This, and many other reviews posted recently originally appeared on a now long defunct livejournal account. I am posting it here as part of a project to bring all my related writing (whether worthwhile or not) under one roof.
Why Nations Go to War
This classic of the undergraduate international relations course (where I read it) is actually a pretty neat little book. Of course the underlying theory (that war reason for war is largely related to the personality and personal issues of the country’s leaders at the time of the war) is deeply, deeply flawed* but its brief historical breakdowns make a for a good introduction or refresher on the major conflicts of the 20th century.
Stoessinger takes most of the major conflicts of the 20th century and dispatches them in thirty pages or so of tightly written history (for which this book is good) and oversimplified political analysis (for which this book isn’t as good). Reading about the start of WWI in a book written by someone who thinks it is all a misunderstanding is interesting, and in some way illuminating, but it is still a poor substitute for a more nuanced analysis.
Recommended for the enthusiast.
*Hitler was a sociopath, yes, but that isn’t the prevailing reason we got WWII. And Nasser may have been an egomaniac, but that isn’t the primary explanation for the Suez Canal business.