All You Need To Know About the History of Warfare

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History of Warfare for Dummies

"For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

~ (Luke 14:8-11)

“For ’tis the sport to have the engineer / Hoisted with his own petard.”

~ William Shakespeare, in Hamlet

"petard": A small bell-shaped bomb used to breach a gate or wall.

~ American Heritage Dictionary

The history of warfare and weapons is very complicated. To make sense of it all, you need a PhD from a prestigious university, an engineering background, and years of experience working in the military, not to mention actual combat experience. The problem is, all that would take me about twenty years and I only have an hour to write this. So here is my "History of Warfare for Dummies."

Thousands of years ago, some caveman realized that if he picked up a rock and used it to bash in the other guy’s skull, he could rule the neighborhood and have his way. He felt pretty good about this and never thought that anyone else would ever copy his brilliant idea. Finally, the other guys, not wanting to be pushed around any longer, picked up a rock too, the great equalizer. Things cooled off for a while.

Then some bright guy got the brilliant idea of picking up a big stick and using it to bash in the other’s guy’s skull before the other guy could hit him with a rock. He felt pretty good about this and never thought that anyone else would ever copy his brilliant idea. Finally, the other guys, not wanting to be pushed around any longer, picked up a big stick too, the great equalizer. Things cooled off for a while.

Then some bright guy got the brilliant idea of making a sword and using it to stick the other guy in the gut before the other guy could hit him with a big stick. He felt pretty good about this and never thought that anyone else would ever copy his brilliant idea. Finally, the other guys, not wanting to be pushed around any longer, made their own swords too, the great equalizer. Things cooled off for a while.

Then some bright guy got the brilliant idea of making a bow and arrow and using it to shoot the other guy before the other guy could stick him with a sword. He felt pretty good about this and never thought that anyone else would ever copy his brilliant idea. Finally, the other guys, not wanting to be pushed around any longer, made their own bows and arrows too, the great equalizer. Things cooled off for a while.

Then some bright guy got the brilliant idea of making a gun and using it to shoot the other guy before the other guy could stick him with an arrow. He felt pretty good about this and never thought that anyone else would ever copy his brilliant idea. Finally, the other guys, not wanting to be pushed around any longer, made their own guns, the great equalizer. Things cooled off for a while.

Then some bright guy got the brilliant idea of making a machine gun and using it to shoot the other guy before the other guy could shoot him. He felt pretty good about this and never thought that anyone else would ever copy his brilliant idea. Finally, the other guys, not wanting to be pushed around any longer, made their own machine guns, the great equalizer. Things cooled off for a while.

Then some bright guy got the brilliant idea of building a tank using it to shoot the other guy while the other guy’s machine gun bullets bounce off. He felt pretty good about this and never thought that anyone else would ever copy his brilliant idea. Finally, the other guys, not wanting to be pushed around any longer, made their own tanks, the great equalizer. Things cooled off for a while.

Eventually, and skipping ahead a bit, some bright guy got the brilliant idea of building a nuclear bomb and using it to threaten to vaporize the enemy’s cities. He felt pretty good about this and never thought that anyone else would ever copy his brilliant idea. Finally, the other guys, not wanting to be pushed around any longer, built their own nuclear bombs, the great equalizer. Things cooled off for a while.

Things heated up again though after everyone realized that nukes are too bad to use. You can only threaten to use them. Actually, you can’t even threaten to use them because everyone will think you’re insane, right Barry? They have no purpose other than to sit there, waiting for some truly insane person to steal one and explode it somewhere — most likely New York or D.C. A real dead-end weapons system. Back to the drawing board.

Finally, we end up where we are now. Some guys got the brilliant idea of building precision-guided flying bombs. They felt pretty good about this and never thought that anyone else would ever copy their brilliant idea. They figured it was too expensive for anyone else to make such weapons. They figured they’d be on top for quite awhile, kicking major league foreign ass. They felt kind of like the first guy to pick up a rock, just before another guy picked up a big stick and bashed his head in.

If we continue to worship power over others and its technological implements, precision-guided flying bomblets will, in the not too distant future, be nearly as common and cheap as assault rifles are now. Armed with such weapons of mini-destruction and a phone book, self-appointed future "liberators" will turn Mapblast into a gruesome double-entendre. Will our modern cavemen send us scurrying back to the caves?

For now, I can do no better than to quote that great political philosopher, the Wicked Witch of the West, who knew a thing or two about precision-guided flying bomblets: "What a world, what a world!"

April 30, 2003

James Ostrowski is an attorney practicing in Buffalo, New York. See his website at http://jimostrowski.com.

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