it’s a surely astonishing fact that no European war has been fought for more than 60 years, at least outside the ruins of Yugoslavia. Western Europe has become politically and socially demilitarized to a degree once unimaginable; after so many centuries of bloody conflict, Europeans don’t want to study war no more. In his scintillating tour d’horizon — and de force — Sheehan suggests that such obsolescence of war is specifically “the product of Europe’s distinctive history in the 20th century,” and he argues that it has created a new kind of European state along with “a dramatically new international system within Europe.”
There had been an earlier age of peace. The half-century following Waterloo was notably pacific after the violence from which it had emerged, and 1871 to 1914 saw the longest period until now without any war at all between larger European powers. There was besides a vigorous peace movement. Sheehan describes the vogue for such books as Bertha von Suttner’s “Lay Down Your Arms,” Ivan Bloch’s “Future of War,” which inspired the 1899 Hague peace conference, and Norman Angell’s “Great Illusion.” So it was that “at the beginning of the 20th century, as at the beginning of the 21st, a relatively peaceful Europe lived in a dangerously violent world.”
more from the NY Times Book Review here.