Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Propaganda is a form of brainwashing

Propaganda is a form of brainwashing. Germany used many forms of propaganda during WWII to convince the German people that their country needed to go to war. They constantly reminded the Germans of the hardships the country had gone through economically and socially through radio, posters and media. Researchers who examined interwar propaganda found that is was extremely powerful and persuasive to those who were exposed to it. Media had a huge impact on the opinions of the people of the different countries involved in the wars. If it were not for the messages and ideas being sent out by authorities, people's mindsets would be different and the wars may not have happened because of protest to the idea.



Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Aggression is genetic

In class we spoke of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection and how aggression and defense is an adaptation developed over the years of the human race. I'd like to take that idea even further to say that aggression is largely influenced by genetics. Behaviorists may say that aggression is a learned behavior, and to an extent it is. C.H. Phoenix, R.W. Goy, A.A. Gerall and W.C. Young found in 1959 that hormones are important in aggressive behavior, but researchers are finding now that sex chromosomes affect how aggressive someone is. Take Hitler for example. He was an art student not exposed to extreme aggression and we all know that the Holocaust was one of the bloodiest events in history, killing millions of people. Although he may have had exposure to aggression at his time as a soldier, however it was not prominent in his early years in life. In the study attached, mice that had their SRY chromosome removed reacted in less time aggressively to another mouse being placed in their home territory. Even the females became more aggressive when the SRY chromosome was removed. This proof of altered behavior supports the theoretical perspective that aggression is somewhat genetic.





Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Shakespeare and War with a dash of Nationalism

What twists a hand to cruelty? In this world that we live in, is it possible for any man or woman to commit an unforgivable act if pushed to do so? Yes. We are all beings with hateful, terrible capabilities. War is a perfect example of how compassion, empathy and morality die along with our dwindling humanity. Something within us breaks and we lose the ability to rightly judge between good and evil. We are not alone in this sickening transformation. When we turn, we turn alongside our comrades, friends, peers and group members. “A gender-sensitive analysis improves our map of nationalism. It illuminates the process of identity formation, cultural reproduction, and political allegiance that are key to understanding collective identities and their political effects.” (Peterson) This new hive identity we become allows us to do unspeakable crimes, ones that our own sane judgment screams out against.

What happens when we affiliate ourselves with a group that allows us to lose our set of values and beliefs? Obedience overrides our commonsense and we find ourselves blindly following someone who has manipulated us into this state. As seen in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the crowd is fickle and turns from adoration toward Caesar to violent hatred just from one man’s speech. In life, war, and cultures, we see this idea of nationalism, of self-affiliation taken to an extreme and used for mass influence. “As others have argued, nationalist masculinity is a resource that people in Serbia, and other post-socialist contexts, have drawn on in times of social and political crisis in order to architect a sense of continuity, agency and belonging.” (Greenberg ) Yet this “nationalism” is what we identify with and relate ourselves to in every moment of our lives. It decides how we behave, the decisions we make, how we handle situations, and how we view others. Ultimately, it determines how we view ourselves and our own self worth. “In the context of nationalism, these various locations shape the allegiance that various women, or women in concert, will have toward group identity and objectives.” (Peterson)

Often, when told that what you believe in, what you have based your entire life around, is wrong, one gets offended and takes the defensive. Why would anyone ever defend something that they did not even believe in? They would not. In times of war the opposing forces are seen as the “enemy” and “evil” or “wrong” when really both sides are just standing up for what they believe in. With this “in-group” and “out-group” mindset, which is well depicted in the film A Class Divided, nationalism is encouraged. The bonding involved when one identifies themselves with a group is strong and complicated. Men are often so well bonded with their comrades during war atmospheres that they feel a sort of kinship towards them and even love them. Examples of this very such bonding is seen throughout WWI, WWII, Vietnam and even present day Iraq and Afghanistan. These men would do nearly anything for each other and live to die together.

War is not only a battle ground between nations or groups, it is a high-stress structure in which men prove themselves in battle, fight for the other men next to them and take on the role of “protector”. “Militarization of ethnic nationalism often depends on persuading individual men that their own manhood will be fully validated only if they perform as soldiers…” (Enloe) Women in battle often make these roles hard to define for men. How can a man look down on a woman who can do as good a job as he can in battle? “The rise of masculinist nationalism provided a powerful linkage between an emerging post-socialist citizenship and male identification and privilege. While gendered forms of citizen belonging were also a feature of socialism, this new nationalism was grounded in a normative, masculine basis for citizenship.” (Greenberg) This gendering of nationalism has created not only a difficult barrier for women but also it has isolated males as worldwide nations’ patriots.

Masculine and feminine roles often “muddle up” the system. Femininity is often subordinated in cultures upon subjects such that as war. Furthering this subordinate, complicated view of women in war is the aspect of the violence directed purposefully at women. “Women’s bodies are often used as a battleground of men’s wars.” (Peterson) The representation of women in this idea of nationalism is that of country. Women often symbolize the country or culture so directing crimes at them hits the heart of that nationalism. “But women also serve as symbolic markers of the nation and of the group’s cultural identity….The personification of nature-as-female transmutes easily to nation-as-woman, where the Motherland is a woman’s body and as such is ever in danger of violation-by ‘foreign’ males.” (Peterson) This symbolic representation actually furthers women subordination. It in fact could destroy it simply depending on the context one relates to this symbolism. In this case, women are viewed as objects, possessions, held and obtained by men. (Peterson) The tangible constraints women face with unequal opportunities, rape, motherhood and even certain social norms, create an easy target for any symbolic and physical attack on nationalism. “Women’s use in symbolically marking the boundary of the group makes them particularly susceptible to control in strategies to maintain and defend the boundaries.” (Peterson)

Violence directed at nations, through women, is just a shallow indication of the depth and degree of sexist discrimination and victimization placed on females. The definition that women find themselves in, globally, calls to question their value and position in the world. Despite our best efforts, war crimes are still far too common and have resulted in innumerable casualties and refugees. Habituation has numbed us and many victims do not know anything apart from their torn lives.


Peterson, V. Spike. 1988. ‘An Archeology of Domination: Historicizing Gender and

Class in Early Western State Formation’. Ph.D. Dissertation. International Relations.

The American University.

Enloe, Cynthia, 1939 “Maneuvers; The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives”. University of California Press, Berkley CA.

Greenberg, Jessica; 2006 “’Goodbye Serbian Kennedy’: Zoran Đinđic and the New Democratic Masculinity in Serbia,” East European Politics and Societies 20.

The War for Resources

The war for resources wages on day to day in every country across the world. People fight for food, water, arms, land, or any other items of value. Some people fight out of sheer need, others out of greed. These resources may be scarce or they may be something just out of reach. The problem is that some people will do anything to attain these resources, including murder.

Resources are so valued by human kind that we are willing to do anything to get them, including the death of others. These resources cause war, because for that country or group, the resource is so valuable that the death of some is needed. An example of this is Darfur. The resources there, especially oil, were wanted by others, so the militia group, the Janjaweed, took the resources in whatever way they could, specifically through armed conflicts. The people of Darfur were slaughtered over the resources they had. Murder, rape, genocide, all words we attribute to what happened in Darfur, but we only see that side of the story. The other side is the oil and other resources that the people of Darfur lived on and around. Yet, what do we do to prevent this from happening again?

Some would say this comes down to need. According to the realistic conflict theory developed by Muzafer Sherif, when there are limited resources, conflict ensues. (McLeod, 1) However, we often think we need things, even though we just want them. If everyone could be more open with resources, the loss of life wouldn’t be necessary. By opening up for more trade, we could avoid this war over resources. According to Klare’s article on the resource wars, “As Reid’s speech and the 2003 Pentagon study make clear, the greatest danger posed by global climate change is not the degradation of ecosystems per se, but rather the disintegration of entire human societies, producing wholesale starvation, mass migrations and recurring conflict over resources.”(Klare, 1) Could the environment be blamed for this fighting? Or because of this, should countries ban together to pool resources and search for a better outcome? The answer to these questions lies in both science and every human being on this planet. To save the lives of others, we should be willing to seek out alternatives to our current way of life.

The loss of life is not worth the winnings of a war for resources, especially if there is an easier way. This conflict to attain what we feel we may need will only end up harming mankind. Sooner or later, something needs to change.


Klare, Michael T. "The Coming Resource Wars." TomPaine.com, 7 Mar. 2006. Web. 7 Sept. 2009. <http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/03/07/the_coming_resource_wars.php>.

Grice, Andrew. "Darfur: the evidence of war crimes." The Independent, 7 Aug. 2007. Web. 7 Sept. 2009. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/darfur-the-evidence-of-war-crimes-459922.html>.

"Genocide in Darfur, Sudan." DarfurScores.org. Web. 4 Oct. 2009. .

McLeod, S.A. (2007) Simply Psychology [On-line] UK: Available: http://www.simplypsychology.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/ Accessed:October 6, 2009

War Feeds Off Propaganda

War is a bloody mess. I mean that as literally or as cynically as one may desire. Literally, of course, there is the awful amount of bloodshed. Thousands, possibly millions of soldiers may die in a single war. From the cynical view, wars are not always as organized or as strategic as they may seem, leaving room for error. That error leaves room for ultimately more destruction and dead soldiers. Now, to be a soldier and willing to go to war for your country knowing all of these threats exist for you, knowing that death may be awaiting your entrance, you must be crazy! So why have there been so many people willing to fight to an excruciating, often causeless death in a war of aggression? Propaganda. It was developed early in history, proving quite effective. And so of course any power meaning business in war uses this technique to sway the masses into believing the war is a good thing, a just cause, when often, it's neither. It is key in my argument to state that propaganda is used by someone in a position of power to gain support by the masses because propaganda persuades them effectively and on a large scale.

Lets take World War II as a major example because propaganda was used quite a bit in this war. The goal of the Nazi regime led by Hitler must have seemed crazy and immoral from the standpoint of one not in the German mothercountry. But with use of advertisement to the Germans to stop the "evils" of the Jews, Hitler was able to lead an army to fulfill an abominable act. The period of Nazi involvement was often called the "Third Reich" which was used to create a sense of similarity between Nazi Germany and the previous successful empires in German history, namely the Roman Empire and the empire ruled by Kaiser Wilhelm I and Kaiser Wilhelm II (ww2db.com). So, the title the "Third Reich" essentially compared the Nazi effort to the greatness of the Roman Empire in its peak. No cognitive, proud Aryan would skip out on a chance to be something as great as those before them. And Hitler didn't stop there. He capitalized on the tendency of people to be persuaded. Use of propaganda was seen in the country to rally national approval, civilian control, and support. Not only did he rally a huge group of men willing to die at his side for a cause he established, but Hitler was even able to get the German citizens to agree that the Jews were a source of economic destruction so must be dealt with as a good and beneficial solution to their own woes.

Even the US got into the business of propaganda. "Buy Bonds" posters depicting sad but patriotic children with the shadow of a swasitica falling evilly upon them encouraged citizens to buy bonds to offset war costs. And guess what? all of this propaganda worked. Rose Marie Murphy, a grade school teacher caught up in the US propaganda during WWII recalls "We were all the good guys. We did everything right and the Germans and the Japs, they looked awful and they sneered and they said lousy things. They were bad! It was really propaganda. I just accepted it. What else did I know?"(NebraskaStudies.Org)

So we ask, then, why does propaganda work? Some propaganda is heavily ethos or pathos driven, meaning they create an emotional response in you saying either "I must help this cause" or "I trust this person telling me the cause is nessecary." When a citizen sees a poster of a poor starving child with a text saying "Your donation saves their lives", the reaction is that you have the responsibility to save that childs life by donating. In actuality, though, these posters may be vastly dramatized. So viably, "propaganda can serve to rally people behind a cause, but often at the cost of exaggerating, misrepresenting, or even lying about the issues" involved in the war (GlobalIssues.org). More effective is the repetition of persuasive ideas that make propaganda effective. In the United States alone, Americans are exposed to billions of magazines, millions of commercials on the television and radio, hundreds of thousands of visuals such as billboards (Age of Propaganda). Someone exposed to some stimuli repeatedly tends to be ingrained with the ideals presented.

It boils down to the leaders of war making the cause seem glamorous, eliciting an exiting emotional response in the viewer to aid the cause. And if the Chief's propaganda works, effectively getting him massive numbers of recruits, his chances of winning the war goes way up.
Essentially, people are easily swayed by the media put in front of them, leaving opportunity for the power-grabbers to use people's tendency to be persuaded to their advantage. This has been evident since day one. Eve ate the forbidden fruit because she was told it would make her wise. People vote for a specific candidate that they did not choose just because the same political party they identify with tells them to. Soldiers sign up for the US Navy after seeing all of those grand commercials depicting exiting, non-lethal adventures. How can it be ignored? It's everywhere. As long as people can still be persuaded, persons' in power will use propaganda to lead them.

“Greater German Empire.” Ww2db.com. 8 September 2009.

“Propaganda.” NebraskaStudies.org. 8 September 2009.

“War, Propaganda, and the Media.” GlobalIssues,org. 8 September 2009.

Pratkanis, Anthony R., and Elliot Aronson. Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion. New York: W.H. Freeman, 1992.

Bullying, Humiliation, and their Effects

Humiliation is the result from bullying. Bullying is the “repeated oppression, psychological or physical, of a less powerful person by a more powerful person” that causes people to act (“What is Bullying…”). These acts can be either positive or negative. This topic is notable because in a large scale, if the acts are negative it can lead to war, genocide and overall destruction of the parties involved.

This is evident in the results of World War I when World War II and the Holocaust occurred. The bullying countries that created the Treaty of Versailles humiliated the Germans. Germany felt reduced to almost nothing and they detested the feeling. They began to need, to hunger for counter-humiliation and Hitler was the man that provided the means and the will to do so (Lindner “Human…” 2). And as thoughts of being degraded grew, so did the thoughts of irrational acts. Those men and women became addicted to the feeling of humiliation and channeled that grave anger into revenge for their beloved Germany. In this case humiliation took a massive toll on Germany and created war and genocide. The bullied became the bullies.

Cognitive dissonance is a psychological theory that explains these events. It describes peoples’ tendency to seek consistency among their cognitive ideas and the need to change those thoughts when there is an inconsistency, or dissonance, in their behavior or visa versa (Festinger). In perspective, the Germans that did know about the killings of Jews forced their cognitions of killing as a bad act into killing as a survival act in order to compensate for the mass genocide (dissonance) (Johnson-Reuband xxii-xxxiii). Hitler was in such control over many Germans’ beliefs that he was able to persuade them to go along with killing about 23,015,000 people ranging from Jews, Gypsies, Poles, homosexuals and other non-Jews (Mattil). Cognitive dissonance was used to justify the Holocaust.

We can change this by limiting the amount of negative actions that result from bullying. This can be achieved by converting the need for counter-humiliation into the need for moderation. Moderates are those that chose to promote peace instead of aggression and war. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela are two people that chose to be moderates in response to humility. Moderation is how humiliation can be resolved with conflict management and thus save lives from incidents like war and genocide.

We need moderate action! We need to be able to look past humiliation and try to deflect the anger and instead bring about peace. The anger caused by humiliation is like dripping food coloring into a bowl of water, before you know it the whole bowl is covered and you can’t see the difference between the color and the once clear water. And so we should be moderates; those who put the lid back on the pipette of food coloring.

Work Cited

Festinger, L. Cognitive Dissonance. Web. 30 Sept. 2009.


Johnson, Eric A; Karl-Heinz Reuband. What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder & Life in

Nazi Germany: An Oral History. Cambridge, MA: Basic Books, A Member of Perseus Books Group, 2005. Web.

Lindner, E.G. “Human and the Human Condition: Mapping a Minefield.” In Human

Rights Review, 2.2, 46-63. Web. 30 Sept. 2009.

<http://www.humiliationstudies.org/documents/evelin/MappingMinefield.pdf >

Mattil, James. Flashpoints: Guide to World Conflicts. Web. 30 Sept. 2009.


“What is Bullying? Defining bullying: a new look at an old concept.”

Web. 30, Sept. 2009. <www.education.unisa.edu.au/bullying/define.html>

Low-Intensity Conflicts

The Matter of Low-Intensity Conflicts

Conflicts occur every day, whether they are personal, or on a larger scale such as gang violence, civil conflicts within a country, or the protecting of an allied force. The term 'war' has become more of a general term for all of these conflicts, and thus it is now hard to define a total war from a low-intensity conflict (LIC). After WWII, there emerged new terminology when discussing conflicts, and defining wars versus considering the issue to be an LIC. Often there is still question about whether or a not a conflict is a war or an LIC. For example, Darfur is an obvious conflict, but because its lethal violence is low, compared to say, the Vietnam War, it is only considered an LIC. " ..around 130-150 people were dying each month due to violence in Darfur... 'The situation has changed from the period of intense hostilities in 2003-2004 when tens of thousands of people were killed,' Adada told the 15-member council. 'Today, in purely numerical terms it is a low-intensity conflict.' (Reuters)" Whereas in the Vietnam war, tens of thousands of military personnel died, not to mention the millions of Vietnamese citizens that also died. Yet, there is no numerical threshold with which to define an LIC (United States of America).

After WWII, Low-Intensity Conflicts occurred more often. With the United States as the undoubtedly strongest world power and the introduction of nuclear warfare, the terminology of large-scale conflicts and disputes changed. In the post-war era, many conflicts that arose could not be called war because of their significant difference from previous violent conflicts. Factors that contribute to determining whether a conflict is an LIC or not are the countries or groups involved in the conflict, how many people are involved (both directly and indirectly), how much violence occurs, what weapons are being used, and most importantly the interests of both sides involved in the conflict (Bjelica).

According to the US Department of Defense, a Low-Intensity Conflict is defined as:
Political-military confrontation between contending states or groups below conventional war and above the routine, peaceful competition among states. It frequently involves protracted struggles of competing principles and ideologies. Low intensity conflict ranges from subversion to the use of armed force. It is waged by a combination of means employing political, economic, informational, and military instruments. Low intensity conflicts are often localized, generally in the Third World, but contain regional and global security implications, also known as: LIC (United States of America).

LIC's often arise from the same issues that cause wars; civil disputes over rights, territorial disputes, disputes over political or economical gains, etc. If an LIC is technically considered a low-intensity conflict, then couldn't they be controlled, and even stopped more quickly? Yet issues like Darfur are continuing, and thousands of lives are still being lost.

Although it is not necessary to define every conflict that arises as a war, some LIC's should probably be considered wars because of their devastating impacts, or at least the definition of an LIC should be more defined. This world today is involved in more conflicts than can be counted, controlled, or properly defined and recorded. And because we cannot specifically define these conflicts, we are losing lives that could otherwise be saved.


Bjelica, Thomas. LOW INTENSITY CONFLICT: THE UNITED STATES AND THE FUTURE. Rep. GlobalSecurity.org, 1990. Web. 08 Sept. 2009. .

"Low intensity conflict." Low intensity conflict. US Military @ About.com. Web. 08 Sept. 2009.

Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 27 Apr. 2009. Web. 01 Oct. 2009. .

United States of America. Department of Defense. Army. U.S. Army Field Manual, Military Operations in Low-Intensity Conflict, FM100-20. 1990. GlobalSecurity.org. Web. 08 Sept. 2009. .

War as a Sterotyped Action

War as a stereotyped action
The "stereotyped action" is an action that is repeated multiple times by a person in order to fulfill some form of inner need or desire. It is seen many times in cases of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and other mental illnesses. The action is preformed either unknowingly by the person or under full conscious direction in order to gain some form of mental or physical reward, although that reward is never achieved. Consequently, the act of doing something repeatedly and expecting a purely different result is accepted by many psychologists as insanity. Throughout human history a single stereotyped action has defined and shaped human existence. War.
Over and over again humanity has fought in countless wars. From the first inter-tribe wars our ancestors fought, to the modern "total war" mentality and large scale conflicts that engulf entire countries in battle. From news coverage, documentaries, and firsthand accounts, people have grown knowledgeable about the true horrors of war and the wreckage it leaves behind. War is often described as a tragedy, a horrific display of mankind's brutality, or a dark stain in the course of human history. So why is it that this action is repeated multiple times in multiple places across the globe? The consequences of war are well known and many people detest the idea of so much guaranteed loss for so little possible gain. Simple compromise may have avoided many of these altercations. Why do people always expect a different outcome when engaging war? The simple answer is insanity.
If it is so hard to believe that humanity as a whole can be insane, then look at smaller cases of the stereotyped action in people. Nail biting affects millions of people across the world; a person constantly whittles down their nail until it is to a point where the person feels mentally stable again. Although nail biting is a small illness, it still shows that one small mental trait can be shared by millions upon millions of people, even though there may be no contact between the individuals. War is only a larger scale nail biting phenomenon. It is an action which humans repeat, always expecting some form of liberation, justice, or wealth.
In the end it is always the same however. People will have asked why a war ever happened, land is made uninhabitable, and, as of less than 200 years ago, mental illnesses such as shell-shock become a soldier's standard (http://www.firstworldwar.com/atoz/shellshock.htm). If people know what is going to happen because of war and know the price of fighting possibly outweighing the rewards, why does it even occur at all? Why is this stereotyped action taking over rational human thought? The simple answer is, insanity.

~Hart, Bernard. The Psychology of Insanity. Toronto, Canada: The Macmillan Co., 1916.
Web M.D, "Nail-Biting - Topic Overview". Healthwise. 9/26/2009 .

Weaponry Advancement

Grenades, torpedoes, nuclear bombs and biological warfare. These are just some of the many advancements in weaponry in the past century. Though many countries possess these weapons, they still seek out to make more and obtain even deadlier weapons. I’m terrified to know what new weapon will replace biological warfare, an already terrifying weapon. Even recently, during the Bush Administration, the Unites States has sought out to build 2,200 new nuclear bombs (Washington Post). In The Meanings of War, the author states that with the creation of newer and deadlier weapons, people believe that possessing them will make war become a thing of the past(Barash and Webel). These people think because the use of advanced weaponry during war would be so costly, nations would avoid war altogether. It seems more like nuclear game of chicken that no one can really win.

The participants can cooperate and stop building up their weapons, or countries could compete by expanding and improving their weaponry. This challenge that countries face is often described as the prisoner’s dilemma (Strategy and Conflict). In this theory the participants can either cooperate to benefit both parties or be uncooperative to achieve their own means. And typically most countries are uncooperative and continue to improve their weapons, not fully realizing that their actions are interdependent on future cooperation of other nations.

People who support the idea that advancement in weaponry will make war disappear only want a way to justify the creation of these potentially catastrophic devices. The real motive is to build up weaponry in order to maintain or gain power on a global scale. Instead, these weapons only breed tension and sometimes war itself. For example, in 1898, the Germans began to build their naval fleet. This made the British, who had had the most powerful navy, feel threatened. So in order to make themselves feel safer, the British joined the Triple Entente with France and Russia, making tensions even higher. We can also see that building up weaponry can cause tension in North Korea. After performing missile launches earlier this year, the United States demanded the Koreans dismantle their weapons.

More advanced weaponry has and will cause war. The United States engaged in the war in Iraq because the Iraqi government allegedly possessed weapons of mass destruction. Besides causing tension and wars, weaponry advancement is not just going to be used on combatants in war but civilian noncombatants. According to The Meanings of War, “attacks on noncombatants became particularly pronounced”. Before the use of military airstrikes and air bombardment, the civilian casualty rate was 4 deaths per event, but now it is much closer to 20 deaths. With weapons improving, one would think the precision of military weapons would reduce the number of civilian deaths, but instead civilians are targeted. We saw this at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and now see it in Israel and Gaza.

Countries already possess enough to annihilate the human race and yet they’re still improving them further. The prisoner’s dilemma indicates that this build up is an attempt is maintain the upper hand. But instead, advancement of weaponry creates tension and conflict. Perhaps countries would be better off using the resources going into these technologies elsewhere, like maybe preventing war from happening in the first place.


Pincus, Walter. US Plan for New Nuclear Advances. Washington Post. 4 Sept 2009. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/19/AR2006101901863.html

Hicks, Madelyn. The Weapons That Kill Civilians — Deaths of Children and Noncombatants in Iraq, 2003–2008. Iraq Body Count. 4 Sept 2009. http://www.iraqbodycount.org/analysis/numbers/nejm-2009/

Barash & Webel. The Meanings of War.4 Sept 2009. https://blackboard.unf.edu/.\

Strategy and Conflict: An Introductory Sketch of Game Theory. 28 Sept 2009. http://william-king.www.drexel.edu/top/eco/game/game-toc.html

Total War

Total war is not a new invention. The concept of decimating your enemies by any means necessary, even if it involves harming "innocent" civilians. People as a whole seem to have an innate desire to utterly destroy those we are in conflict also destroys the ability to keep any form of peace. This way of thinking is also called "The Armaggedon Complex" (The Armaggedon Complex)

It is well known that total war occurs, but what is harder to figure out is why. Why do people feel the need to annihilate anyone related to an opposing army?

A good portion of this can be traced to propaganda. The goverment feeds the general population a story about how the country fighting ours is a big, evil villain that needs to be wiped out. That includes anyone who assists their army, after all, if the army is evil, then anyone who supports the army must be evil, right?

Take the current "War on Terror" as an example. The American people want Al Quaeda brought down, and to do so, are willing to bomb towns and villages full of civilians that may or may not be hiding operatives.

Obviously the reasons for committing total war differ from conflict to conflict, and scientists may never know precisely why people in conflict are only satisfied after all potentially responsible parties have been absolutely destroyed, but it is certainly a problem that I feel needs addressing.

Paris Sinett

"The Armageddon Complex: Dynamics of Opinion." jstor.org. 6 September, 2009. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2746165?seq=8

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Root of all Evil, or War?

What is considered war? Is there a certain number of people that have to be involved? Must a certain ratio of people die? With no clear black and white lines drawn, one could argue that nearly all disputes are essentially “wars,” no matter how small they may be. That being said, war can have a multitude of different causes: from political propaganda, the threat of national security, to the pursuit of power and resources. But in one of its most basic levels, war stems from invasion. As humans, we naturally tend to believe that our way is the right way. When we try to push our beliefs off onto others, a conflict ensues.

Sometimes this invasion of territory isn’t always meant figuratively; sometimes it’s actually meant in a literal sense of the word. Take for instance, the raging gang wars that occurred between North Side Irish and the Southside Italians. The root of the wars was based upon an impeachment of territory in north side Chicago that did not sit well with the North Side Irish. From there, the two gangs never saw each other eye to eye and everything between the two went downhill after that.

Following this, more than one hundred gang members were slain as both sides relentlessly picked people off from the other. With time, this all eventually led to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in which seven of George Moran’s henchmen in the Irish gang were killed by a group of men from the South Side Italians. Now in hindsight, had no one ever invaded the other’s established territory, several issues of profit and respect between both gangs would have been evaded and many lives could have possibly been saved.

As quoted by former Latin King, Reymundo Sanches, “[Say for instance] Kings are right down the street. They show up over there [and] take the neighborhood, to become their drug store. If I'm in a rival gang, if I'm a Disciple or Cobra, we're just gonna let them know who we are. That's basically how all the ... the war starts." From this premise, it’s clear to see that a gang war is brewing, but in most other instances, it’s not as easy to discern. Physical encroachment can be quickly identified, although mental encroachment – beliefs, ideas, religion, and principles – may not be so simple to detect.

“Gangwars.” Gangland. The History Channel. 13 Dec. 2008

“Seven Killed in Chicago Gang Massacre.” MSN Encarta Encyclopedia. 14 Feb. 1929. 6 Sept. 2009.

No Honor In War

“Kill the Villagers”

That’s advice I hear often when I play Age of Empires, a game that is based on medieval warfare (Microsoft). Yet the idea of not only killing villagers/civilians/non-combatants, but specifically targeting them to win wars, is a relatively new idea; an idea that did not exist much during the original medieval era. Now, however, Total War pervades all wars and all attitudes, considered as acceptable as war itself.
It is often argued that the concept of Total War originated first from the ability to wage total war and from the fact that civilians were increasingly important to the war effort. Before the advent of modern weaponry armies generally foraged for food and supplies. But modern weaponry requires ammunition and other supplies that cannot easily be found in nature. Therefore the civilian population is required to produce the weapons of war, which is used as justification toward killing them (Barash & Webel 24).
This attitude is seen in many modern wars. In WWII the bombing of London resulted in severe civilian casualties. In Vietnam the primary enemy were the Vietkong, who could be a 'civilian' by day and an enemy by night. The 9/11 attacks on the twin towers directly targeted America's civilian populace. One part of this is because modern weapons actually do cause more damage to the surroundings than older weapons did. The second part is that man in general does not seem to have a problem with involving noncombatants in war. Both of these are required to create Total War, both the ability and the willingness, and man has achieved both.
Can the attitude of Total War be reversed? I find it unlikely. The reason is simple: sides that utilize Total War are more likely to win. Nations utilizing Total War can inflict injuries to civilian populace—to a nation’s production and economy—that couldn’t otherwise be inflicted. This was true even in the medieval ages, but attacks on the civilian populace were significantly harder without guns or planes or bombs. And just as no nation would surrender its nuclear power, no nation will refuse to engage in Total War, especially if no other option seems available. And the worst part is that every nation or rebel group has the capacity to engage in Total War.
Like nukes, the concept of Total War will not die easily. First it must be seen as an unacceptable method of fighting, irregardless the situation. And this must be done all around the world, since no nation would agree to fight a limited war, while its adversary was capable of attacking anything and everything. Total War is an attitude that cannot fade, but must die all at once.
As of now, it is not dying. It is only growing stronger, because while Total War is morally abhorrent, it is tactically advantageous. And that is why I don’t hesitate to kill the villagers in Age of Empires.
And while it is true that killing virtual villagers and killing real citizens is completely different from a moral standpoint, it doesn’t seem to faze humanity.

Barash and Webel. Peace and Conflict Studies. (Sage Publications, 2002)

Microsoft. Age of Empires. 1997

Symbolic Threats and Conflict

Tamara Deutsch

Symbolic Threats
The underlying causes of conflicts can be symbolic threats. Symbolic threats are threats to a group’s ideology, beliefs, or way of life (Tausch 2) as opposed to realistic threats which are threats to a people’s physical survival. Symbolic threats arise when people of different ideologies come in contact with one another. Instead of accepting their differences while keeping their own values, often one group views the other as a threat to their way of life. Generally, a smaller less developed nation, such as Mexico, fears the interference of a larger more powerful country, such as the U.S. because they have more influence and are known for exporting culture (Stephan pg. 248). On the whole, due to differences in ideology and culture, groups fear symbolic threats to their lifestyle which can lead to conflict.
Many countries perceive the U.S. as a threat to their values and customs because of the pervasiveness of American culture (Stephan 248). The U.S., since it is one of the larger more influential countries, has less anxiety about symbolic threats than smaller more ideological countries (Stephan pg. 248). Examples of this are the Middle East and Mexico, both of which fear that America will change and possibly destroy their core values and beliefs.
One conflict that started as the result of symbolic threats is the conflict between North Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This struggle began hundreds of years ago when King Henry the VIII invaded Ireland and tried to force the Catholic Irish population to convert to Protestantism. This didn’t threaten the actual physical survival of the Irish people but it did threaten their beliefs and customs. For years the Irish people struggled against British rule and in 1922 seceded from the United Kingdom. However, Northern Ireland opted out of the secession beginning another struggle. Both Protestants and Catholics lived in Northern Ireland and both had different ideas on whether Northern Ireland should be part of the Republic of Ireland or stay in the United Kingdom. In 1969 the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a paramilitary group supporting the uniting of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, was born. Northern Ireland became divided: Catholics verse Protestants and those who supported the IRA verse those who didn’t. Both sides feared the other’s influence and they became highly segregated. The IRA has been accused of using terrorism to as means to unite Ireland and many of its units carried guns. Britain deployed troops to North Ireland in 1969 hoping to quell the religious conflicts there, expecting the operation to last no more than a few weeks. It took almost 40 years, the deployment of 300,000 troops, and 3,700 fatalities before the fighting finally ended (NPR Archive Aug. 1). This is a case of a symbolic threat that has started a conflict and escalated almost to the level of a war.
However, while Ireland is a case for symbolic threat causing conflict, it is also a case for hope and an example of how trying to understand one another can lead to peace. On July 28, 2005 the IRA ordered all its units to “dump arms” and to “assist the development of purely political and democratic programs through exclusively peaceful means” (Walsh NPR Archive July 28). All their weapons were decommissioned and turned over to Canadian General de Chastelain who was the Chairman of the Independent International Commission for Decommissioning. After repeated failures to reach a lasting ceasefire, the IRA realized the world’s changed outlook on terrorism, saw the damage they were doing to their own country, and decided to work only through their political arm, Sinn Fein. In response, after 38 years of occupation, the British Army left Northern Ireland in August of 2007 leaving behind only 5,000 men and the police to keep the peace. As of September 2009 the ceasefire still stands and though the IRA didn’t disband it has used only political means to unite Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland the Catholic and Protestant segregation still exists but the barriers are slowly coming down. In a few years this could become a great success story.
Symbolic threats are a cause of great conflict and can incite fear and violence when the threatened people try to protect their way of life whether the threat is actual or not. In the end people need to look beyond their differences and at least tolerate other ways of life. If everyone abides by that rule, then no one will be symbolically threatened and less conflict, and death, will occur.
Works Cited
Tausch, Nicole, et al. "Individual-Level and Group-Level Mediators of Contact Effects in Northern Ireland: The Moderating Role of Social Identification." British Journal of Social Psychology 46.3 (2007): 541-56. Print.
Stephan, Walter G., Rolando Diaz-Loving, and Anne Duran. "Integrated Threat Theory and Intercultural Attitudes: Mexico and the United States." Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 31.2 (2000): 240-9. Print.
Siegel, Robert. “IRA Renounces Violence, Orders Disarmament.” NPR Archives: July 28, 2005
Brand, Madeleine. “IRA Vows to End Violence, Join Political Battle.” NPR Archives: July 28, 2005
Rodgers, Suzanne. “Disarmament Monitor: I.R.A. Weapons Destroyed.” NPR Archives: Sept. 26, 2005
Gifford, Rob. “British Army Exits North Ireland.” NPR Archives: Aug. 1, 2007

Social Identity and World War I

As nationalism grew in Europe in the 19th century, spreading through mainly the middle class but also into the lower economic class, it brought with it some major problems.

Social identity and Nationalism were major causes of WWI. Social identity is when people “classify themselves and others into various social categories” (Ashworth and Mael 20). Typically people within these categories tend to think more positively of their categories over others. Citizens of the nations of Western Europe and of Russia certainly fell under this definition as they classified themselves, along with each other, by which nation they lived in; hence the term nationalism.

With nationalism came the extremists. The extremists were the ones who took everything one step farther. They saw their nation as being better than all others. The extremists made sure to rally the people. They went above and beyond what the average citizen would do to prove that their nation was the best and that everyone knew it. “Governments were willing to go to the brink of war or beyond” (Lyons 1) to protect their ideologies. The citizens were ready to fight for their nation. The citizens were encouraged by the extremists to encourage the government to stand up for what were the nation’s ideals. With this nationalistic view, of needing to prove one’s nation is indeed better, comes competition, because what better way to prove one’s superiority than in a display of strength?

With the governments’ will to protect and the citizens’ will to fight, there was little thinking to be done. It only seemed reasonable at the time to each nation to build up defenses in case of an invasion by another nation trying to prove its superiority. The nations were in a competition arms race to see who could build and maintain the bigger navy and who had the better army. With this competition came fear that some nations had too much strength and should be brought down to an equal playing field (Lyons 1). This mentality brought about the idea that a nation had to strike first or be quickly overtaken. Unfortunately for Europe, this was the mentality of a majority of the nations. They formed alliances to better protect themselves; Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary in the Triple Alliance and Britain, France, and Russia forming the Triple Entente. These alliances caused major tension as both sides feared attack and didn’t want to be the first to fall.

And so World War I began; the result of something as harmless as citizens and governments feeling connected by their nationality growing into something monstrous. If only the nationalism could’ve been directed towards a more positive purpose.

Even now in world conflicts, social identity is still a major cause. People are still more than willing to fight for what their social identification group feels is right. The only difference is what the conflicts are about and how they are fought. We could still stand to learn from our mistakes. We all need to look for better alternatives to war. There has to be a better way to prove that one nation has better ideas than everyone else and forcing other nations to take on these ideas. That is, if one nation truly is better than everyone else.

Potential possibilities for expenditure of nationalist energies without resorting to war are numerous. A few ideas include the Olympics, helping less developed nations to prosper, or finding cures for diseases. It not only sounds more pleasant but it is more pleasant to say my nation won the Olympic gold medal for such and such event versus my country took over and destroyed this country.


Ashworth, Blake, and Fred Mael. Social Identity Theory and the Organization.
1989. Print. http://www.jstor.org/pss/258189

Lyons, Michael. World war II: A Short history. 5. Prentice Hall, 2009. Print.

Governments and their Flaws

During the 20th century many wars were waged that had devastating impacts on history as we know it. If we look back at wars such as World War I and World War II we can see that both were inflamed by the failures of governments to peacefully negotiate. Before World War I there was a surge of nationalism among the European countries, and as a result many believed their own country to be the very best and viewed other countries with distaste. According to the book World War II: A Short History by Michael J. Lyons "Governments were willing to go to the brink of war or beyond to safeguard what they considered to be national interests or to avenge supposed insults to national honor." Lyons also states that the nationalism at the time was "of a narrow, selfish, and strident type." This evidence shows that the governments of the time were more concerned with building themselves up to be the best, rather than to keep the peace between themselves. Countries soon began to take sides against one another, and soon you had the Triple Alliance consisting of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy staring right into the eyes of a counter alliance known as the Triple Entente consisting of France, England, and Russia. Before the war had even started governments had already begun to take sides and mobilize their military without any honest attempt at a peaceful negotiation. As soon as Germany began to build up their navy England had to do the same, as soon as one alliance was formed another had to be formed to counter it, and so paranoia and lack of political negotiation had set the stage for war. Governments were also using propaganda to boost nationalism within its own country and raise support for a potential war effort. When war finally broke out young men were eager to enlist and fight. Thanks to the government's propaganda they believed that serving in the war would be a grand adventure, and fighting for their country would be a great honor. It was only soon after the troops discovered the lifestyle of trench warfare that the illusion of grandeur began to fade. The world had broken out into total war, with men fighting and dying for small patches of land in a savage war of attrition. It was only after the fighting began that men began to see the faults of their pride. Soon the war began to lose its popularity, and countries were faced with overwhelming death tolls. Many would believe that after the war the leaders of countries would have learned their lesson about the dangers of pride and crooked nationalism, but that was not the case. During peace negotiations after the war a treaty was drafted know as the Treaty of Versailles. Although at the end of the war no one was willing to take responsibility for causing it, however in the Treaty of Versailles Germany was given sole responsibility for causing the war. Because of this "War Guilt" clause Germany was forced to account for all war damages and to pay a massive war debt. Germany was also robbed of some of its territories and forced to demilitarize, leaving many Germans seething with hatred. Also during the peace treaty the Allies all had their own objectives, leaving one to believe that they were more concerned with obtaining spoils than with making peace and preventing war. In the end the Treaty of Versailles was fairly unsuccessful, failing to prevent World War II and leaving many compromises between the Allies with no one really having obtained everything they desired from the treaty. Coupled with that was an enraged Germany, whose people had been so engrossed in propaganda from the government that they had no idea they had even lost the war. In conclusion the governments had failed to communicate with each other regarding international relations, and they had failed to be honest with their own people. Governments were too intoxicated with pride before and after World War I and as a result the Earth was soon after introduced to the greatest and most destructive armed conflict in history, the dawning of World War II. Had governments been more concerned with finding a path to peace than with a path to greatness, who knows how many lives would have been saved.

Nuclear deterrence and war as a game

Why do we go to war? This is a question unlikely to be answered in it's entirety. Most people would likely agree that at least one belligerent party seeks to gain something from war, whether it be gold, land, oil, slaves,water, the spread of a system of beliefs or religion, or a woman, most wars are fought with some goal in mind, and when that goal is reached, one side will be declared victorious. This concept of going to war to gain something as a nation has become obsolete with the advent of nuclear weapons (Rauchhaus, 2009) .

The perfect example of this was the Cold War (1945-1991) in which the United States and Soviet Union had a political conflict yet avoided direct military conflict. During the Cold War the US and USSR never actually engaged in all out warfare because of nuclear deterrence. The US knew that if it launched its warheads on the USSR, the USSR would retaliate with it's arsenal and both sides (likely along with most of humanity due to nuclear fallout) would be wiped from the face of the Earth. This promise of mutually assured destruction (MAD) seems to have generated a tense, forced peace that has lasted for over six decades.

Why have nuclear weapons brought with them a mutually assured government stability (immunity from outside influences), and an almost 100% guarantee of immunity from direct military conflict with outside nations? No nation with nuclear powers has been directly confronted by another nation (superpower or not),ever. This fact makes you wonder if the United States would have toppled the Afghan and Iraqi regimes if either of those nations had been nuclear powers. The short answer, probably not. A war with Afghanistan and Iraq likely would not have gone through if the United States were forced to risk destruction in it's entirety for vengeance of the deaths of a few thousand. Most nations do not get involved with wars that they do not think they can win, if there is no possibility of victory it is unlikely that a country will go to war. Once a country becomes a nuclear power, it makes the prospect of victory nonexistent and by doing so it becomes immune to direct military conflict with other nuclear states and other non-nuclear states. This immunity is assured because (no matter how insane of a leader you are) the prospect of being incinerated by a second strike does not come off as beneficial to any country. Therefore nuclear power seems like it has made the concept of traditional warfare obsolete.

What is the result of conflict among nuclear powers? Obviously nuclear powers are unwilling the press their little red buttons and unleash Armageddon upon each other. So what do we do when our policies are at odds and our personalities are clashing? We fight proxy wars such as the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Angola, Korea, Vietnam, and the middle east. What generally happens during these proxy wars is that a nuclear power will lend backing and tradition military support to one side of a third world country and it's rival nuclear power will do the same with the other side. This way these nuclear powers can say they care about the concerns of the third world countries to which they are lending support, use these concerns to fight against other nuclear powers. Since neither of the power's territories or forms of government are directly threatened by the conflict, there is little reason for either side to launch a nuclear weapon.

These Proxy Wars seem to almost resemble games, since no matter how much either side accomplishes by playing around in the third world, neither side will be able to directly affect the other without risking destruction via nuclear warheads. If super powers are going to use games (albeit costly games) like proxy wars to decide their pecking order, why not just admit that traditional warfare where one trained army defeats another trained army in armed combat and exacts wealth and territory from the defeated is an obsolete concept and switch our form of competition to non-life threatening games such as the Olympics for example.


Rauchhaus, R.(2009).Evaluating the Nuclear Peace Hypothesis: A Quantitative Approach. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 53(2), 258-277.

War is not Inevitable

(Part 1: The "Inevitability" of War)-(Part 2: Racism)-(Part 3: Implict Association)-(Part 4: National Identity)-(Part 5: Multiculturalism)

Perhaps the largest contributor to the “inevitability” of war is the belief that wars are indeed inevitable. The belief that your nation or group will eventually fall into the cross-hairs of the “enemy” eventually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy should enough people subscribe to that view. This is because such a thought process colors our way of thinking as well as the manner in which we communicate with different nations. If we as a society were to change our cynical views on the intentions of other people, our international relations would dramatically improve, thus leading to minimal conflicts and more lives saved.

The concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy can be easily defined via the Thomas theorem which states, “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequence” (Encyclopedia). In other words, if we define wars as simply being inevitable, then we set in motion very war-like behaviors such as hostile dialogue, displays of military prowess to frighten other nations, sanctions, and preemptive strikes all in the name of self-defense. Eventually, such a war like stance “inevitably” evokes an aggressive response from another nation thereby causing this self-inflicted prophecy to become true.

Perhaps the reason why self-fulfilling prophecies are notoriously potent can be traced to the Self-Verification Theory. Self-Verification Theory simply states that people generally resist feedback or evidence that contradicts their self views and only accept information that reaffirms their opinions (Collins). A study written by David Collins and Arthur Stukas in The Journal of Social Psychology provide significant evidence for Self-Verification Theory. In their experiment, participants were given a personality test to complete that would identify where they lay on an introvert/extrovert scale. Afterwards, the research team e-mailed feedback to the participants that purposefully contradicted the test results. Furthermore, these e-mails were attributed to fictitious therapists with varying levels of experience. Unless their feedback was written by a therapist of high repute, most participants rejected the test results that were incompatible with their self-views. From this study, a correlation can be drawn to the current views on the inevitability of war. Since we have been brought up in a culture that fosters the notion that war is “normal” based upon the authority of parents, government, religion, and the media, we have latched onto this idea while only assimilating evidence that “proves” it while ignoring anything to the contrary.

Such a manner of thinking played a significant role in the variety of conflicts that took place during the Cold War era. Both the Americans and Soviets were extremely vigilant in insuring that no third party joined the other nation’s cause (Barash 19). As such, “strictly indigenous conflicts” were viewed as attempts by a hostile superpower to spread their ideology across the globe thereby urging the opposing superpower to become involved in a foreign war (19). Such blind nationalism led to the atrocity of the Vietnam War as well as to the poorly-planned invasion of Iraq.

Should we desire to inhabit a more peaceful world, it is our duty to first alter the manner in which we perceive war. Rather than embracing the defeatist mentality that wars are unstoppable, we must devote our intellectual resources to establishing and maintaining common ground with other nations.

Works Cited

Barash & Webel Meanings of Wars UNF Blackboard.

Collins, David R. and Arthur A. Stukas. "The Effects of Feedback Self-Consistency, Therapist Status, and Attitude Toward Therapy on Reaction to Personality Feedback." The Journal of Social Psychology 146 (2006): 463-489.

Marshall, Gordon. "Thomas Theorem." A Dictionary of Sociology. Oxford University Press 1998. Print.