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The Other Face of Battle America's Forgotten Wars and the Experience of Combat

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2021-05-11
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Taking its title from The Face of Battle, John Keegan's canonical book on the nature of warfare, The Other Face of Battle illuminates the American experience of fighting in "irregular" and "intercultural" wars over the centuries. Sometimes known as "forgotten" wars, in part because they lacked triumphant clarity, they are the focus of the book. David Preston, David Silbey, and Anthony Carlson focus on, respectively, the Battle of Monongahela (1755), the Battle of Manila (1898), and the Battle of Makuan, Afghanistan (2020)--conflicts in which American soldiers were forced to engage in "irregular" warfare, confronting an enemy entirely alien to them. This enemy rejected the Western conventions of warfare and defined success and failure--victory and defeat--in entirely different ways. Symmetry of any kind is lost. Here was not ennobling engagement but atrocity, unanticipated insurgencies, and strategic stalemate.

War is always hell. These wars, however, profoundly undermined any sense of purpose or proportion. Nightmarish and existentially bewildering, they nonetheless characterize how Americans have experienced combat and what its effects have been. They are therefore worth comparing for what they hold in common as well as what they reveal about our attitude toward war itself. The Other Face of Battle reminds us that "irregular" or "asymmetrical" warfare is now not the exception but the rule. Understanding its roots seems more crucial than ever.

Author Biography

Wayne E. Lee is the Bruce W. Carney Distinguished Professor of History at the University of North Carolina. He is the author of many books, most recently Waging War: Conflict, Culture, and Innovation in World History (OUP 2016). He is a veteran of the U.S. Army, and was the 2015-16 Harold K. Johnson Chair of Military History at the U.S. Army War College.

David Silbey is the Associate Director of the Cornell in Washington program and an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Cornell History Department. He has written books on the British Army in World War I, the Philippine-American War, and the Boxer Rebellion in China.

David Preston is General Mark Clark Distinguished Professor of History at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of Braddock's Defeat (OUP, 2015), which won the Gilder-Lerhman Prize in Military History and was a finalist for the George Washington Book Prize.

Anthony E. Carlson is an Associate Professor of History at the US Army's School of Advanced Military Studies, Ft. Leavenworth, KS. Having previously served as an historian and analyst at the US Army's Combat Studies Institute, Carlson has interviewed hundreds of soldiers who fought in Afghanistan.

Table of Contents

Maps and Figures


1. Introduction: Enemies of Another Sort

2. The Battle of the Monongahela: Braddock's Defeat, July 9th, 1755

3. Interlude I: Building and Equipping an American Army of Expansion

4. The Battle of Manila, February 4-5, 1899

5. Interlude II: Becoming a Superpower and Fighting "Small" Wars

6. Makuan/Operation DRAGON STRIKE, September 15-17, 2010

7. Conclusion: The Other Face of Battle and Preparing for the Wrong War



Supplemental Materials

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