The popular conception of World War I centers on hellish trench warfare and all its horrors. While it is undeniable that the war was won and lost on the Western Front, the lines stretching back across the Atlantic that brought men and desperately needed supplies into the theater of operations played an essential part in Allied victory.
In the two largest wars this planet has ever experienced, the authority and influence of civilians over military affairs assured victory in one and the lack of such brought total and utter defeat in another. Therefore, in the grand scheme of things, civil control of the military has proven its value not only as an avenue for better governance, but as a strategic asset capable of providing the necessary leverage to achieve victory in wartime.
Must the rise of power in China and the fear it causes in America lead to war? Kori Schake’s new work, Safe Passage: The Transition From British To American Hegemony, probes this question, albeit obliquely, via an inquest into why the passage of power from Great Britain to the United States during the nineteenth and early twentieth century was pacific and whether such passage is repeatable. What emerges from this eminently readable, incisively argued, and keenly erudite history is how precarious such passage was: a contingently calm transition, only tranquil because universal ideals mollified the augured storm.
The titanic struggle between Britain and France (and their respective allies) has been told many times, but the narrow focus here on Britain’s use of power is a welcome addition indeed, and Titan builds a compelling case for what made British victory possible. It will certainly prove useful to strategists and foreign policy practitioners, for while much has changed in the realm of war and diplomacy since the early nineteenth century, the need for smart power will not be ending anytime soon.
Between 1963 and 1975 the Sultanate of Oman was the scene of one of the most remarkable, and forgotten conflicts of the Cold War. The British-led Sultan’s Armed Forces (SAF) would battle and defeat a formidable Marxist guerrilla movement based in the southern province of Dhofar. The Dhofar War remains one of the few examples of a successful Western-led counterinsurgency in a postwar Middle Eastern country.
The fact that our most cherished ally is no longer able to analyze its own strategic situation, or participate fully in our strategic debates, should be distressing. Britain’s generals, brilliant as they may be, are trapped in a series of historical and organizational labyrinths. Needless to say, this situation may change, and Elliott is one of many voices calling out for reform. Until then, America must remain wary of allies who promise more than they can deliver.
On April 8, 1904, French Foreign Minister Théophile Declassé took a telephone call from Paul Cambon, his ambassador in London. “C’est signé!” Cambon roared into the phone—”It is signed!” The modern era’s most significant treaty, the Franco-British Entente Cordiale was signed. What had been one of the world’s most significant historical rivalries from shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066 up to that April day in 1904, was over. France and England reached agreement on a host of issues, specified and sorted out in painstaking detail through three treaties signed at once. The world would never be the same.