Book Reviews

Book Review: What We Talk About When we Talk About War.


Lester Pearson, one of Canada’s prime ministers and the inventor of “peace keeping”, made the nation world famous as a promoter of peace and stability.

One must refrain from thinking of Canada as always the peace-loving and peace-making nation. No doubt, with “vigorous” encouragement of Britain, Canada sent an inordinately large number of soldiers into the World War I “theatre”. To wit 644,636 Canadian put on the uniform, eight per cent of the 8,148,000 population, of which 418,000 served overseas, more than 65,000 were killed and 172,950 wounded.

During Word War II 1,081,865 of a population 12,072,000 (1945 figures) were under the uniform of which 545,000 served overseas. 47,000 died in action and 54,414 were wounded.

The young recruits suffered great losses, but ultimately succeeded in defending several French and Dutch cities that still celebrate their heroic contributions to this day.

But today, Canada with its involvement in Afghanistan has become a warrior nation.

Noah Richler explores the future through his extraordinary research of the past and projects the future, asking very pointed questions along the way.

The eloquent writing studded with unusual, but “stressing” words makes this book a page-turner for those who believe that peace leads to advancement of civilization and prosperity. The author believes , correctly, that soldiers and generals are trained to kill and win wars, and hence, cannot be peace-makers or peace-keepers. Dave Grossman, professor of psychology and former ranger, states in his book titled On Killing that in general, people don’t want to kill other people.

Soldiers are specifically trained to kill. Today, many soldiers suffer from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) after serving in a war, as is the case with American soldiers having fought in Iraq or Afghanistan.

First, peacekeeping can occur only if there is peace, but today governments or politicians think that soldiers can make peace by their very presence and through the use of power.

Noah Richler has written an important book of insight and courage that ought to be read by all politicians, military academy students, soldiers, and officers, also by all who oppose wars, their destruction of lives and environment.

He correctly asserts that general Hillier, chief of Canadian armed forces, was an advocate of war, and promoted the idea of equipping the army with the most up-to-date “killing machines” in his frequent speeches to the public and soldiers.

Richler thinks and proves that the Afghanistan involvement was portrayed as a “price” to be paid for “freedom” and “security” to justify it and that it was wrong.

This is an invaluable and erudite book that should be in every public and private library.

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