Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: Negotiating and Observing War
Mark Calhoun, Command and General Staff College
Ian Johnson, Yale University
Participant's Paper Title: Army of Peace: The Plan to Arm the United Nations and the Origins of NATO
Participant's Paper Abstract: In 1942, the Roosevelt Administration began policy discussions regarding the future United Nations Organization. Roosevelt decided, based on his experience with the League of Nations, that the new international organization needed its own military forces to enforce its mandate. By 1944, the expectation was that each of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - the United States, Great Britain, France, China, and the USSR - would offer contingents which would be seconded to the United Nations for predetermined periods. There was consensus among the democratic powers and Nationalist China in favor of a more muscular international organization. Thus, at the San Francisco Conference in 1945, a plan for a UN military force was detailed in the UN Charter. This new military force would answer to the UN Security Council, but would be managed by a separate organization. Eventually titled the 'Military Staff Committee,' it was made up of senior officers from each of the Big Five, including the French and Chinese Chiefs-of-Staff of the Army, King George's chief Aide-de-Camp, and US General Matthew Ridgway. Drawing from document collections in the British National Archives, NARA, the United Nations Archives and the Truman Library, my paper argues that the failure of collective security negotiations at the UNMSC between 1945 and 1947 not only marked the beginning of the Cold War, but led directly to the formation of NATO: many of the same men who worked on the MSC moved to the new organization. Besides its historical significance, there is a great deal of policy relevance in reassessing NATO's founding functions and purposes. This paper argues that NATO was much more than a reaction solely to Soviet aggression; it represented a second attempt to build a values-based mutual defense association aimed at the promotion of global stability and prosperity.
Jacopo Pili, University of Leeds
Participant's Paper Title: Britain and Germany in the Reports of Fascist Era Italian Military Attachés
Participant's Paper Abstract: The traditional point of view of the complex relationship between the Italian Army and Fascism is that the attempts by the regime to gain the favor of the army in order to strengthen its position in its first years had led to the creation of an 'alliance' between the two. This allowed the army to maintain its autonomy until the collapse of the regime. According to this view, the Army was a 'technical' institution, essentially extraneous to the regime, and mostly faithful to the King of Italy. This interpretation has been challenged by authors who claimed that Mussolini played a critical role in military policies, and that the transformation of the army into an ideological 'revolutionary' institution was part of the Fascist totalitarian project. This paper joins the debate by analyzing the worldview of key military attachés, whose role has not been thoroughly analysed so far. What was the perception that these officers had of the nations they observed, and was their view influenced by the increasingly totalitarian evolution of the regime? Did they absorb a worldview which saw democracy as weak and decadent and authoritarianism as the path of the future? The paper will address these questions by assessing the content of the reports sent by the military attachés from London and Berlin, using a comparative approach. It focuses on the crucial years between 1925 and 1939. The paper will be based on hitherto unused archival sources: documents from the Archivio centrale dello stato, the Archivio Storico of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ufficio Storico of the Stato Maggiore dell'Esercito. It will also draw on articles published at the time in the military review La rivista di Artiglieria e Genio.
Sarah Melville, Clarkson University
Participant's Paper Title: Starting Wars in the Ancient Near East
Participant's Paper Abstract: In the ancient Near East, people believed that conflict was 'inherent in an intelligent and complete creation'. Thus, in order to earn the gods' approval and achieve victory, those who waged war had to justify their actions. Whether as the rulers of small city-states or of huge empires, kings went to great lengths to find a legitimate pretext for war. They provoked their enemies into breaking treaties or attacking, cited past wrongs, or declared the need to support allies and protect clients. But even if they had to manufacture a legitimate causus belli after the fact, they always justified their military undertakings. On the surface, war justification appears to have fulfilled widespread religious and psychological needs, but a closer look reveals that the practice served a variety of purposes. Using case studies from the Old Babylonian (c. 2000-1595), Middle Assyrian (c. 1400-1150), and Neo-Assyrian (c. 1000-612) periods, this paper explores the many ways rulers manipulated military ideology and associated popular expectations to further their own political and military aims. By identifying fully the factors at play in going to war in the ancient Near East, we gain a deeper understanding of the interplay between war, religion, and politics.

College of Arts and Sciences

Gottschalk Hall
University of Louisville
Louisville, Kentucky 40292

Office Hours

M-F 8:00am to 5:00 pm


tel (502) 852-6817

fax (502) 852-0770

Social Media