From antiquity to today, certain questions concerning ethics and war have remained persistent. These books allow students to analyze how and why we go to war, interpret what has stayed the same, and determine what must change.
As an additional analysis tool, we have added the author's Carnegie Council lecture, often accompanied by the full audio, video clips, and half-hour TV show. Students can explore these to get a better understanding of the process and theories behind the books and to discover whether the author presents any bias in their historical interpretations.
WAR by Sebastian Junger (2010)
During a 15-month tour of duty, the author of The Perfect Storm travels with American troops on the front line in Afghanistan. He tells the story of individuals, how they got there, and the reality of combat. He also explains what it's like to serve your country—with stories of hell, brotherhood and honor.
Recommended by a teacher because: WAR can be used to teach a more human dimension of armed conflict. What are the backgrounds, stories, and feelings of people on the front line? The book can be read like a modern day, non-fiction All's Quiet on the Western Front.
Carnegie Council lecture, audio, video clips and TV show
Additional teaching tool: Timeline: U.S. War in Afghanistan (CFR)
The War that Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War by Caroline Alexander (2009)
While the poetry and tragic vision of the Trojan War were much extolled during ancient times, this epic's blunter message about war and the devastation it inflicts on civilians, man, woman, and child alike, tended to be overlooked. The author deconstructs the Iliad and closely examines the behavior of Achilles.
Recommended by a teacher because: this book serves as a great companion guide for teaching the Illiad, particularly for humanities teachers. The author raises many interesting questions that relate the classics to modern history such as: Is a warrior ever justified in challenging his commander? Must he sacrifice his life for someone else's cause? How is a catastrophic war ever allowed to start? Why, if all parties wish it over, can it not be ended?
Suggested reading: "Ethics and War in Homer's Iliad" by Joel Rosenthal
They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children by Romeo Dallaire (2011)
Retired Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire details his attempts to decommission a weapons system that is itself a crime against humanity, yet is used extensively in the ongoing conflicts around the globe. The weapon he is referring to is an exploited, vulnerable child that has been transformed into an instrument of war. Also a documentary.
Recommended by a teacher because: this issue is timely and relevant to students who are the same age as some of the child soldiers. The topic can also help teenagers reflect upon their relative privilege as students rather than as tools of war. In addition, the book can be taught in relation to the Rwandan genocide, as the author was the commander of the ill-fated UNAMIR mission and has since become committed to human rights projects.
Carnegie Council lecture, audio, video clips, and TV show
See also: Child Soldier Initiative
Can also be read along with A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah