[lit-ideas] Re: CFP: PEACE REVIEW on the Psychological Interpretation of War

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 7 Dec 2004 22:50:40 -0800


I copied the "Peace Review" Post down at the bottom.  I found the same thing
"silly" that you did. Koenigsberg addresses war as though it were a
psychological aberration like kleptomania:  They just couldn't help
themselves:  The desire to fight a war became too much for them.  

His article implies that great numbers of people die because of the "appeal"
of war.  Some sort of psychological interpretation needs to be discovered so
that we can put a stop to this, he says.

I too have been interested in the reasons for war, but Koenigsberg and I
seem to have looked in very different places.  I have been reading histories
of war.  I cannot fathom what he has been reading.   I have recently read
several books about the First World War.  There were a variety of smoldering
conflicts.  Leaders mistrusted each other and formed pacts agreeing to come
to each other's aid if another nation attacked them.  When the attack
occurred, the other nations joined in like dominoes falling.  I would be
very interested in learning how Koenigsberg would describe the psychological
aberrations that lead up to World War One.  

Perhaps there is a psychological explanation.  Human nature is such that we
get into conflicts with one another. Conflict of all sorts is human. I've
been in a lot of verbal conflicts with verbally violent pacifists.  I have
often wondered why they argue so violently with me.  The very fact that they
do is evidence that they have not altered their human nature to the point
that were the world peopled with nothing but them, war would be eliminated.

Develop a plague that kills everyone off except the pacifists and in a very
short time someone is going to look about and think, "Hey.  These guys are
all pacifists!  I can take the whole world over and they won't do anything
to stop me."

"Wait, the other pacifists will say.  You too are a pacifist."

"I was," he will say, "but now I'm better."

I could warn him that his plan won't work.  In no time at all, a number of
others will be better too.

Consider this question:  Can human nature be changed so that people will no
longer get into conflicts with each other?  Try it.  Start with the
elimination of conflicts between husbands and wives, parents and children,
and then slowly work your way up to conflicts between nations.  

I don't think these conflicts can be eliminated.  Whenever long periods of
peace have occurred, some nation was perceived to have so much power that
other nations were unwilling to attack it.  But that never lasts.  Perhaps
the U.S. seems that powerful at the moment, but there are Frenchmen, even as
I write this, calculating how many nations they would have to get behind
them to whip the U.S.

Lawrence Helm
San Jacinto

-----Original Message-----
From: Eric Yost

Andy wanted to know: What are some of the bases for the assertion that 
this is a silly thesis?

Andy, I don't save posts, so I can't get too specific unless he spams 

One of the things that struck me was the way he addressed the 
phenomenology of being a soldier without any recourse to what it 
actually feels like to be a soldier.

So instead of discussing what it means to fight in order to protect 
one's comrades, he brought in myth, the unconscious, social contracts, 
and repression of eros. These theoretical constructs can be fun but they 
  have nothing to do with what a soldier experiences.

Anyone who wants to describe X by using a bag of ideas without specific 
reference to X is a tad suspect I think. Maybe Judith remembers more of 
Koenigsburg's screed?


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Special Issue of the PEACE REVIEW on:
"The Psychological Interpretation of War"
Editors, Richard Koenigsberg and Wendy Hamblet

Horace wrote that "it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country." This
thought has echoed through the centuries, punctuating the battle cries of
those who dream of righteous conquest and holy war. Warfare has been
perpetuated to the extent that struggles on the battlefield have been linked
with ideals such as honor, duty, and loyalty.

Yet these words cannot nullify the reality of warfare, which is death,
destruction and devastation.  Gwynne Dyer captures war's essence when he
contends that, by becoming soldiers, "Men agree to die when we tell them

In the  twentieth and  twenty-first century, vast numbers of civilians have
joined soldiers as victims of war. Brzezinski describes the last century as
the "century of the megadeath," estimating that more than 87 million lives
were lost in the wars of the past one-hundred years. In the First World War,
nine-million people died--more than twice as many as had died in wars in the
previous two centuries. Yet the Second World War produced a death toll of
even greater magnitude, estimated at well over fifty-million.

How can we make sense of the ritual of death and destruction in warfare?
What does it mean? What is its continuing appeal? What does its persistence
say about us? This special issue of the PEACE REVIEW on "The Psychological
Interpretation of War" will address these and similar questions, exploring
the human tendency to embrace warfare--in spite of the misery it creates and
disillusionment that follows in its wake. Though warfare is often thought of
as normative if not normal, we shall seek to lift the idea of war out of the
realm of the self-evident and to view it as something extraordinary. 


This special issue will raise vital questions relating to the psychology of
war. For example, how do motives such as fear, humiliation, anger, and the
wish for vengeance become linked to the ideology of warfare? If war indeed
is a socially constructed institution, upon what bases do we construct it?
By virtue of what mechanisms do we turn human "others" into enemies? How do
we come to believe that killing is "necessary" to the creation of a better
world? What is the relationship between the notion of a sacred ideal and the
willingness to kill and to sacrifice one's own life? 


To move toward a world not dominated by warfare, one must do more than
advocate peace. We must begin by interrogating the sources of war's appeal.
In this special issue of the PEACE REVIEW, we seek to publish outstanding
papers that explore the mystery of the human attraction to an institution
whose primary product has been suffering and death.




Please send a two-hundred word abstract proposing your essay to the PEACE
REVIEW EDITORS, Richard Koenigsberg, Ph. D. and Wendy C. Hamblet, Ph. D. to
arrive no later than December 31, 2004 to PsychologyofWar@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx


The Peace Review


Peace Review is a quarterly, multidisciplinary, transnational journal of
research and analysis, focusing on the current issues and controversies that
underlie the promotion of a more peaceful world. Social progress requires,
among other things, sustained intellectual work, which should be pragmatic
as well as analytical. The task of the journal is to present the results of
this research and thinking in short, accessible and substantive essays.
Recent contributors include Richard Rorty, Stephen Zunes and Drucilla


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