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.