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.