Barnes Conference pic

23 March 2013, Saturday, Barnes Graduate Student Conference, Temple University.

I was happy to participate, and Chair a panel at this conference. The panel was called “Battlefields” and had two graduate student presenters. Both students did an excellent job delivering their papers.

Steven Elliot, a Ph.D. student at Temple University, presented first, a paper on “Rethinking Twentieth Century Warfare: Infantry, Artillery, and the Mechanized Battle of Attrition.” The paper called attention to several key issues, particularly the over generalization of the term “maneuver warfare” as a distinct characteristic and change from World War I. Elliot noted the primacy of firepower and frontal assaults in World War II, and that occurring across its diverse theaters.

Scott Manning, a Master’s Degree student from American Military University, presented second. His paper, “The Battle of Falkirk (1298): A Case and Method for Making the Messy Historical Process More Accessible” was as interesting as it was informative. Manning called attention to the problems of historical methodology on the Battle of Falkirk, but in a larger sense the same problems in historical research on ancient military history.  I thought his valuable points could also have value and application in modern military studies.

Both student papers generated questions and comments from the audience, which likewise enjoyed the papers.

Kaete, Tom, and Pat, the student organizers of the conference, deserve a lot of credit for making the event a success, and for coordinating the panels, lunch, dinner and other activities.

Panel Battlefields



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South Carolina Historical Association Conference. Clinton, South Carolina.  16 March 2013

Lisa and I had a fun time at the SCHC conference this Saturday. I presented a paper on “Tribal Capabilities and Warfare: The Case of Ancient Israel.”  The paper abstract is below. One of the best aspects of the conference was to see some old friends from South Carolina, like Dr. James Farmer from the University of South Carolina Aiken, and to see the graduate students present their papers–very impressive. There were interesting papers on the Civil War, Southern Women, South Carolina history, and too many other topics to list here.  Likewise it was a pleasure to meet some new folks.

My abstract on Tribal Capabilities:

The Old Testament history of the ancient Jewish tribes presents ample evidence for not only the study of military leadership and tactics, but also the social and cultural behaviors animating, structuring, and strengthening the military culture of these Hebrew peoples during the period of early conquest and settlement (circa 1300 B.C.). Current historical scholarship has called attention to Israel’s military leadership and war councils, flexible tactics, weaponry and emerging technology, terrain analysis–and the force capabilities and posture of Israel’s opponents (both local and regional), particularly the absence of large aggressive empires like Assyria and Babylon operating in Palestine, which emerge later in time and defeat both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, respectively.

The research methodology of the proposed paper utilizes historical analysis of primary sources to analyze an unexplored aspect of tribal warfare: “tribal capabilities.” Tribal capabilities are the unique cultural norms, values, and behaviors that shape a tribe’s ability to conduct war, and affect the conditions that determine the outcomes of war.  Tribal capabilities, in its most basic form, are the abilities of a tribe to sustain life during periods of war and thus affect the battle space.  The concept of social “capabilities” is discussed in current US military doctrine [See Manual, Field. “Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency.” Department of the Army, Washington DC (2006)].  Utilizing a study of the ancient Hebrew text [translated by Robert Young, Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (Edinburgh, n.p. 1898)], and traditional accounts of Israel’s tribal warfare such as the The Works of Flavius Josephus, the paper will assert that tribal vitality rested not only in the leadership, the heroic judges that act as champion-saviors, but also in a complementary socio-military force emanating from the population.  Leadership in depth (emerging from broad demographic groups), potent master narratives, and a vibrant military culture operationalized by a practical military art synergistic with religious practice created this “bottom up” force structuring and supporting senior military leadership. Potent tribal capabilities were therefore instrumental to the survival of ancient Israel during the period of the Judges, and by extension are critical to the structures and viability of tribal warfare in the modern era.

The significance of this study transcends historical analysis of the tribes of ancient Israel. As the United States continues to engage in asymmetrical conflicts that devolve to the tribal level of society, understanding tribal capabilities will be essential for effectively stabilizing the operational environment. The detailed case study found in the ancient Hebrew text is not comprehensive but is indeed highly informative and rich in information on the neglected subject of tribal dynamics shaping military conflict.  Understanding and influencing these tribal capabilities will be critical for military decision making in future asymmetrical conflicts in developing societies and nations.



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