The motivations are remarkably similar in both war and murder. A man my be angry at another and therefore decide to kill the other. Similarly, one group can be so angry at another and so decided it must declare war to remove the threat.
Fear is another great motivator for taking another's life. If you fear harm from another to you or those you love then you may decide or be forced into taking another's life. Some would call this noble as a man kills someone threatening his family. Other times it is not as a man shoots another who is simply walking across some property. Likewise nations can go to war for what the fear another nation will do. In WW2 we were attacked by the Japanese but the nation we really wanted to fight was France... sorry, Germany. We feared Hitler and and the rest of the Axis (well, Italy not so much) and needed to get into the war.
Unfortunately, greed is another factor in war and murder. People kill people over possessions and likewise nations go to war over possessions. Whether its middle east oil Afganni uranium nations will sometimes take what they do not possess. Men will do the same killing another for the mere acquisition of property or goods.
Another emotion involved in violence is that of power. If a person or a nation feel untouchable they can often do things that wouldn't enter the mind of someone more vulnerable. Thus a powerful man man order the murder of another just because he feels he can get away with it. Likewise, a powerful nation may not fully consider the ramifications of going to war too easily thinking they are powerful enough to avoid any negative consequences.
Desperation is the final emotion I will consider in the essay. In many ways it is the exact opposite I think it is often the leading cause of criminal murders. Many more people die or lose property due to a criminal or drug abuser in a desperate situation than by organized crime killing someone who became 'inconvenient'.
So, why do we go to war and why to people murder? Murder is simple. One of the previously described emotions comes into play overriding the fear of being caught. War is as simple in a dictatorship or monarchy. The leader simply decides his country will go to war and sends the soldiers to the line. In republics or democracies it becomes a much more complex affair.
First the leaders much convince the rest of the group or the group's representatives of the need for war. At times this is easy such as the case of a sneak attack or the underlying hatred for another group overwhelms all sense of reason. Other times it is more difficult and the leader must build the case for ward.
In the case of either democracy or dictatorship the war can become unpopular if it lasts for long. The length of time for a democratic war seems to be around four years. Dictatorial wars can last longer but come at greater peril of having the government overthrown. Democracies just elect someone from the opposition who ends the war. This is an overthrow or sorts, but without the violence.
And so to go to war, leader's much tap into his group's negative emotions. Note, this doesn't just apply to war. It is often the way leaders motivate there followers. In American politics you see all sorts of examples of Democrats dehumanizing Republicans as baby starving, hate filled religious fanatics. You see similar statements from Republicans calling Democrats socialistic property thieves who want to give all your money to unwed, pregnant Mexican illegal immigrants.
One of the worst examples of this in the last century was Hitler. He preached that the Aryan nation was superior to the rest of humanity. The sub-humans should serve the Aryan nation or be cast into the ovens. He used every negative emotion to convince the German people war was the only answer.
Hitler used race as his tool of choice. This turns out to be a very effective tool for motivation. Humans have a need to feel a part of a group and there are few stronger group ties than race. The South used it as a way to keep Negroes enslaved and the United States used it as a justification to bring civilization to the Red Man. The fact that civilization came at the price of a huge land grab is beside the point.
Family is a stronger bond than race. Many family and tribal feuds happen just by virtue of the fact 'one of them did something to one of us'. The Arabs have s saying that goes something like “Me against my brother, my brother and I against our cousins, me and my cousins against the tribe, my tribe and I against the world.” Other than an interesting insight into the Arab mind, this also sums up man's natural emotions regarding family ties and loyalties.
Leaders use Nationalism, or more correctly regionalism, to trump race if the national identity runs strong. This is the case in the United States but not so much the case in places like Iraq. Nationalism runs strongest in the racial majority as they have seen the greatest benefit but you see nationalism in immigrants and their children who choose to move to a country for a better way of life. Nationalism runs more weakly in the minorities who feel exploited by those in power.
Religion seems to trump all other bonds. It slices across race, family and region. Since many are raised from birth to believe a certain way and, more detrimentally, in certain texts, a clever leader can use those beliefs and text to acquire power to convince a people to perform all sorts of heinous acts.
Note, before the flame wars start please read the following text.
I'm not saying faith is bad. I'm not saying religious texts are bad. What I'm saying is that a clever person, also known as a rules lawyer, can take the portions of the text needed to make a point and ignore the rest which contradicts that point. An example would be an unscrupulous Christian televangelist who used the Bible to con millions of dollars from old widows.
Some religions lend themselves better to violent/immoral manipulation than others. The Koran, for instance, replete with references to killing the infidel is particularly vulnerable to power hungry clerics looking to peddle influence through the death of others. Because religion is often taught from childhood, it is often difficult to contradict with logic and reason.
Seemingly worse these days are the ISMs. An Ism allows you to associate with a group with a common belief system. Indeed, Isms take the place of religion in many lives. While Isms normally start with a reason, rather than a faith, they become a faith unto themselves.
Environmentalist, these days, seems to be the secular world's answer to God. They start with a good premise; we should protect the environment since polluting it is bad and has negative consequences. OK. I don't know many who would disagree with that but the leaders of this movement move to strike down anyone who disagrees with their conclusion. Indeed, the environmentalist leaders use a skillful bait and switch stating that anyone who disagrees with their conclusion obviously disagrees with their premise. Their reaction bears a disturbing similarity to medieval witch hunts.
The environmentalist witch hunt is a microcosm explaining why group leaders (nation, race, religion and ism) use family, race, region, and belief system as motivations. It keeps people from thinking about the consequences of actions and thus makes it easier to lead a group to action; i.e. war.
Nations. religions and movement honor those who fight for them because they must. The motivation of honor, glory and reward, either in this life or the next, does much to motivate a soldiery. As it turns out honor, glory and riches is the best weapon old men have to use on the young to motivate them to fight.
As an interesting corollary, positive emotions such as joy, happiness and love are seldom used for such actions as killing and war. Oh, you hear of the odd case when someone loved another so much they had to put and end to their lives but such cases are rare.
So is there ever a reason for war. I believe there is but the key word is 'reason'. Reason here is used in the thoughtful interpretation of facts vs. finding facts to support the underlying emotions of fear, anger and greed. The only positive reason I can imagine is protection. In theory, democracies fight wars of protection and try to incite changes in unfriendly governments through success and the quality of that democracies ideas not by imposing democracy on others through brute force.
Indeed in Christendom, protection is the only way to motivate a people to war. Since, in theory again, Christians believe in love, peace and charitable giving, Christians cannot support a war that involves greed, anger, fear, desperation, or power hoarding. I think history is full of counter examples but again, we're talking theory here.
So what is my appraisal of war in Iraq and Afghanistan? Americans may say we went to war to 'free' the Iraqi people but most honest individuals will say it is because we feared what Saddam Hussein would do. It was fear that made us attack Iraq just as it was anger that made us attack Afghanistan. When a country goes to war saying it is 'protecting national interests' you can translate that into greed or desperation to hold onto what's theirs. While the American people were sold on the idea of freeing a repressed people and protecting those at home from foreign attack, I feel the stronger motivators were anger and fear but in the end history will be the judge. My fear, however, is that history often is written by the victor so we may never know.
We were ready to support military action because we were attacked. We used our emotions to filter through facts and come to the conclusion that killing other people was a good idea. When war was joined our nation rallied behind the troops and our leaders. Much like the environmental movement, criticism of the operation was stifled by our nations leader using the same tactic. If you disagree with the plans them you disagree with our premise and therefor a witch; i.e. you are unpatriotic.
My conservative friends, at this point, are yelling at the screen calling me a turncoat who let liberal Austin convert this red neck into an anti-war zealot. Well, this isn't really the case.
If we had won the war easily I most certainly would have been part of the crowd celebrating our great victory. Since the war in Iraq hasn't gone well, it gives us time to reflect on what went wrong. I was a strong supporter of the war in the beginning. I still support battling the hatred the Islamist spread if not the way we are doing it. But I feel that violence, is not the answer. It is a tool to make other nations do what is in America's best interest but I no longer hold to the illusion that we went to war for the Iraqis. We went to war because of anger and fear. Freeing the Iraqis and Afghanis was a justification, not a reason.
I believe it turned out the Rumsfeld was wrong to fight the war on the cheap. Too few troops were deployed to maintain peace which gave America's enemies a chance to grow strong. Likewise in Afghanistan, if people like John McCain hadn't insisted on B52 strikes to weaken the Tabliban then we would have never won there. Likewise, in Iraq, we should have deployed more troops to ensure the security there long enough to win the peace.
Sadly we lost the peace in Iraq and Al-Qaida won. The country was destabilized. Now we require more troops to do what should have been done earlier and we have the Bush administration to thank for it. Fiscal responsibility, in this case, damn near cost us the war.
The American left now sees weakness from Bush's failure and is capitalizing on it. They now use anger, fear, and quest for power to fuzz the issue without seeing the consequences of an early withdraw. We see signs of improvement on the groud as the surge gets under way but you would never know this if you listen to the rhetoric on the left. This is nothing new. Its happened before.
In the Vietnam War the anti-war movement not only took American troops out of the war but cut off all funding to a relatively stable South Vietnamese government. When financial support was cut, the government collapsed and millions of deaths occurred as a result and yet the left celebrates their efforts in ending the war. In a way they have more blood on their hands than those on the right who supported the war.
So by now my friends on the left are cursing me as a 'stay the course' zealot. If you're confused, read on. Even if your not confused, read on. The conclusion is coming soon.
We find ourselves in a dilemma concerning Iraq. If we leave, that country will go through a similar level of atrocities as Vietnam. Millions will die in ethnic and religious cleansing. Groups/Nations that hate us will see weakness and motivate their followers to great violence and spread an ideology of hate on others.
So is there a 'reason' to continue the fight. I submit that yes, there is a reason but the reason had better be for the right reasons, if you get my drfit. We can't fight just to pummel a society into our brand of thinking. If we are to be successful, it must be in the war of ideas where we win not through force of arms. True, you can force a populace to do what you want through force. You can even make them democratic but in the end, if the old ways are still there, it won't make much to bring a people back to its roots of violence and totalitarianism.
It is the hearts and minds that much change and that is the war we should be fighting more effectivly. If we don't, then every American life lost is wasted. But if we can protect the Iraqis long enough for the ideas to sink in, then it will be a victory. Sadly, only time will tell if we have the national will to stay long enough to find out.
And so to conclude:
- Leaders use negative emotions to lead their followers to negative actions.
- Conversely, leaders use positive emotions to lead their followers to positive actions.
- An emotional basis for going to war is bad. It should only be undertaken for protection.
- Going to war for protection sake involves reason, not emotion.
- Love, peace and charity should be the underlying principles of a good society, not greed, hatred, and anger.
- If you hold a gun to someone's head, they will agree with you most of the time but to really change their mind, you have to convince them your ideas are better than theirs.