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Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?: The Transformation of Modern Europe Paperback – Bargain Price, January 13, 2009


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From Publishers Weekly

After two cataclysmic wars, argues Stanford historian Sheehan, Europe has been transformed from a place where the state was defined by its capacity to make war into a group of civilian states that have lost all interest in making war. Rather, they are marked by a focus on economic growth, prosperity and personal security. To explore this transformation, Sheehan examines the changes in modern warfare and in its infrastructure and the mobilization of national economies for war. Sheehan looks at the impact in the early 20th century of universal conscription, including its social consequences (such as bringing together different social classes), and its eventual decline; the peace movements marked by the 1899 and 1907 Hague conferences; the effects of the Cold War; the growth of the European Union; and the Euro-American split over the Iraq war. Sheehan's style is clear and fluid, and his work is just the right length. Perhaps his only failing is to scant Europe's fitful and ineffective interventions in the Balkans and more distant strife-torn countries, but this pales besides the information offered by this fine contribution to European studies. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

Sheehan, a historian at Stanford, describes how, in the past half century, Europeans have lost their taste and talent for war. In his telling, the First and Second World Wars formed a sort of one-two punch that knocked the love of a good fight out of the continent; war, for centuries seen as an incubator of heroes and leaders, became "something to be combated and overcome, like crime." In the process, the character of the European state changed, from one legitimatized by glorious victories and military power to one fixated on social welfare and trade agreements. Sheehan argues that this transformation entailed "a shift in Europeans’ moral calculus." This new Europe, he writes, will never be a superpower unless its people give up their "civilian identities"—but, he asks, sensibly, "why should they?"
Copyright © 2008 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (January 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547086334
  • ASIN: B0057DAM7G
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,874,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.4 out of 5 stars
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This is an important book that only earns four stars due to the many questions left unsaid and unanswered. Sheehan chronicles the transformation of Europe from a collection of military garrison states geared for war as necessary to civilian states that do not look to war or violence of any kind to resolve problems. The historical treatise is done well if lightly with many generalizations in about 170 pages. The remainder of the 227 pages is discussion that is well worth reading.

The author traces the rise of conscription armies required to meet very real threats from neighbors and how pacifism was marginalized as an alternative before World War I. The reality of WWI shocked everyone, and the states that moved toward providing social benefits to their populations rather than confronting aggression militarily between the wars were forced to rely on the Soviet Union and the US to regain their sovereign status. England fought Germany to the last Frenchman in WWI, and when that supply ran out was saved by American intervention. Having learned nothing when World War II rolled around, England again attempted to fight Germany to the last Frenchman, but the French only lasted four weeks. The Soviets became unexpected allies when attacked by Germany, but even then the US had to be brought in to save Western Europe from Germany (and communism.) I guess it's nice to be needed.

Then the malaise set in. Living comfortably under an American military security blanket, Europe was free to develop its economy and social programs while military expenditures remained static. Heroism disappeared as an admirable trait, and the nations transformed themselves to boring, stable, civilian states.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Frank D. Benedict on March 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
An outstanding book. It's fascinating to compare it with another outstanding book: Andrew Bacevich's "The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War." Just as Sheehan shows how the nations of Europe transformed themselves from militarized to civilian states, Bacevich chronicled America's passage in the other direction over the same period of time.

The interaction between the two merits more attention. Clearly America's dominant military position facilitated the demilitarization of Europe. Now the conventional view in America is that our superpower status is still needed to police the world and we view European countries as freeloaders lacking in appropriate gratitude for our largess.

Since it is clear that our military dominance is of little direct benefit to us, that our attempts to control the world through military dominance are increasingly futile, and that the cost of this dominance is not maintainable in the long run, the question is what the effect would be of a similar demilitarisation of the U.S. How could it be accomplished? What would be the effect on international stability?

Professor Sheehan does not address these questions but he provides an alternate view to Bacevich's that prepares the groundwork for an important discussion.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on March 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
James J. Sheehan's excellent new book, "Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?" is a concise history and commentary of the European struggle through war in the twentieth century, and one with more than a fair amount of insight and depth. In the span of one hundred years or so, Europe, in the author's eyes, went from a multi-state area of the world, boastful of its national armies, to a more loosely connected confederation of countries eager to avoid war and content with their own common good will and happiness. The transition has been remarkable and Sheehan explains it nicely.

The book expands early on with regard to the idea of "pacifism", a relatively modern term and one in use throughout the century. But the two world wars, around which the book is based, changed the trajectory of thinking, as it changed the history of each European country. Sheehan makes some startling revelations. Among them he says that when the First World War ended in November, 1918, Germans thought they were winning. How different it was twenty-seven years later, as the Second World War had no real fixed date of finality. The mini-wars and revolutions, so common inbetween the two, and the rise of Hitler, Lenin, Mussolini and others are important to follow, as the author points out many of these leaders could not have come to power without war behind them.

As Europe focused on its future in the 1950s and 1960s it needed a new identity and it has found one, sort of. Whereas "the European Union is the largest economic bloc in the world" and is concerned about global security, it is less interested in defense as a percentage of each nation's budget than is the United States.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Grey Wolffe VINE VOICE on June 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
For most of European recorded history, some one has been trying to enlarge their country by taking over parts of some one elses. This could be done one of two ways, marry it or conqueor it. Having seen pictures of many of the princesses from the nineteenth century (especially the Habsburgs) you you can see why most countries chose war. At the beginning of the twentieth century, central Europe was dominated by the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, and the Russian Empire in the East (the Ottomans were just a real estate holding company). Having spent the nineteenth century carving up Africa and Asia, the only place left to contest was Europe.

For the Germans the problem was France, for France it was Germany, everyone else was forced to choose up sides. When some one decided to pick on someone elses little brother, all hell broke loose and there was no way to stop it. After slugging it out for four years, the French and British convinced the new kid from across the street to help them gang up on the neighborhood bully (the Germans). Once the dust settled, everyone pointed their fingers at the Germans as being the cause of all the mess that was left.

Since the Germans felt that everyone else had started it, "oh yeah, step over this line and see what happens you krauts!", they were smarting from getting a 'raw deal'. So they licked their wounds and waited for another chance. Unfortunately for the Germans, there new leader was a little off kilter in the head and wasted huge amounts of resources on creating Hitler's version of Dante's Inferno, when the resources could have been better spent. So, this time the Germans got their butts kicked but good.
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