page 262- Alexander found Darius dead from wounds just inflicted by his courtiers.
Page 272- Writing about Hasdrubal Barca's movement from Spain to Italy, Keegan calls it "a fighting retreat to the Adriatic". It was a long planned offensive just as Hannibal's campaign
Page 272- "to forestall the first recorded large-scale migration -the Romans had encountered, that of the Helvetii from modern Switzerland,.."
Page 273- the Romans "had formidable experience of and skills in siege warfare" but in the earlier chapter he discounted siege warfare. But whether they benefited from knowledge about the Assyrians is questionable.
Page 274- Octavian was Caesar's nephew
Page 275- Keegan says Claudius was the successor of Augustus.
Page 276- Keegan again says Dacia was modern Hungary, when it was mostly in Romania.
Page 279- "on the lower Nile, where the Romans found the Numidians as implacable as the Pharaohs had done. -
Page 283- "institutions of the Christian church, firmly established in its Roman rather than Nestorian form thanks to the conversion of the Franks in 496." The Nestorians were far to the east - Keegan is thinking of the Arian heresy.
Page 292- "Burgundian duke became king of Jerusalem".
Page 322- Charles VIII's victory "his artillery gave him victory in the main battle of the ensuing War of the Holy League, Fornovo..." It was not the main battle
Page 322- "Opposed weight engines (catapults) threw projectiles that struck only glancing blows at such walls, while torsion-machines, ..."
Page 328- a crossbow ia a mechanical device with clockwork wound against a spring. He notes the appearance of crossbows in ancient China and says they did not appear in Europe until the end of the thirteenth century AD.
"The mechanism and shape of the crossbow readily lent itself to adaptation for gunpowder use. The crossbow's stock, which was held against the shoulder and had to be strong enough to support the sudden shock of the spring's release, provided a pattern for a similar wooden shape into which a lightened cannon barrel could be laid. The crossbow's recoil, when the trigger was pulled, would have accustomed its user to the sort of blow against the shoulder a firearm threw at the moment of detonation.".
Page 329- Keegan writes that Machiavelli did not specify how the infantry in his model army should be armed. - He went into detail about this.
Page 341- "It is conjectured that the Macedonians drilled their phalanxes, though the simplicity of phalanx tactics makes that hard to credit."


Acknowledgements - Description of Gulf War and War in Bosnia

Introduction - Category of "warrior"

Page 3 - What is war "not the continuation of politics"
Page 3 and 5 - War implies existance of states and politics between states
Page 3 - Violence is a cultural aberation
Page 6 - attributes to Clausewitz purpose for making war acceptable to officers
Page 6 - Clausewitz was advancing a universal theory of what war OUGHT to be. (ie total)
Page 6 -7 Clausewitz "ought to have known"
Page 7 - outlook on Greek war of independence
Page 7 - Clausewitz outlook on war was defective on cultural level
Page 16-19 Discussion of Clausewitz concepts of ideal and real war
Page 18 - Comparison of Clausewitz and Marx
Page 22 - He tries to make Clausewitz into the ideological father of WWI
page 23 - Clausewitz was hindered by narrow outlook
Page 27 - Clausewitz failed to see that "his philosophy of warfare was a recipe for the destruction of European culture."
Page 28 - Indicates that one of the book's themes is why it is that successful warrior systems... become fossilised.
Page 39 - Faults Clausewitz for not appreciating significance of Mameluke culture. He can't resist digs, "But Clausewitz, if he knew the facts, did not draw the inference." "how much more persistent culture is than political decision as a military determinant."
Page 40 - He admires Samurai "culture" for its ability to disarm the population of Japan. Fails to discuss political aspects or why the samurai bosses favored a disarmed population.
Page 48 - Quotes Liddel Hart as authority on Clausewitz
Page 50-60 - Remilitarization of society
Page 63 - Earliest form of naval warfare was piratical rather than political
Page 64 - Vikings were "nihilists" He has special dislike for Vikings
Page 75 - "The tide of war tends to flow one way - from poor lands to rich, and very rarely in the opposite direction".
Page 75- "War is always limited, not because man chooses to make it so, but because nature determines that it shall be".
Page 75- "Half of human nature - the female half - is in any case highly ambivalent about warmaking".
Page 79- Discussion of behavioralists and sociologists and their views of man's nature. It is violent?
Keegan writes that the majority reject the idea that man is naturally violent and also that they reject the Christian belief in original sin. Here I must be in the minority because I firmly believe both.
Page 80- discusses anthropologists views on nature versus nurture.
Page 98- "The Yanomomo in short seem to have got intuitively to Clausewitz's point and to have passed beyond it".
Page 103- "If the Maring showed reluctance for the decisive battle, showed indeed that they did not consider the point of battle necessarily to be outright victory on the battlefield, then it is permissible to suppose that other peoples at a similar level of material culture did likewise?"


Page 113ff. Aztec warfare "Meanwhile in preColumbian America ... a cultural ethic limited its greater potentiality for Clausewitz's decisive battle to an even more arresting degree."
"It does not suffice as an explanation of what the warriors were about en masse on the battlefield, not at any rate for moderns who expect wars to have a material point, and loss of human life to bear a proportionate relation to it".
"the temptation is to dismiss Aztec warfare as an aberration, having no connection with any system of strategy or tactics that we would consider rational."
"It was an enormously rich society, which could afford the wastefulness of sacrificing captives in thousands, rather than putting them to productive work or selling them into slavery elsewhere."
Page 114- "The Aztecs who fought were warriors, not soldiers; that is to say, they expected and were expected to fight because of the place they held in the social order, not because of obligation or for pay".
Keegan completely misunderstands Aztec warfare.


Page 122- "organize themselves for conquest and occupation they almost certainly did not".
Page 123- "Until the founding of the regular army under the New Kingdom, Egyptian warfare remained strangely old-fashioned." .."the reason for the Egyptian's tendency to cling to a superseded technology is hard to find"..
Page 139- "Charioteers were the first great aggressors in human history." Moreover, they "altered the world in which civilized arts of peace had begun to flourish."
Page 143- "Egyptian frontier policy in Nubia was a model for later imperialists".
Page 144- "It would be wrong to surmise, however, that the principles that underlay the construction of Jericho or Semna (Egyptian frontier) were rapidly or widely disseminated".
Page 149- "Eventually western Europe was re-fortified, but in a pattern that would have rightly caused a Chinese dynasty nothing but alarm."
Page 155- "The adoption of the war chariot and the imposition of the power of war charioteers throughout the centers of Eurasian civilization in the space of some 300 years is one of the most extraordinary episodes in world history."
Page 160- Much generalization about farmers versus hunters as proper warrior material.
Page 169- "the role of kings in the civilized world that we must regard as the most significant, lasting and baleful effect of warrior domination of the ancient theocratic states."
"The legacy of the chariot was the warmaking state".
Page 173- "Chariot grandees, like later cavaliers, thus may have already begun to reckon that quarrels between them were best settled by chivalric encounter." Keegan cites some examples from China.
Page 178- "We may regard the steppe nomads as one of the most significant - and baleful - forces in military history."
Page 179- Keegan shifts directly from chariots to the cavalry of the steppe horse peoples. He does not discuss in the course of treating the Assyrian army the introduction of iron, which was extremely important in changing the nature of warfare and ending the dominance of the chariot. He comes back to iron in a later chapter on page 237, but then hardly mentions its significance to the Assyrians.
Page 183- "nature seems to impose limits on the depth of penetration that nomads can make into settled land."
Page 188- The Horse peoples - "theirs had been an extraordinary rise to power in little more than 1500 years."
Page 188- "Attila had shown an ability to shift his strategic center of effort - schwerpunkt, as Prussian general staff doctrine later denoted it -".
He continues, "No such strategic maneuver had been attempted or had been possible before".
Page 189- "the horse and human ruthlessness together thus transformed war, making it for the first time 'a thing in itself'. We can thenceforth speak of 'militarism', an aspect of societies in which the mere ability to make war, readily and profitably, becomes a reason in itself for doing so."
"yet militarism is a concept that cannot be applied to any horse people, since it presumes the existence of an army as an institution dominant over but separate from other social institutions. "
"All the horse peoples.. fought 'true war' by all the tests - lack of limitation in the use of force, singularity of purpose and unwillingness to settle for anything less than outright victory. Yet their warfare had no political object in the Clausewitzian sense, and no culturally transforming effect."
Page 202- On Sun Tzu. "In its emphasis on avoiding battle except with the assurance of victory, of disfavoring risk, of seeking to overawe an enemy by psychological means, and of using time rather than force to wear an invader down (all concepts recognized to be profoundly anti-Clausewitzian by twentieth-century strategists".
Page 205- "siege warfare in the pre- gunpowder age was a laborious and time consuming method of breaking into strongholds whose defenders were determined to resist. But the Mongols "nevertheless overwhelmed a whole succession of fortified places in the East and West ... we must conclude that the garrisons generally gave up without a struggle." Absurd in the extreme, tell that to the Muscovites or the Assassins.
Page 214- "it is not fanciful to suggest that the awful fate of the Incas and the Aztecs - at the hand of the Spanish conquistadors ultimately harked back to Genghis himself." Theconquistadors intermarried with Inca and Aztec women.
Page 216- Clausewitz again among the Cossacks.
"Clausewitz himself owed much more to it than his ordered mind would ever allow him to recognize."
Page 221- "Clausewitz was unable to recognize an alternative military tradition in the Cossacks' style of warmaking because he could recognize as rational and worthwhile only one form of military organization, the paid and disciplined forces of the bureaucratic state. He could not see that other forms might equally well serve their societies, and well defend them."
"Inadvertently, he admitted the part the opolchenie played in driving the Grand Army ..."
Page 222- "It is not fanciful to trace a descent from the paintbox little army of Berthier's principality to the praetorians of the Waffen SS panzer divisions".
Page 226- Keegan comments on the male and female principles are epitomized in the warrior and actress.
He writes that some men can only be warriors - soldiers. "the intoxication of the warpath" the "allure that the warrior life exerts over the male imagination."
Page 227- Keegan gives a generally good discussion of the place of warriors in civilized society. But then says Tamerlane did not descend to the bloody level of the Vikings.
Page 232- "it is even more tempting to propose that the Greeks' principal contribution to warmaking - that of the pitched battle, fought on foot at a fixed site until one side or the other conceded defeat - made its way back to the Germans via Rome, in barbarian times. The evidence, however, may not stand such a weight of supposition."
Page 232- Keegan mentions Machiavelli and notes he drafted the ordinance for the Florentine militia.
Page 235- "Politics had become the extension of war and the age-old dilemma of states - of how to maintain efficient armies that were both affordable and reliable - had revealed itself to be as far from solution as when Sumer had first laid out its revenues to pay for soldiers. "
Page 264- "Rome's imperial motives are much disputed by scholars." He seems to agree with the William Harris, whom he quotes "Economic gain was to the Romans an integral part of successful warfare and of the expansion of power."
Keegan does not examine the personal political aspects of Roman military policy, either external nor internal. And it is internal politics as well as external, sometimes even more than external that is what it meant by the concept that war is the extension of politics. Moreover, many would say that it was desire for glory that motivated much Roman offensive warfare. And glory was not only an end in itself but the key to political success.
Page 266- "Romans preserved from somewhere in their primitive past sufficient of the psychology of the hunter to fall on fellow humans as if on animal prey, and do their victims to death with as little regard for life as is sometimes shown by one wild species for another."
Page 277- "The notion that Roman warmaking any more than Alexander's was Clausewitzian in essence bears very little weight." "Rome, perhaps also vain-glorious, certainly entertained no conception of 'war as the continuation of politics' since it granted to none of its enemies, not even the Parthians or Persians, the dignity of civic status."
Page 278- "while they sometimes of necessity resorted to diplomacy they did so for reasons of expediency alone, not as one state treating with its equivalent."
Page 293- "Militarily, the Crusades provide us with the most accurate picture we possess of both the culture and the nature of European warfare in the long interregnum between the disappearance of the disciplined armies of Rome and the reappearance of the state forces in the sixteenth century."
Page 297- "Medieval battles defy reconstruction from the evidence"."The idea that armored knights riding knee to knee with couched lances in dense waves of successive ranks, could have charged home against each other without instantaneous catastrophe to both sides at the moment of impact defies belief."
"The iron warfare of the Middle Ages, like that of the Greeks, was a bloody and 'horrible affair', made all the worse by its relentless regularity and the bloodthirsty courage of those who bound themselves to it." a "certain hard primitivism" lurked beneath the surface.
"but in either case, the power of iron, that delusively cheap and common metal, had run its course."
Page 303- "it was Roman roads that made the legions who built them so effective an instrument of imperial power. " "decay (of the roads) meant the end to strategic marching everywhere for more than a thousand years".
Page 330- Keegan characterizes the battles of Ravenna (1512) and Marignano (1515) as "unperecedented, rarely to be repeated and quite bizarre in nature".
Page 331- He continues the discussion of the mounted nobility "trapped in the ethos which accorded warrior status only to horsemen and to infantry prepared to stand and fight..."
Page 332- "If guns had to take their place on the battlefield, then let it be behind ramparts, which was where missile weapons had always belonged."
Page 332- Keegan makes much of the "cultural roots" of the mounted aristocrat's resistance to gunpowder weapons. "As we have seen, the Greeks of the phalanx age were the first warriors of whom we have detailed knowledge who cast aside the evasiveness of primitive warfare and confronted their like-minded enemies face- to-face.... The Romans of the early republic accepted the logic of Greek methods also, indeed probably learnt them from the Greek colonists of southern Italy. One might suppose that it was the Romans' encounter with first the Gauls, then the Teutonic peoples from beyhond the Rhine, which progressively transmitted the havit of face-to-face fighting to them as well."
Keegan himself continues shortly, "However, it seems clear that the Gauls fought face-to-face before they even met the Romans... and the Germans ...were also doing so before they met the Romans..."
"A line of division between that battle tradition (the Western way of War) and the indirect, evasive and stand-offstyle of combat characteristic of the steppe and the near and Middle East: east of the steppe and south-east of the Black Sea, warriors continued to keep their distance from their enemies: west of the steppe and south-west of the Black Sea, warriors learned to abandon caution and to close to arm's length." "All that can be said is that if there is such a thing as the "military horizon" there is also a "face-to-face" combat frontier, and that Westerners belong by tradition on oneside of it, and most other peoples on the other."
"The reasons for this final abandonment of the psychology and conventions of primitivism in the West and for their persistence elsewhere baffles analysis."
Page 338- "Their ritualised style of combat also unfitted them to confront Europeans who fought to win rather than to take sacrificial captives; but in a contest of hundreds against thousands, it was their horses that gave the invaders the decisive advantage."
Page 345- "The opposed properties of these three elements of eighteenth-century armies, musketry, artillery, cavalry, thus brought about a strange equilibrium on pitched battlefields, leading to what Professor Russell Weigley has identified as a persistent indecisiveness in the succession of struggles fought by the dynastic monarchies in western Europe...."
Page 345- "In an effort to diminish the indecisiveness of their warmaking, European armies turned increasingly to the enlistment of traditional warrior peoples, hoping that their irregular methods would sharpen the offensive qualities of the liveried masses."
Page 347- "The North American colonists' war with Britain..... was the first truly political war..."
Page 350- "Bernadotte (who, trumping any of Alexander's generals, ended his career as king of Sweden)."
Page 353- "Machiavelli had modest objectives, however, He merely sought to give practical advice to othermen like himself, members of the political class of rich Renaissance city states. Clausewitz's intellectual ambitions verged on the megalomaniac.. Like his contemporary, Marx, he claimed to have penetrated the inner and fundamental reality of the phenomenon he took as his subject. He did not deal in advice; he dealt in what he insisted were inescapable truths. War was the continuation of politics by other means, and any government which blinded itself to that truth doomed itself to harsh treatment at the hands of an unblinkered opponent."
Page 354- "Since the objects of the First World War were determined in great measure by the thoughts that were Clausewitz's, in the war's aftermath he came to be regarded as the intellectual begetter of a historical catastrophe; B. H. Liddell Hart, then Britain's most influential military writer, pilloried him as "the Mahdi of Mass". Then Keegan again engaged in typical waffleing, "This estimate of his influence seems exaggerated."
Page 372- Keegan ascribes Hitler's objectives to his being a "Clausewitzian". "Revolutionary weapons, the warrior ethos and the Clausewitzian philosophy of integrating military with political ends were to ensure that, under Hitler's hand, warmaking in Europe between 1939 and 1945 achieved a level of totality of which no previous leader - not Alexander, not Muhammed, not Genghis, not Napoleon - had ever dreamed."
Page 384- "It teaches us to what afflictions war may subject us when we refuse to deny the Clausewitzian idea that war is a continuation of politics, and refuse to recognize that politics leading to war are a poisonous intoxication." " To turn away from the message Clausewitz preached,..." "The habits of the primitive - devotees themselves of restraint, diplomacy and negotiation - deserve relearning."

Page 386-392: Conclusion:

He bases his conclusion even on the very generalizations he had been forced to modify, question, or discount in the previous chapters.
He gives high marks both to primitive and to Chinese methods of warfare. But he misunderstands Chinese warfare.
He paints a remarkable picture of the "neighbourliness" of civilized mankind.
He again asserts that, "Culture, is, nevertheless, a prime determinant of the nature of warfare, as the history of its development in Asia clearly demonstrates."
He says Oriental warfare has different traits from Western, without ever pointing out the differing political contexts in China and Europe.
"Restraint in warmaking was a also a feature of the other dominant civilization of Asia, that of Islam."
He repeats the previously written generalizations about Islamic warfare, which "eventually became almost as circumscribed as within Chinese civilisation."
He repeats the acusation that it is Western culture and civilisation which is responsible for inventing a uniquely lethal kind of warfare. "The emperor Darius is a genuinely tragic figure".
He again asserts that "The ethic of the battle to the death on foot - we must say on foot for it is associated with infantry rather than cavalry fighting - then made its way from the Greek to the Roman world via the presence in southern Italy of Greek colonists. How it was transmitted, as it certainly must have been, to the Teutonic peoples with whom Rome fought its conclusive and eventually unsuccessful battles for survival has not been, and perhaps never will be reconstructed. The Teutonic invaders were, nevertheless, face-to-face warriors without doubt; but for that they would surely not have defeated Roman armies ... A peculiar achievement of the Teutonic successor kingdoms was to assimilate the face-to-face style with combat on horseback, so that the Western knight, unlike the steppe nomad, pressed home his charge against the main body of the enemy..."

There is more - but this shows how he refuses to give up concepts he himself has questioned when not to do so would have been simply too obvious.
He notes that Asian culture adhered "to a concept of military restraint that required its elites to persist in the use and monopoly of traditional weapons, .... and that this persistence was a perfectly rational form of arms control."
He continues, "The Western world, by forsaking arms control, embarked on a different course, which resulted in the form of warfare that Clausewitz said was war itself; a continuation of politics, which he saw as intellectual and ideological, bu means of combat, which he took to be face-to-face, with the instruments of the Western technological revolution, which he took for granted."
Here he purposely mixes Clausewitz concept of ideal versus real war with the idea of war being related to politics to assert that Clausewitz believed ideal war was the political objective. Actually Clausewitz believed that ideal war was not even possible in the real world.
He continues, "Politics must continue; war cannot." A clear summary of the emotional position which generated this entire book.

The culmination of Keegan's offensive is reached in the final paragraphs.
"That is not to say that the role of the warrior is over. The world community needs, more than it has ever done, skilful and disciplined warroirs who are ready to putthemselves at the service of its authority. Such warriors must properly be seen as the protectors of civilisation, not its enemies. The style in which they fight for civilisation - against ethnic bigots, regional warlords, ideological intransigents, common pillagers and organized international criminals - cannot derive from the Western model of warmaking alone. Future peace keepers and peacemakers have much to learn from alternative military cultures, not only that of the Orient but of the primitive world also.... There is an even greater wisdom in the denial that politics and war belong within the same continuum..."

In other words Keegan would have a world authority institute an Oriental style despotism by disarming all the civilians outside its exclusive "warrior" police force. This force would wage its war on all manner of political uncorrectness in the name of civilisation.
Plato considered something of this sort to be an ideal for a small, homogenous city. Lenin has something of the sort in mind on a world scale in "State and Revolution".

We may be thankful that Keegan's vision will also founder on the intractable human desire for individual freedom.


Page 47 "If you have no more to tell us", Voltaire declared, "than that one barbarian succeeded another on the banks of the Oxus or Ixartes, what use are you to the public?"
Keegan takes this to be a "contemptuous dismissal of the importance of events on the banks of the Oxus" which "strikes Clausewitzian theory a blow."

Keegan siezed on this because the Oxus is one of his favorite locales to show military culture. He continues, "Military historians now recognise that the banks of the Oxus are to warfare what Westminster is to parliamentary democracy or the Bastille to revolutions."
He continues, "It was across the Oxus that successive waves of Central Asian conquerors and despoilers .... borne into the Western world.
He says the Ottoman sultans recruited their slave soldiers on the Oxus and from this jumps to the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683 which was a traumatic event for Clausewitz's contemporaries, and from that to the statement that, "A theory of war that did not take into account the Oxus and all it stood for was a defective theory. Clausewitz constructed such a theory, none the less, and with calamitous effects."
But the main Ottoman slave soldiers came from the Balkans. The previous slave soldiers (mamlukes) came from Ukraine.


Page 73: Keegan writes, "David Hanson, ( sic, it is Victor) in his breathtakingly original study of warmaking in classical Greece, is persuasive that it was the small landholders of the Greek city states who invented the idea of the "decisive battle". Another illustration of ignorance of warfare in China.

Here we come to one of the foundation stones of Keegan's edifice. The reader should be aware that we have something of a "mutual admiration society" confronting us in that Hanson extols Keegan for his attention to the action and thought of the individual soldier on the field of battle (page 24-25) while Keegan, for his part, wrote an adulatory introduction to Hanson's book.
But Hanson writes himself that "If there is a theme to this brief essay, it is, I confess, the _misery_ of hoplite battle." Indeed that is the whole extent of his book and it is a fine piece of writing for what it examines. But "hoplite battle" is not the entirety of a Greek battle and battle certainly is by no means close to being the entirety of Greek warfare.
Hanson and his publishers expanded the putative scope of his fine study beyond recognition by titling his book "The Western Way of War". And Keegan has jumped on this theme and twisted it even more to suit his purposes.
Hanson's study of the psychological essence of hoplites in combat relates to the study of warfare as a handbook on carburetor repair relates to the study of national vehicular transportation policy. In this book he does not describe any battles and doesn't even mention the wars. And he does not discuss the religious, cultural, economic, or social aspects of Greek society on a macro scale or how warfare fit into society. But he does do this in other books.
Hanson's book and John Keegan's introduction were thoroughly reviewed by John Buckler in Journal of Military History. Buckler notes the extreme limited scope of Hanson's objective. He goes on with the following. "It gives no pleasure to say that it (Keegan's introduction) is unfortunately incompetent and misleading regarding the political and social aspects of Greek military history."
Page 94: Keegan again, "combat is the heart of warfare, the act by which men are maimed or killed in numbers, the activity that divides war from mere hostility". The statement is quite true, but throughout the book it seems that Keegan thinks combat is not only the heart of warfare but war itself, (all there is to war). In my opinion combat bears the same relation to war as roasting a side of beef does to serving a full banquet. It is an important aspect, but by no means the whole. Moreover, sometimes merely the threat of combat is sufficient to accomplish the objectives of war. The point was made by Clausewitz, among others.

He leaves out the religious basis of the Greek city state and the inherent limitations it had from the political point of view on expansion or absorbing newcomers.
Page 244: Here Keegan takes up in detail the so called "western war of warfare" popularized by Victor Hanson. He discusses phalanx warfare. He points to the intense attachment of the Greek citizen to his smallholding but fails to point to the powerful religious reason for this. He continues to describe Hanson's idea about the short, pitched battle and its relation to the Greek farming life etc. He seems to equate the escalation of battle into a particularly bloody business with warfare as a whole being of this sort.
Hanson and Keegan completely ignore the many lengthy sieges and extended campaigns conducted during the Persian and Peloponesian wars and after. The concept that Greek warfare consisted exclusively of short, sharp, set-piece battles is false.

Page 246: Here Keegan is discussing combat, not warfare.
As for the Greek reasons for fighting and conducting war, he ignores the political situation all together. He comments on the influence of competitive athletics on the battlefield as a contest.
Page 248: Here is a good discussion on the mechanics of a Greek battle. Keegan even notes the religious sacrifice that preceded it as well as the religious funeral that followed, but without tying this to the nature of warfare as a whole.
Page 249: "Hanson has brilliantly and imaginatively reconstructed this ghastly and wholly revolutionary style of warmaking."

I disagree, he has clearly described a particular style of combat - not warmaking, and not so 'revolutionary'.

Page 250: Keegan notes that Socrates fought as a citizen in the battle of Delion in 424. How does this square with his view of the warrior not being a civilized person?
Page 251: Here Keegan describes the aftermath of a Greek battle in detail. But he cannot explain what happened because he refuses to consider the political purposes of the combat and warfare, or how the political was an aspect of the cultural.
He notes that the casualties in battle and close pursuit might reach 15%, then notes that the losses might have been much greater if the winners had pressed home their victory. "Generally they did not."
"both sides were content to exchange their dead under truce".
Keegan himself asks "Why since Greek battle partook of such unprecedented ferocity, did Greek war lack what moderns would see as a justifying culmination in destruction of the defeated army?"

We should not assume the Greek battle had "unprecedented ferocity". Why does combat ferocity necessitate culmination in destruction of the defeated army? Perhaps the political objectives don't warrant it. Perhaps the ability to be ferocious in combat can't be translated into the capacity to inflict decisive defeat in a war.
He quotes Hanson that "Ultimate victory in the modern sense and enslavement of the conquered was not considered an option by either side." Keegan proposes two explanations for this "strange incompleteness of Greek warfare". But some conquered peoples WERE enslaved.
Note here is does differentiate combat from warfare. But enslavement of the conquered population was indeed expressly considered an option, as the long speeches on this very subject in Thucydides narrative expressly show. In fact examination and commentary on this discussion has been one of the centerpieces of classical scholarship.
Keegan says Greek warfare retrained traces of primitivism - that is ritual warfare that included revenge "the taking of satisfaction, also a very primitive emotion, may then explain why the response stopped short of Clausewitzian decision. " face to face fighting with death dealing weapons defies nature." Then he notes as a second reason "Moreover, it is by no means certain that the idea of conquest in the modern sense was acceptable to the Greeks, at least as between Greek and Greek." He is talking nonsense, but he does not know why.
For one thing he is trying to tie any Greek failure to destroy the defeated enemy outright to his assessment of the value of ritualized warfare that he believes was a hallmark of primitivism. For another he again insists that total destruction is uniquely Clausewitzian. For another he is simply wrong to say "face to face fighting defies nature."
There are two fundamental reasons for the nature of Greek warfare, both lie in its political system. First, the Greek city was a closely knit association of people having a common religion and worshiping a set of common gods, exclusive to them and not shared by any other Greek city. It was inconceivable to a Greek that a person born in a different town who had a different set of ancestral gods could be a citizen of another city. He would have to be adopted first into a specific family in the city and accepted by the clan as well etc. Thus they could not conceive of conquering another Greek city for the purpose of incorporating the citizens into a new, amalgamated state. At best, as Keegan notes, they could form various alliances. But they certainly could and did wipe out a particularly offensive enemy city and sell the population completely into slavery and then repopulate the area with colonists. This was a kind of "ethnic cleansing." Thus in a very real way Greek political concepts and organizations directly influenced warfare.

But the second political reason is also clear. In virtually all Greek cities the citizens were divided internally into two parties, one supporting more democracy and the other favoring more oligarchy. In Sparta oligarchy predominated practically all the time. In Athens democracy was more dominant, but by no means all the time. In the other cities the balance was often more even. Thus Greek wars between cities were usually actually civil wars within a city in which both parties appealed for support to their like party in other cities. Therefore when a Spartan army came for instance to battle another town it was generally in support of the oligarchs in that town and the Athenians generally sent an army to support democrat political elements in another town. The political purpose of the combat was to impose the favored political party on the defeated town, not to destroy it or kill all the citizens. This also strictly limited Greek warfare, as opposed to Greek battlefield combat.

The religious sensibilities of the Greeks also played a part. For a Greek it was of the absolutely highest priority that he be buried properly and that his soul be continuously fed by his legitimate male descendants. Otherwise the soul was doomed to wander etc. Since this was recognized by all parties, a truce was essential following a battle so that the dead could receive the religious burial that all demanded. This is why the Athenian assembly executed several of their own admirals who were victorious in a naval battle but who failed to retrieve the dead bodies of some of the citizens who had drowned during the combat.

Another factor in Greek warfare and combat is the Greek perception and philosophy that war is actually the constant and natural state of mankind. Peace is the unnatural and artificial condition that could be created by political acts like truces. Thus they were acutely aware of the concept of "balance of power" and carefully avoided inflicting too heavy a defeat on one rival, because they knew that at some future date they might want to have today's rival as an ally against some other city.