Two reviews on books about war on The New Inquiry

Peace and/or Quiet: A review of John Horgan’s The End of War

“If we all want peace — and every sane person does — surely we’re smart enough to achieve it. Or rather, choose it,” Horgan writes, describing his overall task. Toward the book’s conclusion he begins to offer some of these solutions. He touts the democratic peace theory: the idea that democratic countries never go to war with one another. Combining this with a notion of “just policing,” Horgan envisions a world where global conflicts and atrocities are resolved in the same way police resolve civilian conflicts — i.e., with trial and imprisonment instead of bullets and bombings. A red light for Fallujah, a green light for Abu Ghraib.

And Iron Gandhi: A review of Norman Finkelstein’s What Gandhi Said

The self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, the state-sponsored assaults on Tahrir Square, and the “voluntary arrests” of 800 demonstrators on the Brooklyn Bridge were all Gandhian, Finkelstein argues, a sequence reading like “a page out of Gandhi’s life.” These events resonated with the public in a way that evoked popular pity and outrage, leading to rapid growth in the movements’ ranks. Victimization and self-suffering are merely useful tactics to help win over public opinion. This aspect of non-violence resonates less with ethical considerations than with Gandhi’s sinister concept of an army of non-violent martyrs who could be commanded to run to their deaths.

Nonetheless, such non-violent martyrdom seemed to be a popular idea in the Occupy ranks for quite a while. Shouts of “cameras!” chorused whenever police initiated an arrest, with occupiers often submitting themselves voluntarily. And don’t forget the unheralded hunger strikes. Shirts and stencils depicting Gandhi’s saintly smirk were ubiquitous at occupations, as were his later day Satyagrahi, who would remove barricades from the streets, form human shields to protect police lines from anarchists, and threaten to expose any provocations to the media.

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