On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace

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Editorial Reviews

Richard Bernstein
"On the Origins of War" is a remarkable study in historical juxtaposition and analogy. . . . Mr. Kagan's undertaking is valuable and compelling because it distills so much history into so clear and transparent a liquid. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This book is best read as a counterpoint to Paul Kennedy's 1987 study, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. Kennedy emphasized the primacy of domestic politics; Kagan, professor of history and classics at Yale, focuses on international relations, pondering why states choose to go to war. He sees the determining factors as those enunciated by Thucydides: ``honor, fear, and interest.'' War cannot be eliminated because peace is not regarded as an absolute good, yet particular conflicts can be averted, according to Kagan. He analyzes five wars, ranging across 2500 years and involving widely different kinds of governments. He begins with the Greek city-states that fought the Peloponnesian Wars and moves to the Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage, before jumping to the 20th century for the two world wars and the near-war of the Cuban missile crisis. The wide temporal gap between the ancient and the modern examples highlights Kagan's thesis that peace does not keep itself: ``A persistent and repeated error through the ages has been the failure to understand that the preservation of peace requires active effort, planning, the expenditure of resources, and sacrifice, just as war does.'' A thoughtful review of an age-old phenomenon. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Jan.)
Library Journal
In his latest work, Kagan continues the theme of a parallel between ancient and modern history, which he brought forward in Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy (LJ 11/15/90). Studying the international systems in place at the time of the Peleponnesian War, World War I, the Second Punic War, World War II, and the Cuban Missle and Berlin Wall crises, Kagan concludes that peace is an active process requiring constant attention; it is not merely the absence of war. Kagan's overall premise will be certain to spark discussions in academic circles, and his discussion of the events that led to a near-war in the 1960s, particularly the tacit acceptance of the construction of the Berlin Wall by the Kennedy administration, may provoke a more public controversy as well. This work deserves a place in history collections. While his style is academic, his message is of importance to all in this post-Cold War world. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Stanley Planton, Ohio Univ., Chillicothe
Kagan (history, classics, and Western civilization, Yale U.) details five case studies of efforts to prevent war. Among them are the Athenian Pericles' attempts to calm the Spartans in the fifth century BC and prevent what became the Peloponnesian War; and how the treaty after the First Punic War (218-201 BC) led to the Second Punic War, and the Treaty of Versailles played the same role in regard to the First and Second World Wars. His only example of success is the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385423755
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/1996
  • Pages: 606
  • Sales rank: 203,463
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The Peloponnesian War 431-404 B.C. 15
The Hegemonic Powers and Their Alliances 19
The Origin of the Rivalry 27
The Peace 31
Testing the Peace 34
The Crisis 37
The Crisis Widens 41
The Decision for War: Sparta 51
The Decision for War: Athens 59
The Outbreak of War 67
The Causes of the War 68
2 The First World War 1914-1918 81
The Emergence of Germany and the Challenge to the Old Order 83
The European Powers 85
Bismarck's Era 100
The Character of the Peace 114
Testing the Peace 119
The Road to War 145
The Final Crisis 183
The Causes of the War 205
3 Hannibal's War: The Second Punic War 218-201 B.C. 232
The Nature of the Opponents 234
The Origins of the First Punic War 248
The Peace 252
Testing the Peace 256
The Accession of Hannibal 260
The Crisis 262
The Causes of the War 269
4 The Second World War 1939-1945 281
The End of the First World War 281
The Peace 285
Testing the Peace, 1919-1933 297
The Road to War 334
The Causes of the War 413
5 The Cuban Missile Crisis 437
The Cold War 437
Khrushchev Comes to Power 447
Castro and Cuba 452
Khrushchev versus Kennedy 456
The Causes of the Crisis 546
Conclusions 566
Selected Bibliography 575
Index 591
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