The Evolution of War
The beginning of prehistoric warfare is disputed (big shocker there!). The most common weapons possessed by early humans consisted of clubs and spears. These were used for hunting as early as 35,000 BC, but there is little evidence that there was much war in that era.
The introduction of agriculture brought about large differences between farmers and hunter-gatherers. Probably during periods of famine, hunters started to attack the villages of local farmers, leading to the beginning of organized warfare. Around 12,000 BC, combat was transformed by the development of bows, maces, and slings. The bow seems to have been the most important weapon in the development of early warfare, although the mace was a popular choice. The development of leather armor limited its effectiveness, which made projectiles and edged weapons the most reliable.
The Battle of Megiddo (also called Armageddon) is considered the first battle to have been recorded in relatively reliable detail. It was fought in the 15th Century BC and saw Egyptian forces defeat a large Canaanite coalition under the king of Kadesh. (Of course, there might be some bias here as all details of the battle come from Egyptian hieroglyphic writings.) While the Egyptians were a force to reckon with, the most powerful ancient empires were those of Assyria and Persia. The Assyrians, a warrior people whose used swift-striking chariots, controlled most of Western Asia by the 9th Century bc. Persian armies also relied on chariots and cavalry, but they employed thousands of archers and infantrymen armed with spears. Both groups wore helmets and chest armor and utilized shields. The Assyrians used terror as a weapon, sacking cities and killing all prisoners.
In Greece, only Sparta fielded what could be called a professional army. The other city-states relied on citizen call-up. The backbone of the Greek army was the hoplite, or armored spearman, massed in a phalanx (square). Slingers and archers could swarm out from between the squares to attack. The phalanx could defend against frontal assaults, but it couldn't maneuver well.
The Romans also initially relied on civilian-militias, but the Legion (the largest unit in their army) moved better than the phalanx. Drill and discipline were the keystones of Roman power. The foot soldier was skilled in the use of javelins and the short sword. After the 2nd Century AD, the Romans relied on mercenaries. This reduced their effectiveness and made them vulnerable to attacks by Germanic tribes. Still, the impact of Greco-Roman-styled armies and their tactics was huge.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th Century AD, Europe was open to invasion. The armies of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire adopted the horse-archer, a cavalryman able to shoot to either side while riding. Western Europeans attempted to deal with Viking raids by creating a feudal system in which military service was given in return for land and other privileges.
The knight dominated Medieval warfare. Fighting out of a spirit of adventure or for spoils, the Christian knight was in the forefront of the Crusades mobilized to liberate the Holy Land (Jerusalem) from Muslim control. By the 14th and 15th Centuries, however, new weapons (like the English longbow) and the invention of gunpowder forced the armored knight from the field.
The Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), fought mainly in Germany, marked the beginning of "modern warfare". During that conflict, more powerful artillery and a lighter infantry musket were introduced. At the end of the 18th Century, France fielded huge armies via conscription (draft) and won victories by sheer numbers. Napoleon Bonaparte welded this force into a sword of empire. He organized the French army into corps, which became like miniature armies capable of pinning down vastly superior forces. Boldness, the hallmark of the Napoleonic tactics, influenced warfare for a century.
World War I (1914-1918) began as a war of movement, but a stalemate developed after the first few weeks and turned into years of brutal trench warfare. Each side suffered enormous casualties. New weapons (such as airplanes, poisonous gas, and tanks) were introduced, and warfare was revolutionized at sea thanks to the submarine. World War II (1939-1945) marked a return to the war of movement. The Nazis enjoyed success against Poland and France with their blitzkrieg, or "lightning war", which consisted of continual attacks by tanks, airplanes, and infantry. This powerful assault was stopped by the Allies who defeated them with their superior numbers and industrial strength. (U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!)
Since 1945, the development of nuclear explosives capable of destroying targets ranging in size from large battlefields to entire cities has changed the nature of modern warfare. The possible employment of nukes has made it extremely hazardous to mass air, sea, or land forces in any one location. Even more vulnerable are civilian populations and economic centers that could be devastated by nuclear warheads launched from a distance via intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). As a result, total warfare between nations equipped with nukes has become unacceptable as a "sane" option.
The War on Terrorism...
The events of September 11, 2001 have no precedent in the history of terrorism. The 9/11 attacks prompted intense scrutiny of why the U.S. Government had failed to detect or thwart the attacks... and what it should do to prevent future strikes. September 11th forever changed American foreign policy and began a new kind of combat: the War on Terrorism. It is a campaign begun by the U.S. with the intent of rooting out international terrorists.
Like the War on Crime or the War on Drugs, the War on Terror will never end. It will spawn future conflicts, wars, and "operations" to achieve its goal of sniffing out and combating terror organizations in hopes of staying "one step ahead". It is the new face of war.
The first archeological record of a prehistoric battle is 7,000 years old. Located on the Nile River in Egypt near the frontier of Sudan, it is in an area known as
Fifty-nine skeletons were found at the site, nearly half of which show signs of violent deaths, such as arrowhead-inflicted
injuries. Some of the skeletons have a number of wounds or were found with
arrowheads inside their skulls.
While some say this is evidence of a battle, others argue that the bodies may have accumulated over many decades or be evidence of the murder of
The fact that half of the bodies are female also causes some to
question their origin.
"Greek fire" was a burning-liquid weapon invented around 670 AD in Constantinople and used by the Byzantine Empire in naval battles. In its earliest uses, it was applied onto enemy forces by firing (via a catapult) a burning cloth-wrapped ball that contained a flask.
Later technological improvements produced a pump mechanism that discharged a stream of burning fluid (like a modern-day flame thrower). This was bad for wooden ships.
Greek fire could continue burning under almost any conditions, even under water. It was known to the Byzantines’ enemies
as a "wet, dark, sticky fire" because it stuck to the unfortunate object it hit and was impossible to put out.
During the English Revolution (1640-1660), Oliver Cromwell raised an effective fighting force through the draft. Pay,
supplies, and discipline were fixed by law, and, for the first time, the red
colored coat became the badge of the English troops.
The U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) was the first conflict in which technology (railroads, telegraph, rifles, and armored ships) was used extensively. The doctrine of "total war" was implemented by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, who laid waste to the South.
Sherman said, "We are not fighting armies but a hostile people and must make young and old, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war. War is the remedy our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want."
At the end of WWII, the U.S. and the Soviet Union emerged as the world’s major powers. The two became involved in a state of hostility, although it was short of direct war. The struggle was named the "Cold War" (1945-1991) because it did not lead to actual (or "hot") war. It
was waged via economic pressure, intimidation, propaganda, and assassination. In the end, the good ol' U.S.A. won. Suck it Russia...
The shortest war on record took place in 1896 when Zanzibar (today's Tanzania in East Africa) surrendered to Britain after 38 minutes.
For the last 3,500 years, the world has had a total of 230 years in which no wars took place. Since 1495, no 25-year period of time has been without a war.
The first recorded revolution took place at around 2800 BC when people from the
Sumerian city of Lagash overthrew bureaucrats who were lining their own pockets but kept raising taxes.
The very first bomb that the Allies dropped on Berlin in World War II killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo.
The NATO attack on Serbia in 1999 during the Kosovo war killed more animals than people.
Annual global spending on military is more than $1.3 trillion (45% by the U.S.).
Iceland has no standing army and no military expenditure.
One out of two casualties of war is a civilian. Landmines kill 24,000 civilians a year.