Military Deterrence in History: A Pilot Cross-Historical Survey

By Raoul Naroll; Vern L. Bullough et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
MILITARY DETERRENCE, NATIONAL EXPANSION, AND PEACE

INTRODUCTION

THIS STUDY is an investigation of the use and purpose of military forces in civilized societies whose histories are largely histories of warfare. True, there are some peaceful civilized societies, but these are few in number, and even they are societies with a history of warlikeness. Consider three societies most conspicuous for their peaceableness in the twentieth century: Tibet, Switzerland, and Sweden. During the T'ang dynasty, Tibet was the scourge of China (see chapter 5). The Swiss won their independence through much hard fighting; in the sixteenth century they were considered by many to have the finest infantry in Europe, and in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries mercenary Swiss regiments were a major Swiss export. During the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), under Gustavus Adolphus, Sweden became for a time the dominant military power in northern Europe.

Comparative studies of primitive societies lead to the general conclusion that the scope of warfare broadens as the level of civilization rises. Among most of the simplest hunting and gathering tribes, warfare functions chiefly as a mechanism to revenge homicide or to defend territory from incursions. Further up the scale of social evolution, its scope broadens to include next booty, then prestige for warriors, and finally political control (see Wright 1942, Otterbein 1970, and Naroll 1964a, 1966).

It is not too much to say that the rise and fall of empires is the most prominent feature of recorded history. Of the twenty-nine most conspicuous empires in the Old World during the last five

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