The recent New York Times bestselling book entitled "Conflict," coauthored by retired Gen. David Petraeus and Lord Andrew Roberts of Belgravia, seeks to understand the nature and history of warfare as it has evolved since the end of World War II to contemporary wars in the Middle East and Ukraine.
It is no exaggeration to call this book exceptional in the sense that it applies the lessons learned by the two authors over two lifetimes of expertise as practitioners and academics of war.
Newsmax spoke with Lord Roberts regarding the lessons that his book imparts to the current geopolitical crises in the Middle East, Ukraine, and the Balkans.
Asked about the common theme that ties the modern period of warfare together, Lord Roberts replied, "There are several themes that run through the book, and one of them that we discovered was that strategic leadership is the most important thing. When we look at the wars since 1945, it doesn't really matter how many men you start off with on each side, how well equipped they are, or whether they control the major cities of the country.
"What really matters is do the leaders get the big ideas right of why they are fighting the war and the nature of the war, and that is more important than men or materials which one would think would be the key determining factors?"
The world has been preoccupied with covering the latest episode of the Israeli-Palestinian war, and Newsmax took the opportunity to ask Roberts whether he saw any similarities to previous episodes, such as the Yom Kippur War and the Intifadas of 1987-1993 and 2000-2005.
"We found that there really isn't a precedent on what is going on in Gaza at the moment," he said. "Historians obviously like to find precedent in everything, and David [Petraeus] was involved in the important urban warfare engagements in Mosul, Raffa, and Fallujah, and he is the first to point out that Gaza isn't the same as them.
"Gaza is on a different scale because there are 2.3 million Gazans, [and] it is a fiendishly difficult operation because of the tunnels, Hamas taking hostages, and the usage of the Palestinian population as human shields. There frankly isn't any precedent in the conflicts that we've covered."
Newsmax also inquired about the current efficacy of NATO as a collective security organization, as well as its current role in mitigating conflicts now emerging at Europe's doorstep.
"We started the book in 1945, as it was a split-off point, a defining moment, one where nuclear weapons were first [and so far only] used, and everyone thought that this would be the last time that there would be a war in Europe.
"The thing that was going to guarantee [that there would never be another war in Europe] was NATO, and that was founded in 1949, but there have been two major wars in Europe since then. NATO was the organization that essentially won and ended the Yugoslavian Civil War in the mid-1990s, but it's not doing that with Ukraine at the moment, it's not winning right now frankly.
"It has a mixed record in the post-war period, but it looks like it is unable to impose a victory on Putin in Ukraine."
The breakup of the Balkans after the Yugoslavian Civil War features prominently in Conflict, and Newsmax asked Roberts to give his analysis of any emerging signs based on the patterns of the prior Balkan wars.
"The news coming out of Bosnia, Serbia, and other parts of the Balkans is not good," he said without hesitation.
"The [Yugoslavian] Civil War was a generation ago, the Dayton Accords [that resolved the conflict] date back to the mid-1990s and that is nearly 30 years ago," he continued.
"There has been just enough time for people to start to forget about the pain from before and sharpen their swords for the next round. I think that we haven't necessarily heard the end of fighting in the countries that used to constitute Yugoslavia.
"It is a very worrying process and moment. If you were to look at the next flashpoint in the world, everyone looks to Taiwan, of course. But I think that the Balkans are just as much of a hot point.
"One thing to remember in the original Balkans War was that it was [one of] NATO's finest hours to force the Serbians out of Bosnia without a single NATO casualty. In the history of warfare, it is very rare for a war to be won without a single person being killed in the 1990s."
The next United Kingdom general election is due to arrive, according to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, in the latter half of this year, and all signs point to a big win by the opposition Labour Party. Newsmax asked Roberts to hypothesize about a potential Labour government's foreign policy under its leader and the almost-certain next prime minister, Sir Keir Starmer.
"In government, not always the case in opposition, [Labour] tends to be pretty sound on foreign policy, because they don't want to be outmaneuvered on the right by the Conservative Party," he said.
"You had [Labour Prime Minister] Clement Attlee help set up NATO with President Harry Truman, and they had an effective anticommunist foreign policy regarding the Soviets and with the airlift during the Korean War. In the 1960s, the Labour governments were also very anticommunist.
"Sir Tony Blair was almost [enthusiastic] in his foreign policy in supporting the United States in Iraq after 9/11. I would expect Keir Starmer to be the same, as he has been on the record for actively supporting Ukraine. Even though he is under tremendous pressure from the left wing and the Islamic aspects of his party, he has refused to call for a cease-fire in Gaza.
"In fact, both historically and in the future, I believe that [Labour] will continue to put Britain first in foreign policy. I speak as a Conservative legislator, and while I think that [Labour is] disastrous and appalling on economics, they have been sound on foreign policy."
The book "Conflict" shows both the similarities and branching paths of warfare in the modern era. The transatlantic analysis of Roberts and Petraeus gives the reader much to consider when following the ongoing conflicts throughout the world as well as future conflicts that may arise due to the destabilization of the international order.
The nuanced assessment of "Conflict" in looking at the history and lessons of warfare is a vital aspect for discerning order in a modern world that is increasingly chaotic.
(Michael Cozzi is a graduate of The Catholic University of America and its law school, the Columbus School of Law)
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