cover image Reasons to Kill: Why Americans Choose War

Reasons to Kill: Why Americans Choose War

Richard E. Rubenstein, Bloomsbury, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-1-60819-026-3

In this tenuous polemic, Rubenstein (When Jesus Became God), professor of conflict resolution and public affairs at George Mason University, examines "the rhetorical and philosophical strategies that move [Americans] to fight [and] explores their sources in our national culture." In the case of modern war, the author assumes that America is uniquely belligerent, but in the absence of comparative analysis, the reader is left to wonder. He asserts that, "No other nation has a more bellicose record" since WWII—a record he ascribes to empire building. Lamenting that the U.S. is developing "a one-crop economy whose principal product is war," he descries "the particularly militaristic style of American patriotism." No fan of the "war on terror," the author claims that U.S. aggression provokes terrorists "rather than deterring them," and his recommendation—that Americans "learn to live with the threat of terrorism while pursuing nonviolent methods of eliminating its causes"—might strike some readers as unthinkably complacent. Rubenstein's efforts to advance conflict resolution as an alternative to war and traditional diplomacy are undeniably important but they eventually founder on too many unexamined assumptions and a narrow focus on American bellicosity. (Oct.)