October 12, 2001
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Military History

John Keegan, whose The Face of Battle is essential reading for anyone interested in history, has written a very interesting essay on understanding the current clash of civilizations. "Relentlessness, as opposed to surprise and sensation, is the Western way of warfare. It is deeply injurious to the Oriental style and rhetoric of war-making...this war belongs within the much larger spectrum of a far older conflict between settled, creative productive Westerners and predatory, destructive Orientals."

On the one hand, this language makes me extremely uncomfortable -- note, for example, Keegan's insistenceon the antiquated and wildly unfashionable term, "Oriental." On the other, Keegan is trying to situate the current conflict into the context of an ancient rivalry between agrarian city-states and nomadic horse-raiders -- a conflict, in short, that predates both Christanity and Islam.