The reader is greeted with a Preface by the renowned military strategist and soldier, Andrew J. Goodpaster, followed by a Forward and Introduction. Each thinker is arranged in two tables of content, chronological and topical. Each thinker is introduced with a summary, followed by the title of their writing and then the original writing itself.
The writings lift peace out of 20th and 21st centuries' chaos and rise above to places where people of all ages and walks of life can explore directions, both toward war and peace.
Among the turbulence, what would Plato say to big tech and media giants regarding their control of battlefield information as well as controlling public discourse? What would Thomas Aquinas say about qualifications of leaders empowered to declare war? What would George Washington say about stretching citizens' food, clothing, and shelter to supply an army? What would Arnold Toynbee say about protecting borders and peace? What would John F. Kennedy say to citizens living in a 21st century democratic republic? In a crisis how can citizens best express their dissatisfaction with war or leaders?
Upon exploring the origins of war-peace thought, it seems that the oldest surviving statements came from the ancient Hebrews. They often times thought war was ordained by God, but it was fought out of self interest and relationships with other tribes were contractual.
Collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, induced a reevaluation of human nature and conflict. The most prominent philosopher to emerge was Augustine, who explained that the Fall of Rome was due to failure to obey God's laws. A just war had to have a just purpose. Aquinas related the just war to the just ruler, looking at intentions and justice in the ruler's life. Later, Machiavelli said that men are motivated by emotion and appetite and everyone and everything moved by self -interest.
Jean Bodin, in the early 1500's, advocated a standing army with a separate civilian population without arms and who therefore could not fight primarily because they were not capable. The Thirty Years War came to pass and a different aspect entered the thought of the time. Previous wars were of limited violence and at that time, there was shock and fright at the devastations which occurred. This prompted Hugo Grotius to speak against the atrocities of war, thereby considering limits on war, human rights.
With the 17th and 18th Centuries, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke both saw self-interest to be the motivating factor in the lives of human beings. For Rousseau, citizens did not normally bear arms, but, in times of peace, no one held arms. When the state was threatened, the citizens automatically assumed a different role, that of a soldier, and were capable of bearing arms
Napoleon postulated the existence of four separate groups within the state: the peasantry; the standing army; the nobles; and the general who directs the state because he has the power of the military and self-interest directs everyone. Jomini and Clausewitz provide commentary on Napoleon's ideas.
The Twentieth Century was born with great expectations and great peril. Nations expended their wealth and resources until exhausted and could not battle any longer. So, new solutions to war and peace were sought.
The aftermath of WWII brought additional shifts in thinking about war and peace. The dimensions became global and consent of many nations are involved if anyone is to survive. Survival itself becomes an organized struggle, although it may not lead to violence. Many believe there can be no just war and the affairs of humanity are in a constant state of turmoil.