I’ll begin this page on war by asking a simple question. It’s the one I ask of audiences at the beginning of every talk on war. I ask them to answer it just in their own mind as opposed to immediately sharing outloud. Here it is:
“Knowing what you know about history and about human nature, do you think it’s possible that humans could end war. This isn’t ‘would you like us to end war,’ it’s just, do you think it’s possible? And please, not a lot of rational thought about it….just your first gut reaction.”
I pause briefly to let them think…you could also think of your own answer to the question. Asking for “your first gut reaction” is a way to access a person’s deeply held belief.
I then say, “Let’s now see how this group feels. Please, if you thought something like, ‘It’s a great idea, but just not possible,’ please raise your hand…and look around at this groups general response.”
Again a brief pause while they look around and I take a count (in small groups the exact count, and in large ones a quick estimate).
Then I ask those who thought “Yes, I believe it is possible,” to raise their hands….and look around.
What would you guess would be the result of this quick survey?
I’ve posed the question to many groups in the United States, and the overwhelming response of the majority has almost universally been, “No. It isn’t possible.” In some cases there are extremes. For example, when I asked a group of 73 women at a yacht club, 70 of them said, “No.” Only 3 said “Yes,” they believed it was theoretically possible. The most common pattern is that roughly 60-70% of a group would say their gut belief is that it isn’t possible. In only one small group of 23 social activists, members of a peace group, did a tiny majority say, Yes: 12 of the 23. Virtually half of this peace group were working to move us to a point where we make fewer wars, but they themselves did not believe that ending war is possible.
Perhaps if I did the survey in other countries I’d get different results. I suspect, however, that at least in all of the world’s dominant cultures…the places where global decisions are being made…the results would be the same, or perhaps even more dismal. Students of human nature know that all great feats humans have ever achieved—from building the Egyptian pyramids to landing a human on the Moon to creating a democracy in a world without any democracies—depended upon the belief of at least one person, or shared by a group, that achieving the goal was possible.
If we humans don’t believe something is possible, it isn’t. No sane person will devote money, time, sweat, and passion to working to achieve what they know to be impossible. Certainly the thousands, or millions, needed to create a major social shift like ending war will not devote their money, time, sweat, and passion to any cause, including the cause of ending war, without the visionary leadership of at least one believer who can inspire that shared belief in others. As a result:
I believe that the single greatest barrier to ending war is the belief of the vast majority of global citizens that doing so is impossible.
To end war we will need visionary, believing, dedicated and even charismatic leadership, able to inspire and motivate the necessary critical mass of global citizens to action.
Two of the Things I Now Believe About War War is fundamentally an evil spawn of patriarchy run amok. and The cure for the harms of patriarchy, including war, is fully mature liberal democracy.
In what follows I’ll explain what I mean by both statements. I’ll also explain why we could—if we really wanted to—we could abolish war on Earth. We could end it for the immediate generations to follow us, and into our distant future.
But first, a definition. Early on, and especially as soon as I began speaking to various groups, it became obvious that I’d need to define what I mean by “war.” The word means many and different things to different people in different contexts. I would be thinking of one thing and listeners would be thinking about something else. For example, “war of words,” or an intellectual “war for hearts and minds,” or “even “cyber-war.” This wasn’t at all what I was addressing. In a promotional talk for a novel (Voice of the Goddess) I’d said that if women ran the world there would be no war; I was talking about killing and physical violence.
As I explain on the "Interests and Biography" page on this website, after I gave that talk I was encouraged by a friend to explain in a book why I actually thought that “if women ran the world there would be no war.” She had never encountered this idea about women and war before. In fact, from her experience reading a book called On Aggression by the ethologist Konrad Lorenz, she assumed that war is part of human nature.
I accepted her challenge, and thus began a very long research journey for me. If we could end “war,” and women would be an inportant part of doing so, I needed to be able to explain why and how. Among many books I read were ones like these, written by people who argue/d why and how we could end physical wars, or who tackled the difficult issue of how to define war so that everyone discussing the topic could be thinking about the same thing:
Hind & Rotblat – War No More (2003)
Irwin – Building a Peace System: Exploratory Project on the Conditions of Peace (1988)
Ehrenreich – Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War (1997)
Fry – The Human Potential For Peace: An Anthropological Challenge to Assumptions About War (2006) and Beyond War: The Human Potential for Peace (2007)
English – The Collapse of the War System (2007)
Meyers – Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide (2009)
Shifferd – From War to Peace (2011)
Horgan – The End of War (2014)
World Beyond War -– A Global Security System: An Alternative to War (2017)
My Definition - I arrived at my own working definition by combing concepts from two of these people. First, the anthropologist Douglas Fry (World Beyond War, The Human Potential for Peace) emphasized that an action that can be called war involves people from one group getting together to indiscriminately kill members of another group who have, in fact, not personally harmed them (emphasis mine). In other words, revenge for a personal grievance is not the motivation for the killing. And second, from Barbara Ehrenrich (Blood Rites), who pointed out that a defining characteristic of war is that the majority of people in the warring group support the warriors, as do their political and religious leaders (emphasis mine).
So for example, murder clearly is not war. Murder is one person killing another person. Moreover, by this definition, revenge killing of specific individuals over personal grievances, things like lethal family feuding, or infighting within a gang, is also not war, although it gets closer to the real thing. The reality of miniscule homicide rates in a variety of societies makes clear that we don’t need to tolerate high rates of either types of killing, murder or revenge…or killing struggles for in-group dominance. But unfortunately, we’ll not completely eliminate any of these any time soon. Murder, often precipitated by sexual jealousy, and personal revenge killings, perhaps tied to payback struggles over social status or control of family resources, go back deeply into our past, perhaps even before our predecessors became humans. To repeat, the kind of “war” we could end if we wanted to is when people band together to indiscriminately kill people in another group and the majority of the warring community’s noncombatants and religious leaders sanction this action. It’s a community’s sanctioned killing of people in other groups who have not personally harmed the killers that distinguishes what we commonly think of as war from our other forms of killing. Two drug gangs killing each other or even outsiders, for example, isn't war in that sense because the participants aren’t supported by the larger communities where they live, nor by their religious leaders. Gang killings—community, national, or international scourges—are a matter of policing. Terrorists who are not supported by the larger communities from which they come also do not qualify. They are a very specialized community policing problem. Given the historical record, most people are justifiably skeptical about any possibility of humans putting an end to the mass indiscriminant killing that is war...think Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Ukraine. With just the tiniest bit of reflection, however, everyone can imagine what an enormously wonderful thing it would be if the global family could find a way to do so. Imagine being able to resolve conflicts without the destroying homes, neighborhoods, things of irreplaceable beauty, animal life, and millions upon millions of human lives. Imagine what we might do simply with the money saved!!!!
Those Two Convictions Are Derived from a Lifetime of Experience and Over Eighteen Years of the Study of War
First Conviction: War is Fundamentally an Evil Spawn of Patriarchy Run Amok
What is patriarchy? The word comes from Greek and fundamentally means all-male governing. It's the condition in which decisions in the domestic sphere or in the public sphere of the lives of people in communities or nations are made by men. History documents that in the public sphere we have created many forms of patriarchy: tribal chiefdoms, kingships, oligarchies, dictatorships, tyrannies, etc..
Evidence to date, however, strongly suggests that our form of governing wasn't always patriarchal. That in fact, during the many thousands of years (roughly 200,000) during which Homo sapiens evolved to be one of Earth’s most dominant species, we lived in small groups of roughly ten to twenty individual as nomadic foragers (these years were our EEA – Era of Evolutionary Adaptation). And in those small nomadic communities, everyone had a voice in making big decisions in the public sphere. They were egalitarian with everyone, men and women, sharing in the deciding.
When big and unresolvable conflicts or problems emerged, examples from the few nomadic foragers still extant indicates that some members of these egalitarian groups would pack up their meager belongings and move (emigrate/disperse) elsewhere….they preferred to disperse rather get involved in killing each other or the nearest human group. After all, the world was essentially empty of others humans...other fresh places to occupy were reasonably readily available. In short, I believe that dispersal is the preferred “evolved” means by which early humans could and did solve big problems, not war. There is to date no evidence that nomadic foragers engaged in war.
Because of this preference for dispersal, our species now occupies every suitable, habitable niche for our kind across the entire planet. As the economist Herman Daly put it, "We have transitioned from an empty world to a full world." We now live in a condition where there are NO empty places to which people can move to escape social conflicts or find fresh food resources without bumping up against other people already living there...and not always welcoming. That we now occuply a full world is having enormous social consequences, producing increasing conflict as people by the millions are forced to migrate because of wars or climate changes like prolonged drought or rising tides and shorelines. To this new, full-world condition we must adapt, and in War and Sex and Human DestinyI focus specifically on this issue of adaptation.
How then, did we transition from egalitarian governing in the public sphere to patriarchies? Roughly 12,000 YA, people here and there discovered the means to raise foods such as grains and the ability to herd animals. We created a brand new living environment of reliable, steady food supplies. To this, over the last twelve or so millennia, we have adapted: our behavior changed. A great many of us, increasing numbers of us, abandoned nomadism. We settled down.
One of these adaptations/behavioral changes was the emergence of war. In Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War I explore several theories for why we began making war.
A second consequence of settling down was an ever-increasing loss of status of women, first in the public sphere, and currently still in some societies, even in the home. We began to abandon our egalitarian social structure. I think of these two behavoral changes--war and loss of status for women--as "unintended and unfortunate consequences" of settled living.
We know there were times in the ancient past when women still had public power (queens and priestesses here and there) and people worshipped powerful goddesses (Egypt, Greece, Rome). But eventually full patriarchy of many kinds emerged in the world’s dominant cultures. A remarkable and highly influential book by the historian Riane Eisler documented this unintended shift, The Chalice and the Blade.
Since even before the fall of Rome, roughly 2,000 YA, the world’s dominant societies had all become fundamentally patriarchies. All are characterized by having public decisions about how the community will live, what people will think, and what the community will do that are derived from biologically-based male psychological preferences. In some patriarchies women at home may hold power there. And women at home may whisper in their husband’s ears. But in the end, it is men who decide for the community. And biologically men are characteristically concerned with social status and the ability to achieve social status or avoid loosing status. This driving motivation for status, when it includes the urge to control other people no matter what, is a great source of the evil humans do to each other, including war.
As a consequnce, what we see all around us now is the result of several thousand years of all-male governing. Male biological predisposition have been expressed and shaped our public lives. Because women have been excluded from decision-making in the public sphere, what we have created has been done without (restraining) input from strong female biological preferences for social stability and avoidance of physical violence. That includes the desire to avoid the destructive violence of war. For more detail on why these two psychological preferences are characteristically stronger in women in general see the essay Sexual Dimorphism.
We have now created weapons of war literally capable of ending human life on the planet, and there appears to be no end in sight to this appalling trend. The current US President (2018) has expressed a fondness for the idea of a new entity, a Space Force, anticipating that we will take war into space.
For over three millennia of patriarchies we have assuredly accomplished many wonderful things: created great art and music, built astounding masterpieces of architecture, explored of philosophy and religion, cured diseases, and much more including putting men on the Moon. But we have also done hideous things, notably among them slavery, torture, genocide, human trafficking in men, women, and children for labor and sexual exploitation....and wars. So it is that, in my view, war is fundamentally an evil spawn of patriarchy run amok.
Second Conviction: The cure for the harms of patriarchy, including war, is fully mature liberal democracy.
Someone might think that the cure for the harms of patriarchy would be matriarchy, the condition of all-female governing. But here are two reasons why it is not.
First reason: in all of human history, matriarchy is rare to the point of being nonexistent because it is contrary to fundamental aspects of human nature. In cultures where women do hold reins of public social power we typically find that their power is not total. Women have power in some spheres, but men have power in other spheres. For example, in a society some described as a matriarchy, the Goba of Zambesi studied by anthropologist Chet Lancaster, women were indeed very powerful. This was because they made, and perhaps still do make, decisions about the care of the critical gardens and decide whether grain resources can be spared for making much-valued beer. But the men hold most political offices and men make decisions about the care of and commerce in cattle. There has never been a true human matriarchy in which ALL levers of public social power are in the hands of only the women.
Why we have not created full-blown matriarchies? Fundamentally it's because human male and female psychological predispositions render matriarchy impossible: such a system is contrary to fundamental aspects of human nature:
men might be willing to share power with women under some circumstances, but their polestar focus on ways to gain social status (see Sexual Dimorphism) would drive them to reject total social submission to women, and
women, who prefer to avoid social conflicts so as to create socially stable (peaceful) communities in which to raise children, would not be willing to physically fight to maintain total control….they are more inclined to compromise or even defer to men (see Sexual Dimorphism).
Thus it's my conviction that because it is contrary to human nature, matriarchy isn’t going to exist let alone cure the harms of patriarchy.
Second reason: it is most likely that genuine matriarchy would be a social disaster to be avoided. I once speculated about what the world would be like if there ever was to be a matriarchy. Here, slightly modified, is a passage from Shift that was highlighting benefits that spring from aggressive human tendencies: “So what would the world be like if women, with their preference for social stability, ran it and men were restricted to the home, locked in a male version of a harem? For an answer to this question, we have no examples. None. Except in fiction and fantasy, such a matriarchy has never existed anywhere in human history. '”But my gut instinct is that with the passage of time, such a world would be stultifying. We’d be strangled by an unchecked female inclination for social stability, subjected unrelentingly to the deeply seated desire to avoid rocking the boat. We would lose the excitement that comes with innovation, restlessness, exploration, striving. “All of these can be motivated by curiosity or the desire to benefit others, but are also frequently fired by aggression and status-seeking…a proclivity that fuels much of male behavior. I use the broad definition of aggression that includes assertiveness and ambition. Aggression is the urge to assert oneself at the expense (however slight) of others, to push one’s own agenda, or to achieve one’s desires by a variety of means. At low levels it equates with assertiveness, ambition, forcefulness, and in extreme form it involves physical violence. “No one questions that males have aggressive tendencies, or that they bring an abundance of positive things to the human equation, small things as well as great ones. It would be a great mistake to lock males away at home. What we think of as male energy has impelled us to venture out to explore the unknown, climb the highest peak, create the grandest building, push beyond just one more horizon, to invent the newest, most amazing gizmo.”
Thus I have concluded that 1) matriarchy is not, or very likely would not, be an ideal form of governing, and 2) because of aspects of human nature it is also not likely to exist for any long period of time. It is NOT going to be the cure for the harms of patriarchy. If not, then what is?
Actually, the possible cure is a relatively new governing system [started about 300 years ago], not yet fully developed or in force anywhere on Earth. It is the diametric opposite of patriarchy. It is fully mature liberal democracy! (which includes shared governing by men and women, sometimes called parity governing and which I call koinoniarchy, from the Greek word meaning to share).
Here are two relevant excerpts from War and Sex and Human Destiny:
“The antithesis to patriarchy, the cure for it, is not matriarchy. It’s fully mature, liberal democracy, by which is meant a governing system that respects the basics of human rights and provides 1) an equal vote to all citizens, men and women, of all races, religions, or sexual orientation, 2) a fully free press, 4) freedom of religion, but separation of church and state 3) freedom of speech and assembly, and 4) an independent judicial system that protects those rights.” What this would mean is that women’s proclivities, which motivate them to create socially stable (peaceful) and nurturing communities in which to raise biologically very expensive children, would serve as a check on male proclivities that if left unchecked can run amok. “Liberal democracy with governmental checks and balances and respect for human rights provides two critical necessities to ending war: it is the best political means available to ensure that no one person or group can instigate war, and it fosters a large middle class that can provide life satisfaction for the most people. People satisfied with their lives are reluctant to go to war.” And finally, many students of war have noted that so far historically none of the world’s democracies have declared war on each other. Thus my second conviction: The cure for the harms of patriarchy, including war, is fully mature liberal democracy. And creating and maturing that form of government will involve, among many things, an enormous cultural shift globally so that women become full partners with men in governing our lives, in homes, communities, nations, and the world.
Contents of Three Books
I provide here an overview of the contents of three ending-war books, in the order that I wrote them, because doing so describes rather faithfully the evolution of my research and conclusions. Additionally, it can provide a sense of why and how I arrived at the convictions I've shared above.
Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace
This was a first look at the idea of peace from an evolutionary, biological perspective:
How does biology relate to behavior (how do genes relate, if at all, to observed gender differences in behavior and behavioral preferences/tendencies?).
how has evolution for reproductive success resulted in men and women having some significantly different responses to social life choices and to the use of physical violence? In particular, that in general women have a much stronger preference for social stability than men do. The page “Sexual Dimorphism” on this website covers much of the same material.
how does culture influence observed behavior? The Minoan culture is described as an example of a sophisticated society apparently without war, and six reasons are outlined for why they could create such an exceptional, highly advanced society.
what is the relationship of women to war, including women as leaders and women as warriors? Women are not pacifists, but they are much more strongly geared emotionally than men to behave to avoid physical conflict and to preserve social stability.
the concept of “hidden females"--the tendency of patriarchies to ignore women in many spheres of life, especially public affairs--has serious consequences when trying to figure out how to abolish war.
and thoughts on how the world already is looking different because of an increasing role played by women, and speculations on how the continuing empowerment of women globally might change the future with respect to war.
A Future Without War
The second book, A Future Without War, is composed almost entirely of excerpts from the website I was building by that name, AFutureWithoutWar.org. By this time I’d concluded that at least nine areas of concern could roughly embrace the many many factors that would have to be fixed, attended to, or undertaken, now and going into the future, in order to build and maintain an enduring warless global community. It describes these nine cornerstones in detail, giving examples, and listing organizations already at work on each of them. All but two (Empower Women and Enlist Young Men) are critical issues also noted in the books by authors listed near the beginning of this page.
The cornerstones were listed in alphabetical order to make it easier to remember all nine. In the AFWW Logo they were presented in a circle because they must be attacked/attended to simultaneously; their issues are complexly intertwined, one of the reasons why leaders from all nine would need to participate in coordinating any campaign to end war.
Also, what had, by the time I wrote this book, become very evident is the profound complexity of the challenge to end war. We’ve made war for millennia. It is deeply embedded, financially and culturally, in our dominant societies. While abolishing war is within human capabilities—we are an enormously adaptive species—an ending-war campaign will require enormous will and skill from many different areas of contemporary human society these cornerstones embrace.
A metaphor that seems to fit the level of difficulty are projects that are already underway, putting permanent colonies on the Moon and/or Mars. These efforts—like ending war, once not even imaginable—will require that thousands of people sharing that same goal bring many hundreds of different skills to the project, plus leadership that provides oversight to keep the project focused and on track. Very much like that, ending war is possible and is within our capabilities if we want to badly enough, but no one should think it will be easy. If achieved, however, it will unquestionably be one of our species’ greatest accomplishments.
Summary of the Nine Cornerstones Full summaries of the logic behind each can be found at afww.org/Summary.html. They are presented here, with some updated additions in parentheses:
Embrace the Goal: No great achievement can be accomplished unless we envision what we want and how to get there. We will not build a future without war either accidentally or through good fortune if we set our eyes only on other goals, no matter how worthy they may be. [The world needs more groups laser-focused on the goal of actually abolishing war.]
Empower Women: Women's biological preference for nonviolent conflict resolution is the catalyst for making the change happen rapidly and is a critical factor in maintaining a global peace once we've built achieved it. [The role of women is a subject that is the focus of the most recent book War and Sex and Human Destiny, and of this website’s page “Women.” [See also “Men and Women as Partners” below]
Enlist Young Men: Young men are the single most disruptive segment in societies. If they are not to be sent out of the community as soldiers [as was a common way of dealing with them in the past], we need to find other, positive ways to occupy and socialize them during their most turbulent years. They must be a part of the solution, not a major part of the problem [They should see themselves as warriors/crusaders for and defenders of the peace. Like empowering women, this is an under-appreciated critical factor in ending wars.
Ensure Essential Resources - Many wars are fought because people do not have access to essential resources or hope of a better life [for themselves, and especially for their children]. We need to focus efforts on teaching people how they can acquire what they need. [As opposed to offering aid handouts.]
Foster Connectedness: To control our innate, divisive xenophobic tendencies we need to teach respect and appreciation for diversity and a sense of our oneness as human beings. Additionally, because happiness is an important foundation of social stability and ties to family and community are the single most important factor in human happiness, we need to foster strong family and community ties.
Promote Nonviolent Conflict Resolution - Particularly in a world where aggression has been an accepted, even honored mode of conflict resolving behavior for millennia, we need to teach people to use nonviolent means. We must teach them why nonviolent conflict resolution, not aggression, leads to stable, lasting agreements.
Provide Security and Order - The coalition of countries that wants to end the policy of war must be able to act from a position of strength. From such a position they will be better able to convince states wanting to make war that negotiation of differences is preferable. [Organizations dedicated to providing security and order in communities and within nations, the police services, must be well trained in the art of nonviolent conflict resolution as the preferred option to using physical force whenever possible—what children see is what they model. Furthermore, if there is internal violence within a society or between countries it is hard, if not impossible, to advance the work of the other cornerstones.]
Shift Our Economies - We cannot build a future without war for free or on the cheap. The funds for building it are there, but they are currently being spent on planning for, executing, and cleaning up after wars. We need to shift our economies from ones built on war to ones built on ending war, and then dedicate the money we now spend on unnecessary weapons programs to programs that further the achievement of the other cornerstones. This will provide labor for workers and profits for businesses while moving us away from our dependency on war. [While capitalism provides many benefits, the ravages foisted on societies by end-state unregulated capitalism must be halted and reversed so that the benefits flow more equitably to all, not a wealthy few.]
Spread Liberal Democracy - Democracy provides two critical necessities to ending war: it is the best political means available to ensure that no one person or group can instigate war, and it fosters a large middle class that can provide life satisfaction for the most people. [Illiberal democracies, where people may vote but are without the protections of freedom of speech and religion, a free press, independent judiciary, and respect for human rights, are NOT essential to ending war….in fact, the dictatorial leaders of many of them continue to generate wars.]
Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War
This book is a comprehensive presentation of my thinking as of the date of its publication in 2014. The first half of the book explores issues like
Whether we have always made war - is it a part of human nature, and thus inescapable?
If war is instead a product primarily of culture, when and why did we start making war?
From what different perspectives do people study the causes of war (1) psychological characteristics of warmongers, participants, and bystanders; 2) proximate issues precipitating the fighting; and 3) ultimate biological factors that underlie male and female biology and hence behavior) and in particular, the level I concentrate on?
What can we learn about proclivities for war from close primate relatives (chimpanzees and bonobos?
What model of the evolutionary development of Homo sapiens is most relevant to explaining what kind of animal we are: the “man the warrior model” or a “humans as cooperators” model?
What were the evolutionary consequences on human social conflicts of our relatively recent switch from a nomadic lifestyle to a settled lifestyle?
How do women fit into the picture of social conflict and war, both as leaders and as warriors?
The second half of the book focuses on what would be involved in actually creating an enduring global peace.
Below are chapter summaries.
Part I - Why We Make War
Chapter 1 - Why I Wrote This Book Explains the motivation for writing Shift and why the global community needs a major paradigm shift in how we resolve major conflicts. The approach Shift takes to the subject of war is strongly biological, so a recounting of my training and experience leads to an illustrative, real-world example of the relationship of genes to behavior—the responses of male Laughing Gulls to an extremely altered (new) breeding environment. Concludes with a preview of subjects to be covered in the book's chapters.
Chapter 2 – Psychological Causes of War War is defined as used in Shift and distinguished from murder, revenge killings, raiding, dueling, or ritualized juridical “battles.” The causes of war can be studied on three levels: psychological causation, proximate causation, and ultimate causation. This chapter briefly reviews psychological causation, including a definition of “warmonger” and issues of group emotions and war, and masculinity and war.
Chapter 3 – Proximate Causes of War Proximate causation is explored, the question being, what are the immediate triggers for wars? Twelve of many theories historically offered as the proximate causes of war are highlighted. Stressed is that there are many such causes and addressing them will be integral to a plan for ending war, the cornerstones of which are to be presented in subsequent chapters. Peace, often thought to be war’s opposite, is defined, and an explanation is offered for why a campaign to end war is not the same as waging peace.
Chapter 4 – Ultimate Causes of War Ultimate causation refers to the biological roots of war. This is the longest causation discussion and reflects Shift’s biological orientation. Highlighted are evolved biological differences between men and women in how they relate to using physical violence. The differences are the result of reproductive pressures and priorities caused by the fact that females of all species produce a limited number of eggs and that human females can bear and rear a limited number of offspring compared to human males. The chapter reviews the link between genes and observed behavior, and how traits of men and women can be compared using bell curves. After reviewing relevant neurobiology and observed behavioral differences between human males and females, a “female preference for social stability” hypothesis is presented to explain why war is overwhelmingly a male preoccupation and activity, and ways to test this hypothesis are suggested. Aggression is defined, and positive aspects of human aggression are briefly mentioned. Stressed is that to be successful in achieving the goal to end war we need to understand our biology as well as our cultures.
Chapter 5 – Bonobos, Chimpanzees, and Ardi Chapters 5, 6, and 7 plunge into questions such as: Have humans always made war? If we did not, when did we begin and why? Chapter 5 examines relevant behavior and anatomy of close relatives (chimpanzees and bonobos), and physical characteristics of a very ancient ancestor, Ardipithecus ramidus.
Chapter 6 –Man the Warrior or Humans the Cooperators Continues exploration of when we started making war. The work of anthropologist Sarah Hrdy on the origins of cooperation and empathy are reviewed, seeking to determine whether some survival or reproductive advantage provided by killing fellow humans (war) explains why we developed impressive abilities to cooperate—often called a “man-the-warrior” hypothesis? A contrary hypothesis is offered that within nomadic foraging groups of early humans, dispersal, not war, was favored by evolution as the means to resolve serious conflicts and that cooperation, not killing in wars, is what has made this species of Homo so successful – the “humans as cooperators” model.
Chapter 7 –Unintended Consequences of Settled Living Current day nomadic hunter-gatherers/nomadic foragers (nomadic HGs) are the best models for how human ancestors lived for roughly the first 200,000 years of our species known existence. [only roughly 10,000 years ago did humans begin to take up settled living] Relevant work of several scholars is reviewed to establish early that nomadic HGs are not peaceful utopias without conflict or violence. They can display male-male, male-female, and female-female fighting, which overwhelmingly does not, however, result in deaths. Homicides, although not common, do occur, as well as executions of murderers; it is suggested that execution may have been the selection pressure underlying the known human aversion to indiscriminant, face-to-face killing of other humans: we do not kill others who have not done us a serious harm. Looking deeper, nomadic HGs overwhelmingly do not make war. Settled HGs do. Several societal features of these two different types of HGs—nomadic and settled—are compared. Settled living and increased population density tend to correlate with the origin of war. The shift to settled living also correlates, over long periods of time, with reduced influence of women in public affairs—which had been egalitarian in nomadic HG societies—to the emergence of the many forms of patriarchy that have characterized the historical record. Two additional hypotheses relating to a male need to establish a “masculine” identity are also described as potential contributors to war’s origins. Fossil evidence for war’s origins is reviewed. Finally, it is postulated that a shift in social structure that accompanies settled living—the decline in status of women—is an enabler of war.
Chapter 8 – Matriarchy? Chapters 8 and 9 tackle a seeming contradiction: women tend to avoid physical violence, but under some conditions, they engage in it or encourage men to engage in it. Solving this puzzle entails looking at how women use power and how this is related to matrilocal or patrilocal residence. Also examined in this chapter is the effect of “feminization” on the recent overall decline in human violence documental by, for example, Joshua Goldstein and Steven Pinker. Pinker stresses the rise of “reason” during the Enlightenment as an important factor in this recent decline. A contrasting suggestion is made that the rise of “romanticism,”—including “feminine” traits such as empathy—is equally likely to be responsible for this decline. A case is made that increasing influence of women in Western societies may be an important, overlooked, contributor to this decline.
Chapter 9 – Women as Warriors The puzzle of women and war is solved when we understand that women do not oppose war per se: they are adapted to prefer social stability. If they can be convinced that to keep their community safe, secure, and stable, it will be necessary to make war, women will support preemptive war by the men. If necessary, women will serve, and serve heroically, in battle. Examples are provided. A simple exercise comparing historical examples of the motivations of women and men who have been warriors illustrates the general principle that the motivation of women serving in battle is for defense, not offense. Two major reasons why women support war are explored: Cycle of Defense (Revenge) and Raids for Resources. The chapter ends by preparing to shift gears for the second half of the book, moving from understanding why we make war and the role of women in deciding to make war to how we can end war. A successful campaign to end war will require:
Action directed to nine cornerstones or battlefronts (tackling proximate causes),
A directed effort against the war machine—a battle plan.
Part II - How We Can End War
Chapter 10 – Cornerstones of a Campaign to End War The principle is put forward and explained that to create a just, ecologically sustainable, and peaceful future, abolishing war is foundational: the rationale is that by ending war, and through the work of doing so, we establish a social/cultural/mental environment that allows us to accomplish other desired goals. Many of these other goals address the proximate causes of war. These multitude of challenges are grouped into nine “ending-war cornerstones”: Embrace the Goal, Empower Women, Enlist Young Men, Foster Connectedness, Ensure Essential Resources, Promote Nonviolent Conflict Resolution, Provide Security and Order, Shift our Economies, and Spread Liberal Democracy. How each cornerstone relates to the goal of ending war is summarized and examples of organizations already dealing with them are provided. Stressed is that because of our biological nature, once we reach the goal of a global absence of war, we must continue to attend to all cornerstones to avoid backsliding.
Chapter 11 – Hope: We Can Change and Change Rapidly Reasons to believe that ending war is possible are presented. It begins with a consideration of two sophisticated cultures: the Minoans of ancient Crete and the modern Norwegians, cultures that illustrate features that characterize nonviolent and/or nonwarring but sophisticated cultures and illustrate that we do not need to return to a HG lifestyle to end war. Reasons are given why our time in history is uniquely poised to end war because of six major historical changes; these go back roughly 700 years to the Enlightenment and include invention of the Internet. Several examples of recent rapid human social transformations make the case that we could accomplish this huge shift in two generations or less from the time we resolve to do it.
Chapter 12 – Pulling Elements of the Plan Together All previous chapters lead to Chapter 12, a call to action to embrace a mechanism called F.A.C.E. Elements of a plan are given for a way to unite a critical mass of global citizens to directly take on and dismantle the war machine (however long it takes). [See also the essay “To Abolish War]. (link http://www.afww.org/ToAbolishWar.html) First, we need to bury the “just war” concept: if we propose to abolish war, then the time has come for our species to adopt a new paradigm (worldview) that says that all wars are unjust. Five major barriers to success of the plan are described; these will shape our choices for how to proceed. Two complimentary approaches to massive social transformation, namely Constructive Program (the work of the cornerstones) and Obstructive Program (direct action against the war machine) are described. An argument is made that Constructive Programs alone have insufficient force to dismantle the war machine. The means by which we carry out Obstructive Program—the strategy and tactics of nonviolent social protest/struggle—are reviewed. [See also the essay “To Abolish War"]. A mechanism developed and successfully used by the International Committee to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is described that can unite massive numbers of people and organizations in shared action (called “massively distributed collaboration” or “collective impact”). This offers an example of the structure and operation of the group or movement to be formed that will be able to tackle the war machine. It is tentatively named F.A.C.E. – For All Children Everywhere—because perhaps the only goal that can unite all people regardless of national boundaries, religion, race, gender, or political philosophy is a biologically based, shared love for and the desire to care for our children. The campaign strategy of F.A.C.E. is to collectively attack weak points of the war machine and, as the movement gains strength through the years, to steadily take the war machine apart. Very importantly, the campaign also functions as an awareness vehicle…to let the people of the world know that this great change is possible and that it has begun. Weak points of the war machine that could be good places for the movement’s initial combined focus are suggested (e.g., actually eliminating all nuclear weapons, establishing treaties to halt the sale of war weapons across national borders, establishing an “ending war” organizing hub within the United Nations that can coordinate the actions of F.A.C.E. partners). [See also the essay “To Abolish War"]. The chapter ends by reviewing key biological factors working for and against us as we take on this exciting and profoundly important challenge, and four critical keys to remember if we are to prevent backsliding.
Chapter 13 – Summing it All Up A brief review of how natural selection worked to end us up where we are now points out that we did not consciously choose war: the dictates of biology and needs to survive and reproduce have delivered us to this state. Now, however, we have sufficient knowledge of why we make war that we can, if we choose, alter our societies in ways that will foster its elimination. This includes changing attitudes as well as changing laws and customs, something our cultures have done many many times before: this campaign lies within our demonstrated abilities. Stressed is that the key to success will be partnership between men and women as leaders, activists, and citizens so that male and female built-in biological proclivities work for us, not against us. [See also the essay “To Abolish War"]. We have nobility within us. Our time in history is uniquely poised to make manifest this Great Shift to a future without war—and make it last.
Table 1 – Simple vs. Complex Hunter-Gatherers
Table 2 – Reasons Women Took Up Arms
Table 3 – Conquerors or Revolutionaries
Appendix I – Organizations Associated with the Ending War Cornerstones
Appendix II – Pinker’s Better Angels and F.A.C.E.
Compares the five major factors put forward by Steven Pinker in his recent book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence is Declining with the 9 Cornerstones described in Shift as being essentials for ending war, looking for similarities. The rationale is that if we find that two very different approaches to this complex problem arrive at the same conclusion as to what is vital to end war, it bolsters our confidence that these particular challenges are indeed critical.
Appendix III – Douglas Fry’s Life Without War and F.A.C.E.
Compares six essential shared characteristics of three peace systems Douglas Fry describes in his Science article “Life Without War” with the 9 Cornerstones described in Shift as being essentials for ending war, looking for similarities. The rationale is that if we find that two very different approaches to this complex problem arrive at the same conclusion as to what is vital to end war, if bolsters our confidence that these particular challenges are indeed critical.
It is useless to proceed along this path, one cannot prepare for war and expect peace. There is no compromise possible between preparation for war, on the one hand, and preparation of a world society based on law and order on the other. Albert Einstein
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron. Dwight D. Eisenhower President of the United States of America