Military Orientalism: Eastern War Through Western Eyes (Critical War Studies (Unnumbered))

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9780199333424: Military Orientalism: Eastern War Through Western Eyes (Critical War Studies (Unnumbered))

From the Ancient Greeks' obsession with the armies of the Persians, Westerners have been irresistibly drawn to the exotic nature of "Oriental" warfare and have sought either to emulate their enemies' imagined ways of fighting or to incorporate Eastern warriors and "martial races," such as the Sikhs and Gurkhas, in their own forces. The alluring yet terrifying prospect of Samurai warriors, obedient to an ancient code of chivalry, or of the Mongol cavalry thundering across the steppes, continue to grip our imagination, while the courage and fighting prowess of today's "Eastern" warriors, the Taliban and Hezbollah, have been grudgingly acknowledged by the high tech armies of NATO in Afghanistan and the IDF in Lebanon. Such romantic notions are based on a highly questionable premise, namely that race, culture and tradition are separate and primordial, and that they determine how societies fight. But how far does culture shape war? Do non-Westerners approach strategy, combat, or death in ways intrinsically different from their Eastern neighbours? This debate can be tracked through time, from Herodotus onwards, and features in innumerable histories and literary works as well as in poetry, art and oral epics. Yet there are few histories of the idea itself. Military Orientalism argues that viewing culture as a script that dictates warfare is wrong, and that our obsession with the exotic can make it harder, not easier, to know the enemy. Culture is powerful, but it is an ambiguous repertoire of ideas rather than a clear code for action. To divide the world into western, Asiatic or Islamic ways of war is a delusion, one whose profound impact affects contemporary war and above all the War on Terror. Porter's fascinating book explains why the "Oriental" warrior inspires fear, envy and wonder and how this has shaped the way Western armies fight.

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About the Author:


Patrick Porter is Lecturer in History at the Dept. of Defence Studies, King's College, University of London.

Review:


'This important new book takes a fresh and detailed look at the role of culture, culturalism, ethnocentrism and perceptions of the "other" in strategy. It should be required reading for any strategist or student of international affairs who seeks to understand the complex hybrid conflicts in which we now find ourselves.' - David Kilcullen, author of The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One


'This is an accessible and well-written book for a wide range of audiences. The author has a solid grasp of the historical material and has bravely tackled a contentious yet persistent issue-Orientalism-through the lens of military conflict, and the reader is wiser as a result.' - International Affairs


"This book deserves a wide readership because its main argument, that culture is neither static nor monolithic, and does not exert an unmitigated influence on the character of conflict, is certain to spark a valuable debate on the influence of culture on war and warfare."--H.R. McMaster, Survival


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Book Description Oxford University Press (UK), United States, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. From the Ancient Greeks obsession with the armies of the Persians, Westerners have been irresistibly drawn to the exotic nature of Oriental warfare and have sought either to emulate their enemies imagined ways of fighting or to incorporate Eastern warriors and martial races, such as the Sikhs and Gurkhas, in their own forces. The alluring yet terrifying prospect of Samurai warriors, obedient to an ancient code of chivalry, or of the Mongol cavalry thundering across the steppes, continue to grip our imagination, while the courage and fighting prowess of today s Eastern warriors, the Taliban and Hezbollah, have been grudgingly acknowledged by the high tech armies of NATO in Afghanistan and the IDF in Lebanon. Such romantic notions are based on a highly questionable premise, namely that race, culture and tradition are separate and primordial, and that they determine how societies fight. But how far does culture shape war? Do non-Westerners approach strategy, combat, or death in ways intrinsically different from their Eastern neighbours? This debate can be tracked through time, from Herodotus onwards, and features in innumerable histories and literary works as well as in poetry, art and oral epics. Yet there are few histories of the idea itself. Military Orientalism argues that viewing culture as a script that dictates warfare is wrong, and that our obsession with the exotic can make it harder, not easier, to know the enemy. Culture is powerful, but it is an ambiguous repertoire of ideas rather than a clear code for action. To divide the world into western, Asiatic or Islamic ways of war is a delusion, one whose profound impact affects contemporary war and above all the War on Terror. Porter s fascinating book explains why the Oriental warrior inspires fear, envy and wonder and how this has shaped the way Western armies fight. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780199333424

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