THE SAVAGE WARS OF PEACE: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power

Max Boot, Author . Basic $30 (448p) ISBN 978-0-465-00720-2

As editorial features editor of the Wall Street Journal , Boot (Out of Order: Arrogance, Corruption, and Incompetence on the Bench) has a reputation as a fire-breathing polemicist and unabashed imperialist. This book addresses America's "small wars" in chronological order, dividing the action from 1801 to the present into three sections ("Commercial Power," "Great Power" and "Superpower") to argue that "small war missions are militarily doable"—and are now in fact a necessity. Beginning with a description of going to work on September 11 as the World Trade Center tragedy displaced the WSJ newsroom, Boot quickly gets down to some historical detail: from the U.S. expedition against the Barbary pirates to violent squabbles in Panama, Samoa, the Philippines, China, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Mexico, Beirut, Grenada, Somalia and Bosnia. Examples of wars "that were fought less than 'wholeheartedly,' " of wars "without exit strategies" and wars "in which U.S. soldiers act as 'social workers' " are decried. Each of the 15 short chapters might have been the focus of a separate in-depth book, so Boot's take is once over very lightly indeed. While America's—and the world's—small wars certainly seem more and more related, Boot's historical descriptions are too thin to provide a solid foundation for relating one war to another. (May 1)

Forecast: Out of Order (1998) was a hit with the chattering classes and remains in print; look for Boot's regular pundit appearances to escalate with the release of this timely title, particularly as the Bush administration continues to contemplate the so-called "axis of evil" in the manner Boot advocates.

Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-465-00721-9
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