On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society (Revised edition)


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The good news is that the vast majority of soldiers are loath to kill in battle. Unfortunately, modern armies, using Pavlovian and operant conditioning have developed sophisticated ways of overcoming this instinctive aversion. The psychological cost for soldiers, as witnessed by the increase in post-traumatic stress, is devastating. The psychological cost for the rest of us is even more so: contemporary civilian society, particularly the media, replicates the army's conditioning techniques and, according to Lt. Col. Dave ...

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Oct 28, 2010

For the Children of Combat Veterans

My Dad, Neil Alexander Kelley, fought the Japanese in WWII. He was an emotionally detached father and he only told me one word about his combat experience. One day, when he was watching baseball in the early Sixties, I popped the impertinent question "Dad? How many Japs did you kill?". His locked jaw expression didn't change and he said flatly "Eight.". Years later I learned that Neil was a member of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion. The Marine Raiders were our first Special Forces. He fought in some of the bloodiest battles of the war in the jungles of Bouganville, the beaches of Guam and the hills of Okinawa. The killing he did was at close range. This book explains why my Dad took his own life in 1967.

The author, and ex-Army Ranger, couldn't have better credentials. His logic is irrefutable and the writing is crisp. Thanks to this book, I now understand why I had so little time with my Dad. Thanks to this book, I now understand the sacrifice that he made to defend his country.


Jul 31, 2008


A highly recommend book for any person interested in the under-researched field of the psychology of killing. Anyone who may have to kill as part of their duty (e.g., military, law enforcement, citizen protecting him/herself) will benefit from this book. For those who embody in modern society a warrior ethos, this will complete your libary!


Jan 3, 2008

8The Ugly Truth of War

This book, written by a combat veteran, breaks down various wars and shows that most human beings, who, being placed in the role of soldier, either by volunteering, or by draft,
have very little interest in killing other human beings if at all possible. The true killers, as the author states, are the ones who are able to disassociate the fact that they are killing, or in some cases, murdering, their fellow man.

LTC Grossman then goes into the dichotomy of how combat action affects the individual based upon their relative distance to the soldiers of the enemy whom they are having to shoot; from the grunt on the ground; and those who have to deal the most with PTSD, to the bomber pilots who feel nothing from their job, because they are dropping their lethal loads to coordinates on a map. The further you are away from your target, the less guilt you'll feel afterwards.
I am a retired soldier and highly recommend this book to patriots and pacifists alike;
as both sides will find common grounds that they had not previously considered.

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