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On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society Paperback – June 22, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
The underlying thesis of "On Killing" is that mankind is instinctively hard wired Not To Kill. How I wish that was true, and yet our bloody record across recorded history and plenty of evidence even prior to recorded history shows the exact opposite. We are, by instinct "killer angels." Read "War Before Civilization" as but one counter argument. But directly to my concern about the author's sources. "SLAM" Marshall's reputation was built on alleged interviews, hundreds of them, immediately after combat during WWII in which he asserts that at least 75% of combat infantry never fired their weapons, thereby proving that soldiers, at least American soldiers abhor killing and try to avoid doing so even at the risk of their lives.Read more ›
The author was unconvincing in his arguments. It is clear from his cherry-picking of statistics that he wants us to believe that we live in a society of ever-increasing violence. Unfortunately for Grossman, US Department of Justice statistics contradict this assertion. According to DOJ numbers easily found through a Google search, violent crime rates (including homicide)in America skyrocketed from about 1960 to the early 1990s, but have been falling steadily since then. Would anyone argue that the use of violent video games in the US is falling steadily as well? He also fails to mention that certain societies with arguably even more violent video games than the US have much lower rates of violent crime than we do, for example Japan.
The author seems to rely heavily on a few secondary sources, particularly John Keegan's Face of Battle and Richard Holmes' Acts of War. His few primary sources include articles from Soldier of Fortune magazine; he appears to take them at face value that they are true, accurate first-person accounts of combat experiences. He claims that he himself conducted several hundred interviews of combat veterans, but didn't seem to use their accounts as sources.
His personal bias in on display here, but he seems unaware of it. He lionizes the American soldier. I served as an American soldier for two decades before retiring in 2001. I came to view my fellow soldiers as ordinary fallen beings sometimes performing unpleasant tasks in unpleasant places.Read more ›
He further talks about the distance involved making killing easier the farther away and less humanized a target is which i guess has makes some sense however, to use a hypothetical example. A trained soldier underneith an enemy at knife range is going to clearly go into condition red, revert to the lowest level of training (and survival) instinct and react to that situation in kind.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
required reading but an amazing book so it is easy to get started and hard to put downPublished 4 days ago by Richard B.
Fast read, easy to understand, thought provoking. I recommend it for Vets and non-vets. Very insightful with many surprises.Published 9 days ago by Mike
As a combat veteran from RVN and a career Infantry Officer I found this read to be interesting and should be reading for young men and women thinking about going into the service,... Read morePublished 13 days ago by Amazon Customer
Grossman's book has framed a lot of half-formed thoughts for me and I've never read anything like this. I'm grateful for it.Published 23 days ago by Scott Graves
Very informative and enlightening. A must read for anyone looking to pursue a career in the Military.Published 23 days ago by Larry C.