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Reasons to Kill: Why Americans Choose War Hardcover – September 28, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this tenuous polemic, Rubenstein (When Jesus Became God), professor of conflict resolution and public affairs at George Mason University, examines "the rhetorical and philosophical strategies that move to fight explores their sources in our national culture." In the case of modern war, the author assumes that America is uniquely belligerent, but in the absence of comparative analysis, the reader is left to wonder. He asserts that, "No other nation has a more bellicose record" since WWII--a record he ascribes to empire building. Lamenting that the U.S. is developing "a one-crop economy whose principal product is war," he descries "the particularly militaristic style of American patriotism." No fan of the "war on terror," the author claims that U.S. aggression provokes terrorists "rather than deterring them," and his recommendation--that Americans "learn to live with the threat of terrorism while pursuing nonviolent methods of eliminating its causes"--might strike some readers as unthinkably complacent. Rubenstein's efforts to advance conflict resolution as an alternative to war and traditional diplomacy are undeniably important but they eventually founder on too many unexamined assumptions and a narrow focus on American bellicosity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Reasons to Kill is a vital book with an urgent message deserving of a wide readership and much discussion. Better than anyone else, Rubenstein probes America's past and present to question the rush to war post-9/11, and does so judiciously, in a highly readable style enriched by scholarly mastery.” ―Richard Falk, author of The Great Terror War and On Humane Governance, Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Research Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara

“Many of us long for an intelligent and informed conversation about America's role in the world. Are we going the way of all empires, or is there another way? Richard E. Rubenstein has provided a sane and probing contribution to that conversation. In a time of faux-populism and jingoistic patriotism, it is encouraging to read a critical analysis of our attitude to war and violence from a writer who deeply loves his country.” ―Alan Jones, dean emeritus, Grace Cathedral and author of Soul Making: The Desert Way of Spirituality and Reimagining Christianity: Reconnect Your Spirit without Disconnecting your Mind.

“A powerful and frank discussion of the peculiar American rationales for war and the essential questions to ask about them. You may not agree with everything Rubenstein says, but he makes more sense of American justifications for war than anyone writing now. There is no cant in this book. Like a prophet, Rubenstein is urging Americans now, finally, to be honest and direct about war, as if it were their last chance. It may well be.” ―John Womack Jr., Robert Woods Bliss Professor emeritus of Latin American History and Economics, Harvard University, author of Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Reasons to Kill makes a forceful case for questioning politicians and ensuring that weare not led blindly into war.” ―Literary Hill

“Richard Rubenstein has written a book that every American should read and every peace-oriented American should memorize for the next time they have to explain why it's not enough to be pro-peace in your heart, that you need to actively confront the war makers and those who passively go along with them. Rubenstein carefully explores all the past and current arguments for war, including the war on terrorism, and shows why this is the one political decision that should be taken with the utmost of caution, because ‘while in a democracy we can fix most of our mistakes by throwing the rascals out or changing policies, we cannot resuscitate the dead or cure those permanently maimed in body or in spirit.' Rather than dismiss those who have supported wars as stupid, inherently militarists, or fundamentally brainwashed, Rubenstein correctly understands that many Americans can be reached through rational discourse, if offered in the respectful way that Reasons to Kill consistently manifests. Please get everyone you know to read this book!” ―Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine

“Richard Rubenstein delves deftly into the sociocultural characteristics of our country to understand the context behind America's proclivity for war. Given America's military interventionism--every two years since World War II--and given that our children are being raised on a nearly ten-year-old war in Afghanistan, war is what we know, becoming part and parcel of our nation's psyche and economy. Protecting our nation's moral integrity, national security, and fiscal solvency, then, requires a thorough read of Rubenstein's patriotic missive to this country and a willingness to give serious review to his recommendations.” ―Representative Michael M. Honda, United States Congress

“A lively, contrarian view of history--fruitful reading for peaceniks and warfighters alike.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Undeniably important” ―Publishers Weekly

“Absorbing and engaging. a very useful exploration of an important and timely subject. … This is an even handed, thoughtful, well-written book for interested academics and lay people alike. It is not so long as to be unwieldy or to allow the reader to get lost in unfolding complex, formal arguments. It is a resource to be commended to anyone thinking about war, and how we can better function as thoughtful, engaged citizens of this nation. … While the book is not written from a particular religious or theological perspective, it invites all of us, including people of faith, to be more rigorous in our thinking about, and our response to the prospect of, war.” ―Conversations in Religion and Theology

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press; First Edition edition (September 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608190269
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608190263
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard Rubenstein on December 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ordinarily, I hate whiney responses by authors to negative reviews. Clearly, not everyone is going to like your book. If some people find it unconvincing, that's part of the game. But the hatchet job on Reasons to Kill perpetrated by Publishers Weekly demands a brief comment.

Yes, I am the author of Reasons to Kill: Why Americans Choose War. No, I don't think the book is perfect either. But a "tenuous polemic"? "Tenuous" is an intellectual cuss-word -- an adjective used by critics to give their negative gut reactions an apparently objective basis. "Polemic" means a narrowly partisan argument, often unsupported by evidence. Whatever else Reasons to Kill is, it is NOT a mere polemic, but a wide-ranging exploration of American history that describes the main arguments and images used to induce us to approve of foreign wars. Reading this strangely uninformative review, one would never guess that the book talks about what ideas like self defense, evil enemies, humanitarian duty, and patriotism mean in an American context, and about how our "civil religion" influences popular attitudes toward war and peace.

What apparently bugs the PW reviewer most of all is my statement that in modern times, the U.S. government has a uniquely bellicose record. The reviewer does not explain why this statement is wrong, however. That would be hard to do, since it's 100% accurate! Equally annoying to this critic is my failure to sign on to the current War on Terrorism and my insistence -- again, supported by historical evidence -- that conflict resolution methods are more effective than bombs and bullets to end terrorist threats.

Of course, I may be wrong. But don't trust this partisan review, dear friends. Read the book yourselves and make up your own minds.
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Format: Hardcover
Professor Rubenstein pushes us, Americans, to look honestly at our peculiar belief systems that ensnare us into fighting wars that ultimately hurt us.
There is no rant or hyperbole, in fact he shows great compassion towards those who will probably disagree with his "conflict resolution" emphasis.
At times this is a painful read. From the lies & miscues generated by government and those invested in war to the ugly unnecessary wanton killing
that has accompanied our military adventures( Spanish American War, Korea police action, Viet Nam, Iraq), we patriotic Americans must squirm. Truth hurts
but not as much as organized state violence. I found myself after reading "Reasons" still wishing that America be the "best" but hoping we as a nation can find
a way to do that without military interventions.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Richard Rubenstein gives a complete review of our American history with regard to warfare, and then goes into detail about how and why our political leadership demonizes any country or group. If they are not for us, they are against us and a threat to our way of life. The information, (or dis-information), our leaders produce is promoted to convince the people that the only way to either save our way of life, or save the lives of people living under the opposing groups control, is to go to war. Rubenstein presents an insightful view of all the wars our country has participated in, and how our citizens were manipulated into supporting them. He beats no political drum but rather reviews, dispassionately, our present situation. The book raises questions about threats and response that challenge us all.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Reasons to Kill: Why Americans Choose War (Hardcover) is a compelling read on Americans at war- why do they (we) chose war? because, except for the non violent few- American men are what D H Lawrence called them- silent, stoic killers- filled with racism and anger, gun loving and sexist- not unlike muslim fundamentalists. As Rubenstein points out, a man stands his ground- not like a little girl- it's the John Wane syndrome, pumped up (excuse the pun) by the arms industry and the military industrial complex. Analyses like Rubenstein's will bother Amurikans like the posters who give it few stars. It's a 5 star book!
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Format: Hardcover
The author writes that there are several reasons why Americans choose war. The "powers that be" use the reasons most likely to be convincing, given the civil religion of the nation at that time. He does offer some compelling historical examples to support his arguments. The solution he offers focuses on conflict resolution -- too much so in my opinion. Although 238 pages long, only 173 are actual text; the remainder is bibliography, notes, and index.
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Format: Hardcover
Although this book reads like a lecture, it is dead on. His use of "High Noon" to illustrate America foreign policy -- "Some people talk or run; a man stands and fights." -- hits the nail on the head. He also correctly notes that America's economy has one crop, war. As a result, a conflict of interest exists in American policy between the interests who advocate the continued reliance on this one-crop economy and the citizens' personal interest in their lives, health and community in the face of a "forever war."
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Format: Hardcover
A striking statement is : "If we cannot be safe without occupying every failed or failing state from Afghanistan to Indonesia, we must make up our minds to be a global empire permantly at war." Our 150 military bases all over the world reflect __________.
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