Introduction By Leonard C. Lewin
Report Dated March 1966
Article Dated June 1967
WAR AND PEACE -- AS SOCIAL SYSTEMS
WE HAVE DEALT only sketchily with proposed disarmament scenarios
and economic analyses, but the reason r for our seemingly casual dismissal
of so much serious and sophisticated work lies in no disrespect for its
competence. It is rather a question of relevance. To put it plainly, all
these programs, however detailed and well developed, are abstractions. The
most carefully reasoned disarmament sequence inevitably reads more like
the rules of a game or a classroom exercise in logic than like a prognosis
of real events in the real world. This is as true of today's complex proposals
as it was of the Abbe do St. Pierre's "Plan for Perpetual Peace in
Europe 250 years ago.
Some essential element has clearly been lacking in all these
schemes. One of our first tasks was to try to bring this missing quality
into definable focus, and we believe we have succeeded in doing so. We find
that at the heart of every peace study we have examined--from the modest
technological proposal (e.g., to convert a poison gas plant to the production
of 'socially useful equivalents) to the most elaborate scenario for universal
peace in our time--lies one common fundamental misconception. It is the
source of the miasma of unreality surrounding such plans. It is the incorrect
assumption that war, as an institution, is subordinate to the social systems
it is believed to serve.
This misconception, although profound and far-reaching, is
entirely comprehensible. Few social clichés are so unquestioningly
accepted as the notion that war is an extension of diplomacy (or of politics,
or of the pursuit of economic objectives ) . If this were true, it would
be wholly appropriate for economists and political theorists to look on
the problems of transition to peace as essentially mechanical or procedural--as
indeed they do, treating them as logistic corollaries of the settlement
of national conflicts of interest. If this were true, there would be no
real substance to the difficulties of transition. For it is evident that
even in today's world there exists no conceivable conflict of interest,
real or imaginary, between nations or between social forces within nations,
that can-not be resolved without recourse to war--if such resolution were
assigned a priority of social value. And if this were true, the economic
analyses and disarmament proposals we have referred to, plausible and well
conceived as they may be, would not inspire, as they do, an inescapable
sense of indirection.
The point is that the cliché is not true, and the problems
of transition are indeed substantive rather than merely procedural. Although
war is "used" as an instrument of national and social policy,
the fact that a society is organized for any degree of readiness for war
supersedes its political and economic structure. War itself is the basic
social system, within which other secondary modes of social organization
conflict or conspire. It is the system which has governed most human societies
of record, as it is today.
Once this is correctly understood, the true magnitude of the
problems entailed in a transition to peace--itself a social system, but
without precedent except in a few simple preindustrial societies--becomes
apparent. At the same time, some of the puzzling superficial contradictions
of modern societies can then
be readily rationalized. The "unnecessary" size and power of the
world war industry; the preeminence of the military establishment in every
society, whether open or concealed; the exemption of military or paramilitary
institutions from the accepted social and legal standards of behavior required
elsewhere in the society; the successful operation of the armed forces and
the armaments producers entirely outside the frame-work of each nation's
economic ground rules: these and other ambiguities closely associated with
the relationship of war to society are easily clarified, once the priority
of war-making potential as the
principal structuring force in society is accepted. Economic systems, political
philosophies, and corpora jures serve and extend the war system, not vice
It must be emphasized that the precedence of a society's war-
making potential over its other characteristics is not the result of the
"threat" presumed to exist at any one time from other societies.
This is the reverse of the basic situation; "threats" against
the "national interest" are usually created or accelerated
to meet the changing needs of the war system. Only in comparatively recent
times has it been considered politically expedient to euphemize war budgets
as "defense" requirements. The necessity for governments to distinguish
between "aggression" (bad) and "defense" (good) has
been a by-product of rising
literacy and rapid communication. The distinction is tactical only, a concession
to the growing inadequacy of ancient war- organizing political rationales.
Wars are not "caused" by international conflicts of interest.
Proper logical sequence would make it more often accurate to say that war-making
require and thus bring about--such conflicts. The capacity of a nation to
make war expresses the greatest social power it can exercise; war-making,
active or contemplated, is a matter of life and death on the greatest scale
subject to social control. It should therefore hardly be surprising that
institutions in each society claim its highest priorities.
We find further that most of the confusion surrounding the
myth that war- making is a tool of state policy stems from a general misapprehension
of the functions of war. In general, these are conceived as: to defend a
nation from military attack by another, or to deter such an attack; to defend
or advance a "national interest"-- economic, political, ideological;
to maintain or increase a nation's military power for its own sake. These
are the visible, or ostensible, functions of war. If there were no others,
the importance of the war establishment in each society might in fact decline
to the subordinate level it is believed to occupy. And the elimination of
war would indeed be the procedural matter that the disarmament scenarios
But there are other, broader, more profoundly felt functions
of war in modern societies. It is these invisible, or implied, functions
that maintain war-
readiness as the dominant force in our societies. And it is the unwillingness
or inability of the writers of disarmament scenarios and re conversion plans
to take them into account that has so reduced the usefulness of their work,
and that has made it seem unrelated to the world we know.
THE FUNCTIONS OF WAR
AS WE HAVE INDICATED, the preeminence of the concept of war
as the principal organizing force in most societies has been insufficiently
appreciated. This is also true of its extensive effects throughout the many
nonmilitary activities of society. These effects are less apparent in complex
like our own than in primitive cultures, the activities of which can be
more easily and fully comprehended.
We propose in this section to examine these nonmilitary, implied,
and usually invisible functions of war, to the extent that they bear on
the problems of transition to peace for our society. The military, or ostensible,
function of the war system requires no elaboration; it serves simply to
defend or advance the "national interest" by means of organized
violence. It is often necessary for a national military establishment to
create a need for its unique powers to maintain the franchise, so to speak.
And a healthy military apparatus requires regular "exercise,"
by whatever rationale seems expedient, to prevent its atrophy.
The nonmilitary functions of the war system are more basic.
They exist not merely to justify themselves but to serve broader social
purposes. If and when war is eliminated, the military functions it has served
will end with it. But its nonmilitary functions will not. It is essential,
therefore, that we understand their
significance before we can reasonably expect to evaluate whatever institutions
may be proposed to replace them.
The production of weapons of mass destruction has always been
associated with economic "waste." The term is pejorative, since
it implies a failure of function. But no human activity can properly be
considered wasteful if it achieves its contextual objective. The phrase
"wasteful but necessary," applied not only to war expenditures
but to most of the "unproductive" commercial activities of our
society, is a contradiction in terms. ". . . The attacks that have
since the time of Samuel's criticism of King Saul been leveled against military
expenditures as waste may well have concealed or misunderstood the point
that some kinds of waste may have a larger social utility."
In the case of military "waste," there is indeed
a larger social utility. It derives from the fact that the "wastefulness"
of war production is exercised entirely outside the framework of the economy
of supply and demand. As such, it provides the only critically large segment
of the total economy that is subject to
complete and arbitrary central control. If modem industrial societies can
be defined as those which have developed the capacity to produce more than
is required for their economic survival (regardless of the equities of distribution
of goods within them), military spending can be said to furnish the only
balance wheel with sufficient inertia to stabilize the advance of their
economies. The fact that war is "wasteful" is what enables it
to serve this function. And the faster the economy advances, the heavier
this balance wheel must be.
This function is often viewed, over-simply, as a device for
the control of surpluses. One writer on the subject puts it this way: "Why
is war so wonderful? Because it creates artificial demand . . . the only
kind of artificial demand, moreover, that does not raise any political issues:
war, and only war, solves the problem of inventory." The reference
here is to shooting war, but it applies equally to the general war economy
as well. "It is generally agreed," concludes, more cautiously,
the report of a panel set up by the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency,
"that the greatly expanded public sector since World War 11, resulting
from heavy defense expenditures, has provided additional protection against
depressions, since this sector is not responsive to contraction in the private
sector and has provided a sort of buffer o balance wheel in the economy."
The principal economic function of war, in our view, that
it provides just such a flywheel. It is not to be confused in function with
the various forms of fiscal control, none of which directly engages vast
numbers of men and units of production. It is not to be confused with massive
government expenditures in
social welfare programs; once initiated, such programs normally become .Integral
parts of the general economy and are no longer subject to arbitrary control.
But even in the context of the general civilian economy war
cannot be considered wholly "wasteful." Without a long-established
war economy, and without its frequent eruption into large-scale shooting
war, most of the major industrial advances known to history, beginning with
the development of iron, could never have taken place. Weapons technology
structures the economy.
According to the writer cited above, "Nothing is more
ironic or revealing about our society than the fact that hugely destructive
war is a very progressive force in it. . . . War production is progressive
because it is production that would not otherwise have taken place. (It
is not so widely appreciated, for example, that the civilian standard of
living rose during World War II.)" This is not "ironic or revealing,"
but essentially a simple statement of fact.
It should also be noted that war production has a dependably
stimulating effect outside itself. Far from constituting a "wasteful"
drain on the economy, war spending, considered pragmatically, has been a
consistently positive factor in the rise of gross national product and of
individual productivity. A former
Secretary of the Army has carefully phrased it for public consumption thus:
"If there is, as I suspect there is, a direct relation between the
stimulus of large defense spending and a substantially increased rate of
growth of gross national product, it quite simply follows that defense spending
per se might be
countenanced on economic grounds alone [emphasis added] as a stimulator
of the national metabolism." Actually, the fundamental nonmilitary
utility of war in the economy is far more widely acknowledged than the scarcity
of such affirmations as that quoted above would suggest.
But negatively phrased public recognitions of the importance
of war to the general economy abound. The most familiar example is the effect
of "peace threats" on the stock market, e.g., "Wall Street
was shaken yesterday by news of an apparent peace feeler from North Vietnam,
but swiftly recovered its composure after about an hour of sometimes indiscriminate
selling."' Savings banks solicit deposits with similar cautionary slogans,
e.g., "If peace breaks out, will you be ready for it?" A more
subtle case in point was the recent refusal of the Department of Defense
to permit the West German government to substitute nonmilitary goods for
unwanted armaments in its purchase commitments from the United States; the
decisive consideration was that the German purchases should not affect the
general (nonmilitary) economy. Other incidental examples are to be found
in the pressures brought to bear on the Department when it announces plans
to close down an obsolete facility (as a "wasteful" form of "waste"),
and in the usual coordination of stepped-up military activities (as in Vietnam
in 1965) with dangerously rising unemployment rates.
Although we do not imply that a substitute for war in the
economy cannot be devised, no combination of techniques for controlling
employment, production, and consumption has yet been tested that can remotely
compare to it in effectiveness. It is, and has been, the essential economic
stabilizer of modern societies.
The political functions of war have been up to now even more
critical to social stability. It is not surprising nevertheless, that discussions
of economic conversion for peace tend to fall silent on the matter of political
implementation, and that disarmament scenarios, often sophisticated in their
international political factors, tend to disregard the political functions
of the war system within individual societies.
These functions are essentially organizational. First of all,
the existence of a society as a political "nation" requires as
part of its definition an attitude of relationship toward other "nations."
This is what we usually call foreign policy. But a nation's foreign policy
can have I substance if it lacks the means of
enforcing its attitude toward other nations. It can do this in a credible
manner only if it implies the threat of maximum political organization for
this purpose; which is to say that it is organized to some degree for war.
War, then, as we have defined it to include all national activities that
recognize the possibility
of armed conflict, is itself the defining element of any nation's existence
vis-à-vis any other nation. Since it is historically axiomatic that
the existence of any form of weaponry insures its use, we have used the
word "peace" as virtually synonymous with disarmament. By the
same token, "war" is virtually synonymous with nationhood. The
elimination of war implies the inevitable elimination of national sovereignty
and the traditional nation- state .
The war system not only has been essential to the existence
of nations as independent political entities, but has been equally indispensable
to their stable internal political structure. Without it, no government
has ever been able to obtain acquiescence in its "legitimacy,"
or right to rule its society. The possibility of war provides the sense
of eternal necessity without which no government can long remain in power.
The historical record reveals one instance after another where the failure
of a regime to maintain the credibility of a war threat led to its dissolution,
by the forces of private interest, of reactions to social injustice, or
of other disintegrative elements. The organization of a society for the
possibility of war is its principal political stabilizer. It is ironic that
primary function of war has been generally recognized by historians only
where it has been expressly acknowledged--in the pirate societies of the
The basic authority of a modern state over its people resides
in its war powers. (There is, in fact, good reason to believe that codified
law had its origins in the rules of conduct established by military victors
for dealing with the defeated enemy, which were later adapted to apply to
all subject populations.7) On a
day-to-day basis, it is represented by the institution of police, armed
organizations charged expressly with dealing with "internal enemies"
in a military manner. Like the conventional "external" military,
the police are also substantially exempt from many civilian legal restraints
on their social behavior. In some
countries, the artificial distinction between police and other military
forces does not exist. On the long-term basis, a government's emergency
war powers --inherent in the structure of even the most libertarian of nations--define
the most significant aspect of the relation between state and citizen.
In advanced modern democratic societies, the war system has
provided political leaders with another political-economic function of increasing
importance: it has served as the last great safeguard against the elimination
of necessary social classes. As economic productivity increases to a level
further and further
above that of minimum subsistence, it becomes more and more difficult for
a society to maintain distribution patterns insuring the existence of "hewers
of wood and drawers of water." The further progress of automation can
be expected to differentiate still more sharply between "superior"
workers and what Ricardo called "menials," while simultaneously
aggravating the problem of maintaining an unskilled labor supply.
The arbitrary nature of war expenditures and of other military
activities make them ideally suited to control these essential class relationships.
Obviously, if the war system were to be discarded, new political machinery
would be needed at once to serve this vital sub function. Until it is developed,
the continuance of the war system must be assured, if for no other reason,
among others, than to preserve whatever quality and degree of poverty a
society requires as an incentive, as well as to maintain the stability of
its internal organization of power.
Under this heading, we will examine a nexus of functions served
by the war system that affect human behavior in society. In general, they
are broader in application and less susceptible to direct observation than
the economic and political factors previously considered.
The most obvious of these functions is the time-honored use
of military institutions to provide antisocial elements with an acceptable
role in the social structure. The disintegrative, unstable social movements
loosely described as "fascist" have traditionally taken root in
societies that have lacked adequate
military or paramilitary outlets to meet the needs of these elements. This
function has been critical in periods of rapid change. The danger signals
are easy to recognize, even though the stigmata bear different names at
different times. The current euphemistic clichés "juvenile delinquency"
have had their counterparts in every age. In earlier days these conditions
were dealt with directly by the military without the complications of due
process, usually through press gangs or outright enslavement. But, it is
not hard to visualize, for example, the degree of social disruption that
might have taken place in the United States during the last two decades
if the problem of the socially disaffected of the post-World War II period
had not been foreseen and effectively met The younger, and more dangerous,
of these hostile social groupings have been kept under control by the Selective
This system and its analogues elsewhere finish remarkably
clear examples of disguised military utility. Informed persons in this country
have never accepted the official rationale for a peacetime draft--military
necessity, preparedness, etc.--as worthy of serious consideration. But what
has gained credence among
thoughtful men is the rarely voiced, less easily refuted, proposition that
the institution of military service has a "patriotic" priority
in our society that must be maintained for its own sake. Ironically, the
simplistic official justification for selective service comes closer to
the mark, once the non- military functions of military institutions are
understood. As a control device over the hostile, nihilistic, and potentially
unsettling elements of a society in transition, the draft can
again be defended, and quite convincingly, as a "military" necessity.
Nor can it be considered a coincidence that overt military
activity, and thus the level of draft calls, tend to follow the major fluctuations
in the unemployment rate in the lower age groups. This rate, in turn, is
a time-tested herald of social discontent. It must be noted also, that the
armed forces in every civilization have provided the principal state-supported
haven for what we now call the "unemployable." The typical European
standing army (of fifty years ago) consisted of "... troops unfit for
employment in commerce, industry, or agriculture, led by officers unfit
to practice any legitimate profession or to conduct a
business enterprise."8 This is still largely true, if less apparent.
In a sense, this function of the military as the custodian of the economically
or culturally deprived was the forerunner of most contemporary civilian
social- welfare programs, from the W.P.A. to various forms of "socialized"
medicine and social security. It is interesting that liberal sociologists
currently proposing to use the Selective Service System as a medium of cultural
upgrading of the poor consider this a novel application of military practice.
Although it cannot be said absolutely that such critical measures
of social control as the draft require a military rationale, no modern society
has yet been willing to risk experimentation with any other kind. Even during
such periods of comparatively simple social crisis as the so-called Great
Depression of the l930s, it was deemed prudent by the government to invest
minor make-work projects, like the "Civilian" Conservation Corps,
with a military character, and to place the more ambitious National Recovery
Administration under the direction of a professional army officer at its
inception. Today, at least one small Northern European country, plagued
with uncontrollable unrest among its "alienated youth," is considering
the expansion of its armed forces, despite the problem of making credible
the expansion of a non-existent external threat.
Sporadic efforts have been made to promote general recognition
of broad national values free of military connotation, but they have been
ineffective. For example, to enlist public support of even such modest programs
of social adjustment as "fighting inflation" or "maintaining
physical fitness" it has been necessary for the government to utilize
a patriotic ( i.e., military ) incentive. It sells "defense bonds and
it equates health with military preparedness. This is not surprising; since
the concept of "nationhood' implies readiness for war, a "national"
program must do likewise.
In general, the war system provides the basic motivation for
primary social organization. In so doing, it reflects on the societal level
the incentives of individual human behavior. The most important of these,
for social purposes, is the individual psychological rationale for allegiance
to a society and its
values. Allegiance requires a cause; a cause requires an enemy. This much
is obvious; the critical point is that the enemy that defines the cause
must seem genuinely formidable. Roughly speaking, the presumed power of
the "enemy" sufficient to warrant an individual sense of allegiance
to a society must be
proportionate to the size and complexity of the society. Today, of course,
that power must be one of unprecedented magnitude and frightfulness.
It follows, from the patterns of human behavior, that the
credibility of a social "enemy demands similarly a readiness of response
in proportion to its menace. In a broad social context, "an eye for
an eye" still characterizes the only acceptable attitude toward a presumed
great of aggression, despite contrary
religious and moral precepts governing personal conduct. The remoteness
of personal decision from social consequence in a modern society makes it
easy for its members to maintain this attitude without being aware of it.
A recent example is the war in Vietnam; a less recent one was the bombing
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.9 In each case, the extent and gratuitousness
of the slaughter were abstracted into political formulae by most Americans,
once the proposition that the victims were "enemies" was established.
The war system makes such an abstracted response possible in nonmilitary
contexts as well. A conventional example of this mechanism is the inability
of most people to connect, let us say, the starvation of millions in India
with their own past conscious political decision-making. Yet the sequential
logic linking a decision to restrict grain production in America with an
eventual famine in Asia is obvious, unambiguous, and unconcealed.
What gives the war system its preeminent role in social organization,
as elsewhere, is its unmatched authority over life and death. It must be
emphasized again that the war system is not a mere social extension of the
presumed need for individual human violence, but itself in turn serves to
nonmilitary killing. It also provides the precedent for the collective willingness
of members of a society to pay a blood price for institutions far less central
to social organization than war. To take a handy example, ". . . rather
than accept speed I limits of twenty miles an hour we prefer to let automobiles
kill forty thousand people a year."l0 A Rand I analyst puts it in more
general terms and less rhetorically: "I am sure that there is, in effect,
a desirable level of automobile accidents--desirable, that is, from a broad
point of view; in the sense that it is a necessary concomitant of things
of greater value to society." The point may seem too obvious for iteration,
but it is essential to an understanding of the important motivational function
of war as a model for collective sacrifice.
A brief look at some defunct premodern societies is instructive.
One of the most noteworthy features common to the larger, more complex,
and more successful of ancient civilizations was their widespread use of
the blood sacrifice. If one were to limit consideration to those cultures
whose regional hegemony was so complete that the prospect of "war"
had become virtually inconceivable --as was the case with several of the
great pre- Columbian societies of the Western Hemispheric it would be found
that some form of ritual killing occupied a position of paramount social
importance in each. Invariably, the ritual was invested with mythic or religious
significance; as with all religious and totemic practice, however, the ritual
masked a broader and more important social function.
In these societies, the blood sacrifice served the purpose
of maintaining a vestigial "earnest" of the society's capability
and willingness to make war-i.e., kill and be killed in the event that some
mystical--i.e., unforeseen --circumstance were to give rise to the possibility.
That the "earnest" was not an adequate
substitute for genuine military organization when the unthinkable enemy,
such as the Spanish conquistadors, actually appeared on the scene in no
way negates the function of the ritual. It was primarily, if not exclusively,
a symbolic reminder that war had once been the central organizing force
of the society, and that this condition might recur.
It does not follow that a transition to total peace in modern
societies would require the use of this model, even in less "barbaric"
guise. But the historical analogy serves as a reminder that a viable substitute
for war as a social system cannot be a mere symbolic charade. It must involve
real risk of real personal
destruction, and on a scale consistent with the size and complexity of modern
social systems. Credibility is the key. Whether the substitute is ritual
in nature or functionally substantive, unless it provides a believable life-and-death
threat it will not serve the socially organizing function of war.
The existence of an accepted external menace, then, is essential
to social cohesiveness as well as to the acceptance of political authority.
The menace must be believable, it must be of a magnitude consistent with
the complexity of the society threatened, and it must appear, at least,
to affect the entire society.
Man, like all other animals, is subject to the continuing
process of adapting to the limitations of his environment. But the principal
mechanism he has utilized for this purpose is unique among living creatures.
To forestall the inevitable historical cycles of inadequate food supply,
post-Neolithic man destroys surplus members of his own species by organized
Ethologistsl2 have often observed that the organized slaughter
of members of their own species is virtually unknown among other animals.
Man's special propensity to kill his own kind (shared to a limited degree
with rats) may be attributed to his inability to adapt anachronistic patterns
of survival (like primitive hunting) to his development of "civilizations"
in which these patterns cannot be effectively sublimated. It may be attributed
to other causes that have been suggested, such as a maladapted "territorial
instinct," etc. Nevertheless, it exists and its social expression in
war constitutes a biological control of his relationship to his natural
environment that is peculiar to man alone.
War has served to help assure the survival of the human species.
But as an evolutionary device to improve it, war is almost unbelievably
inefficient. With few exceptions, the selective processes of other living
creatures promote both specific survival and genetic improvement. When a
conventionally adaptive animal faces one of its periodic crises of insufficiency,
it is the "inferior" members of the species that normally disappear.
An animal's social response to such a crisis may take the form of a mass
migration, during which the weak fall by the wayside. Or it may follow the
dramatic and more efficient pattern of lemming societies, in which the weaker
members voluntarily disperse, leaving available food supplies for the stronger.
In either case, the strong survive and the weak fall. In human societies,
those who fight and die in wars for survival are in general its biologically
stronger members. This is natural selection in
The regressive genetic effect of war has been often notedl3
and equally often deplored, even when it confuses biological and cultural
factors.l3 The disproportionate loss of the biologically stronger remains
inherent in traditional warfare. It serves to underscore the fact that survival
of the species, rather than its improvement, is the fundamental purpose
of natural selection, if it can be said to have a purpose, just as it is
the basic premise of this study.
But as the polemologist Gaston Bouthoull5 has pointed out,
other institutions that were developed to serve this ecological function
have proved even less satisfactory. (They include such established forms
as these: infanticide, practiced chiefly in ancient and primitive societies;
sexual mutilation; monasticism; forced emigration; extensive capital punishment,
as in old China and eighteenth century England; and other similar, usually
Man's ability to increase his productivity of the essentials
of physical life suggests that the need for protection against cyclical
famine may be nearly obsolete." It has thus tended to reduce the apparent
importance of the basic ecological function of war, which is generally disregarded
by peace theorists. Two aspects of it remain especially relevant, however.
The first is obvious: current rates of population growth, compounded by
environmental threat of chemical and other contaminants, may well bring
about a new crisis of insufficiency. If so, it is likely to be one of unprecedented
global magnitude, not merely regional or temporary. Conventional methods
of warfare would almost surely prove inadequate, in this event, to reduce
the consuming population to a level consistent with survival of the species.
The second relevant factor is the efficiency of modern methods
of mass destruction. Even if their use is not required to meet a world population
crisis, they offer, perhaps paradoxically, the first opportunity in the
history I of man to halt the regressive genetic effects of natural selection
by war. Nuclear weapons are indiscriminate. Their application would bring
to an end the disproportionate destruction of the physically stronger members
of the species (the "warriors") in periods of war. Whether this
prospect of genetic gain would offset the unfavorable mutations anticipated
from post nuclear radioactivity we have not yet determined. What gives the
question a bearing on our study is the possibility that the determination
may yet have to be made.
Another secondary ecological trend bearing on projected population
growth is the regressive effect of certain medical advances. Pestilence,
for example, is no longer an important factor in population control. The
problem of increased life expectancy has been aggravated. These advances
also pose a potentially more sinister problem, in that undesirable genetic
traits that were formerly self- liquidating are now medically maintained.
Many diseases that were once fatal at preprocreational ages
are now cured; the effect of this development is to perpetuate undesirable
susceptibilities and mutations. It seems clear that a new quasi-eugenic
function of war is now in process of formation that will have to be taken
into account in any transition plan. For the time being, the Department
of Defense appears to have recognized such factors, as has been demonstrated
by the planning under way by the Rand Corporation to cope with the breakdown
in the ecological balance anticipated after a thermonuclear war. The Department
has also begun to stockpile birds, for example, against the expected proliferation
of radiation- resistant insects, etc.
Cultural and Scientific
The declared order of values in modern societies gives a high
place to the so-called "creative" activities, and an even higher
one to those associated with the advance of scientific knowledge. Widely
held social values can be translated into political equivalents, which in
turn may bear on the nature of a transition
to peace. The attitudes of those who hold these values must be taken into
account in the planning of the transition. The dependence, therefore, of
cultural and scientific achievement on the I war system would be an important
consideration in a transition plan even if such achievement had no inherently
necessary social function.
Of all the countless dichotomies invented by scholars to account
for the major differences in art styles and cycles, only one has been consistently
unambiguous in its application to a variety of forms and cultures. However
it may be verbalized, the basic distinction is this: I Is the work war-oriented
or is it not? Among primitive peoples, the war dance is the most important
art form. I Elsewhere, literature, music, painting, sculpture, and architecture
that has won lasting acceptance has invariably dealt with a theme of war,
expressly or implicitly, and has expressed the centricity of war to society.
The war in question may be national conflict, as in Shakespeare plays, Beethoven's
music, or Goya's paintings, or it may be reflected in the form of religious,
social, or moral struggle, as in the work of Dante, Rembrandt, and Bach.
Art that cannot be classified as war-oriented is usually described as "sterile,"
"decadent," and so on. Application of the "war standard"
to works of art may often leave room for debate in individual cases, but
there is no question of its role as the
fundamental determinant of cultural values. Aesthetic and moral standards
have a common anthropological origin, in the exaltation of bravery, the
willingness to kill and risk death in tribal warfare.
It is also instructive to note that the character of a society's
culture has borne a close relationship to its I war-making potential, in
the context of its times. It is no accident that the current "cultural
explosion" in the United States is taking place during an era marked
by an unusually rapid advance in weaponry. This relation ship is more generally
recognized than the literature on the subject would suggest. For example,
many artists and writers are now beginning to express concern over I the
limited creative options they envisage in the warless world they think,
or hope, may be soon upon us. They are currently
preparing for this possibility by unprecedented experimentation with meaningless
forms; their interest in recent years has been increasingly engaged by the
abstract pattern, the gratuitous emotion, the random happening, and the
The relationship of war to scientific research and discovery
is more explicit. War is the principal motivational force for the development
of science at every level, from the abstractly conceptual to the narrowly
technological. Modern society places a high value on "pure" science,
but it is historically inescapable
that all the significant discoveries that have been made about the natural
world have been inspired by the real or imaginary military necessities of
their epochs. The consequences of the discoveries have indeed gone far afield,
but war has always provided the basic incentive.
Beginning with the development of iron and steel, and proceeding
through the discoveries of the laws of motion and thermodynamics to the
age of the atomic particle, the synthetic polymer, and the space capsule,
no important scientific advance has not been at least indirectly initiated
by an implicit requirement of weaponry. More prosaic examples include the
transistor radio (an outgrowth of military communications requirements ),
the assembly line (
from Civil War firearms needs ), the steel-frame building (from the steel
battleship), the canal lock, and so on. A typical adaptation can be seen
in a device as modest as the common lawnmower; it developed from the revolving
scythe devised by Leonardo da Vinci to precede a horse-powered vehicle into
The most direct relationship can be found in medical technology.
For example, a giant "walking machine," an amplifier of body motions
invented for military use in difficult terrain, is now making it possible
for many previously confined to wheelchairs to walk. The Vietnam war alone
has led to spectacular improvements in amputation procedures, blood-handling
techniques, and surgical logistics. It has stimulated new large-scale research
and other tropical parasite diseases; it is hard to estimate how long this
work would otherwise have been delayed, despite its enormous nonmilitary
importance to nearly half the world's population.
We have elected to omit from our discussion of the nonmilitary
functions of war those we do not consider critical to a transition program.
This is not to say they are I unimportant, however, but only that they appear
to present no special problems for the organization of a I peace-oriented
social system. They include the following:
War as a general social release. This is a psycho social function,
serving the same purpose for a society as do the holiday, the celebration,
and the orgy for the individual-- the release and redistribution of undifferentiated
tensions. War provides for the periodic necessary readjustment of standards
of social behavior ( the "moral climate") and for the dissipation
of general boredom, one of the most consistently undervalued and unrecognized
of social phenomena.
War as a generational stabilizer. This psychological function,
served by other behavior patterns in other animals, enables the physically
deteriorating older generation to maintain its control of the younger, destroying
it if necessary.
War as an ideological clarifier. The dualism that characterizes
the traditional dialectic of all branches of philosophy and of stable political
relationships stems from war as the prototype of conflict. Except for secondary
considerations, there cannot be, to put it as simply as possible, more than
two sides to a question because there cannot be more than two sides to a
War as the basis for international understanding. Before the
development of modern communications, the strategic requirements of war
provided the only substantial incentive for the enrichment of one national
culture with the achievements of another. Although this is still the case
in many international relationships, the function is obsolescent.
We have also forgone extended characterization of those functions
we assume to be widely and explicitly recognized. An obvious example is
the role of war as controller of the quality and degree of unemployment.
This is more than an economic and political sub function; its sociological,
cultural, and ecological aspects are also important, although often teleonomic.
But none affect the general problem of substitution. The same is true of
certain other functions; those we have included are sufficient to define
the scope of the problem.
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