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Stupid Wars: A Citizen's Guide to Botched Putsches, Failed Coups, Inane Invasions, and Ridiculous Revolutions Paperback – April 22, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Strosser and Prince present 16 concise episodes in human history to support their theory that war is generally a bad idea and that we may finally learn from the past by studying martial failures instead of celebrating glorious victories. An irreverent tone and lively writing make this book readable and appealing, although sometimes the flood of names and dates becomes confusing. Unfortunately, there are no maps. Presented in chronological order, the war stories begin in ancient Rome and conclude with the 1991 Soviet coup. Each chapter starts with a short overview, followed by "The Players" (brief, pithy descriptions of the main agents involved in the conflict); the "General Situation" sets the stage for "What Happened," and concludes with "What Happened After" (summary and analysis). Boxed segments feature interesting nuggets of information (thumbnail biographies of individuals or groups, relevant legends). While most of the chapters describe 20th-century events, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 is probably most relevant for making connections to today's headlines. The book assumes some knowledge of history, but it could be used as a reference or supplementary reading for anyone studying American, European, Latin American, or world history. The authors offer excellent, entertaining descriptions of historical figures and events, and provide convincing evidence of the unpredictable, chaotic, and disorganized reality of warfare.—Sondra VanderPloeg, Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH
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Review

Witty commentary and ironic asides make for entertaining reading…a great gift for Father’s Day. (Armchair General)

If you think you know your history, think again.... A remarkable job recalling several of the dumbest ideas that ended up wasting lives, time and treasure. War is sometimes necessary, but it’s never pretty. Now, thanks to Mike and Ed, we have the proof that war is exceedingly stupid. (Jordan Rich, WBZ Boston)

Excellent, entertaining descriptions of historical figures and events…An irreverent tone and lively writing make this book readable and appealing. (School Library Journal)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; First Edition edition (April 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061258474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061258473
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Well, a book with the word stupid in the title isn't going to be Gibbon or Macauley, so judging it by standards of serious history is pointless. Rather, Stupid Wars should be taken as a bit of light entertainment for history buffs, and it's hard to fault it too much on that score.

Stupid Wars lives up to its title, detailing a number of military conflicts waged either for stupid reasons (the Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia) or waged stupidly (the Soviet invasion of Finland, the Bay of Pigs). Some wars are fairly well-known, others forgotten, but all impress with their head-scratching inanity: from Paraguay's suicidal involvement in the War of the Triple Alliance and the ill-conceived Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, to Romania's fighting a three-way conflict in WWII and the appallingly-staged US invasion of Grenada, a chronicle of military stupidity and headscratching incompetence is engagingly presented.

The authors try to make these stories accessible without getting bogged down in military and political minutiae, a serious danger with such obscure and inscrutable conflicts. They mostly succeed, providing concise, easy-to-understand yet admirably in-depth accounts of the wars, campaigns and putsches covered. Still, there are some irritants, mostly in the writing style. The authors get some funny bits in but much of the humor is extremely juvenile: for the most obvious example, in the chapter on the War of the Pacific they expound repeatedly on the fact that guano = bird excrement. Did Beavis and Butthead write this chapter? Perhaps it's personal taste but I found this childish tone a bit grating in spots.

On the whole though, Stupid Wars isn't bad for a bit of lighthearted light reading. One must add that there are more than enough "stupid wars" unaccounted for to make a half-dozen sequels, so stay tuned.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Stupid Wars is a non-fiction tome that is very well written and researched about the wars that went on from early ancient/biblical times to the modern world of today that were complete and utter failures.This book is very funny and entertaining with a satirical tone to many of the chapters. The author also gave background information on what happened prior to beginning of each conflict, and what went on after them. This book contains multi-page stories and tales of some not very mentioned or important at all, wars and battles throughout history. It gives condensed re-tellings. At many points during reading this book I found myself thinking, "Do you NOT know your history?!" or "Yeah! That seemed like a good idea!". A good book for a rainy afternoon read.
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Format: Paperback
I have attempted to read many history books but I found most of them boring. Stupid Wars grabbed my attention from the beginning to the end. I found myself laughing out loud many times!! I highly recommend this enjoyable book to everyone to share in the hysterical historical discoveries of our past as beautifully executed by Michael and Ed. Keep laughing!
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Format: Paperback
Start with this book!

It seems like most history classes below the college 300 level are designed to make history so painful and unpleasant that noone will look at another history course. This is, at best, tragic, and worst educational malpractice.
So the common criticism is that history is boring...

The folks who take themselves ever so seriously and have Causes (note the capital 'C'), hiss that history is bourgeois and written by imperialist, colonialist, capitolist running dogs who would be worse than hellspawn if they believed in hell. This is an adolescent and pretentious position to take, but also remarkably short-sighted.
So history is often considered a evil, nasty story written by those foul winners...

This book is a highly entertaining history of screw-ups. From the late Roman empire to the coup against Gorbie, this book has sixteen stories of how not to do it, with examples at the tactical, operational, strategic and grand strategic levels of war. The cases focus mostly on poor judgment at the higher levels (generals and heads of state rather than lieutenants and sergeants) and presents them in a historically accurate (but not always precise) fashion that is utterly unlike what you heard in high school or in the 100 level history classses.

I especially enjoyed the chapters on the War of the Triple Alliance and the Chaco War. These represented extreme cases of the insane excesses heads of state can get up to when they place machismo ahead of reason. And they are portrayed in exactly this light. No heroism, just murderous posturing by penny-ante dictators of third world countries.
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Format: Paperback
I was very intrigued when I found this book in the history section at Borers. I really didn't know what to expect. But as soon as I started reading it, I was hooked. I'm a history major myself and training to become an officer in Military Intelligence, and even I sometimes just have to roll my eyes at the lack of life in those history textbooks. If they were written like "Stupid Wars," I think you might have a lot more interest in history.

The premise was appealing to me. Rather than look at the heroic victories of the past, we could probably learn just as much if not more from the epic failures of military leaders throughout time. But the most striking thing about the book is not only that it covers wars that I had almost no knowledge of prior to, but it's a funny read as well.

For instance, I found myself laughing at the part when the authors recount the little-known Winter War between Russia and Finland. After the the last negotiations ended before the war started, Stalin "left to twirl his mustasche and plan the destruction of their country." At another point, one of the crazier characters of the book, Francisco Lopez "Compared himself to Napoleon and Alexander the Great. It would have been true if Napoleon and Alexander had been fat, ignorant failures from obscure countries."

The book is rife with such examples of making fun of blundering, idiotic leaders from the Roman Empire to modern times. Another great thing about the book was that it peaked my interest in various conflicts that I wasn't familiar with beforehand. Since reading the book, I've picked up books on the Russio-Finish War and the Chaco War in South America.
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