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Ripples of Battle considers the impact of three specific battles both in their own time and on the subsequent course of human events.
In the wake of 9-11, comparisons were heard between the suicidal Islamic pilots and the kamikazes of WWII. Hanson (who lost an uncle at Okinawa) argues that the real legacy of the kamikazes was to stiffen American resolve to win the war at any cost, culminating in the firebombing of Tokyo and the dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The failure of the suicide tactic also brought about an abrupt rejection of militarist leadership by the Japanese themselves, preparing the way for democratization. Such may be the outcome in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine.
The death of Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnston at the battle of Shiloh has long been seen as the turning point in the American Civil War. The loss of this tactical genius gave birth to the myth of the Lost Cause—the idea that only a tragic accident of fate, not Southern incompetence and Northern superiority, had wrecked a noble dream. The result was a reactionary, backward-looking culture that retarded Southern progress for a century. Shiloh also resurrected the career of William Tecumseh Sherman, leading to the physical devastation of the South, while ruining the career of Lewis Wallace, whose lifelong efforts to clear his name of purported misconduct at Shiloh led him to write Ben Hur, the most successful book in American history. It also made the reputation of Nathan Bedord Forrest, who went on to found the Ku Klux Klan.
The ripples of Delium (424BC), an obscure, forgotten battle of the Peloponnesian War, were human, military and cultural. This battle, in which the Athenians were badly defeated a few miles from home, inspired a tragedy by Euripides, preserved and profoundly altered the direction of Socratic philosophy (Socrates was one of the battle's few survivors), and virtually created Western infantry tactics.
“Fascinating and well executed....A great little book....Hanson is a superb storyteller and a clear and concise writer.” —The Washington Times
“What's most impressive about Hanson's work is his constant reminder that history is not just a faceless story of economic and social progress, but also one about the strength of individuals, brought to life here in masterly prose.” —The Christian Science Monitor