The Nature Of War: Origins And Evolution Of Violent Conflict, by Jim Stempel
This book is the first that arrived from H-Net for me to review, and it took quite a long while to arrive. It was definitely eagerly anticipated, though. As a military historian, it would make sense for me to ponder the origins of warfare, something I have done on occasion . Likewise, I appreciate large scale and conceptual accounts dealing with the origin and nature of war, so when this book was available I had no problems selecting it. The book itself appears rather small (it is less than 200 pages of text along with its supporting notes and indices) but is rather ambitions in its aims to cover warfare from human prehistory to present day wishes for peace.
The author happens to be an expert on American Civil War history, having written a couple of books about some of the more obscure aspects of the Eastern Theater of that war. Perhaps it was the senselessness and horror of that conflict that led him to ponder the nature of wars and how they begin and why they are fought in the way that they are, and what prospects there are of peace. I tend to be rather cynical myself when it comes to peace, knowing that while the most important nations of the world have managed to avoid massive fratricidal conflict for a few decades, engaging in small wars and proxy wars, that warfare is always a danger whenever there are insecure people or people trying to take advantage of others, even if the tools that we can use in warfare are so frightening that we refrain from using them.
So, I’m looking forward on seeing what the author has to say, even if from what I can gather so far the author is far more sanguine than I am about the hope of peace in this day and age. I suppose that such hope is necessary because the alternative is to despair about the capacity of human beings to govern themselves. Well, in the absence of virtue, one has no alternative but self-deception or feeling the despair. Neither are very pleasant options in the long run, though.