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  • War in the Twentieth Century: Reflections at Century’s End
  • Jeremy Black
War in the Twentieth Century: Reflections at Century’s End. Edited by Michael A. Hennessy and B. J. C. McKercher. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003. ISBN 0-275-97709-9. Tables. Figures. Notes. Selected bibliography. Index. Pp. 238. $67.95.

This varied collection offers both panoptic surveys and more detailed pieces. Of the latter, Lawrence Aronson's careful piece on the economic foundations of the Cold War alliance systems offers interesting contrasts of the situation in East and West. The latter system was more balanced, in part due to the crippling internal contradictions of communism, although, as Aronson points out, on the American side the economic foundations of the Western alliance were influenced by immediate considerations of national security. In the East, an economic iron curtain descended rapidly, long before direct Soviet political control was imposed. Gary Hess assesses U.S. presidential decision making and the deliberations of the National Security Council, concluding that Truman, Eisenhower, and Bush senior managed a better job than Johnson. Norman Hillmer's survey of Canadian peacekeeping focuses on domestic support, rather than the difficulties of the process. More generally, Donna Arzt discusses the development of radically new norms and subjects of international law with specific reference to the evolving convergence of human rights, humanitarian and refugee law: the state of the latter is presented as the chief barrier to full merger. Erik Goldstein offers a characteristically clear survey of disarmament, arms control, and arms reduction: the difficulties of the first have encouraged the others. Geoffrey Smith's wide ranging analysis of containment, disease, and American Cold War culture (Life disparaged Soviet bras among much else) suggests that the American containment culture excluded too many citizens "who [End Page 290] slowly recognised that containment aimed at them as it did the Soviets" (p. 115). Drawing, as he acknowledges, heavily on two of his articles published in 1996, John Lynn provides a problematic account of watersheds in the evolution of war and military institutions that begins "As we face the new millennium, time takes the head seat at the intellectual table, and civilization discusses its future and its past" (p. 197). He makes a pertinent point about technology, but offers an overly simplistic account of war and institutions that would have profited from immersion in the literature on conflict in the Third World both before and after 1945. A more acute typology of conflict is provided by D. Cameron Watt, although the second 1958 on p. 40 is a typo for 1968. The topics covered by Watt include the criminalization of "aggressive" war, the disappearance of war at sea, civil conflicts, the increasing cost of weaponry, and abandonment of conscription, and the development of unusable weapons for threat rather than employment. Watt argues that war as such became criminalized, so that most conflicts were fought under conditions lacking any widely accepted legal basis. He links this to the role of measures against non-military populations. The introduction is an effective and well-annotated survey of subject and book, with a useful discussion of total war.

Jeremy Black
University of Exeter
Exeter, United Kingdom


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pp. 290-291
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2010
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