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War: The Lethal Custom
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War: The Lethal Custom

4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  151 ratings  ·  12 reviews
While modern science ponders whether human beings are programmed toward belligerence and warfare, there is no doubt that war has been humanity's constant companion since the dawn of civilization, and that we have become all too proficient in its conduct. In War, noted military historian Gwynne Dyer ranges from the tumbling walls of Jericho to the modern advent of total war ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published June 22nd 2006 by Basic Books (first published April 10th 2005)
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Jan 26, 2015 Bruce rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone with a life wish
Recommended to Bruce by: Charles
Pass up the first two meandering chapters, whose sole purpose would seem to be to impart that bad things happen in war ergo war is a bad thing, and this becomes a fascinating book. What follows is a fascinating chronological and sociological look at the evolution of institutionalized human aggression, from the stone age to the modern day. Fans of Jared Diamond take note, Dyer takes the long historical view (even recapitulating much of Diamond's thesis at pp. 108-9) to consider not just why we fi ...more
Shane Baker
I heard about this on the "Hardcore History" podcast. It's a comprehensive history of a universal human activity. Apparently less people per capita die in today's conflicts than in the past.
Leah Munsky
Honestly I didn't finish it, I gave it up as a bad job. It probably would have been a fine history book if he weren't trying to prove that war hasn't changed in thousands of years. It hasn't changed the same way that government hasn't, marriage hasn't, and education hasn't. It hasn't transformed into something else is what he means. All of the institutions of society change and evolve over time, as has war, but they continue to hold their original form, preform their original purpose. If war evo ...more
The first chapter made me leery, but as soon as it got into the history of war (mostly history in general) and the chapter about indoctrination into the Marines, I couldn't put it down. A very interesting and engaging book on a subject I thought I would have no interest in whatsoever. The World War I and World War II chapters bogged me down some, probably because I know more about those and find it less interesting, but even those had some neat insights.
This the most thorough, shocking and horrifying argument for the need to abandon war I have read - or imagine. This is a book you read without realizing where the narrative is going - the history of war is clearly outlined with masterful writing. The comes suddenly when the fog of war parts and the only option for society is either war and total destruction or peace by whatever means possible.

The whole book is a surprising revelation.
Daniel Kukwa
There are moments where his writing style becomes a bit too dry for my taste. That said, nine times out of ten, Gwynne Dyer's analysis of man's history of armed conflict...the seemingly insatiable thirst for death and terrifying in its truthfulness.
Dec 20, 2007 Diana rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: non-fiction, war
AWESOME. Are humans inherently warlike? How have our reasons for fighting changed through the ages? How have they not changed? How has warfare altered, and soldiering become more efficient. How dependent are our economies on the concept of war? Read on.
Tyler Malone
War is only important because war is said to be important. That isn't Dyer's thesis, but my own I have written off-the-hip to painfully summarize this book. It's a work that needs to be read by any history buff. One of a kind, really.
The best book ever written on the subject. Dyer's knowledge of the military is deep and intimate; his arguments for the abolition of this institution are as hard-headed as you can get.
Sometimes too many quotes (of obviously important people) BUT when Gwynne does write it is creative, informative, and above all eloquent. Interesting read.
An excellent history of the evolution of war and a book that everyone should read.
Probably the best, unglamourized overview of war written in recent history.
Cliff Northon
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