America's Wars and Military Excursions
by Edwin P. Hoyt

A candid description and appraisal of American military history. The author is an independent thinker who respects the military profession, but not necessarily all of its practitioners. He indicates that American naval leaders have usually shown more intelligence and competence than the army leaders. He is no apologist for American intervention. If he thinks a particular war or military excursion was foolish, and he often does, he says so and explains why. But he is no pacifist.

The amount of information he gives about each excursion is not consistent. He is at his best when describing less well known wars such as the wars with the Barbary pirates. He generally gives more details about these and his analysis is very interesting. On big wars such as the War of Northern Aggression, he gives only the briefest account of the sequence of battles.

War of 1812
"Most fascinating to me is the entirely different frame of reference in which Americans hold the War of 1812, as compared to the British. We have numbered it among our major military struggles. To the British it was as a gnat's sting during the long campaign against Napoleon, and for many years the struggle was not even dignified by British history books with a name." (147)

Native Americans
Seminole is not a tribal name. It means "runaway" and refers to Indians of various tribes who had sought sanctuary in the Florida swamps, and black escaped slaves who joined them and were accepted as members of the group. (188)

General Sherman did not waver about killing them:

"The more we can kill this year the less will have to be killed the next war."
General Grant, who was running for president, agreed. It was necessary to protect the migrants crossing the plains, he said, even if it meant the extermination of every Indian tribe. (272)

The American treatment of the American Indians was as fine a case of genocide as the world has ever seen. (281)

Vietnam
The entire imbroglio could have been avoided if the United States had paid more attention to its professional diplomats who served in Asia in the World War II years, and less attention to the generals and admirals.

Vietnam and virtually every other disaster we suffered in Asia was directly attributable to the failure of foreign policy, and it all goes back to that same root: the blind American anticommunism of the 1940s, which allied generals and politicians against the diplomats. (487)

In May 1955, the French withdrew from Indochina, emotionally and financially exhausted. Did it mean nothing at all to the Americans that the French, supported fully by American money and American armaments, had finally given up all hope of influencing events in Vietnam and had pulled out everything including the Bank of Indochina? It did not. Americans have never been long on history. (506)

Year Read: 1998


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