Hot Best Seller

Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War

Availability: Ready to download

In the years since 9/11, we have entered an age of endless war. With little debate or discussion, the United States carries out military operations around the globe. It hardly matters who’s president or whether liberals or conservatives operate the levers of power. The United States exercises dominion everywhere. In Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvent In the years since 9/11, we have entered an age of endless war. With little debate or discussion, the United States carries out military operations around the globe. It hardly matters who’s president or whether liberals or conservatives operate the levers of power. The United States exercises dominion everywhere. In Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, Samuel Moyn asks a troubling but urgent question: What if efforts to make war more ethical—to ban torture and limit civilian casualties—have only shored up the military enterprise and made it sturdier? To advance this case, Moyn looks back at a century and a half of passionate arguments about the ethics of using force. In the nineteenth century, the founders of the Red Cross struggled mightily to make war less lethal even as they acknowledged its inevitability. Leo Tolstoy prominently opposed their efforts, reasoning that war needed to be abolished, not reformed—and over the subsequent century, a popular movement to abolish war flourished on both sides of the Atlantic. Eventually, however, reformers shifted their attention from opposing the crime of war to opposing war crimes, with fateful consequences. The ramifications of this shift became apparent in the post-9/11 era. By that time, the US military had embraced the agenda of humane war, driven both by the availability of precision weaponry and the need to protect its image. The battle shifted from the streets to the courtroom, where the tactics of the war on terror were litigated but its foundational assumptions went without serious challenge. These trends only accelerated during the Obama and Trump presidencies. Even as the two administrations spoke of American power and morality in radically different tones, they ushered in the second decade of the “forever” war. Humane is the story of how America went off to fight and never came back, and how armed combat was transformed from an imperfect tool for resolving disputes into an integral component of the modern condition. As American wars have become more humane, they have also become endless. This provocative book argues that this development might not represent progress at all.


Compare

In the years since 9/11, we have entered an age of endless war. With little debate or discussion, the United States carries out military operations around the globe. It hardly matters who’s president or whether liberals or conservatives operate the levers of power. The United States exercises dominion everywhere. In Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvent In the years since 9/11, we have entered an age of endless war. With little debate or discussion, the United States carries out military operations around the globe. It hardly matters who’s president or whether liberals or conservatives operate the levers of power. The United States exercises dominion everywhere. In Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, Samuel Moyn asks a troubling but urgent question: What if efforts to make war more ethical—to ban torture and limit civilian casualties—have only shored up the military enterprise and made it sturdier? To advance this case, Moyn looks back at a century and a half of passionate arguments about the ethics of using force. In the nineteenth century, the founders of the Red Cross struggled mightily to make war less lethal even as they acknowledged its inevitability. Leo Tolstoy prominently opposed their efforts, reasoning that war needed to be abolished, not reformed—and over the subsequent century, a popular movement to abolish war flourished on both sides of the Atlantic. Eventually, however, reformers shifted their attention from opposing the crime of war to opposing war crimes, with fateful consequences. The ramifications of this shift became apparent in the post-9/11 era. By that time, the US military had embraced the agenda of humane war, driven both by the availability of precision weaponry and the need to protect its image. The battle shifted from the streets to the courtroom, where the tactics of the war on terror were litigated but its foundational assumptions went without serious challenge. These trends only accelerated during the Obama and Trump presidencies. Even as the two administrations spoke of American power and morality in radically different tones, they ushered in the second decade of the “forever” war. Humane is the story of how America went off to fight and never came back, and how armed combat was transformed from an imperfect tool for resolving disputes into an integral component of the modern condition. As American wars have become more humane, they have also become endless. This provocative book argues that this development might not represent progress at all.

30 review for Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War

  1. 5 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War by Samuel Moyn This is a very thorough book and it is deep, dense, and well thought out. It takes the reader back in time to discuss the meaning of war, what is humane during war, humanity in general at that time according to the leading philosophers and leaders. It goes through various time periods leading slowly up to now. The very shocking depravity is on full display of war, slavery, and what some leaders felt humane treatment sh Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War by Samuel Moyn This is a very thorough book and it is deep, dense, and well thought out. It takes the reader back in time to discuss the meaning of war, what is humane during war, humanity in general at that time according to the leading philosophers and leaders. It goes through various time periods leading slowly up to now. The very shocking depravity is on full display of war, slavery, and what some leaders felt humane treatment should or shouldn't be. I had to read this in bits and pieces because it's rich in information and the lack of humanity. I just couldn't take the constant horror knowing the truth of it all. I did learn a lot. Despite the horrors, people need to read this. Where is America going? Do we want to continue this path? I want to thank the publisher and NetGalley for letting me read this heart wrenching book!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

    A surprisingly brisk and readable account of the history of international human rights law, and how efforts to mitigate the worst abuses of war using legal tools have sidetracked efforts to cease wars themselves. The argument is perhaps counterintuitive but focus on atrocity prevention in conflict has ended up ceding the ground of war itself. This is akin to making efforts to better the condition of slaves rather than working to abolish slavery tout court. Interestingly, it seems that human righ A surprisingly brisk and readable account of the history of international human rights law, and how efforts to mitigate the worst abuses of war using legal tools have sidetracked efforts to cease wars themselves. The argument is perhaps counterintuitive but focus on atrocity prevention in conflict has ended up ceding the ground of war itself. This is akin to making efforts to better the condition of slaves rather than working to abolish slavery tout court. Interestingly, it seems that human rights law was traditionally considered inapplicable to non-Westerners throughout much of history and only in relatively recent times was its focus expanded. The book contains harrowing accounts of colonial and imperial warfare over the past century, and is tied up with a surprising analogy with Tolstoy's War and Peace. For a book about international law this is as accessibly interesting as it gets.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Umar Lee

    Halfway through the opening chapters I was wondering if I missed something and the book is about Tolstoy. Those early chapters laid the groundwork for an outstanding book about the history of both the attempts to outlaw war and make it more humane taking us right into the present with our last several American presidents, their advisors, and their contradictions. Something this book brilliantly illustrates is the fact whatever moves towards humane war have been made in the West haven't been affo Halfway through the opening chapters I was wondering if I missed something and the book is about Tolstoy. Those early chapters laid the groundwork for an outstanding book about the history of both the attempts to outlaw war and make it more humane taking us right into the present with our last several American presidents, their advisors, and their contradictions. Something this book brilliantly illustrates is the fact whatever moves towards humane war have been made in the West haven't been afforded to non Westerners and non Christians in general who have often been targeted without discrimination between combatant and non-combatant. Near the end of the book the topic of automated warfare is discussed which makes the reader ponder a dystopian future of killer robots running wild.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Petti

    The United States military is the most humane army in history, and it is not a good thing. These are two pretty controversial points, yet Samuel Moyn makes a convincing case for both of them, and it will upend the way you think about war and peace. Today we live in a country where lawyers have to approve airstrikes, and where generals pride themselves on following international human rights law. Yet this humanitarianism has not prevented the emergence of endless bloodshed. On the contrary, the en The United States military is the most humane army in history, and it is not a good thing. These are two pretty controversial points, yet Samuel Moyn makes a convincing case for both of them, and it will upend the way you think about war and peace. Today we live in a country where lawyers have to approve airstrikes, and where generals pride themselves on following international human rights law. Yet this humanitarianism has not prevented the emergence of endless bloodshed. On the contrary, the entire world has become an American battlefield, as drones and special forces hunt down the United States's enemies without limits. Moyn argues that the first helped cause the second — that the rise of "humane, light-footprint" war has helped hide its costs from the public. The book is pretty dense. Moyn gets into the weeds of intellectual debates, and profiles the individual scholars and lawyers who helped shape global debates on brutality and humanity. That said, it's not a specialist book, and is about as accessible a book on such a complicated topic can get. And the sources he cites are really varied, from excerpts from a Leo Tolstoy novel to an activist who disrupted an Obama speech. Moyn begins his explanation in the 19th century, when two European movements began in reaction to the brutality of modern warfare. The humanitarians, like the early Red Cross, wanted to established new rules for armies that protected civilians and prisoners. The anti-war activists, meanwhile, wanted to abolish war entirely. And surprisingly, the two movements were often at odds with each other. While the humanitarians accused the anti-war side of being unrealistic ideologues, the anti-war activists argued that humanitarians were only putting a pretty face on an evil institution. Of course, neither side got what it wanted at first. War became more brutal *and* more widespread, reaching its bloody apex in World War II. Finally, states began to acknowledge the concept of crimes against humanity, and the idea that aggression itself was a crime. Yet brutality and war continued. European powers attempted to hold onto their colonies Africa and Southeast Asia through extreme force, which bled into equally-brutal proxy wars between the United States and the Soviet Union in places like Korea and Vietnam. Things began to change in the 1970s, as countries around the world signed human rights laws like the new Geneva Conventions. In the First World, the public was disgusted by the various war crimes that came to light during the Vietnam War. In the Second World — the Communist bloc — governments wanted to take the moral high ground from the First World. And in the Third World, newly-independent states wanted to prevent the kinds of horrific violence that Europe had unleashed on their people during colonial wars. But as the United States accepted limits on *how* it could fight wars, it shed all limits on *when* and *where* it could fight them. After the fall of Communism, the USA was left as the world's sole military superpower. It used this power frequently, and sometimes even justified its wars *through* defending human rights law. And in many ways, All of these processes came to a head during the Bush and Obama administrations. In response to 9/11, George W. Bush unleashed global military interventions and tried to shed some of the laws of war. But the backlash to war crimes — particularly the crime of torture — from U.S. lawyers and the general public was intense. Barack Obama then came to office promising to undo the worst excesses of the War on Terror. But he continued the war itself, with the same expansive legal justifications, and public debate over *why* America should be fighting in the Middle East died down. Finally came Donald Trump, who brought more fundamental questions back to public consciousness. First, by railing against "endless wars," Trump helped break the elite consensus around continuing the War on Terror. Second, by nearly starting a full-on war with Iran, he reopened questions over what authorities the President should have over war and peace. After all, a conflict against a regional power is not the same as plinking terrorists in no-man's-land. Moyn then ends by arguing that the evil of war is not necessarily the violence, but the domination. He speculates that, in the age of robots and AI, it will possible for militaries to take over vast territories with no civilian casualties. And this outcome, Moyn argues, could lead to a kind of global slavery. I understand his point, but it felt a bit like it had come out of nowhere. Going back, I can see how Moyn came to this conclusion, although I wish he had been more explicit in pointing to it. Overall, I recommend the book if you want to have your ways of thinking about war and peace turned upside-down.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Dense Yet Enlightening. This is a book about the history of the philosophical and legal thoughts and justifications for transitioning from the brutal and bloody wars of the 19th century (when the history it covers begins) through to the "more humane" but now seemingly endless wars as currently waged, particularly by the United States of America. As in, this treatise begins with examinations of Tolstoy and Von Clauswitz during the Napoleonic Wars and ends with the Biden Presidency's early days of Dense Yet Enlightening. This is a book about the history of the philosophical and legal thoughts and justifications for transitioning from the brutal and bloody wars of the 19th century (when the history it covers begins) through to the "more humane" but now seemingly endless wars as currently waged, particularly by the United States of America. As in, this treatise begins with examinations of Tolstoy and Von Clauswitz during the Napoleonic Wars and ends with the Biden Presidency's early days of the continuation of the drone wars of its two predecessors. Along the way, we find the imperfections and even outright hypocrisies of a world - and, in the 21st century in particular, in particular a singular nation on the ascendancy, the United States - as it struggles with how best to wage and, hopefully, end war. Moyn shows the transition from a mindset of peace to a mindset of more palatable (re: "less" horrific / "more" humane) perma-war. But as to the description's final point that this book argues that this might not be a good thing at all... yes, that point is raised, and even, at times, central. But the text here seems to get more in depth on the history of documenting the change rather than focusing in on the philosophical and even legal arguments as to why that particular change is an overall bad thing. Ultimately this is one of those esoteric tomes that those with a particular interest in wars and how and why they are waged might read, if they are "wonks" in this area, but probably won't have the mass appeal that it arguably warrants. The central premise is a conversation that *needs* to be had in America and the world, but this book is more designed for the think tank/ academic crowd than the mass appeal that could spark such conversations. Still, it is truly well documented and written with a high degree of detail, and for this it is very much recommended.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alexey Goldin

    "Torture, even more than other atrocity crimes, rose to the top of the list of immoral and even illegal acts, which was an enormous advance. But war fell off the list, and no one complained." "The intense focus of advocacy groups and administration lawyers alike on the legal niceties of humane detention and treatment contributed significantly to a perverse outcome. The brutal treatment of captives had tainted the legitimacy of a heavy-footprint war under the prior administration. Now a concern to "Torture, even more than other atrocity crimes, rose to the top of the list of immoral and even illegal acts, which was an enormous advance. But war fell off the list, and no one complained." "The intense focus of advocacy groups and administration lawyers alike on the legal niceties of humane detention and treatment contributed significantly to a perverse outcome. The brutal treatment of captives had tainted the legitimacy of a heavy-footprint war under the prior administration. Now a concern to remove that taint led the United States to kill by preference in the new one—though the country took steps to make its regime of death more compassionate. While advertising its alleged care, the emerging form of Obama’s war negated the constraints on extending and expanding war itself that previous generations had prioritized. As the Obama administration continued, the abuses to the laws prohibiting force accumulated almost without counterexample." "Though the United States had once organized the Nuremberg trials to stigmatize aggression, Koh opposed criminalizing it now for fear it would keep a benevolent power like the United States from stopping atrocity." "Beyond the compromises made by advocates outside government and especially inside, the deepest blame for the perpetuation of endless war fell on Obama himself. He established a working relationship with a public that allowed itself to be convinced that his policies of endless and humane war, though not exactly what they had signed up for, were morally wholesome. This effect depended utterly on Obama’s rhetorical genius. It worked through the first-person plural but also required the audience to accept that they shared in the compromises of humane war that politicians chose and lawyers crafted." "In his concern that advocates for more humane war could help make it endless for a public that tolerates it, Leo Tolstoy fixated on corporal wrongs and physical violence. Advocacy aimed at humane war, he contended, was no more ethically plausible than agitation for humane slavery, with daily episodes of torture replaced by everlasting—but kind and gentle—direction of labor and service. Audiences who accept endless war out of the belief that its humanity excuses them, the truculent moralist inveighed, were fooling themselves." "Brought to its logical conclusion, humane war may become increasingly safe for all concerned—which is also what makes it objectionable. Humane war is another version of the slavery of our times, and our task is to aim for a law that not only tolerates less pain but also promotes more freedom."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Will Norton

    This book really touched my interests. The history of literary than legal aspects of the prevention of war crimes are discussed. Beginning with the idea of "humane" slavery, and the accounts of Tolstoy's literature that decried violence, the path towards justice jus ad bellum and jus in bello are given their complete historical treatment. The book, of course, dwells on Vietnam for a portion. This was the quintessential debate on the humanity of war that cried out so forcefully became a political This book really touched my interests. The history of literary than legal aspects of the prevention of war crimes are discussed. Beginning with the idea of "humane" slavery, and the accounts of Tolstoy's literature that decried violence, the path towards justice jus ad bellum and jus in bello are given their complete historical treatment. The book, of course, dwells on Vietnam for a portion. This was the quintessential debate on the humanity of war that cried out so forcefully became a political staging ground that riles American politics to this day. From conflict to conflict, the methods jus in bello reach their staging grounds usually after conflict to prevent further conflict and the simmering of the war on terror leads to a need of better conclusions. The book offers this from both historical and reflective notions of the idea of conflict and its effects to this degree. This is definitely written from an American perspective. It is also written from an historical perspective with the names and treaties on the act of making war more humane come into focus with both insight and clarity. The book is enlightening in this aspect and poses questions throughout. Anyone interested in a history of movements for peaceful resolutions to war and decry violence to people who deal directly with these issues should definitely read this largely historical perspective.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ernest Spoon

    A legist history of what the author labels as ¨humane¨ war featuring a cast of lawyers, both within and without government service. ¨Humane¨ war is drone warfare, sanity, faraway, with few American casualties. This author does touch on what may be the greatest mitigating factor in the start of ¨humane¨ and endless was: the end of conscription. He also mentions the ironic death by suicide car bomber in Baghdad, Iraq of an antiwar activist, to what end I don´t know. Perhaps the author agrees with A legist history of what the author labels as ¨humane¨ war featuring a cast of lawyers, both within and without government service. ¨Humane¨ war is drone warfare, sanity, faraway, with few American casualties. This author does touch on what may be the greatest mitigating factor in the start of ¨humane¨ and endless was: the end of conscription. He also mentions the ironic death by suicide car bomber in Baghdad, Iraq of an antiwar activist, to what end I don´t know. Perhaps the author agrees with William Tecumseh Sherman´s observation: “War is cruelty. There's no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.” I just don´t know? I might add one of the primary drivers of endless warfare is, what in an earlier time was termed the munitions industry but has been euphemized, the defense industry. Whenever any political party or politician talks about cutting the ¨defense¨ budget, they mention that the individuals who bear the highest burdon are the line workers, most of whom are unionized, in defense contractor factories. Fire the generals but don´t layoff folks just trying to make a living.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Izzy

    This book damns not only Bush and Trump, but also Clinton and Truman, and Churchill (especially Churchill) and Roosevelt as well, for their approach to war and aerial killing of civilians. But the concept that more ‘humane’, or less civilian collateral damage has enabled ‘endless’ war is scary and well illustrated. The massive killings in fire bombing of Dresden and Tokyo by our side in WW2, (not to mention the 2A bombs deployed after the war was won, and the linkage of how we fought ‘our’ war i This book damns not only Bush and Trump, but also Clinton and Truman, and Churchill (especially Churchill) and Roosevelt as well, for their approach to war and aerial killing of civilians. But the concept that more ‘humane’, or less civilian collateral damage has enabled ‘endless’ war is scary and well illustrated. The massive killings in fire bombing of Dresden and Tokyo by our side in WW2, (not to mention the 2A bombs deployed after the war was won, and the linkage of how we fought ‘our’ war in Viet Nam to prior European colonial imperial wars is powerfully described. Who determines the targets, and what keeps the other side from doing the same thing to us in a few years, that we are currently doing in. Waziristan? His (Moyn’s) credentials are impeccable, and it is hard to put this book down. His background in both history ad law is evident!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Eichhold

    I’m a pleasure reader and not an academic, so that may affect what I thought of this book. The writing style is really heavy. Not an easy book to skim and I thought the paragraphs were not organized well. The thoughts skipped around a lot and concepts would shift around mid paragraph. The general sequence of events could be haphazard at times. At one point, the author mentioned four separate events through three decades in the space of two pages. The sum of all of that made it tough to discern h I’m a pleasure reader and not an academic, so that may affect what I thought of this book. The writing style is really heavy. Not an easy book to skim and I thought the paragraphs were not organized well. The thoughts skipped around a lot and concepts would shift around mid paragraph. The general sequence of events could be haphazard at times. At one point, the author mentioned four separate events through three decades in the space of two pages. The sum of all of that made it tough to discern his point. Maybe he was writing for other Yale professors and I’m not one of them. I think he could have covered less historical events in different level of detail and made a more impactful book. What was the book about? Well…uh…tough to say…

  11. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    3.5

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Mae Stover

    So then what does the militarized cover say about the book’s premise and producers? (sigh)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    Didn't really read all/finish, just too repetitive. In need of significant editing Didn't really read all/finish, just too repetitive. In need of significant editing

  14. 4 out of 5

    arkadi cloud

    https://blog.arkadi.one/humane-how-th... https://blog.arkadi.one/humane-how-th...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    Deeply, historically researched non-fiction about the unintended consequences of efforts to make war more humane. I encourage people to read this powerfully persuasive book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tommy

  17. 5 out of 5

    John Dingledy

  18. 5 out of 5

    ixk

  19. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Barsky

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eric Snow

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rokas Indriliūnas

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  23. 4 out of 5

    Arnav Jagasia

  24. 4 out of 5

    John

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mauricio Santoro

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katelyn

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ferenc Laczo

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Deng

  30. 5 out of 5

    Will

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...