What is Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Reading? John David Lewis’ “Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History”

Netanyahu at the Knesset on Dec. 21, 2016 holding “Nothing Less than Victory” by John David Lewis. Photo: Olivier Fitoussi

From “What Is Netanyahu Reading These Days? And What Might It Say About His Future Plans?”:

The prime minister was seen in the Knesset chamber reading John David Lewis’ ‘Nothing Less than Victory,’ which suggests that successful military commanders who have achieved decisive victories have established stable peace.

During Wednesday evening’s long Knesset debate in the run-up to the final vote on the 2017-2018 budget, a number of Knesset members, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whiled away some of the time in the Knesset chamber catching up on reading.

In the prime minister’s case, he was reading “Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History,” published in 2010 by historian John David Lewis, who died in 2012 at the age of 57. Netanyahu is said to be a voracious reader, preferring non-fiction over novels. Time may tell whether Lewis’ book influences the prime minister’s future military thinking.

The premise of Lewis’ book is that aggressive military campaigns using decisive force are capable of winning wars and establishing lasting peace, while in contrast defensive military operations have led to indecisive outcome and prolonged hostilities. The book examines six wars from various periods, from antiquity to modern times.


When the book was initially published in 2010, Publishers Weekly said: “Lewis’s analysis of war as a psychological struggle and ‘clash of moral purposes’ is lucid and forceful; it’s especially telling in his incisive account of Sherman’s march [in the American Civil War] through Georgia, and especially provocative in his defense of the atomic bombings of Japan.”

Reflections on Trump’s Wall

Reflections on Trump’s Wall

They always failed. He had a lot to say on the subject. Here is a very pertinent quote from his book. Particularly ominous is the last paragraph:

“When Constantine marched on Rome in 312, his opponent Maxentius did not rely on the walls but rather marched out to meet his foe. The purpose of the walls was to protect the city until an army could come to its rescue, not to serve as a sufficient defense in their own right. But there is a deeper meaning to these walls. For centuries the majestic grandeur of Rome’s strength had been flaunted in the open roads into the city. It had been six hundred years since the city was last besieged, and for centuries an invasion of Italy had been inconceivable. Every Roman could see this power and this confidence in the openness of Rome’s roads, which connected her without fear to the world. These roads were like the shipping routes that had crossed the Aegean Sea when Athens was at her apex, which had brought the goods of the world to the foremost Greek city. The openness of Roman roads was true power, far stronger than mere walls. These roads were lines in the face of a confident city, the sinews of an invincible civilization with a people who admitted to no threats capable of striking their capital. Now the threats were real, and a new invasion was only a matter of time. Aurelian’s walls might have reassured the Romans that another invasion could be held off before penetrating the city itself, although Rome remained dependent on outside sources for its food and water. But the walls may also have had a deeper effect: they could not save Rome, but they could remind every Roman, every day, that he was perpetually at risk. The assault of the Goths onto Italy had been shocking but temporary evidence of Rome’s precarious position-as the sight of the Thebans had revealed the paucity of the Spartans, and Scipio’s landing swept fear through Carthage-but Aurelian’s walls were an open admission of permanent weakness and vulnerability. If any doubt remained that Rome was no longer the source of energy at the center of empire, that doubt was now removed. If one wished to name a particular event as marking the true Fall of Rome, one might look not to the elevation of King Odoacer to emperor in 476, or to the sack of Rome in 410, or even to the division of the empire in 395. The moment at which the city of Rome became just another town among many in an anarchic landscape, and not a source of law and power, was AD 271, with the decision to build walls around Rome. The political and military center of the empire had been gutted; the rest was a matter of time.”

Read John David Lewis’s book, “Nothing less than Victory”, for more info regarding walls erected in ancient times to protect the cities.