[extropy-chat] Back to Causes of War

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Sat Apr 28 20:19:37 UTC 2007

At 06:28 AM 4/28/2007 -0700, you wrote:
>Keith writes
> >> >>How is the point made that modern European nations any time in the 20th
> >> >>century faced economic deprivation?
> >> >
> >> > It's not absolute deprivation but *relative* that trips the detectors.
> >>
> >> Okay, then you have to make the case that the *relative* deprivation was
> >> greater around 1940 (or 1914 or June, 1950), and so on, than at other
> >> times.
> >
> > Relative to immediately *previous* times.
>You mean to assert that Germany was either economically worse off in 1939,
>or that the prospects of the people (or, hell, even the leaders) was more 
>than, say it had been in 1936, 1932, 1928, etc.?  Sorry---I cannot fathom
>that Germany was bad off at all in 1939. As BillK pointed out, they didn't
>suffer the depression to the same degree that America did, and they were
>all quite hopeful of the future with their new Autobahns etc. than at 
>previous times.  No?

Lee, it has been said on this list recently that WW II was a continuation 
of WW I.  Perhaps.  Wars among primitive peoples run on for generations. 
However, think the important time period for WW II was when Hitler and the 
Nazi party took power and that was when things looked bleak in Germany.

> > The theory says nothing about inequity... It was probably not much of a
> > factor in hunter gatherer bands.
>The potlatch cultures and "big man" solutions seem to be the way that the
>EEA types would have addressed the issue. Envy is a powerful force that
>retards economic development severely. Religion is very good at
>countering envy.

I don't understand this at all.

> > What is the effect of the GNP going up but a substantial fraction
> > of the middle class dropping into the lower class?
>According to Peter Turchin ("War and Peace and War"), the effect
>is that rising inequality destabilizes a society, reduces its asabiya,

Jeeze.  Google:  701 for asabiya

Asabiya is the capacity of a social group for concerted collective action. 
Asabiya is a dynamic quantity; it can increase or decrease with time. ...

>and---in pre-modern times, e.g. before 1700---tends to reintroduce
>the beginning "war" phase of the entire cycle.  "Warre brings peace,
>and peace brings warre" as a 16th century observer acutely saw.
> > That's been the developing situation as the US becomes more like a third
> > world country in terms of income distribution.  Does this make the country
> > as a whole more likely to support a war?  Any thoughts?
>My guess:  rising inequality now has the opposite effect: there is more
>alienation between the higher and lower classes, and less identification
>with the "entire nation". Thus we as Americans feel less insulted that
>our power is being challenged somewhere (e.g. Iraq) than would the
>U.S. of 1907.
>But a crucial fact I really need:  In absolute terms, are the poor worse
>off than 50 years ago?  The answer has to be nuanced, because, for
>example, an influx of poor people from Mexico will lower the average
>wealth, even though it may be that *all* the poor people are better
>off today than 50 years ago when you go individual by individual
>(including their parents).  What do you suppose?

For this theory it doesn't matter since the bleak future detectors seem to 
respond to relative future conditions.

> >>In an earlier post, you said that the Hitler invasion of the
> >>Soviet Union did not go against your scheme for the
> >>reason that a war was already in progress.  But there
> >>was *utterly* no reason whatsoever that made any
> >>sense to invade Russia; not militarily, not economically,
> >>nothing.
> >
> > That was my point.  It *was* irrational.  Leaders in "war mode" do things
> > like that and their followers don't stop them.  Consider the current
> > situation in Iraq if you want another example.
>Okay;  I think that some of us were interpreting you to mean that it
>was the entire culture or nation that was in "war mode".  Yes,
>throughout history one prince will invade another's kingdom either
>because it's spring time and he's feeling his oats (typical American
>Indian fashion), or because he himself will profit from it, or to avenge
>a wrong, international prestige, etc.
>The current situation in Iraq, which began in 2002, may have been
>a reaction to 9-11.  After all, the Congress fully supported the Iraq

I don't think it was unanimous, but close.

>although I don't want to get into an argument over whether
>or not they were responsible (since intelligence agencies around the
>world and the Bush administration misinformed them).  But clearly the
>Americans were still smarting from 9-11.

What I said in the EP memes and war paper:

"How did the US get into this Iraq mess?

"Once a tribe is attacked (and goes into war mode) rationality really 
suffers. It's not different from the damage to rationality that comes from 
the build-up of war memes in a tribe with bleak prospects but it happens 
much faster. Under those circumstances, tribes follow leaders who are often 
less rational than their supporters. In this case the US had the misfortune 
of a leader who had a preconceived notion of which country he wanted to 
attack. Also perceptions of being under attack are more important than 
reality in activating behavior switches. "All you have to do is tell them 
they are being attacked." [17] In the months leading up to the attack on 
Iraq, the message put out by the US administration was "be afraid, be very 
afraid, we are about to be attacked with Saddam's weapons of mass 
destruction!" "

The reference [17] was to a statement by Hermann 
Goering.  http://www.snopes.com/quotes/goering.htm


The quote [below] was part of a conversation Gilbert held with a dejected 
Hermann Goering in his cell on the evening of 18 April 1946, as the trials 
were halted for a three-day Easter recess:

     Sweating in his cell in the evening, Goering was defensive and 
deflated and not very happy over the turn the trial was taking.


Later in the conversation, Gilbert recorded Goering's observations that the 
common people can always be manipulated into supporting and fighting wars 
by their political leaders:

     We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to 
his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for 
leaders who bring them war and destruction.

     "Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why 
would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best 
that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. 
Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in 
England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. 
But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy 
and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a 
democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist 

     "There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people 
have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in 
the United States only Congress can declare wars."

     "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can 
always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have 
to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for 
lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same 
way in any country."


> >>That's how he came to power, yes.  But the cause of the European WWII
> >>is pretty simple (as compared to WWI):  one small German party sought the
> >>total conquest of Europe or perhaps the world.  When Hitler and Stalin took
> >>Poland, they didn't really think that England and France would declare 
> war---
> >
> > That is correct, and yet another example of people in "war mode" having
> > their rationality impaired.
>How is it that going into war mode seems to afflict a small ruling class
>or even one king, but not a whole people?  All the examples that usually
>come to mind---the ones above like Hitler---seem to be exceptional.
>In the EEA, surely it was an entire group. Different situations.

It is and it isn't.  In the EEA, the entire tribe knew when game was 
getting hard to find, and they darn sure knew when they were being 
attacked.  Now we get information indirectly, ever more remotely.  It 
started with word of mouth, then written word, newspapers, radio, TV and 
this offered the ability to inject false information.

It need not even be "leaders" who take advantage as Goering discussed.  The 
Spanish-American war was largely caused by William Randolph Hearst 
manipulation of information 
flow:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Randolph_Hearst

"Hearst's use of "yellow journalism" techniques in his New York Journal to 
whip up popular support for U.S. military adventurism in Cuba, Puerto Rico 
and the Philippines in 1898 was also criticized in Upton Sinclair's 1919 
book, The Brass Check: A Study of American Journalism. According to 
Sinclair, Hearst's newspaper employees were 'willing by deliberate and 
shameful lies, made out of whole cloth, to stir nations to enmity and drive 
them to murderous war.' "



But as any US citizen who watched the WTC attack on TV knows, such 
information does reach the emotional mechanism involved in flipping our 
thinking into "war mode."

> >> all this is much more particular than generalizations about
> >> relative privation, birth rates, and so on.  And it is particulars
> >> like these afford the true, actual explanations.
> >
> > I disagree.  There are proximal and ultimate explanations.
> > It is one thing  to say "Hitler was a madman," and quite
> > another to ask why a madman came to power.  I am
> > looking for the deep causes, things rooted in human biology.
>Let's make sure---for my benefit---that we don't overuse one example.
>And what is the focus here, anyway?  Is it modern times, e.g. post 1700,
>or is it civilization (1500 B.C. - 1700 A.D.), or is it the EEA (1.8 M -
>100K B.C.)?  I'm doubtful that the same explanations work in all cases.

The EEA.  Which means hunter gatherers up to agriculture.  The same 
mechanisms exist in modern humans, 0.5% of our evolutionary history isn't 
enough to much affect the prevalence of such psychological traits.

>In 1870 the French Emperor traded insults with the German Emperor
>(who, himself, was actually pretty innocent), and the newspapers
>exaggerated the insults. People got mad, and there was a war.
>What happened in 1905?  In 1812?  In 1066?  When Caesar conquered
>Gaul?  I only throw these out at random, and am making no point;  I just
>want more examples. Any will do, but we should avoid cherry-picking.
>You seem to contend sometimes that it's war fever among a small ruling
>elite, at other times that an entire tribe or nation has "grim prospects",
>and at other times that it's current deprivation of an entire band, and so on.
>Can you summarize?


We are just working from such different data bases that I think I should 
not respond again until you have read the Azar Gat paper.  Let me know when 
you have.  If you want to discuss the paper in more detail than I can 
supply, perhaps we could get Professor Gat to respond.



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