RETREAT FROM DOOMSDAY: The Obsolescence of Major W by John Mueller

RETREAT FROM DOOMSDAY: The Obsolescence of Major W

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Here, Mueller (Pol. Sci./Univ. of Rochester) argues that major war has gradually become obsolete as a policy option among developed nations. Mueller isn't the first to argue such a point, but his approach is different: he contends that as war has become more brutal over the past several centuries, involving the average citizen instead of professional mercenaries, governments have come to abhor it as a way of resolving differences. Interestingly, the author suggests that the evolution of nuclear weaponry has not significantly affected this mellowing, citing the fact that not only just the nuclear powers have desisted from war since the inception of the nuclear age, but all of the world's 44 wealthiest nations. The cooling of the traditional hostility between France and Germany, as well as Japan's move away from her characteristic militarism, is offered as an example of the new awareness. The author argues that governments began placing war under attack around 1815, when it started to be perceived as repulsive, immoral, and uncivilized--not to mention economically futile. It took the brutality of WW I to destroy war's romanticism for all time. Mueller squares off against Cold War revisionists by placing the onus for modern tensions on the Soviet Union's ideological affection for revolutions, but concludes that as long as prosperity remains a popular goal, prospects for a "lingering peace" should be good. By focusing heavily on Eurocentric concerns, however, he risks flawing his argument. In this day of instant access to technological information, might not smaller, poorer nations--with a less squeamish attitude about war--present more than just a nuisance factor to the world at large? With this strong caution, Mueller's essay becomes merely a tidy little theory--worthy of note but to be taken with a grain of salt.

Pub Date: March 28th, 1989
ISBN: 465-06939-8
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:




MORE BY JOHN MUELLER