A History of Warfare, (1993) by John Keegan is a substantial and interesting book, not for those who want to know the ten or one hundred most decisive battles in human history –about which many, repeatedly, have opined.  It is rather, a substantial reading of anthropological, political and military texts, with brief excursions into archaeology and neurology with which he joins the ongoing investigation into the deepest roots of war. [See War in Human Civilization, Azar Gat;  Blood Rites: On the Origins and History of the Passions of War, Barbara Ehrenreich; Blood Lust: On the Roots of Violence from Cain and Able to the Present, Russel Jacoby; Behave: The Biology of Human Beings at our Best and WorstRobert Sapolsky, just for starters.]  Have they grown with our 2 million year-long evolution as primates, or are they a recent growth,  given soil and fertilizer along with the development of agriculture in only the past 10,000 years?  Are they “an extension of politics by other means,” as the West’s most cited philosopher of war had it, or something destructive of politics –unreason swamping the reason of any policy ends?

I began reading Keegan after seeing him referenced by other writers, all smarter folks than I, investigating the question of Why War?  Why do men turn to it, with such alacrity and lethality, after so many demonstrations of its awful consequences?  Why has such a smart species not evolved smarter behaviors to solve disagreement and conflict over needs and desires?    Why is courage to kill celebrated in the species and not courage to flee, like birds, which has led to even wider evolutionary success?

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