The work analyzes an idealized republican ideology as a component of soldiering in both peace and war. Herrera argues that American soldiers’ belief system—the military ethos of republicanism—drew from the larger body of American political thought. This ethos illustrated and informed soldiers’ faith in an inseparable connection between bearing arms on behalf of the republic, and earning and holding citizenship in it. Despite the undeniable existence of customs, organizations, and behaviors that were uniquely military, the officers and enlisted men of the regular army, states’ militias, and wartime volunteers were the products of their society, and they imparted what they understood as important elements of American thought into their service.
Drawing from military and personal correspondence, journals, orderly books, militia constitutions, and other documents in over forty archives in twenty-three states, Herrera maps five broad, interrelated, and mutually reinforcing threads of thought constituting soldiers’ beliefs: Virtue; Legitimacy; Self-governance; Glory, Honor, and Fame; and the National Mission. Spanning periods of war and peace, these five themes constituted a coherent and long-lived body of ideas that informed American soldiers’ sense of identity for generations.
From the atom bomb to the spy satellites of the Cold War, the strategic limitations of the Vietnam War, and the technological triumphs of the Gulf war, Thomas G. Mahnken follows the development and integration of new technologies into the military and emphasizes their influence on the organization, mission, and culture of the armed services. In some cases, advancements in technology have forced different branches of the military to develop competing or superior weaponry, but more often than not the armed services have molded technology to suit their own purposes, remaining resilient in the face of technological challenges.
Mahnken concludes with an examination of the reemergence of the traditional American way of war, which uses massive force to engage the enemy. Tying together six decades of debate concerning U.S. military affairs, he discusses how the armed forces might exploit the unique opportunities of the information revolution in the future.