“A timely and important book, Lewis H. Lapham, Editor, Harper’s Magazine
Lawrence’s Leshan has written a stunning anatomy of a problem that the greatest thinkers have failed to solve, the question why humans so universally and frequently fight wars. Our wars have become more lethal, yet our affinity for war hasn’t changed. His book explores the roots of war lust and the practical implications for society and pollical leadership:
If war can be planned, can we plan peace, too?
What are the psychological indicators for war, and how can they be used to develop “early warning systems”?
Are some government structures more prone to war than to peace?
What are the leadership styles that prevent and diminish conflict?
Unlike preceding attempts to explain the phenomenon psychologically, LeShan doesn’t examine the motives that might lead to war, but the way in which our minds process information: When we go to war, our perception of reality of what we are and what is happening in the world around us is quite different from that which we commonly use in peacetime.
This “mythic” mode of thinking, as the author calls it, leads us to assumptions that we would not make during peacetime, such as: We are good, the other side is evil; we will “triumph over evil” if we win; our future will be safe and prosperous, etc. In the mythic mode, we develop a readiness to engage in war at all cost, even if the outcome is highly doubtful or a non-aggressive solution possible.