Is War Natural?

Every argument should begin with a simple question: do we understand the concept we discuss in a similar manner? This is a simple logical caution to avoid falling into equivocacy. Having this in mind we should ask ourselves: what is war? Merriam-Webster online dictionary gives the following definition of war:

War:

  • a state or period of fighting between countries or groups
  • a situation in which people or groups compete with or fight against each other
  • an organized effort by a government or other large organization to stop or defeat something that is viewed as dangerous or bad (“Definition Of WAR”)

However, this definition is not abstract enough to use it in argument. Therefore I’ve made one up myself. In general it is a conflict between groups with different interests (in the moment, not globally) which eventually resort to the use of murder as a final argument. Therefore we have to split our initial question in two: if conflict is natural and whether violence is natural. If answers to both of them are affirmative, then war is a natural phenomenon.

What is conflict? Conflict is a clash of opposing interests and opinions, so fierce that the stress and extreme intensification of contradictions compel the sides to take action aimed at reaching a compromise or satisfying the interest unilaterally without a regard to the interest of the counterpart. Strictly speaking, every conflict has actors and object. The object is anything that can (allegedly) satisfy the need or the desire of an actor; therefore an actor is anyone who has the need or desire and knows how it can be satisfied. Well, where is the conflict then? The conflict appears when there is more than one actor but the object is limited to the extent where it can satisfy only one need/desire. This means that conflict arises from the scarcity of an object (which is usually some kind of a resource) that cannot be overcome by any means. The scarcity of the resource implies that it is an environmental factor (not the one produced by an actor); therefore it stems from the context of an abstract system we are talking about. This, in turn, means that if there is a single element in the system that cannot be replenished/reproduced/reconstructed/replaced, than eventually (yet inevitable) at some point in time there will happen a conflict over it. So the question is whether there are any such objects in the Universe we live in. The answer, obviously, is affirmative. And, speaking statistically, the more intelligent an actor is the more objects he can use to satisfy his needs and the more needs are induced in him (supply and demand work not only in economy). Strictly speaking, this is an inherent feature of conscience (or, maybe, a term “bug” would suit best – but it implies intelligent design, which is doubtful). Conscience is short-circuited; it feeds on itself, so I guess it would be legitimate to say that needs and desires are inherent to human nature.

The next aspect is violence. Carl von Clausewitz once said that war is merely the continuation of policy by other means, and by “other means” he meant violence pushed to its utmost bounds (Clausewitz, Graham and Maude). For the purposes of this argument let’s reduce violence to the use of physical force strong enough to inflict irreparable damage to the opponent – this is not the most accurate definition, but it is acceptable regarding the level of abstraction.

But is violence natural or does it stem exclusively from the needs and desires we’ve mentioned earlier? The nature has made every single living organism in such a manner so that it would have the desire to live; this is the only initial need and desire required by the design of life in its broadest sense. As we have found out earlier, the natural environment of our Universe is limited and makes everything face the scarcity of resources. This scarcity creates a possibility of death (in case there is not enough resources needed to satisfy the primal need) and makes everyone adapt. Well, adaptation here is an euphemism for “become ready to face a conflict and do anything required to win it” as the only option available is death.

This makes one suggest that violence is also a product of the environment. It is, speaking in the fundamental terms; however, this is with true only with a limitation due to the fact that we still have not found out the origin of conscience.

Here we come to an understanding that the answers to both of our questions are affirmative: yes, a conflict is inevitable as long as more than one conscience has physical manifestation; and yes, the violence is inherent to the very concept of conscience. Therefore we assume that war is indeed natural, and by natural we mean “stemming from Nature”, not “inherent to something’s design”.

The real question, however, is whether humankind can avoid conflicts. Though intelligence does produce needs and desires, at some point of its evolution it should become aware of the fact that there are few conflicts in the whole Universe which cannot be solved due to the logical structure of the conflict; humankind already understands that most conflicts are induced by the desire to get the biggest result with the smallest effort, not the real scarcity of some philosophical stone. The lack of control over our desire (greed, laziness, whatever you name it) kills people – literally. Different estimates claim that in wars 150 million to 1 billion people have been killed throughout the human history (of which 108 million were killed in XX century alone) (Hedges). This means that war (a single logical fallacy inherent to conscience) only increases its scale as humankind progresses. In 2015 global military spending reached $14 trillion (Somper). The number is comparable with the annual gross domestic product of China. This means that for money spent on weapons a whole nation (the world’s biggest one, in fact) of more than 1,4 billion people could live their usual life without doing anything to earn these money. This is just ridiculous – 20% of world’s population could live off the money spent to “defend interests” on a global scale. When it comes to real world, I can’t really understand how the abstract model of a conflict could have become that distorted and pointless.
“So long as there are men, there will be wars.” (“Albert Einstein: So Long As There Are Men There Will Be Wars.”) – this is the only thing I hope Einstein was wrong about.

Works cited

  • “Albert Einstein: So Long As There Are Men There Will Be Wars.”. Quotes.net. N.p., 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.
  • Clausewitz, Carl von, J. J Graham, and F. N Maude. On War. [Whitefish, Mont.]: Kessinger Legacy Reprints, 2011. Print.
  • “Definition Of WAR”. Merriam-webster.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.
  • Hedges, Chris. “‘What Every Person Should Know About War'”. Nytimes.com. N.p., 2003. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.
  • Somper, James. “Global Cost Of War Reaches $14 Trillion, Says Report”. Telegraph.co.uk. N.p., 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

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