Why Lists of Greatest Battles Don't Work

November 4, 2013 Topic: HistoryIdeologyFailed StatesSecurity

Why Lists of Greatest Battles Don't Work

Battles rarely turn the tide of history. We're merely beating our chests.

Of course such rituals are needed now especially in the shadowy aftermath of our “long war” and its wreckage, where no “decisive battle” will ever rise from the ashes. In fact I can find no decisive victory of American arms since 1945—even Inchon and Desert Storm—that did not also end quickly in historical wreckage for us.

Maybe we need this game after all—But let us not play it eyes wide shut.

Michael Vlahos is a professor in the Strategy and Policy Department at the U.S. Naval War College and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins' Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. The views here are his own.