From: Keith Henson (email@example.com)
Date: Sun 20 Mar 2005 - 22:02:19 GMT
At 09:44 AM 20/03/05 -0500, Lawrence de Bivort wrote:
>I am coming into this and hope I haven't missed too many of the key points.
>As I understand it, the discussion is whether poor social conditions,
>overpopulation, etc, are prerequisites for war.
>If this is the question, then I think the answer must be that they are not.
>We can cite several instances where war occurred without social distress
>1. The European assault on the native populations of North America,
>including several sub-wars that were motivated by a simple desire to
>exterminate a people that were viewed as 'inferior' to the Europeans.
>2. The 1602 attack by the Savoyards on Geneva.
>3. The US attack on Viet Nam, and now Iraq.
>4. The Crusades against Arabs in the Near East, and the Crusade against the
>French Cathars of the 13th century.
>This is, of course, not to say that wars aren't produced by poor social
>conditions -- there are myriad examples of this -- but just to suggest that
>human beings go to war for other reasons as well, such as ideology.
The proximate cause of wars starting is almost always ideology, i.e.,
memes. The question is why memes--of the class that lead to people
starting wars--have cycles where this class of memes have a lot of
influence on large scale behavior and times when they don't?
This is an evolved behavior switch that it seems obvious we got from our
stone age ancestors. You can't exactly map the social behavior of hunter
gatherer tribes into any time in the post agricultural period.
Still, the kinds of things, a bleak looking future, particularly a sharp
downturn after an extended period of good times, that activated our
ancestors can be expected to activate the xenophobic meme mechanism that
prepares a tribe's warriors for killing neighbors.
For your examples:
1. I don't think the expansion of the Europeans in the Americas can be
considered a war in the sense in which traits leading to war evolved, that
of one hunter gatherer tribe attacking another of equal
technology. Neither can the expansion of farming peoples pushing hunter
gatherer peoples out of their lands which happened in all centers of
But in all cases I can think of where the *natives* attacked, they were
anticipating a bleak future due to the expansion of the Europeans who could
support a lot higher population on the same land area. Of course this
always backfired and provided an excuse for the Europeans to kill them off
in large numbers.
2. Do you have a web pointer for more historical background on this
attack? There was generally a reason for some group to be having a bad
time or anticipating a dire future at almost any time in Europe over the
last several thousand years.
3. Viet Nam was part of a world wide set of wars going back to WWII or
before. You need to understand them as a lump. Iraq I have discussed in
more detail elsewhere. The US population support for the attack came from
being attacked first. (I know, it was completely unjustified.) The
current war is due to the local population having *been* attacked. Nothing
turns on war mode better than being attacked and dire economic prospects
will keep a population in war mode till either they are mostly dead or
there is the start of economic improvement.
4. People who have looked into both the Crusades and the near
extermination of the Cathars have made a case for resource pressure being
the motivation behind them. I don't know of studies claiming otherwise,
but would appreciate web pointers.
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