More books on the military

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - July 2, 2020 - 12:00am

In my last column, I wrote about two books on the military that I finally found time to read during the quarantine. I had intended to write about more books but I got carried away and ended up with only two books in my column.

I am a self-confessed “tsundoku,” a Japanese expression for some who have the compulsion to buy books even when he or she has no immediate intention to read the books. I am now trying to lessen the pile of unread books in my library.

Frankly, I was surprised at the encouraging comments, from readers, to my column. That is partly the reason I decided to write an additional article on books about the military.

I am not really a militaristic person. My fascination with books on the military is because of my interest in strategy and history. I taught Strategic Management in the La Salle MBA program for 22 years. As I wrote before, the origin of business strategy is military strategy.

As far as history is concerned, unfortunately war has been instrumental in shaping our world. Warfare is a deliberate policy used by superpowers to impose their will on neighboring countries. International frontiers have often been shaped by superior arms rather than diplomatic negotiations. It is not surprising that China has border clashes with 18 neighboring countries. The West Philippine Sea became de facto Chinese not through negotiations or the international rule of law but through military bullying by China.

The first book I want to write about is a beautifully illustrated and written book The World Atlas of Warfare: Military Innovations That Changed the Course of History by Richard Holmes. He writes: “War has shaped our world.”

This atlas includes more than 150 original maps, along with numerous rare photographs and original artworks which stress the geographical importance of war. It also is a crucial yet often neglected fact that major turning points in military history very frequently stem from the first effective use of new techniques, from the Bronze Age war chariot to the helicopter gunship. These breakthroughs in military technology have often changed the direction of events and the course of history.

The book, however, goes beyond technology and tactics to show the human face of war. This is delineated in the numerous accounts of battle, from commanders’ dispatches to conscripts’ letters; from surveys of back up services such as casualty evacuations, field hospitals and the role of civilians to the effects of war in fields of economics, society and culture.

Toward the end of his book, Holmes still wrote: “But technology alone cannot guarantee victory in modern war, as the Americans found to their cost in Vietnam.”

The publishers wrote about the book: “Combining superb text, magnificent illustrations, full page paintings and about 200 maps and diagrams. The World Atlas of Warfare sums up this engrossing subject in all its excitement and complexity.”

Encyclopedia of Guerrilla Warfare by Ian Beckett is an easy to understand reference book which covers guerrilla warfare from the late 18th century to the present, including countries, wars, revolts, conflicts, movements, leaders, strategies and concepts related this military tactic.

Philippine history is full of references to guerrilla war from the revolts of people like Diego and Gabriela Silang to the guerrilla wars against Spain and the Americans during the War for Independence to the Second World War when guerrilla units were formed all throughout the country to fight the Japanese.

Guerrilla warfare is as old as recorded time. The first recorded reference to guerrilla warfare dates back to the 15th century BC. Beckett writes: “However, guerrilla warfare was generally understood as the natural military recourse of indigenous groups in opposition to occupation or oppression, either where a conventional army had been defeated or had never existed. It was also clearly a strategy of the weak faced by a stronger military power.”

There are several articles on the Philippines. The first is about the HUKBALAHAP movement. The second is during the Marcos martial law period, insurgency movements like the NPA and the Muslim rebels became stronger.

This is supposedly the first reference book of its kind on the topic of guerrilla warfare.

The Mammoth Book of Battles: The Art and Science of Modern Warfare edited by Jon E. Lewis. This is a different kind of military historical book. It covers ten modern wars from the Boer War between the Dutch descended Boer settlers in South Africa and the British Empire in 1899 to 1902. It ends with the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The difference is that it doesn’t talk about war; but, writes about specific battles during each of the ten wars it covers.

I hope to write about other books in the future. Let me just mention one. Warships of the Napoleonic Era: Design, Development and Deployment by Robert Gardiner. I think this was the most romantic era for naval battles as they sailed literally a few feet from each other with guns blazing from the side.

I am looking for books on the Philippine military history. Please let me know if you know of any. Then hopefully I can write a column on the Philippine military.

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