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"The Age of Modern Warfare" Topic

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374 hits since 15 Jun 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2017 10:04 p.m. PST

"The archaeological record shows that humans have been fighting since we evolved, but for the first 95 percent or so of our time on Earth, our war-making was a ragged business. Putting together what we can excavate with what anthropologists observed among the surviving Stone Age societies of the 20th century, it seems that there were few real battles. After all, battles are dangerous: It takes fierce discipline or even fiercer belief in some cause to make men get close to other men who are trying to kill them, and Stone Age societies lacked the institutions able to instill such discipline or inspire such fanaticism. Consequently, pitched battles tended to take the form of long-range skirmishes with bows, slings or javelins that often broke off if anyone was seriously hurt (or even if it started raining).

This did not, however, mean that prehistoric warfare was some kind of harmless ritual. Rather, the real killing went on in ambushes, where half a dozen men might jump out and attack a single enemy, beating him to death, or the young braves from one clan might storm a sleeping enemy village in the hours before dawn, spearing and scalping defenseless men, women and children. Archaeologists have dug up the remains of such massacre sites dating back to 11,000 B.C.

This kind of dirty little war has never gone away, but for the past 5,000 years it has been subordinated to a very different way of doing things.

When farmers created the first proper states, with governments led by godlike kings who had the power to coerce others to do as they were told, one of the first things rulers did was to use this force to turn warriors into soldiers. The distinction between the two is that a warrior is a wild young man who will kill when his mad blood stirs but will run away when the odds look bad, while a proper soldier is a disciplined professional who will stand his ground and would rather die than disgrace his regiment. Depictions of spearmen advancing in formation and descriptions of standing armies suggest that this revolution in military affairs was underway in the Middle East (particularly in what we now call southern Iraq) by 2500 B.C., and over the next 2,000 years it spread or began independently from China to the Mediterranean…."
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