[extropy-chat] Back to Causes of War

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Sun Apr 29 02:01:45 UTC 2007

Keith writes

> 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.

In 1933 World War II was not pre-ordained. After all, we believe that
if Hitler had known that England and France would declare war against
him (though not, peculiarly, against the U.S.S.R.), then in 1939 he would
not have invaded Poland.  The Western powers, as so often they do, (as
in right now, for example) continue to signal weakness towards despots,
almost as if seemingly they were doing everything in their power to
actually provoke wars. In fact, a number of conspiracy theorists really do 
accuse Britain of deliberately having brought about WWI and WWII
by pretending vacillation and weakness, but I won't get into a discussion
of these delusional beliefs.

So if Hitler had known that he'd truly made his last territorial grab for
power that he could get away with, then presumably there'd have been
no war for quite some time.  (At least until some stupid thing in the
Balkans or some other unforeseeable "one damn thing after another"

> 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  [below]

Thanks, Keith, for then going ahead and cutting and pasting.  Who knows,
you've not only made life more efficient for perhaps dozens and dozens
of people reading your post, but make your post more readable itself;
in addition to those above, people whose interest is just sufficient for
skimming can also get the drift vastly better.

> The quote [below] was part of a conversation Gilbert held with a dejected 
> Hermann Goering in his cell ...
> 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:

First, some people in some nations are more easily manipulated than others.
The UK could not and would not have dared invade the Falklands without
huge popular support that the leadership did *not* instigate.

>     We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to 
> his [Goering's] attitude, I did not think that the common people are very
> thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction... [He replied]
> "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 
> dictatorship."
>     "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."

Goering understood Germany of the first half of the 20th century, but he
did not truly understand the nature of freer countries where dissent had
a long tradition. Do you think that Bush today could simply fabricate a
"Gulf of Tonkin incident" the way LBJ did and get a declaration of war
out of Congress against Iran?   Of course not.  Goering just didn't
understand that the phenomenon in less dictatorial coutries which also
have a free press and freedom of speech.

>>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

You're right there!  It *can* happen.  But Goering was wrong: it need 
*not* always be possible for the leaders to manipulate a nation. There
were *many* people like me who thought that going after *all* of 
America's enemies in 2001 was a good idea. That's why I wanted
Iraq invaded;  so long as terrorists could find a haven in countries
openly celebrating 9/11, I was in favor of invading them---at least
if it was practicable.

> 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."

Without this ability to emotionally react to such threats no nation since 1789
(and no group in the EEA) stood much chance of surviving.  It's a very 
*good* thing in my opinion that the West still has some collective outrage

>>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.

But our examples riddle modern history too. And hasn't it been adequately
shown by many besides me that factors besides the EEA generated ones
also cause war?  Perhaps, though, we need to again look at proximal vs.
distant causes, as you were saying much earlier. 

I will agree that if surgery were performed on people that removed their
capability of being offended, that removed their identification with their
own cultures and nations, that made them act only in their own very
singular and individually selfish interest, then yes, humans would cease
being warlike.

Actually, that is true only for a short while.  Very soon a mutation would
arise that permitted a small gang to act collectively, and the unstable
dove equilibrium would vanish, as all the game theory simulations have


P.S. I'll get around to Professor Gat's paper presently, and start a new
thread if it seems appropriate.  I will also respond to some very interesting
but snipped parts of your post that aren't actually germane to this thread.

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