The Shape of the American Military, Technology, Culture Essay

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Technology and the American Way of War Since 1945 covers in detail a wide range of weapons systems, technologies, and other equipment developed by the United States Military. Naturally, a significant amount of Mahnken’s book places a heavy emphasis on technologies and systems developed during the Cold War. The book could almost be examined as a complete history of the development of military technology during that period, however, the author has a much more significant purpose for his work than to just educate the reader on military history. Mahnken says, “This book is about the interaction of technology and culture in the context of the strategic environment. It argues that technology both shaped and was shaped by the culture of the U.S. armed services” (Mahnken, loc. 156). The following will discuss some of these interactions and how they relate to other topics discussed in the Technology and War course.

Major Questions and Issues

One major issue posed by the author was how the United States was going to get accurate intelligence on the Soviet Union’s military actions while keeping the level of danger to U.S. soldiers at an acceptable level. The manned U-2 aircraft experienced some successes, but it was still a risky venture flying over Soviet airspace. After the incident with Power’s being shot down it was decided a better reconnaissance solution was needed. This is a key example where culture shaped technology (Mahnken, loc. 330-335). The American culture’s high regard for human life encouraged the creation of better and safer technology.

Mahnken considered it to be a remarkable achievement for the United States with the development of the Corona, the U.S.’s first operational satellite for photo reconnaissance. It s...

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...ange as with the Mamelukes (Keegan, 36). It can be the culture that actually forces a change, or in the case of the Cold War, rapid innovation.


The book is exactly what Mahnken says it is—“the interaction of technology and culture”. His argument that they both shape each other is confirmed by history. The Cold War, while not all of our military history since World War II, it is a large part of it, and it alone can confirm Mahnken’s argument. The actions of the United States with regards to our military building and technology innovations in doing so are a significant mark in our Country’s history. Culture changed our military forever.


Mahnken. Technology and the American Way of War Since 1945. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008. Electronic Kindle.

Keegan, John. A History of Warfare. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993. Print.

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