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Mel Pavlik

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The Horror and the Humanity

September 9, 2021

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** This is the fourth in a series of four reviews of Samuel Moyn’s new book Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War. Each day this week one review will be published. On Friday, Moyn will respond. **

When urged by a fellow soldier to draw comfort from ‘ideals’ amidst the chaos and inhumanity of World War II, Joseph Heller’s protagonist Yossarian scoffs. “When I look up,” he retorts, “I see people cashing in. I don’t see heaven or saints or angels. I see people cashing in on every decent impulse and every human tragedy” (551). It is these—our most flimsy ideals, most humanitarian impulses, and most depraved tragedies—which concern historian and Yale Law School Professor Samuel Moyn in his latest

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