The Costs of War: America's Pyrrhic Victories 2nd Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0765804877
ISBN-10: 0765804875
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Paperback, November 30, 1999
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Editorial Reviews


"The Costs of War... ranks among the best collection of articles ever assembled on the history of United States wars that built the state, shredded the Constitution, and raised up an empire."—Free Market

“[C]ontains a number of well-written and well-argued essays that address various aspects of a crucially important but currently neglected subject for libertarians.”—Mark Brady, Liberty  

“[An] insightful and provocative collection of essays.”—Dwight D. Murphey, Conservative Review  

“The Costs of War is easily one of the most important books to emerge from  American conservatives in a generation.”—Thomas E. Woods, Jr., Modern Age  

“The Costs of War offers a devastating critique of Washington’s interventionist tendencies.”—Doug Bandow, World  

“This book is the most convincing attack on the warmongering state to appear since the end of the Second World War.”—Gerard Radnitzky, University of Trier

About the Author

John V. Denson is a partner in the law firm of Samford, Denson, Horsley, Pettey & Martin, vice chairman of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and a trustee of Auburn University in Alabama.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 450 pages
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers; 2 edition (November 30, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765804875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765804877
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #690,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Scott A. Kjar on June 12, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The sub-title of this book is "America's Pyrrhic Victories." In the introduction, it says, "In 280 B.C., Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, sent his army to invade Italy. In two glorious victories, at Heraclea (280 B.C.) and at Asculum (279 B.C.), Pyrrhus crushed the Romans, and sent them into retreat. However, in the course of his victories, Pyrrhus sustained immense losses. These losses later led to his defet and death, when he no longer could call upon an army that had died during his conquests. Thus, a victory won at such great costs that the losses outweigh the gains is referred to as a pyrrhic victory."
That sums up what this volume means by "The Costs of War." The 18 contributors argue that in most of the wars in which the U.S. has been involved, the "costs" of the war were far greater than the "gains." Consider, for example, the Spanish-American War, generally considered a fun little war in which the U.S. kicked Spain's butt, and freed Cuba and the Phillipines. However, this book shows how the real outcome was that the U.S.essentially BECAME Spain--that is, the U.S. became an imperialistic nation with obligations, commitments, and headaches all around the globe--headaches from which we still suffer today.
Some of the chapters cover broad ideas and the sweep of history (i.e., a chapter on the Classical Republicanism of Great Britain and the American colonies). Others cover specific wars (American Revolution, Civil War, Spanish-American War, and World Wars I and II). Some chapters deal with specific individuals (Lincoln, Churchill), and some deal with the cultural effects of war (effects on literature, tolerance, geographic population mobility, and the general de-civilizing of the 20th century).
This is an astonishingly powerful book. I was so impressed, I bought one for my father. He was so impressed that he actually read it!
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Ludwig von Mises Institute on August 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
By David Gordon -- The contributors to this outstanding volume have grasped a simple but unfashionable truth: war is a great evil. It entails horrible suffering and death on a large scale and has served as the principal means for the rise of the tyrannical state. Why then, do wars take place? So far as the wars of the United States, the chief subject of the book, are concerned, the contributors place the main blame on intellectuals and power- hungry politicians, often in the service of "merchants of death."
But a preliminary question first demands attention. Granted the manifest horrors of war, does it follow that all wars are morally forbidden? Such a course would quickly ensure disaster, since a people that totally renounced war would be ripe for invasion. As Hilaire Belloc's couplet puts it, "Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight;/But roaring Bill, who killed him, thought it right."
Murray Rothbard answers our question with characteristic insight: "My own view of war can be put simply; a just war exists when a people tries to ward off the threat of coercive domination by another people, or to overthrow an already existing domination. A war is unjust, on the other hand, when a people try to impose domination on another people, or try to retain an already existing coercive rule over them" (p. 119). In order fully to bring out Rothbard's doctrine, one needs to add a corollary: "A people ought to fight only in just wars." (This corollary is needed because, in Rothbard's definition, a war can fit neither the just nor unjust class.)
But an obvious objection arises to Rothbard's account; and we can see much of The Costs of War as a response to that objection.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Steve Jackson on November 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This work - originating in a conference at the Ludwig von Mises Institute - analyzes America's wars (and to a certain extent war in general) - in terms of Misesian and revisionist thought. While America has exerted enormous influence on the world through war and foreign intervention, their costs - in terms of lives, freedom, and prosperity - has been enormous. For those who are familiar with paleoconservative and libertarian thought, the essays will have a familiar ring. For those whose knowledge of "conservatism" is limited to the "conservative" talking heads and think tankers, these essays will be eye-openers.
I enjoyed all the essays, but some deserve particular attention. Allan Carlson's "The Military as an Engine of Social Change" shows how war not only leads to an increase in power, but also is used by government to change the family. This aspect of war never seems to get much attention from the neoconservative hawks. Murray Rothbard contributes a typically brilliant essay on leftist intellectuals who pushed America into World War I. As usual, Rothbard sees the "big picture," integrating both the men and movements that led to U.S. involvement in perhaps the greatest tragedy in human history. His discussion of John Dewey is brilliant. Ralph Raico contributes an excellent "take down" of Winston Churchill.
One essay I particularly enjoyed was Paul Gottfried's "Is Modern Democracy Warlike?" Prof. Gottfried points out that - for all his brilliance in economics - von Mises didn't understand American democracy. The seeds of big government are present in the democratic system, just as much (if not more) than in other systems. Hans-Herman Hoppe (another contributor) develops this theme in great detail in his book DEMOCRACY - THE GOD THAT FAILED.
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