I don’t normally like to read broad histories, but H.W. Crocker’s Don’t Tread on Me: A 400-Year History of America at War intrigued me. Crocker’s approach to describing American military history is unique to say the least.
Initially, I did not like the book because of some of Crocker’s comments. For example, in his discussion of the Revolutionary War, he says “”The Scotties are wonderful soldiers, as a rule, but they need English officers”. This and similar comments made me think about the objectivity of the book. After thinking more on the subject, Crocker’s book is clearly not an objective account â€“ he does his best to convince you that his angle on American military history is correct.
Overall, I agree more than disagree with Crocker’s take on American military history. He unveils some of America’s flaws in its past (and present) wars â€“ primarily when politics interferes with the way a war is waged. He cites examples from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War and beyond. I wholeheartedly agree with him when he cautions against allowing politics to dictate what occurs today in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Crocker also has made me think more about America’s past expansion. He contends that America’s expansion was imperialism. I never really thought of America’s quest to the Pacific Ocean as an effort to build an empire (maybe with the conquering of the American Indians in the West, but not with the Louisiana Purchase or the Gadsden Purchase).
I think Crocker takes his imperialism theme a little too far by suggesting we should have annexed all of Mexico after the Mexican-American War (it would have created too large of a country to administer properly and would have made the melting of two very different cultures too difficult â€“ plus, who says we could have done a better job governing Mexico?).
Although the book is extremely opinionated in Crocker’s explanations of America’s military past, I think you will find it a refreshing look at our great military heritage.