The Bookshelf: The End of War

The End of War

Earlier this month, I talked about the books I’ve been working on reading lately. Among those, the book I was most excited about and was most enjoying was The End of War by John Horgan, which I’d only picked up as a last-minute purchase at a Barnes & Noble a couple blocks from my office (all in all, it was a pretty successful trip given how much I also loved the other book I bought that night, In the Garden of Beasts). At the time that I wrote that post, I was only about a quarter of the way through The End of War and I was already loving it; the rest of the book proved to be just as interesting and easy to get through.

I’ve written about war and my opinions on it before, as it’s a subject that’s always interested me. From a young age, it struck me as absolutely insane that our way of settling arguments with other countries was to grab our guns and kill until nearly everyone was dead and someone held up a white flag. At the time, my teacher assured me that the older I got, the more I’d understand the necessity behind wars; but instead, the opposite happened and the older I get, the less I understand why we so staunchly believe in “an eye for an eye.”

So when I was wandering around Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago and saw The End of War, I immediately picked it up, curious as to what the author’s opinion was on war. To my surprise (but also my excitement) Horgan argued that war is no more ingrained in us than is peace and that there is every chance we could overcome it, as a society.  Without divulging too much information, Horgan puts forth several solid arguments for why we can, not only as a country but as a species, overcome our instincts towards war. Throughout the book, Horgan cites the behaviors of primates and of very small, largely unheard of civilizations, as well as that of ancient societies and people within our own society.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the book though was that Horgan did not simply charge on, citing source after source in support of his own opinion. Instead, he cited sources to the contrary, suggestions that war is ingrained and is something we will never overcome; sources he then went on to dismiss based on incomplete or incorrect information.

Coming out of college, I’m not sure I ever saw myself as a person who would enjoy reading what is essentially a graduate thesis. As much as I loved school and even research, I often found research essays incredibly dense and difficult to get through, so throughout the beginning of The End of War, I was concerned I’d find myself unable to understand or become interested in what Horgan was writing. Instead though, I found the book incredibly easy to read and, because of Horgan’s use of personal anecdotes and private interviews, thoroughly interesting.

Regardless of your personal opinions on war and its inevitability (or lack thereof), I think The End of War is an important read, filled with information we should all know in a world shadowed by constant war, particularly if you’re going to take a stance in that debate.

  • Lina

    That is such an interesting question. Thinking about the chore of human nature reveals so much about our perception of ourselves. The topic is very controversial but extremely important because we as inhabitants of the countries vote for or against war. Not only in elections but with online-petitions, manifestations and by publicly discussing the issue. And to engage in the debate we must inform ourselves. So thank you for being a part of the debate and introducing us to this source. I hope to read it soon!

    • Kiersten McMonagle

      I completely agree with everything in your comment! It’s such an important subject, and one people so often shy away from because to say you don’t support war, people accuse you of not supporting the men and women fighting. (and that’s not at all the case) Thanks so much for commenting

      • Lina

        Actually I am in a different situation because I live in Germany and because of our history the anti-war movement is very strong (though not acted upon by the government). And I guess the system is slightly different too because no one is obligated to join the army and there are no real financial benefits either, so anyone who does it, 100% supports the cause. Meaning there is no social obligation to support them. And this makes a non-violant political attitude much easier and more common.

  • Jessica Marie

    I’m for war depending on the circumstances (I totally support the Civil War, WWII and ending of the Holocaust; WWI and Vietnam and even this current war to an extent,not so much). I’ll have to check out this book because I’m interested in reading. Is it a brand new book? I might see if the library I work for has it or can get it.

    • Kiersten McMonagle

      I guess I’m confused here…how can you be “for” war? I could understand if you said you understand the need for it under certain circumstances (I don’t agree, but I’d at least understand) – but to be “for” it, as though it’s a great thing we should all aspire to? Particularly with things like Vietnam and the current war. There was a reason that Vietnam had absolutely NO support, and we’re in two countries right now over one man who has been dead for four years… I don’t understand what there is to support about either of those things?

      As for WWII, Civil War, etc. – I stand by my opinion that there had to have been better options, particularly since we didn’t even get involved in WWII because of what Hitler was doing to Jewish people. It wasn’t exactly a moral war as far as America was concerned, as much as we paint it that way now. However, I can see the point that they were necessary insofar as they ended great atrocities.

      I can’t remember the exact year The End of War came out, but I believe it was some time in the last couple years. I want to say 2014.

      • Jessica Marie

        When I say “for it,” I mean I support it. I think Vietnam and our current war is and was terrible. However, the way the soldiers were treated after coming home from Vietnam… I’m not a fan of that either. Even though I don’t think it should have been fought, I wouldn’t vilify the men that were drafted to fight. They were drafted, you shouldn’t blame them. Although I don’t agree with the current one (I think our focus should have been on terrorism only, not other reasons like getting dictators out – yes, I don’t think the dictators were great, but they sort of held Middle Eastern countries together and protected religious minorities, even though there was a monetary price for it. The main focus should have been on terror groups – now it’s even worse over there than before), I would never vilify our soldiers that go and serve for us. I blame the people in power.

        I started out as a history major – my focus was on military history. I’ve always been interested in it; Civil War buff. I don’t think war should be the default position – I think peace should be achieved first, but there are some instances where sadly, I think it might be necessary. I’m not sure the Holocaust would have ended without the bombing of major German cities and I’m not sure if Japan would have surrendered either. But nowadays, it seems like it’s for greed more than anything else. I’m not a fan of that.

        • Kiersten McMonagle

          Ooo I absolutely agree! I 100 percent support our troops, and think people who don’t are looking at it entirely the wrong way. Especially, like you said, the men and women who were drafted in previous wars.

          Actually, your point that war is awful but sometimes it’s the only option is really common, and I completely understand it because for a while I believed that. The book actually approaches that exact belief – unfortunately though, I don’t think one book is going to help. The author is completely right on so many fronts but as long as out country agrees to war, it’s never going to stop.

  • Miu

    This sounds like an interesting book, maybe I can get my hands on it.