War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today

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War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today. Max Boot. Gotham Books. 624 pages; maps; black and white photographs; index; $35.

Although not widely used now, four years after the high-technology attack into Iraq, the term "revolution in irulitary affairs" does endure. Yet the notion of a technicaUy based revolution in military affairs seems almost surreal, given that the United States finds itseff confounded in large measure by an enemy using fairly "low-tech" methods.

It was not so long ago that to question the efficacy of technological solutions placed those who did so squarely in the camp of the Luddites. At the turn of the last century, the Army proposed replacing armor with knowledge. Now it seems that armor has a future, particularly as we rush to find ways to up-armor vehicles that were not intended as fighting platforms. The knowledge-based revolution has not yet won the day, so "old" technology is recycled and improved.

Max Boot's thesis in War Made New is explicit: "Technology sets the parameters of the possible; it creates the potential for a military revolution." Revolutions, however, stem from the technological conditions only when the combination of leadership and structure is right. Thus great minds are required to take advantage of technology and see combinations or uses where no one else has. The argument does not hold up well, however, even when Boot gets to choose the examples.

Boot's foray into the nature of revolutions in military affairs is fundamentally about the centrality of technology as the means by which the conduct of war is changed. He divides some 500 years of history into four discrete eras including the gunpowder revolution, the first Industrial Revolution, the second Industrial Revolution and the information revolution. …