In This Review

War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
By Chris Hedges
PublicAffairs, 2002, 211 pp

This is an angry, articulate book -- an act of therapy summed up by its ironic title. Hedges is an experienced war correspondent, but one unusually steeped in the scriptures, classics, and Shakespeare, struggling to make sense of the terrible things he has witnessed while covering conflicts in the Balkans, Africa, and the Middle East. Addressing his own inner urge to return to such scenes, he describes with vivid poignancy the brutalizing impact of war and the contrast between its noble claims and the misery it leaves in its wake. Hedges only occasionally discusses wars that involve regular forces, such as the Persian Gulf War, and he tends to concentrate on those (more common) post-Cold War conflicts driven by local passions, with close interaction between militias and their largely civilian victims and the media in close attendance. Hedges' thoughts on why wars start are at best sketchy, but his explorations of what happens when they do make this book a compelling read and a valuable counterweight to the more antiseptic discussions common among strategic analysts.