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War and Our World
on December 30, 2002
1 - War and Our World
2 - The Origins of War
3 - War and the State
4 - War and the Individual
5 - Can There Be an End to War?
This book is a transcript from a series of five lectures given by esteemed military historian, John Keegan. It is a short, but highly informative book; I read it in less than an hour.
The first four chapters are brilliant historical analysis. His insight into the toll and origins of war are invaluable. He explains well how war relates to the modern nation-state and individual, observing the increasing incidence of war-making by non-state actors.
However, when he diverges from history to try to answer the question of can we end war, he is less than prescient. I have a couple problems with the final chapter.
First, he seems eager to subjugate national sovereignty to the UN by asserting that war is now illegal, except in cases of self-defense or UN approval. That may be the case in Europe, but here in America, our constitution is still the supreme law of the land. It grants the office of commander-in-chief to the president and power to raise armies and declare war to the congress. Until the constitution is amended to read differently, the US reserves the sole right to determine the legality of our wars.
Second, his British sense of honour [sic] can be carried too far. He suggests subversion, sabotage, and assassination are less than honorable in warfare. Our special operations forces must use such tactics against assymetrical threats such as Al Qaeda terrorists.
Ultimately, I agree with the thesis of the chapter though: we must always retain the will and means to confront war and violence on equal, if not overwhelming, terms.