Mercy: Humanity in War (Hardcover)

Mercy: Humanity in War By Cathal J. Nolan Cover Image
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War presents the most degraded moral environment humanity creates. It is an arena where individuality is subsumed in collective violence and humanity is obscured as a faceless, merciless enemy pitted against its reflection in an elemental struggle for survival.

A barbaric logic has guided the conduct of war throughout history. Yet as Cathal Nolan reveals in this gripping, poignant, and powerful book, even as war can obliterate hope and decency at the grand level it simultaneously produces conditions that permit astonishing exceptions of mercy and shared dignity. Pulling the trigger is usually both the expedient thing and required by war's grim and remorseless calculus. Yet somehow the trigger is not always pulled. A different choice is made. Restraint triumphs. Humanity is rediscovered and honored in a flash of recognition.

This book gathers and explores acts of singular mercy, giving them form and substance--across wars, causes, and opposing uniforms. These acts demand our attention not only for the moral uplift they supply but because they challenge assumptions about humanity itself. Rising above ordinary courage, they may ultimately transcend our understanding, entering the realm of the ineffable. Nevertheless, as Nolan shows, acts of mercy in war are not the provenance of saints but of ordinary men and women who perform them at great personal risk. As much or more than the normal war hero stories, we must recognize the extraordinary courage of the merciful in war.

Mercy is an exceptional book about exceptions, challenging myths and heroic fabrications, refuting claims to exclusive moral virtue. It reminds us that decency in warfare is also universal, offering a haunting and compellingly humane counternarrative to war's usual inhumane logic.

About the Author

Cathal J. Nolan is the author of The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost, for which he received both the Gilder Lehrman Prize in Military History and the first Distinguished Book Award from War on the Rocks. Nolan's other works include a two-volume Concise History of World War II; Wars of the Age of Louis XIV; a two-volume study of The Age of the Wars of Religion; a study of Principled Diplomacy, and several edited books in ethics in international affairs and international and military history. He is Professor of History at Boston University, a Progress Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and a Fellow of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780190077280
ISBN-10: 019007728X
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication Date: December 9th, 2022
Pages: 328
Language: English