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On the Origins of War: And the Preservation of Peace Paperback – January 1, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Stanley Planton, Ohio Univ., Chillicothe
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
But it was this book, "On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace" that first brought Kagan to the attention of the world. Kagan is a classical historian - he is the Bass Professor of History, Classics and Western Civilisation at Yale. I have reviewed the first volume of what might justly be called his magnum opus ("The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War") elsewhere.
This is NOT a history of war; this is a history of how it is that people come to fight wars. And while people often refer to this book as "One the Origins of War", I think that would be to miss the point. For this book is more about the preservation of peace than anything else. Elsewhere I note that Kagan has been critiqued for not spending any time discussing the wars themselves -- and the aftermath of the wars. But this is ridiculous. This misses the entire point of what Kagan is trying to do here. If that is what you are looking for -- look elsewhere and do not fault Kagan for failing to provide it.
Drawing heavily upon his classical training, Kagan compares the origins of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) with those of the First World War. He then compares the origins of the Second Punic War (218-201 BC) with those of the Second World War. His final chapter deals with the Cuban Missile Crisis (and relies heavily on recently declassified Soviet and American documents).
There is a sort of systematic approach.Read more ›
Kagan's basic thesis is that war is a natural component of human society. Moreover, wars are just as likely to arise over intangible issues such as prestige, power, respect and honor as they are over more tangible concerns like land and natural resources. He demonstrates that attempts to avoid war through unilateral disarmament and conciliation -- although well intentioned -- are ultimately chimerical and doomed to failure. Kagan notes that many wars may be "unnecessary" and therefore avoidable, but war as an instrument of policy and change is permanent. Thus, the objective of statesmen should be to fight only those wars that are necessary, while maintaining a strong and credible defense to keep the peace. As Kagan writes "the preservation of peace requires active effort, planning, the expenditure of resources, and sacrifice, just as war does."
As for the individual case studies, I found them to be a bit longer than necessary, but each one was well-crafted and powerfully argued. The book does assume a certain familiarity with the subject matter, so the content may be a little overwhelming for those less-steeped in military history or foreign affairs.
The chapter on the causes of the Peloponnesian War is a gem, but essentially a synopsis of Kagan's seminal work in that area.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A thoughtful well written piece of historical analysis. The author use five case studies on wars that started or in the case of the Cuban missile crisis did not start as the basis... Read morePublished 27 days ago by John Stults
I had read the book before, bought as a gift. Probably the best book available to understand, if that's possible, wars.Published 11 months ago by Joy
Great cases studies on the causes of war and maintenance of peace. Provided my first exposure to Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War. Fascinating. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Steve NC
What can I say, Kagan is an excellent historian. This is well worth the read.Published 16 months ago by Philip McDaniel
I thought this book was excellent. There are four wars covered in the book, and each is used to support the book's premise, which is basically an idea Thucydides ([... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Tom O'Donnell
"On the Origins of War" is not a historical book. It discusses four great wars and a near miss but these examples, bolstered as always by Kagan excellence as a historian,... Read morePublished on February 9, 2014 by Fouch
I once heard a historian famous for his biographies and histories of modern warfare complain that all Donald Kagan does or did was publish books based on his various university... Read morePublished on September 1, 2013 by Phred
After reading the story of Prof. Kagan's last lecture in the media, I rushed to purchase a copy of "On the Origins of War". Read morePublished on May 29, 2013 by Gottfried Brieger