Know Your Enemy
Essential in war, an understanding of your opponent can also be a basis for peace.

When warfare pretends to be rational, with a well-considered cause, goals and strategy, the intelligence required to pursue it usually includes knowledge of the enemy. The more one knows about him, the better one can counter his moves. History is littered with the detritus of armies that went blindly into war and disasters under leaders who blithely ignored the need for such knowledge.

After the war is over, it is equally edifying to know more about the enemy one has just fought, from the opposing commander or army to the individual soldier. This issue of Military History includes several examples, starting (chronologically) with the final confrontations of longtime enemies Richard the Lionheart of England and Philip II Augustus of France. In World War I, newly unearthed information provides a glimpse across the trenches into the German side of the action that earned Corporal Alvin York the Medal of Honor — as well as immortality in his own lifetime (and perhaps a degree of embarrassment) in the film Sergeant York, as played by Gary Cooper. During one of the conflicts that continued shortly after the “War to End All Wars,” the Greek army ran into unexpected problems at Sakarya, unaware that the man who was galvanizing Turkish resistance, Mustafa Kemal Pasha, would soon be leading a revived Turkish nation into the 20th century as Kemal Ataturk. Finally, Kevin Patrick Muncer recounts his World War II experiences as an Avro Lancaster pilot in the Royal Air Force. Taken prisoner, he was surprised by the compassion he encountered among the civilians who probably saved his life. In that particular case, to know one’s enemy included learning that he was not as universally malevolent as one might have previously believed.