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War: what is it good for?

Keen, David (1996) War: what is it good for? Contemporary Politics, 2 (1). 23 - 36. ISSN 1356-9775

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Identification Number: 10.1080/13569775.1996.10382948


To judge from the accounts of the majority of journalists, aid staff and even academics, war is essentially confusing and pointless. One framework of analysis portrays war - whether international or civil war - as a contest between two sides. Those operating within this framework, when they are confronted by a war, are like an outsider arriving at a sporting event whose first question is: 'Who's it between?' Such analysts may be quickly reassured with a set of competing initials (for example, UNITA versus the MPLA) or a set of competing ethnic groups (the Serbs versus the Muslims). It is not always clear, however, that the roots of conflict have been illuminated in such a dialogue. A second, essentially liberal, model of war emphasizes that war is destructive and bad, detailing the damage it does. This, in many ways honourable, tradition may, again, throw rather little light on the difficult question of why wars occur and persist. A third model tends to portray war as a eruption of mindless violence, often stemming from 'ancient tribal hatreds'. This model has been associated with die work of Robert Kaplan, among others.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 1996 Contemporary Politics
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Date Deposited: 15 Oct 2014 09:55
Last Modified: 15 May 2024 23:38

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