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Will Humans Ever Stop Fighting War? Eric C's Answer

(This week, and next, On Violence and our readers will try to answer the question, “Will humans ever stop fighting wars?” Today’s entry comes from Eric C. Feel free to drop us your response in the comment section, on twitter or by email.)

In short, yes. Humans will stop fighting wars.

In long, I’m a utopian. As I argued in the “Is Progress Violent?” debate, [link] I believe mankind is actively and effectively becoming better. While there are no magic cures or technologies that will instantly make us better, and though the process isn’t smooth, over time, technology and human culture are becoming more peaceful. Though the media doesn’t make it look this way, we humans murder each other way less than we used to.

But will wars stop? Yes. As we interconnect, as we form larger and larger circles, as we barrel towards a one world government (Sorry far right conspiracy theorists, it’s a good idea.) we will become more peaceful. Though Thomas Friedman’s original "Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention"--no two countries with a McDonald’s restaurant will ever go to war--has since been disproved, the central thesis was fair: as the world’s supply lines and economies interconnect, as more people cross more borders, as the world becomes more cosmopolitan, war will occur less frequently.

Similarly, we could look at the democratic peace theory. (If you’re a stickler academic, the inter-democracy nonaggression hypothesis.) In short, democracies don’t go to war with one another because the desire for negotiation and diplomacy outweighs the desire to go to war. I don’t totally buy into this theory--the data set is too small--but it seems to a be a reasonable guide for the future of this world.

And human culture is changing. People used to believe in war. People used to think it was noble and grand. We used to not have peace protesters. But we do now. And as the last remaining, crusty old breed clings to the notion that “war is war, and it’s awesome” others will take their place and push this world forward.

Will it be a smooth process? Heck no. Will we stop wars tomorrow? Even bigger hell no. People are dumb, greedy, and fearful. But in spite of that, we’re still getting better.

six comments

Sorry Eric…This is the same type of Op-Ed written after World War I. What Happened after that? The bloodiest hundreds years in human history.

Hold on there a minute. “Will Humans Ever Stop Fighting War?” should, by all rights, read: “Will Men, Sometimes Enabled by Women and Sometimes Not, Ever Stop Fighting War?”

Russ Wellen
The Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points

Russ-Interesting thought to bring in gender. Hard to disagree with you, though I don’t want to commit to that viewpoint lest I wade in to gender battles that never end well.

Mike F- Hard to say the last hundred years have been the bloodiest. Maybe they have in raw numbers, but as a percentage of population they don’t come close. In fact the last ten years are notable for the specific lack of violence in large part. Wars happened sure, but not nearly as many people died.

Michael, I commented on this series too early. Spent the week looking at some tough small wars in Rwanda, El Sal, and Guatemala so I’m not very optimistic on human nature today.

Eric C- Sorry to sound so harsh in the first comment. Trust me, if I had a way to end war and human suffering, then I’d push it.

@ Mike F – I think this is a debate where it is hard to sound non-harsh—the subject matter is too raw.

From my direct observations as well as study, I believe that it is unlikely that we will overcome human nature in our lifetime. Human Nature as defined by greed, anger, and hate and portrayed in war and economic disparity. More to the point, in the short-term, it is a fool’s errand to consider.

Instead, I feel that we must ask ourselves both individually and as a nation what is our responsibility and role towards helping others in our lifetime? For the state, this is surely to mean extended whole of government interventions as well as the promotion of free trade, democracy, and education. For the individual, what impact will you have on mankind? For some, it will be at the local level both at home and abroad building better communities. For others, creating ideas that change the world on the macro level.

In the past century, we’ve overcome gravity learning to fly and traveling to the moon, but at the same time, we developed and employed weapons capable of destroying mankind. What will the next century bring?

As a subset, is globalization, modernization, and urbanization better? Is this really progress? Both al Qaeda in it’s early stages of thought and Ghandi felt that it was not. They felt that we must return to the village.