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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
This book is best read as a counterpoint to Paul Kennedy's 1987 study, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. Kennedy emphasized the primacy of domestic politics; Kagan, professor of history and classics at Yale, focuses on international relations, pondering why states choose to go to war. He sees the determining factors as those enunciated by Thucydides: "honor, fear, and interest." War cannot be eliminated because peace is not regarded as an absolute good, yet particular conflicts can be averted, according to Kagan. He analyzes five wars, ranging across 2500 years and involving widely different kinds of governments. He begins with the Greek city-states that fought the Peloponnesian Wars and moves to the Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage, before jumping to the 20th century for the two world wars and the near-war of the Cuban missile crisis. The wide temporal gap between the ancient and the modern examples highlights Kagan's thesis that peace does not keep itself: "A persistent and repeated error through the ages has been the failure to understand that the preservation of peace requires active effort, planning, the expenditure of resources, and sacrifice, just as war does." A thoughtful review of an age-old phenomenon. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
In his latest work, Kagan continues the theme of a parallel between ancient and modern history, which he brought forward in Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy (LJ 11/15/90). Studying the international systems in place at the time of the Peleponnesian War, World War I, the Second Punic War, World War II, and the Cuban Missle and Berlin Wall crises, Kagan concludes that peace is an active process requiring constant attention; it is not merely the absence of war. Kagan's overall premise will be certain to spark discussions in academic circles, and his discussion of the events that led to a near-war in the 1960s, particularly the tacit acceptance of the construction of the Berlin Wall by the Kennedy administration, may provoke a more public controversy as well. This work deserves a place in history collections. While his style is academic, his message is of importance to all in this post-Cold War world. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.
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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The book is generally very good and I learned a lot from reading it.
The book first juxtaposes the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens to the more recent conflict of World War 1 comparing Britain and Germany. This is not a linear comparison where one nation is like a corresponding one from the other conflict, but instead how aspects of the conflict make the modern nations comparable to one of the nations in certain aspects and to the other in other aspects.
The book then juxtaposes the Second Punic War to the Second World War. Here the comparison is a little more linear, but still not a straight forward one modern nation is analogous to one ancient nation.
The book then discusses the Cuban missile crisis and uses ideas discussed from the other sections of the book to explain why the events took the course they did.
Overall a good book.
However there are two faults:
1. The sections become way out of balance when the ancient wars get kind of a quick over view and then the text becomes bogged down in the fine details of the modern war. A little more info on the ancient and a little more discussion comparing the ancient and modern conflicts would have helped.
2. The book feels a little incomplete from its over all ending conclusion. You can definitely draw conclusions from it, I just wish the author discussed his philosophical views and reasons for them a little bit more.
I read the paperback version of this book and there were a couple of printing errors (a small portion of one page was blanked out) Also I like a lot of maps and found myself following along on internet maps at times during the reading. For those of you who have attended military schools you will find the format very much like that used at the academies and war colleges.
The book is well worth the time to read (as are Dr Kagan's works on the Peloponnesian War).