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Inevitability of War

By jmoehler Nov 02, 2012 1032 Words
An Exigency of Caliber

“All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.” (Steinbeck)

On March 20th, 2003 I took this picture as my convoy crossed the breach into Iraq.  We were the first Marines to lead the march up to Baghdad. I returned with a heavy conscience and apprehension for our future causing me to bury most feelings involving this subject. But current events in our country’s global affairs have given me the courage to revisit my past experiences and explore the foundations within ourselves that advocate violence and war. This is not for justification of my actions but an effort to resolve the enduring question; has war always been inevitable within the human race?  Did it transcended from a biological imprint within our psyche or is it a condition devised by our temperament which can be undone? Some people believe in a deep-root theory, that this predisposition to violence is a component of evolution. E. O. Wilson is considered the “father of Sociobiology” and is a respected scientist in his field. In his article “Is War Inevitable”, he mentions an old parable. A scorpion wants to ride on the back of a frog across a stream. The frog hesitates at first but then realizes that if the scorpion stings him while they’re in the water they will both perish. So the frog agrees and halfway across the water the scorpion stings him. As they both drown the frog asks why he did that. The scorpion replied “because it’s in my nature.” Further in this article Wilson argues that war is “human’s hereditary curse”, and explains that, with the necessity of survival, our prehistoric ancestors have handed down over generations the “engrained” social behavior of competition and contention towards each other. These instincts, he says, started as small tribes of homo-sapiens fought over territories of land during the hunting and gathering era. Food was scarce so territorial conflict was an imminent product of this situation. Even with the development of agricultural techniques in Neolithic times (when humanity acquired more than enough food) our warring nature persisted. We multiplied more rapidly and food once again became a “limiting factor”. And so, he argues, this need for survivability and the enduring acquisition of resources has become forever intertwined into our natural behavior. Many argue against this theory and believe that fighting is a fabrication of our own design, not a biological modification of genes. At the opposing end of this spectrum is a scientific journalist named John Horgan. Although he expresses his admiration and respect for Wilson in his article “No, War is Not Inevitable”, he argues that there are flaws in the deep-root theory. He explains that the first solid evidence of recorded violence was found in the Nile Valley dating not millions of years ago, but only 13,000 years. This grave was reported to contain combat weapons (not hunting tools) and with this Horgan tries to debunk Wilson’s theory by explaining that war was not manifested in human nature but was rather a “cultural innovation.” He says that further evidence supporting this was shown in observations of chimpanzees (our closest relatives) who share an estimated 98% of DNA with humans. His article states that the first reported chimpanzee raid on neighboring troops (after a decade of observation) was in 1974. Horgan says researchers also stated that from 1975 and 2004 only one chimp died every seven years by this manner. In Horgan’s article he mentions Richard Wrangham, leading chimpanzee researcher at Harvard University and deep-root theory supporter, who admits that these “alliance” killings were very rare. These observations in the wild seem to conclude that animals avoid actions of territorial disputes at all costs, even when resources are at stake. This might conclude that humans, on the other hand, are the only animals that rationalize the justifications of war even when resources are abundant. But are both these angles of approach shaded by a more imperative and imminent concern; the elimination of conflict altogether? One other perspective invites the possibility of erasing the inevitability of war with conditions of problem solving. Jacque Fresco, a philosopher of science and a futurist, believes that whether it is genes or our own creation, the time has come for a drastic change in our thought process. He says in a video interview that “war is the most inappropriate way to solve differences and…we have to educate people so that they think differently than they do today.” His vision of the future is based on the idea of providing soldiers with an education involving social curriculum and problem solving for the purpose of uniting nations in an effort to restore our “damaged environment”. This thought process stems from a type of bottle-neck theory, viewed by many to be the only logical angle on the inevitability of war; either war goes or we do. This position is indifferent to the causes of violence towards one another, and proclaims that solutions are imperative to the survivability of our species. My past experience with conflict combined with recent research has led me to believe in a culmination of perspectives. I think animals have always been naturally endowed with a premonition towards violence, and under rare inescapable circumstances, these actions are sometimes a necessity for survivability. But I also believe our ignorance has manipulated this primitive behavior to encourage and create technological advances our reasoning has not yet caught up with. In the wake of our current global concerns we desperately need to redesign our thought process and no longer fear the caliber of a bullet, but the caliber within ourselves to change. -------------------------------------------------

"The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one" (Einstein)

Wilson, Edward. “Is War Inevitable.” Discover Magazine. Kalmbach Publishing Co. 12 June 2012. Web. 27 Sept 2012. Horgan, John. “No, War Is Not Inevitable.” Discover Magazine. Kalmbach Publishing Co. 12 June 2012. Web. 27 Sept 2012. Fresco, Jacque. “Jacque Fresco – War.” 27 October 2009. Online video clip. YouTube. Accessed 28 Sept 2012. <>

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