by Richard A. Gabriel ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 1, 1987
An astonishing report on combat's psychological tolls. Gabriel, an army intelligence officer-turned-academician (politics/St. Anselm), sounds a startling note here: ""War has become an activity that has surpassed the ability of human beings to endure it."" He arrays substantial and convincing evidence to support this assertion, beginning with a horrifying inventory of contemporary nonnuclear weaponery from artillery (""the Copperhead has the ability to hit a moving tank 19 miles away"") to tanks, aircraft, and chemical weapons, driving home the point that conventional warfare is now 600 percent more destructive than during WW II. And--as he explains in a historical survey tracing battle's ""psychiatric casualties"" from the Spartan to the Vietnam Wars--even in WW II, of the 800,000 American soldiers (about 1/12 of the US forces) who saw direct combat, over one-third gained discharges for psychiatric causes, while 74 percent of the remaining two-thirds ""were admitted to medical facilities for psychiatric problems."" Gabriel piles on the statistics (most unsupported by source notes) from other armies and other wars, emphasizing that almost every soldier engaged in any combat suffers debilitating psychiatric damage. He goes on to examine the symptoms of psychological collapse in war, then looks at governments' strenuous but largely futile attempts to stave off these symptoms and their underlying catastrophic causes. A frightening summary of on-going research into stress-preventative chemicals follows--chemicals that transform soldiers into fighting machines, but at the sacrifice of their humanity. Gabriel winds up by reiterating his premise and plea, that war today cannot be considered a viable problem-solving option. If Gabriel is correct, conventional war between superpowers is no longer an acceptable alternative to nuclear conflict. For that reason alone, this slim yet powerful book deserves a wide audience.
Pub Date: April 1, 1987
Page Count: -
Publisher: Hill & Wang/Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1987
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