The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power By Victor Davis Hanson, Doubleday, $ 24.95

Scholars continue to debate the timing and causation of the military rise of the West. The industrialization schoolís representatives like Carlo M. Cipolla and W.H. McNeill assert that the Industrial Revolution generated a military revolution in west Europe. The spokesman of the organizational school like G. Parker and C. Rogers argue that the revolution in military affairs, thanks to the managerial techniques of the European polities, predated the Industrial Revolution.

Victor Davis Hanson, a professor of classics at California State University, offers a new explanation. He claims that the supremacy of the Western way of warfare was because of a unique Western culture that could be traced back to the classical Greek civilization, which first enabled the West to stall the onslaught of the East and then to expand in extra-European world.

So, what were the institutions and practices that enabled the West to retain its supremacy from Salamis in 480 BC till Operation Desert Storm in 1991' First, the sense of equality among the people. The ethos of fighting as free men enabled the Western soldiers to accept strict discipline which in turn generated esprit de corps.

Fighting for freedom and equality allowed the emergence of disciplined infantry. On the other hand, authoritarianism and stratified social structure in the non-Western polities resulted in the feudal aristocracy looking down upon the foot slogging infantry. Be it Darius or Saddam Hussein, the Asian armies never provided scope and freedom to their armed commoners to emerge as a principal strike force.

The only danger, claims Hanson, in Western warfare was an enemy imitating Western military techniques. Hanibal was able to give a bloody nose to the Roman armies because he absorbed the Greek concept of decisive battles. However, mere imitation was not a long-term solution. Sustaining Western institutions and practices required the inculcation of Western cultural values. Iraqís autocratic elite failed to devaluate power to the masses. As a result, the Iraqi army had no stomach to face the Western forces.

Hansonís emphasis on the compartmentalization of the West and the non-West reminds one of Herodotusí bipolar Orient-Occident model. Is the formulation part of the West-initiated Orientalist discourse' Hansonís argument is at times crassly Eurocentric, neglecting the continuous dialectics between Eastern and Western military cultures.

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