Azar Gat
War In Human Civilization

As their rebellion against the crown turned into a fully fledged War of Independence, a new American national identity began to form, bridging over the deep divisions that had separated the colonies from each other. A representative Continental Congress created a Continental Army commanded by George Washington, whereas militias operated locally. As war touched close to home and social involvement in what was to be a new republic was high, popular participation in the patriotic war became asignificant factor in the victory. One of the symbolic figures of the rebellion was the printer, newspaper publisher, and man of the Enlightenment Benjamin Franklin. Indeed, the new press that informed the colonies' town folk about the unfolding events and debated the political issues served as a major catalyst of the forming national American identity. Furthermore, the founders of the Republic were infused with the ideology of the Enlightenment disseminated through a shared diet of books in the same way as the religious ideologies that had animated the wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

All of the above factors and processes climaxed in revolutionary France, because the revolutionary state recognized no source of legitimacy other than the French people, no internal boundary or privilege, no status except that of French citizens. And these principles remained in force when a popular Empire replaced the revolutionary Republic. More than Spain, the French state succeeded in subsuming diverse regional identities under the French national banner, a process that had begun under the monarchy and was greatly boosted by the Revolution. Combining a participatory civic ethos hitherto associated with city-states with the large size of a country-state, the revolutionary state was able to arouse national-patriotic energies, marshal resources, and mobilize mass citizen armies. Proclaiming levee en masse in 1793, it conscripted close to a million Frenchmen within a few years. Initially improvised, inexperienced, ill-equipped, and badly supplied the revolutionary armies, shaped by the organizational genius of Lazar Carnot, were as large as the combined forces of the powers of the Ancien Regime. Indeed, drawn from all classes of society, they compensated for their deficiencies by superior numbers and morale. They adopted more flexible and aggressive shock tactics and, less inhibited by the (still acute) problem of desertion than the armies of the Anden Regime, they were able to rely on improvised logistics, with the troops foraging widely in the countryside. Furthermore, the large numbers of easily replaceable recruits translated into aggressive, battle-oriented strategy. This was the material underpinning Danton's slogan—'L'audace, et encore de l'audace, et toujours l'audace'-which would find its ultimate consummation in Napoleon's crushing strategy. The Emperor exaggerated when he once told Metternich that he could afford to lose 30,000 French troops every month. Nevertheless, paradoxically, manpower inflation made the price of casualties cheaper for the French revolutionary state than any other military hardware, cheaper than the hard-to-replace professional troops of its Ancien Regime adversaries. National conscription made troops easily available.

However, contrary to the widely accepted view among scholars, it should be emphasized that revolutionary France was no more able than earlier states in history to keep over 1 per cent other population under arms for any prolonged period of time. No miracles were performed here. With a population of some 25 million, France reached a peak of 750,000 soldiers in, 1794 only at a price of economic mayhem, and numbers fell to around 400,000 the year after, where they remained until the end of the decade. War was financed by the sale of land confiscated from the nobility and church, by inflationary means, and by extensive looting. As the French armies repulsed the invaders and carried the war into foreign territories, they resorted to widespread requisitioning to feed themselves and sustain the French treasury. And these arrangements were systematized under the Empire. In 1805 the French army numbered only about 300,000 men, when France's population had grown to nearly 30 million because of annexations. But war and conquest spiralled thereafter. Two million Frenchmen were drafted during the years 1800-15, with 600,000 in active service constituting the peak (1813). Furthermore, a host of satellite states supplied troops to the imperial army at their own expense, doubling its size during the Empire's zenith, as well as paying for French troops stationed on their territory. Large war indemnities were imposed on the vanquished. The whole of western-central Europe was thus harnessed to support imperial France's military might. In addition, during emergencies Napoleon resorted to loans taken from private bankers and financiers.

Napoleon fell because (1) Britain and Russia, the one secured behind sea and the other by her vast space, remained beyond his reach and became the foci around which resistance to French domination crystallized; (2) he exerted such heavy pressure on the European order that the other great powers—otherwise deeply divided among themselves—were ultimately driven to co-operate and fight him to the end; and (3) those powers—most notably Prussia, which had been the most gravely crushed and humiliated—were obliged to 'fight fire with fire', initiating social reform in order to raise the mass armies and generate the popular participation in the state that had made revolutionary France strong. Again, the pressure of war played a key role in precipitating modernity.

  The World was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They, hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow,

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Through Eden took their solitary way.