The Barbarisation of Warfare

Edited by
August 2006 9781850657996 334pp


Images from Baghdad’s now notorious Abu Ghraib prison have come to define the ill-starred occupation of Iraq, but they also remind us of war’s undiminished brutality and indiscriminate excess. Yet, what happened in Abu Ghraib took place, sometimes on a huge scale, during World War II and later in Kenya, Algeria, Vietnam, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Chechnya, bearing witness to our capacity to act in barbarous ways if circumstances permit. What drives people to mistreat, humiliate and torment each other? In an age when violence and torture are becoming addictive media spectacles, now more than ever should we investigate brutality and inhumanity in times of war. With original contributions from world-class scholars, this book raises disturbing questions: Can warfare be anything other than barbaric? Are we all human, or are some of us less human than others in wartime? Can torture ever be justified? The Barbarisation of Warfare is a provocative and hard-hitting analysis of the human misery and complex moral dimensions of modern warfare.

Table of contents

The Barbarisation of Warfare: A User’s Manual
George Kassimeris

Barbarisation Vs. Civilisation in a Time of War
Joanna Bourke

The Second World War: A Barbarous Conflict?
Richard Overy

Time, Space and Barbarisation: The German Army and the Eastern Front in Two World Wars
Hew Strachan

The Modern and the Primitive: Barbarity and Warfare on the Eastern Front
Mary R. Habeck

Something to Die For, a Lot to Kill For: The Soviet System and the Barbarisation of Warfare
Amir Weiner

Prisoner Taking and Prisoner Killing: The Dynamics of Defeat, Surrender and Barbarity in the Age of Total War
Niall Ferguson

Surrogates of the State: Collaboration and Atrocity in Kenya’s Mau Mau War
David Anderson

The American Empire at War
Marilyn B. Young

The Global War on Terror and its Impact on the Conduct of War
Paul Rogers

The Texts of Torture
David Simpson

The Laws of War in the Age of Asymmetric Conflict
Anthony Dworkin

On Brainwashing
Kathleen Taylor

Epilogue: Reflections on War and Barbarism
Jay Winter


‘An impressive assessment of an important, if grim, subject by an outstanding group of scholars. It is one of the very few books whose own scale matches that of the events it describes.’ — John Mueller, Woody Hayes Chair of National Security at Ohio State University and author of The Remnants of War

‘Fascinating, revealing and disturbing … The Barbarisation of Warfare is a book that none of us should ignore.’ — Moazzam Begg, former Guantanamo Bay detainee and author of Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim’s Journey to Guantanamo and Back

‘This book shows us the true barbarism of warfare. It makes brilliant but unsettling reading. Viewed together, the essays offer as good a sustained critique of war as is available anywhere in print, combined with a passion and engagement that is all too rare in first rate scholarship. The book is to be greatly treasured as an important contribution in a field of study that remains depressingly relevant in the world today.’ — Professor C. A. Gearty, London School of Economics


George Kassimeris, Professor of Security Studies at Wolverhampton University, is the author/editor of seven books including Inside Greek TerrorismEurope’s Last Red Terrorists: The Revolutionary Organisation 17 November, The Barbarisation of Warfare and Playing Politics with Terrorism: A User’s Guide.

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