Societies, and the interactions between them, are usually evaluated and understood through a binary of peace and war. Peace is defined as the absence of war, that is, a time in which cooperation, not conflict, governs the goings on of the citizenry. War, a time of not-peace, is defined as the opposite: when conflict between peoples becomes so great that cooperation is not possible, and when domination is pursued as the means of securing power or value. I want to dispel this notion, and posit that war is the only state in which man finds himself. Peace, or the supposed absence of war, is still war, but one in which the bearing of arms and killing of one’s opponent is not deemed worthy to pursue. War, or the formal conflict between two nations or states, is the inherent conflict present within populations reaching a boiling point, and once this threshold is passed the taking up of arms is deemed worthy and a justifiable means.
By categorizing peace as war, I think it gives the casual observer of history a better model for political thought, since wars (those formalized by history and declarations) are often looked at as outside the domestic issues of a country leading up to war being declared by a state institution. For example, if one looks at the period before US involvement in Europe during World War 2 through the traditional peace-war binary, one will assume that the US was at peace before involving itself in the war. This is not true, and one can fall error to assuming that it was external, European influences which brought the United States into the war. By assuming that every state of man’s nature is one of war, then one can look at countries internally. This theory posits that a country who is not at war with another country is currently at war with itself, and once this war is thoroughly solved or unsolved will the country declare war on another country.
Man’s fundamental nature is that of war. Man needs resources to survive, and there are not enough resources on the Earth to supply each man with the resources he feels he needs. This leads to conflict, which can be dealt with in infinite ways, with some being more violent than others. Markets have become readily recognized as the most efficient and least violent means of distributing goods along efficient means, but that does not make the market itself an object of peace. Conflict still arises, and trade is the mechanism for which to delay, or provide an alternative to, violence. Because of scarcity, all men must go to war to secure the resources they require. If left alone, and with no modern inventions that make violence less and less justifiable, man will use violence to secure the things he desires, or he will starve. If there is no store to secure food, a man may steal food from a neighbor, thus committing an act of war against him. If a man cannot find what he needs to be obtainable in a non-violent means, he will use violence. The invention of violence-softening apparatus, such as storefronts, allows man to seek what he desires and to obtain it, all without using violence. Man’s inherent war-like nature is thus pushed underneath the surface, but not changed or eliminated in any way. If scarcity is present, or is perceived to be present, then men will resort to their fundamental nature to acquire the resources they need.
Violence undergirds every interaction a man finds himself in and is the primal means of advancing a man’s position in society. Society, thus, is the product of numerous individuals going to war with one another. Just as in wars between countries, some men may find it beneficial to ally themselves with men of the same goals and purpose, so that together they can wage economic war more effectively. This is called business. If in business, or the waging of war through economic means, a large enough population of defeated men, those at the bottom of the economic rung, become too dissatisfied with the terms of their economic defeat, they may band together to effectively battle the economic elite.
All internal social conflicts, those that stay within a state’s borders, are wars. Even if the bearing and taking up of arms is not happening on a large scale, groups are still coming into conflict. The resource of power, in a political context, is a finite resource, otherwise all men would hold power, thus rendering power meaningless. Again, there is a jockeying process in which one group asserts dominance over another. Just as in the economic sense, if one group feels that they are not able to secure enough political power for their desires, that group may take up arms and use violence.
This inherent reaction to scarcity is war, according to my definition. I find this more useful, because instead of perceiving history as the fluctuation between two phases: that of peace and war, I posit that history is the story of restraining man’s warlike nature. Technology acts to submerge the war instinct, since it lowers the perception of scarcity, at least in terms of things necessary for man’s survival. By looking at history as a dialectic between war and peace, one assumes that peace is inherent in man. I do not think this is the case. If this were true, if there was an instinct to be peaceful, then men who did not have the resources they require would simply submit to failure and death. This is clearly not the case, so it is then reasonable to conclude that peace, or the appearance of peace, simply signifies a period where scarcity has been combated effectively.
War is not a moral good, nor a moral failing. It is neutral, because it is a reaction to environmental conditions, and not a conscious ideology formulated outside the constraints of reality. Man is thus a creature in a constant state of reaction. Man cannot act, he simply reacts. For example, if a man is hungry, he seeks food. He does not seek food until he has felt hunger. A man who has never experienced hunger would not know to find food, since eating food does not exist as an independent act, as it has a reason for its occurrence. All of man’s actions are reactions, since there is no way to understand them other than understanding the environmental conditions which led to the action. A man does not speak unless he feels what he thinks has been unsaid, or that it needs to be said. If the man who wishes to speak has no other men with which to speak to, he will never actually find himself with the need to speak, since he will have nothing that he is reacting to. If a man finds himself in extended solitude, he may find himself speaking to no one, he must create actions for which to react.
By categorizing war and man’s fundamental reactionary nature as part of the same essence, I find it much easier to understand an array of modern social dilemmas. For example, in the current political arena of the United States, many different groups are competing for power. The United States is at war. I predict that once these groups have settled themselves in a satisfactory manner, the United States will find itself at war with another nation, since the war instinct will have moved outward. In times of social unrest, scarcity of a sought-after resource has become increased, and more and more individuals are forming collective groups with the hope of securing that scarce resource for themselves. Currently, in the United States, political power is the sought-after resource. Once political power has been obtained, and the winners of the power game have decided they have had enough, will the conflict stop. On the inverse, if the losers of the political game feel that they lost too much, then they may initiate violence to secure more power.
The problem with many self-professed pacifist movements in contemporary politics, such as Libertarianism, is their inability to seize control over a resource. The non-aggression principle, a commonly referred to Libertarian talking point, asserts that the use of force in an initiatory context is a moral wrong and must be avoided. Only after someone has violated your right to be free from force is it then justifiable to use force. What believers of this motto do not realize, or do not care to realize, is that there is no definition, or even discussion, about what constitutes aggression. If one’s place on the resource hierarchy is being threatened in a way that does not threaten one’s life, is force justified to secure oneself? At what point does simple annoyance move into aggression?
Libertarianism forgets that all men must use aggression first and solely as their means of securing resources. If one only uses force in a reactionary context, one will always lose, since they are never able to secure resources for themselves. Libertarianism assumes that every man is equal in their resources, and that never will two men find themselves in conflict over the same resource. Let us pretend to be in a supermarket aisle, if only for a moment. You are standing at the tomato sauce section, and notice there is only one can of tomato sauce left to buy. You have no food at home, so that tomato can is the only means of eating dinner you have available. As you realize this and prepare to grab the can, another man comes up and grabs it off the shelf. He committed no act of aggression towards you, he did not violate your sanctity in any way. You didn’t own that can, and you didn’t even add your labor to it to make it yours (As Locke would say). Nothing about the other man’s actions hurt you in any way directly, yet they clearly impact you. You are going to sleep hungry for the night, even though no one directly initiated violence against you.
Using the war instinct framework (Or whatever you want to call the line of thought in this essay) one could fairly argue that you had the right to take the tomato sauce can from the other man. In an environment of scarcity, one must secure resources to survive, and it is your only duty to care for your own needs. Now, perhaps society has disincentivized using violence to get the sauce can from the other man (Jail, police, courts, cheaper prices, etc.), but this does not address the fundamental issue of you going hungry for the night.
Pacifist movements have no means of securing resources because they assume ownership of resources is already decided. If resources are already owned, but you do not have enough, pacifism’s only response is “too bad for you”. Only an ideology based on reaction can thoroughly sort out this issue, since reaction is the only means of securing well-being. Securing resources for yourself is the end, and the means are what politics hopes to solve using as little violence as possible.
A problem I see arising in the current political environment is the presence of positive ideologies. Positive ideologies are ideologies which assert a higher form of man’s being, and offer a deliverance from man’s animal, flawed nature into a higher form of kindness and fairness. These ideologies will not last, because man is incapable of separating his nature from scarcity. Scarcity is what governs man’s actions, and not a higher force of ascension. The inherent quality of things to degrade is proof that man’s fundamental nature is no different from the reality he finds himself, and an attempt to make man forget this is a means of seizing control over his faculties. Ideologies should operate in accordance with reality’s laws, otherwise the only result is bitterness from those fooled into believing. If an ideology posits that it can give everyone political power, it means it will take political power, since power must be structured hierarchically if it is to have any meaning at all.
What political groups who claim to want to give everyone political power mean is that they will singularly have all the political power, and they will make decisions on behalf of those whose power the group took. Political parties act as a means of centralizing power, not distributing it.
If war is inherent, if it is the central mode of operation for all men, then what should the goal of politics be? Instead of promoting peace, should we seek to restrain war? Remember, war itself is morally neutral, as are all things not yet judged by man. War has certain qualities, of which must be dissected before any serious solution-oriented conversation can take place. War is competitive, meaning that it is hierarchical. Those who win war reside at the top, and those who lose at the bottom. War is also usually waged in teams, since it becomes easier to exert more force and power when many men agree than in solitude. War is destructive, as in it is waged for the purpose of reshaping the current situation, to change it in some manner. In this way war is also constructive, since a replacement structure must be substituted and implemented by the victors, otherwise war will continue. War is also capable of being pulled back, meaning that war is capable of being stopped, once it is realized by those involved that further war at the same intensity does no one any good. War acts as a self-regulating mechanism of sorts, then, since it can restrain itself, and set the rules for which it will be waged.
The political process can thus be seen as a means of regulating the rules of war. Men have agreed, and found, that extended wars or overly destructive wars have negative consequences for every party, and thus have decided that war must be fought using different weapons, such as the law and finance. War has not gone away; it has just shifted forms. Any political scientist must then realize that war cannot be ended, it must be regulated. A system must be set up that allows for constant war but has internal mechanisms in which to restrain or encourage it. A certain level of war is always needed, else a worse war will be formed later. War must be allowed to constantly be waged at an acceptable level, so that the instinct is fed and not allowed to starve. Just as a starving bear will act more violent, a society of so-called peace and unity will lead men to become more war-like.
The United States became one of the only countries to realize the truth about war, and therefore it is so uniquely successful. There is no central American identity, but there is a sense of respect to one’s fellow citizens. War is the way of life in America, but the state acts as referee, allowing men to wage war in means that do not overly burden everyone else.
Sports teams are a perfect example of regulated war and shows that when men can act according to their fundamental nature, remarkable shows of cooperation, skill, and brotherhood are seen. Any political society must understand the function of war and must create mechanisms which foster it.
Societies which discourage war among citizens are known as tyrannies and autocracies. Unity, and a sense of overwhelming loyalty to the class struggle or nation’s leader leads men to become resentful, since they are not able to war with one another in a constructive manner. What these regimes inadvertently, or perhaps purposefully, do is discourage completely any cooperative, war-like behavior that does not actively support the state. By making cooperative war illegal, a state makes all its citizens at war with each other. Now, citizens compete for political power with each other, and are not able to unite to promote a common cause. By centralizing political power in the state, all non-ruling class citizens are left at war with each other, since no mechanism exists in which cooperation will lead to victory. All resources are owned by the state, making war with the state the only means.
If a state instead seeks to detach itself from all resources, that is, allow the populace to organize themselves, that state will find that prosperity is not far behind. This is because men can cooperate with one another, and wage wars against other teams of people. This cooperation breeds connection among team members, and a higher sense of identity, since individuals now perceive themselves as part of a larger context. By letting war take place, the system is constantly updated and changed, and since the state has no investment in what form the system takes, it allows individuals to organize themselves in the most efficient means. Now, the role of the state is not to simply disappear, it must set the framework for which war will be fought within. War is self-regulating, but usually only after a fair amount of destruction has taken place. The state in this system acts as moderator, and instead of limiting men in their actions, seeks to guide them in the right direction. The state sets limits but does not stop actions. The state’s job is to foster war as much as possible, since it is the constant state of economic war which allows prosperity and wealth to be formed. The state must also act when war gets out of hand. In this sense, the state must treat the populace as a tea kettle of boiling water.
If the pot is too cold, that is, if war is not taking place, the tea will not brew. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure that competition can take place over goods. If too many goods are being hoarded by one man, the state must distribute his goods so that other men can compete for them. This is the worst situation for a state to be in, since it means it has created a society which encourages laziness and decadence and is historically the hardest to right. If the kettle is too hot, the water will boil over and spill. This is undesirable, but less so. It is easier to cool off water than to start the fire with which to boil it, but the state still must step in with equal ferocity to ensure that the society does not come apart.
This middle ground between too cold and too hot is where the state should seek to keep the society, since it is in this range that productivity is maximized, and harm is minimized. In this way, morality has no bearing on state policy, since it is not the state’s job to tell its citizens how to act, but to limit them to stay away from extremes. The state should only focus on making sure that war is fought at a consistently moderate level. This means that the tools of the state are much less since the state is only concerned with placing a finger on the scale to rebalance it. A heavy-handed state that has too many resources under its control has to it a heavy weight, and this weight can tip the moderation of war too far in either direction. The state must treat its society as a fire. Keep it lit, but don’t let it burn down the entire forest.