629 pages, Random House, ISBN-13: 978-0394553986
As Perret sees it, the study of American military history has been pulled in opposing directions by two very different historians: Emory Upton, the American Army General, military strategist and veteran of the Union Army, who believed that politics and war were two separate things; and Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian general and military theorist, who believed quite the opposite. Perret is a Clausewitzian at heart, and the Prussian emphasized that blaming the military for war was absurd; war is a political act, he said, with politics defined as “the intercourse of peoples and their government”, and the beauty of A Country Made by War is that Mr. Perret places America’s conflicts precisely in the context of this intercourse of peoples and their government. But the book is by no means a dry scholarly text written in academese in which, to quote Galbraith, “obscurity is next to divinity” (you’ll see damn few Galbraith quotes from me, so enjoy). Blessed with a particularly lucid writing style, Mr. Perret accomplishes the difficult task of writing a readable and entertaining book that does not sacrifice historical accuracy.
The concluding chapter, “Tomorrow Began Yesterday”, is devastating (remember, this was written in 1989), and among his final thoughts are: “A democratic society and its military rise and fall together…[i]n a free country the military cannot perform well, no matter how much is spent on it, when government, the banks, the big corporations, the schools, the colleges, the courts, the police and the media perform badly”. One would hope that someone in authority has read A Country Made by War at some point in their lives and has taken its conclusions to heart – I doubt it, though.