Endorsement inflation

24 September 2006, 0452 EDT

I know book endorsements, even from respected figures, have become the equivalent of “chilling… exciting… suspenseful”, but there’s got to be a limit.

Paul Kennedy on Max Boot’s new book:

“While much has been in written in recent years about the so-called ‘Revolution in Military Affairs,’ Max Boot is the first scholar to place it within the broad sweep of history, and in the context of the rise of the West in world affairs since 1500. In so doing, he not only tells a remarkable tale, but he compels us all, even those obsessed solely with contemporary military affairs, to ask the right questions and to distinguish what is truly new and revolutionary from what is merely ephemeral. He has rendered a valuable service, and given us a fascinating read at the same time, so we are doubly in his debt.”

The first scholar to place the so-called “revolution in military affairs” within the “broad sweep of history, and in the context of the rise of the West…”? Really? The first? I suppose this might be technically true — at least in the sense of “no one has written Max Boot’s precise book before.”

Should I read the book and pass independent judgment on its merits? Might be interesting. The blurb, however, doesn’t fill me with confidence:

A sweeping, epic history that ranges from the defeat of the Spanish Armada to the War on Terrorism, War Made New is a provocative new vision of the rise of the modern world through the lens of warfare. Acclaimed author Max Boot explores how innovations in weaponry and tactics have not only transformed how wars are fought and won but also have guided the course of human events, from the formation of the first modern states, to the collapse of the Soviet Union, to the coming of al-Qaeda.

Boot argues that the past five centuries of history have been marked not by gradual change in how we fight but instead by four revolutions in military technology—and that the nations who have successfully mastered these revolutions have gained the power to redraw the map of the world. Boot brings these moments of transformation to vivid life through gripping combat scenes. For the Gunpowder Age, he argues that firearm technology brought from China shattered the ritualized combat of the Middle Ages as innovators such as Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus[*] and the Duke of Wellington incorporated artillery and cavalry in new ways, leading to the rise of the Western powers.

*There is, of course, a tremendous debate about whether or not there was an RMA in early modern Europe. But regardless of whether or not there was, Michael Robert’s identification of Gustavus Adolphus as a central figure in it just doesn’t hold up very well.

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