[April 8, 2017] It has been the history of humankind to wage war against one another and to do so for reasons that, at times, escapes our understanding. But what we do know is that those who failed to prepare themselves against outside forces always ceased to exist.1 The Founding Fathers of the United States were adamant in their preparations against those forces which would threaten their new nation.
“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.” – John Adams, 2nd U.S. President
We are all familiar with the Scout Motto, “Be Prepared” and may think because it belongs to an organization dedicated to boys that it is overly simplistic, too militaristic, or inhuman in some fashion. But it tells us what common sense normally does and that is that everyone, especially those in leadership positions, must be prepared at all times and guard against predictable risks.
The histories of all civilizations are full of examples where their predecessors acted wisely and prepared themselves. The study of politics and war is necessary for the survival of any nation. The more serious the study of it, the more likely they can withstand a future assault. For example, the U.S. Army War College’s founder Elihu Root said in 1903 that it should be our duty in establishing the college “not to promote war, but to preserve peace…”
Peace, freedom, liberty … call it what you like, but those ideals require the close study of war historically and an analysis of how war may be fought in the future. Such study and analysis is what allows the remaining citizens of that society to live the way they want. Those citizens may choose totalitarianism to protect them from imminent threats or they may chose some other and more benign form of government.
The Syrian conflict brings to mind a classic example of how a society has chosen (some will say forced upon them) a dictatorial form of government that wages war against its own citizens in a civil war of considerable destructiveness. But the issue is complicated by great powers such as Russia and the United States that have intervened for a variety of reasons that make it more difficult for those who live there; making it more clear why their leadership has failed the ordinary Syrian citizen.
Regardless of the cultural ways of any society, that in some way determines ways of protecting itself, failure to be prepared is never an option. Societies that refuse to learn from history will fail. Those that choose not to analyze war and its intricacies will fail. That is why leadership, down at the most fundamental level of politics and war, must be seen as something important to study.
That is also why I study politics and war.
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- Elihu Root, the founder of the modern day U.S. Army War College said it much more eloquently than me. He said “Nobody knows through how many thousands of years fighting men have made a place for themselves while the weak and peaceable have gone to the wall.”