Why Do We Fight? by Niki Walker


War... Huh! What is it good for? So pondered Edwin Starr in his 1969 anti-Vietnam War song. But how did the situation in Vietnam arise in the first place, and what really causes conflict to escalate from an argument to a full-scale war? If, as Starr concludes, war is good for absolutely nothing, why can't we all just get along?

It's perfectly reasonable to ask yourself these questions, along with others more technical. Why do people of different cultural beliefs get on fine in one part of the world and not in another? Why is land so important? What are resources, sanctions, regimes? Though it might seem tempting to hide from such troubling questions, of course it's far more empowering and less frightening to have some anwsers to hand. Preferably these answers will come from someone who isn't trying to sway you to a particular way of viewing conflicts, leaving you to make up your own mind.

The success of Why Do We Fight lies, firstly, in its objectivity and secondly, in its clarity. The information is presented in a conversational tone and in a well-organised manner, on pages of bold, exciting typography. The lack of photographs might be seen as a drawback, but actually their inclusion would have made objectivity harder to maintain; photographs of war and conflict can't help but be emotive. The text frequently gives context by refering to historic or recent conflicts, from the first recorded wars, thousands of years ago, through to the French revolution and on to modern day Palestine, Afghanistan, etc.

Why Do We Fight... Huh! What is it good for? Well, it could be an excellent book for a curious child of 10-13 years, and I still wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to an older teen who needs help understanding current affairs. It could be a game-changing book for any budding journalist, or a teacher looking for a tool to help boil down the essentials. That's absolutely something.

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