Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War

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Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War

By Barbara Ehrenreich
Metropolitan Books, 1997
292 pp. $25.00
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This book is one of a number of recent studies that have revived the anti-Clausewitzian view of war. War is not about politics; rather, it is a primitive, essentially male phenomenon -- a "blood rite." The book begins with an indictment of the great Prussian theorist for supposedly believing that war is "an entirely rational undertaking, unsullied by human emotion." The author appears not to have read Clausewitz, who spent a good part of his masterwork, On War, talking about fear, hatred, responsibility, and ambition. Ehrenreich's misattribution points to one of the central problems of her book, namely, its sheer ignorance of military history. Well read in anthropology and sociology, willing to speculate and generalize, she assumes, rather than proves, an essential identity of human type between Gilgamesh and Norman Schwarzkopf.