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Learning the Hard Language of Peace



Why People Don’t Talk About War and Why We Should

This article appeared in our June 2004 issue. As a teenage student of military history during the Vietnam War, I read with disdain the slogan “War is not healthy for children and other living things.” It made the group who promoted it, Another Mother for Peace, seem naive and weak. In those days I dreamed of attending West Point and becoming an Army officer, but women were not yet admitted to the academy. Today, as I teach military history at West Point to future officers of the U.S. Army, that peace slogan seems to me undeniable. Reflecting on both my reactions helps me understand why war continues to exist despite its abysmal record for settling disputes. War is not healthy for people or their environment. Its casualties include not only the dead, the maimed, the orphans, widows, and widowers, the impoverished, and the morally corrupted, but those who suffer the anguish of having killed, maimed, impoverished, and corrupted others. Technology is not the solution. That precision-guided munitions have rendered war less destructive is small comfort to those for whom the destruction was not precise en …

Eugenia “Jennie” Kiesling, Ph.D., is Professor of History at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where she also coaches the crew. A civilian, she spent a summer in Afghanistan working to translate books for a new Afghan war college. She is the editor-in-chief’s big sister.

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