Mei Ha Chan
Library of Social Science
For the past few years, Library of Social Science has published—though our Newsletter—short pieces by Richard
Koenigsberg. Our objective is to crystallize his central propositions or theorems. Many of you, however,
have asked us to contextualize Richard theories—to provide a broader framework.
The best way to get a deeper understanding of Dr. Koenigsberg’s ideas is to read
Nations Have the Right to Kill: Hitler, the Holocaust and War
. To encourage you to purchase this groundbreaking book, we are offering it through Amazon at a
very special discounted price. Please
click through for buying options.
In a series of LSS Newsletters, we are going to present review essays of
Nations. I often ask myself, “Does anyone really understand Richard’s disturbing ideas?” Re-reading
the reviews, it’s clear that many of you do “get it.”
In the first review—published below—Younes Abouyoub observes that—according to Dr. Koenigsberg—nations do not
go to war for the “rational” reasons typically put forth by historians. Rather, warfare is generated to create
“opportunities for killing and dying.”
That’s it, in a nutshell! Beneath the ostensible “reasons,” what is bedrock is the desire to
generate death and destruction. Beneath the sound and the fury, the declarations and proclamations,
what remains—what is central in every war—is the killing and dying.
We hope you will read the review below, and then purchase Richard’s book—in order to get “the full story.”
With best regards,
Mei Ha Chan
By questioning the taken-for-granted idea that wars are waged for specific and 'real' reasons, Dr. Richard A. Koenigsberg
challenges the 'rational choice' theory and advances an alternative rationale for nations' proclivity to wage
wars. His central thesis is that nation-states decide to go to war not in order to control vast new territories
and gain larger shares of natural resources and wealth but rather in order to create opportunities for killing
|Dr. Younes, Abouyoub is Research scholar at the Dept. of Middle Eastern, Studies at Columbia
University & Director of the Governance and State-Building Division for the MENA Region,
In other words, war is not a means to and end but rather an end in itself. By drawing on the Aztec conception
of war as a 'sacred activity' Dr Koenigsberg compares modern warfare, especially the First and Second World
Wars, to the Aztec martial tradition, which consisted in capturing enemy combatants and ceremonially offering
them as a sacrifice to the sun. For the Aztec, warriors who fall in the battlefield bring the sun to life;
the sun in turn becomes the reincarnation of the warrior. Likewise by giving their life as an offering, modern
soldiers give birth to their nation: 'As the soldier dies, so the Nation comes alive'.
Furthermore, the author examines political violence in its different manifestations and concludes that Genocide
like warfare is a societal form of violence and not an individual one, as it is commonly believed. Yet, if
warfare is taken for granted and legitimized in the collective consciousness, genocide is commonly perceived
as an anomaly, a transgression of the norms established by the human society.
Subtly echoing Hannah Arendt's concept of the 'banality of evil', Dr. Koenigsberg concludes that the final
solution imagined by the Nazis was not something exceptional in the ideological context of the Twentieth
Century, since the logic of genocide grew out of the logic of war. The Second World War and the Genocide
were after all two sides of the same coin. For Hitler, since German soldiers were dying by the thousands
to allow their Nation to live Jews, whose loyalty was questionable, had to become the sacrificial offering
to the God that Hitler worshiped i.e. the German Nation. Hence, the Holocaust represented less an aberration
than a sacrifice for the German body politic.
Through its analysis of modern warfare, the author questions rightly the concept of 'country' and 'nation',
and wonders why people do have a staunch quasi-religious faith in such concepts. The question of blind obedience
is touched upon in many parts of this book but unfortunately never fully developed or answered. Dr. Koenigsberg
advances an interesting thesis to explain political violence and modern warfare. Yet, he could have buttressed
his account by providing a more detailed analysis of the question of obedience and the institutional and
societal mechanisms government put in place in order maintain 'the established order' and the collective
'fundamental beliefs' that make people obey and 'die for the Nation'.Why is it that these 'imagined communities'
have such a strong influence on people? Why do soldiers die willingly? Isn't it fair to say that soldiers are
killed by their nations and not by their enemies in the battlefield? This book challenges us to rethink our
taken-for-granted ideas about nations and the justifications advanced by our leaders to wage wars. It is an
interesting read for everyone who is preoccupied by the state of our world and its future evolution.