A powerful and provocative exploration of how war has changed our society–for the better
“War! . . . . / What is it good for? / Absolutely nothing,” says the famous song–but archaeology, history, and biology show that war in fact has been good for something. Surprising as it sounds, war has made humanity safer and richer.
In War! What Is It Good For?, the renowned historian and archaeologist Ian Morris tells the gruesome, gripping story of fifteen thousand years of war, going beyond the battles and brutality to reveal what war has really done to and for the world. Stone Age people lived in small, feuding societies and stood a one-in-ten or even one-in-five chance of dying violently. In the twentieth century, by contrast–despite two world wars, Hiroshima, and the Holocaust–fewer than one person in a hundred died violently. The explanation: War, and war alone, has created bigger, more complex societies, ruled by governments that have stamped out internal violence. Strangely enough, killing has made the world safer, and the safety it has produced has allowed people to make the world richer too.
War has been history’s greatest paradox, but this searching study of fifteen thousand years of violence suggests that the next half century is going to be the most dangerous of all time. If we can survive it, the age-old dream of ending war may yet come to pass. But, Morris argues, only if we understand what war has been good for can we know where it will take us next.
This sobering look at the future of warfare predicts that conflicts will now be fought over diminishing supplies of our most precious natural resources.
From the barren oilfields of Central Asia to the lush Nile delta, from the busy shipping lanes of the South China Sea to the uranium mines and diamond fields of sub-Saharan Africa, Resource Wars looks at the growing impact of resource scarcity on the military policies of nations. International security expert Michael T. Klare argues that in the early decades of the new millennium wars will be fought not over ideology but over resources, as states battle to control dwindling supplies of precious natural commodities. The political divisions of the Cold War, Klare asserts, are giving way to an immense global scramble for essential materials, such as oil, timber, minerals, and water. And as armies throughout the world define resource security as their primary mission, widespread instability is bound to follow, especially in those places where resource competition overlaps with long-standing disputes over territorial rights.
A much-needed assessment of a changed world, Resource Wars is a compelling look at the future of warfare in an era of heightened environmental stress and accelerated economic competition.
The exciting history of a small group of British and American scientists who, during World War II, developed the new field of operational research to turn back the tide of German submarines—revolutionizing the way wars are waged and won.
In March 1941, after a year of unbroken and devastating U-boat onslaughts, the British War Cabinet decided to try a new strategy in the foundering naval campaign. To do so, they hired an intensely private, bohemian physicist who was also an ardent socialist. Patrick Blackett was a former navy officer and future winner of the Nobel Prize; he is little remembered today, but he and his fellow scientists did as much to win the war against Nazi Germany as almost anyone else. As director of the World War II antisubmarine effort, Blackett used little more than simple mathematics and probability theory—and a steadfast belief in the utility of science—to save the campaign against the U-boat. Employing these insights in unconventional ways, from the washing of mess hall dishes to the color of bomber wings, the Allies went on to win essential victories against Hitler’s Germany.
Here is the story of these civilian intellectuals who helped to change the nature of twentieth-century warfare. Throughout, Stephen Budiansky describes how scientists became intimately involved with what had once been the distinct province of military commanders—convincing disbelieving military brass to trust the solutions suggested by their analysis. Budiansky shows that these men above all retained the belief that operational research, and a scientific mentality, could change the world. It’s a belief that has come to fruition with the spread of their tenets to the business and military worlds, and it started in the Battle of the Atlantic, in an attempt to outfight the Germans, but most of all to outwit them.
Posted in Books
Tagged science, war