The Dangers of Making War Less Dangerous

"Can we imagine, as Samuel Moyn puts it in 'Humane,' his smart and provocative new book, 'a future of war beyond killing'? It sounds like a worthy goal. Why wouldn’t less killing be anything but better?

Yet Moyn suggests that making war less cruel amounts to a centrist compromise that diverts Americans from pursuing the more radical goal of genuine peace. Spectacular technological advances — weaponry that’s more precise and less deadly — have combined with a lack of moral vision to induce a wan sense of complacency. Where Americans used to think about a future beyond war itself, the forever wars of the last two decades seem to have elicited a fixation on means instead of a reckoning with ends — an anxious discussion of how American forces were comporting themselves abroad instead of a substantive debate over what they were doing there in the first place."

Book critic Jennifer Szalai reviews Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War (2021) by Samuel Moyn, Member in the School of Historical Studies (2008–09).

Read more at the New York Times.