Why is there war? You could also ask: Why is there peace? It depends on our starting point. If peace is the normal condition, then war is an exception. If war is the normal condition, then peace is exceptional. The second is probably right. Most people are therefore mistaken from the start. They believe that Nature is good and harmonious, that God created the world and the universe in a perfect balance, until man arrived and destroyed the balance with his desire to rule and control, to destroy and lay waste. They also believe that man is the only creature that makes war. Other animals, they say, may have conflicts, but these are always solved in peaceful ways, like the little quarrels in a happy family.
This idea of a harmonious and peaceful nature is mistaken. In fact this kind of ‘nature’ is a human invention, created for the benefit of children, so as not to scare them. It is the world of Walt Disney, in which everything has its proper place and good always overcomes bad. Nature is also good in advertisements for women’s beauty products. Most women love nature because it is so peaceful, especially if you wear the proper protective clothing and do not spend too much time in it. Women also love nature because they are closer to it and use it as an ally to curb men’s ambition to control it.
Conflicts in the animal world certainly do not end as peacefully as nature lovers say. Very bloody fights can be caused by quarrels over territory or females. In primates war can take on the very familiar form of organized raids against a different group. Primitive man also fought this kind of war against neighbouring tribes, in which sometimes every single member of the enemy tribe was slaughtered. In human history wars have probably always occurred from time to time. And going back in time, looking at all the creatures that populate the earth, we find that war in the broad sense of the word, call it ‘struggle for life’, is far more common than peace.
If we talk about war in the human sense, we are of course dealing with something typically human. Modern warfare still carries elements of the tribal origin of war, yet our opinion of war has altered: we consider it at best a necessary evil, and we have laws conventions, at least on paper, to prevent or limit so-called crimes against humanity, like cruelty, rape, torture and genocide.
We can also dream about the absence of war, and in many areas of the world that has been achieved. Small territories, provinces or countries that used to be at war of and on for hundreds of years, were combined into larger communities and are at peace now. This process of integration is continuing and may lead one day to world peace. But not automatically. If we look for the causes of war and conclude that it is the basic feature of nature, then peace for us can only come if we move even further away from our natural tendencies.
War is to do with territorial behaviour, which itself is linked to the natural sexual system of reproduction. Thus war is a sexual phenomenon. It is a typically male behaviour, which is the protection of their families, as well as their search for new pastures in which to mate. Soldiers have a secret motive for going in battle, i.e. the expectation to conquer the male enemy and have the females at their disposal. Triumphant armies always march with admiring women on their vehicles. Occupation forces tend to take the females by money or coercion.
In short, as long as the sexual system continues, there will be wars. We tend to think that there have only been two wars in the past hundred years, the first and second world wars. In fact, there have been hundreds of wars and dozens are going on now. Most are relatively small scale, but they inflict relatively more harm in terms of cruelty, lawlessness, and the destruction of civil life. A serious consequence at present, in view of the overpopulation in the world, especially in areas of conflict, is the flow of refugees from civil wars which is swelling to a tide of migration which other nations cannot or will not cope with. Conflicts between ethnic groups within countries are also likely to increase. Fanned by religious or cultural emotions, this return to a more primitive world cannot but lead to a long period of conflict, violence and human suffering.