Great Powers and Little Wars: The Limits of Power

Great Powers and Little Wars: The Limits of Power

Great Powers and Little Wars: The Limits of Power

Great Powers and Little Wars: The Limits of Power

Synopsis

This volume addresses a timely subject--the question of small wars and the limits of power from a historical perspective. The theme is developed through case studies of small wars that the Great Powers conducted in Africa and Asia during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This historical overview clearly shows the dangers inherent for a metropolitan government and its armed forces once such military operations are undertaken. Importantly, these examples from the past stand as a warning against current and future misapplication of military strength and the misuse of military forces.

Excerpt

This volume addresses a timely subject -- the question of small wars and the limits of power from a historical perspective. The theme is developed through case studies of small wars that the Great Powers conducted in Africa and Asia during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This historical overview clearly shows the dangers inherent for a metropolitan government and its armed forces once such military operations are undertaken. Importantly, these examples from the past stand as a warning against the current and future misapplication of military strength and the misuse of military forces.

Understandably, it is not possible to investigate here all aspects of the problems raised by small wars. One aim of this introduction is to highlight some issues and examples not considered in the chapters that follow. This discussion will serve to emphasize the breadth and depth of the topic as well as to provide further context and background to the chapters' case studies. It is important to underline parallels between the past small wars studied here and more recent conflicts in the last decades of the twentieth century. Cold Wars might come and go, but small wars stay.

Small wars were the grist in the overseas service careers of many subalterns and junior naval officers in the armed forces of the Great Powers during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. "To a bloody war and a sickly season" runs a Canadian naval toast of the day. Such a sentiment is part and parcel of a naval tradition that looks back to Pierre Le Moyne (Sieur d'Iberville), as well as to James Cook and Horatio Nelson. It expresses the sensible belief of junior officers that not only valor and courage but also the death of those more senior in rank will speed promotion. (In the years between Waterloo and Mons, the wars fought outside Europe by the military forces of the Great Powers were not so . . .

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