Why Do We Go to War?

A friend of mine posed a question as to when war is justified on her Facebook wall.  The discussion that followed became focused on why those who have experienced the horror of war would ever justify the value of another war.  This is my take…

Human beings tend to enjoy being in groups.  Like with cows, the majority will stay with or nearby the herd.  Some will go rogue, wander away from the heard and chart a separate course, but most will stick to the herd.  Herd mentality dominates our social, political and economic lives.  A family unit is a herd, a political party is a herd, and school is certainly herd like.

Where human nature deviates from the cow nature is in the ability to reason.  Pecking order behavior, i.e. strong vs. weak and experienced vs. youthful, will still impact the human herd, but the human herd will reason or justify their actions and choices.

When confronted with enough data, evidence, propaganda or rhetoric, the human herd will justify a course of action.  They will justify a course of action in order to remain in the herd.  If they remain unconvinced that the course is justified, they may seek to separate from the herd, but will look for another herd to join.  The theory that there is safety in a crowd certainly applies to ideological fears of danger as well as physical fears of danger.

War is simply one of many courses mankind justifies. In contrast to peace, war is much easier to propagandize.  Fiery speeches, enflamed rhetoric, and poignant sound bites are easy to develop when fear and danger is in the mix.  The key to a successful herd is in maintaining a feeling of security in the group.  Threaten the group and it will rally together in defense.

So why do people who have experienced war agree to additional war?  Simply put, even the horrors of war cannot negate the justification of protecting the herd.  Although there are some who will develop such a strong sense of revulsion to conflict that they will suppress any feelings of self-preservation in order to avoid further conflict, they are rare and seldom include mothers.

A final point, no two people ever experience war with the same perception.  Even those participating in the same horror, experience the horror differently. This makes me think, strangely, of childbirth.  Why would anyone who nearly died in the delivery room ever seek another pregnancy?  The justifications of the blessings override the worry of fear, pain, and possibly death.  In the case of war, if the end result can be portrayed as being of greater value than the known casualties associated with war, then the herd can be persuaded to follow a course of war.

3 thoughts on “Why Do We Go to War?

  1. reallylisafrench says:

    This piece has got me thinking, and has given me a new perspective on a question i have been asking myself all week. I am a susvivor of a conflict. I hold no anger or hate, and have never sought revenge. But following a discussion with a friend, i asked why had i never felt that way? he pointed out, maybe that is yet to come, or would come if i ever had a child; he had seen that happen to some women, many years later. This scares me, i had never considered that i may one day change my mind. But nor had i never considered that it may be because i am not a mother that i am able to take the position I have; and instead have chosen to invest in peace and building a more peaceful tomorrow.
    Thankyou for sharing, i have more questions to ask of myself, and a new perspective.

    • pioneerlady says:

      Your comment very much touched me this morning as I read it. Perspective is usually my goal in writing, as I am seldom accepting of following the herd. As a mother, I strive to create an environment in which my children will look past “everyone else” and look inside at themselves. My son wrote the other day, “It is inefficient to sacrifice self if you don’t know what you are sacrificing.” While we can serve, interact and love others without knowing who we are, our efforts will be less effective. Through life, the ingredients that make up the self will adapt, adjust and increase in volume. Following the herd seems easier than reevaluating our own self; it seems like more risk is involved.

      In regards to motherhood, the lengths I would go to protect myself, pale in comparison to the measures I would take to protect my children. However, I have noticed that with every passing year, this mother bear like nature lessons. I suspect as my children venture out into the world, my desire for peace will increase. I will hope they will inherit a more peaceful world, but I want them prepared for whatever they will face. So I pray for peace daily, even if I prepare my family for war. My son would quote, si vis pacem, para bellum, (If you wish for peace, prepare for war.)

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. May you have a blessed day.

  2. […] also: Why Do We Go to War?, To Be Informed or To Be […]

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