Book Reviews

There will always be War… Get over it

In my first year at the Mackenzie Institute, our founder Maurice Tugwell introduced me to Colin S. Gray as being the foremost strategic thinker in the world today. He was right. In 1990 Gray seemed immune to the fashionable constructs of the day, limitlessly clear in his thinking and gifted with what looked like an effortlessly lucid style of exposition. He has improved on these since.

Colin Grey’s 2005 book Another Bloody Century is an excellent essay (Orion Books, London 2005) that should be read by every diplomat, cabinet member and general officer. His arguments come to these:

  1. War is a permanent part of the human condition;
  2. History, unreliable as it is, is our only guide to the future;
  3. Interstate warfare is far from dead;
  4. Remember! Warfare is political behaviour;
  5. Warfare is always determined by social and cultural factors;
  6. Changes in warfare are not always predictable;
  7. Efforts to control or limit war are in the end always trumped by necessity.

Gray can be intimidating; his arguments and prose are faultless and clear, and every page has one observation or maxim that deserves to get cited in future editions of Bartlett’s or Oxford Dictionaries of Quotations. However, it was a welcome relief to spot one error in the first paragraph of his introduction. He attributes a quote to Plato that actually came from Thucydides – the Greek historian. Ha! Now this writer doesn’t feel quite so intimidated.

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