War and the Liberal Conscience

July 2008 9781850658917 160pp
EU Customers


Isn’t war rooted in the vested interests of the ruling classes? (But have not democracies proved as bellicose as other states?) Should not political disputes be settled by civilised negotiations? (But what if the adversary is not, by your standards, ‘civilised’?) Ought states to steer clear of other states’ internal conflicts? (Or should they help liberate oppressed peoples?) Which is better, appeasement or a war to end war? Such questions reflect the confusion that still besets liberal-minded men and women in the face of war, despite centuries during which they have tried to discover its causes and secure its abolition. Sir Michael Howard traces the pattern in their attitudes from Erasmus to the Americans after Vietnam, and concludes that peacemaking ‘is a task which has to be tackled afresh every day of our lives’.


‘The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the possibility of more such operations in future, make Sir Michael Howard’s book of the greatest importance. It should be read not only by analysts, but by every concerned Western citizen.’ — Anatol Lieven

‘This is a book that everyone should read. It is a short, elegant masterpiece, where every chapter has the cliff-hangar ending of peace being declared, only to be followed by a new phase of war, more awful than that which had gone before.’ — Professor James Gow, Dept. of War Studies, King’s College London

‘lucid, witty and trenchant … these anti-war theories could hardly be more interestingly presented.’ — RUSI Journal

‘so well written that it could be read as a novel—except few novels are so interesting. To take one strand of history and unravel it in this way is not only a service to historians but to the ordinary bus-riding liberal anxious to clarify his own thought.’ — Books and Bookmen


Sir Michael Howard, OM, CH, CBE, MC was formerly Chichele Professor of the History of War and Regius Professor of Modern History in the University of Oxford.

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