Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Agincourt as a counterinsurgency fight?

Huh? This article in yesterday’s New York Times felt to me like editing pushed it off the tracks. The new quantitative approach to military history, it says, has drastically changed views on everything from Roman battles with Germanic tribes, to Napoleon‘s disastrous occupation of Spain, to the Tet offensive in the Vietnam War. But the ...

578364_091026_Battle_of_crecy_froissart2.jpg
578364_091026_Battle_of_crecy_froissart2.jpg

Huh? This article in yesterday's New York Times felt to me like editing pushed it off the tracks. The new quantitative approach to military history, it says,

has drastically changed views on everything from Roman battles with Germanic tribes, to Napoleon's disastrous occupation of Spain, to the Tet offensive in the Vietnam War. But the most telling gauge of the respect being given to the new historians and their penchant for tearing down established wisdom is that it has now become almost routine for American commanders to call on them for advice on strategy and tactics in Afghanistan, Iraq and other present-day conflicts.

Huh? This article in yesterday’s New York Times felt to me like editing pushed it off the tracks. The new quantitative approach to military history, it says,

has drastically changed views on everything from Roman battles with Germanic tribes, to Napoleon‘s disastrous occupation of Spain, to the Tet offensive in the Vietnam War. But the most telling gauge of the respect being given to the new historians and their penchant for tearing down established wisdom is that it has now become almost routine for American commanders to call on them for advice on strategy and tactics in Afghanistan, Iraq and other present-day conflicts.

The most influential example is the “Counterinsurgency Field Manual” adopted in 2006 by the United States Army and Marines and smack in the middle of the debate over whether to increase troop levels in Afghanistan.

But then there is a connection between Agincourt (the ostensible subject of the article) and COIN: Longbows were very important at 594 years ago (almost exactly) at Agincourt, and AH-64 Longbows have played a significant role in Iraq and Afghanistan! Even so, I don’t think that means gentlemen now abed in England will think themselves accursed they didn’t read FM 3-24, the Army/Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual.

Depiction of the Battle of Crécy during the 100 Years’ War, from an illustrated manuscript of Jean Froissart’s “Chronicles

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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