May 19, 2011


Adam Hochschild, To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) (" ' A wide road leads to war,' goes a Russian proverb. 'A narrow path leads home.' " Id. at 93. "But, gruesome as choking on gas undoubtedly was, was it really any worse than having your body riddled with steel shrapnel? Or than having your lungs bruised to pulp by an artillery shell's blast even if the shrapnel missed you? What made gas warfare provoke such rage, the historian Trevor Wilson suggests, was something else. For all of recorded history soldiers had believed that victory went to the manly, the fearless, and the daring. Now, with deadly gas brought to you not from the hand of the enemy you could see and slay, but by the very wind, all bravery seemed useless." Id. at 141-142. "In part, this book is the story of some of these war resisters and of the example they set, if not for their own time, then perhaps for the future. I wish theirs was a victorious story, but it is not. Unlike, say, witch-burning, slavery, and apartheid, which were once taken for granted and are now officially outlawed, war is still with us. Uniforms, parades, and martial music continue to cast their allure, and the appeal of high technology has been added to that; throughout the world boys and men still [and, now, girls and women] dream of military glory as much as they did a century ago. And so, in much greater part, this is a book about those who actually fought the war of 1914-1918, for whom the magnetic attraction of combat, or at least the belief that it was patriotic and necessary, proved so much stronger than human revulsion at mass death or any perception that, win or lose, this was war that would change the world for the worse." Id. at xvii. Also see Christopher Hitchens, "Mortal Debate," The NYT Book Review, Sunday, 5/15/2011.).