Writings and Philosophies of

Wanda M. Woodward, Ph.D.

Peace Studies II

By Wanda M. Woodward, Ph.D.

Question #1: To what extent, if any, are war and violence "in our genes" and/or "hardwired" into our brains & physiology? Even if war is not "innate" to humans, does not the continuation and intensification of destructive conflicts in the 20th century confirm the ethological/socio-biological approach, or a Hobbesian view of homo sapiens as a species of killer?

Question #2: Is there any evidence for a disinclination to kill other humans? If people are "naturally" inclined to be "peaceful," why have wars been so numerous and vicious? Is the hope to "end war" unrealistic and doomed to failure?

Beginning in the late 1800s, a number of biological based scientific and psychological theories fostering the concept of a biological derivative of aggress have been posited and widely accepted. These theoretical models validate and affirm masculine superiority and dominance over females, and further embedded androcentric beliefs into the collective psyche. Challenges to these theories have arisen over the past several decades mostly by social and peace psychologists whose research suggests that socio-economic factors are related to war and violence. Both sides of the camps have persuasive arguments.

Biological based theories surfaced first and were followed by psychological theories which used the biological theories to support their position. Both have played a principal role in promulgating the theory that men are "hardwired" for aggression. It is perhaps Darwin's (1869) theory of evolution which is primarily responsible for the instinctivist thoughts on violence and war in man. Darwin's theory promoted biological superiority as a form of survival in a never ending dog-eat-dog existence. According to Darwin, all living things are in perpetual conflict due to the inevitable and unceasing tension between limited natural and mineral resources and overpopulation. Alfred R. Wallace, the co-discoverer of natural selection, presented his paper at the same time as Darwin and uses the same themes of the animal kingdom to support his theory. Wallace stated that animals and plants are in "a struggle for existence, in which the weakest and least perfectly organized must always succumb" (cited in Augros & Stancui, 1988, p. 89). The biologist, Thomas Huxley, was a friend of Darwin and defended his theory. According to Huxley: "The animal world is on about the same level as a gladiator's show. The strongest, the swiftest and the cunningest live to fight another day... no quarter is given" (cited in Augros & Stancui, 1988, p. 89). These theorists overlooked the role that socio-cultural factors play in fostering aggression and violence.

Specifically related to physical violence and war, these theorists were mostly referring to the male gender as Keen (1986) points out that war is notably a masculine endeavor. Darwin's theory that "all nature is at war" and that "all organic beings are exposed to severe competition" (cited in Augros & Stanciu, 1988, p. 89) set the stage for a law of genetics. Since "laws" are fixed and immutable, it has been a challenge for those who oppose these theories.

In the Oedipal complex theory, Freud (1925/1959) took parts of the myth of King Oedipus and developed a theory of universal child development whereby the little boy is in love with his mother, jealous of his rival father, and desires and fantasizes about killing his father as a way to finally achieve the ultimate goal of marrying his mother. Thus, male dominance and aggression, according to Freud, begin in early childhood. With 'normal' psychosexual development, the little boy, between the ages of three and five years, becomes keenly aware of two issues critical to healthy psychological development: 1. his 'superior' genitalia, i.e, his penis, and 2. he can never marry his mother. With further 'normal' development, the little boy sublimates the desire to marry his mother, thereby resolving the Oedipal complex and, instead, develops a strong superego, forms an idealized projection onto the father and begins his 'normal' identification with masculinity and its outcome of psychological superiority. This theoretical model contributes to the maintenance of a social and cultural milieu which upholds the inherent superiority of masculinity in biological, psychological, social, political, and economic realms. It also sets the stage for the cultural approval of "power over" struggles. Freud's personal masculine bias becomes evident when reviewing a verbal exchange made between Freud and a student of his, Dr. Worthis, who asked a question pertaining to equality in marriage, "But don't you think it would be the best if both partners were equal?" to which Freud replied: "That is a practical impossibility. There must be inequality and the superiority of man is the lesser of two evils" (cited in Fromm, 1959, p. 28-29).

Feminists such as Chodorow (1989) have argued that Freud was a misogynist and that his theories about gender development were merely hypotheses that he put forward to support his personal biases about male superiority which, in turn, advance his biological theory of aggression. One may perceive how this theoretical model has contributed to the maintenance of a cultural and social milieu which buttresses the inherent superiority of patriarchy in biological, psychological, social, political, and economic realms.

Adding weight to the theory of instinctual roots of violence, Freud posited the theory of thanatos, or the death instinct, as being an innate drive toward death and destruction which is in constant conflict with the drive toward life, or eros. He believed this was inborn and that there was no correlation of this inner drive to external events or experience (Barash, 2000; Berkowitz, 1990). Freud referred to the death instinct as "the destructive instinct, the instinct for mastery, or the will to power" (cited in Miedzian, 2002, p. 60). To Freud, all human beings wanted to die because death meant the end of constant unconscious conflict between the id, ego, and superego. Man, Freud believed, had a primitive, spontaneous urge to discharge the inner tension between the desire to live and the desire to die and, because death is fearful, the individual projects the death instinct toward others in the form of acts of aggression and violence. Through this biological deterministic lens, human beings are understood as being unable to evolve and overcome these immutable instinctual urges. Notably, to Freud, "conflicts of interest between man and man are resolved, in principle, by the recourse to violence" (cited in Barash, 2000, p. 9).

While these instinctive theories of aggression doom mankind to an eternal existence of generational warfare over issues of survival and power struggles, most sociologists believe that violence is learned or is initiated due to socio-economic factors and that, absent these factors, humankind would not be prone to violence. A notable exception to this is one of the founders of American sociology, William Graham Sumner, who takes a different position from many sociologists stating that "men love war" (cited in Barash, 2000, p. 24) and that evil is an inherent part of human nature. He believes that it is the conflict of interest in striving to obtain natural and mineral resources, or what he calls the "competition for life" (p. 23), that undergirds war.

As sociologist Karl Ludsen points out, "appeals to instinctive or generic explanations of violence doom mankind to a perpetual state of hostility" (cited in Nagler, 1982, p. 3). Some sociologists have pointed to field studies by ecologists who have yielded substantial evidence of cooperation, interdependence, and mutualism within the plant and animal kingdoms (Augros & Stanciu, 1988). Their research indicates that interspecific competition---competition between species---is not as common as many think. Food specialization, spatial division of habitat (migration), and division of habitat according to time are ways that nature prevents competition. One species of bird eats one kind of seed while another species eats a different kind. Different species of the same animal family co-exist because live in separate geographical locations. Along the shore in Hawaii, there are five species of the cone-shelled, carnivorous snail that live harmoniously apart from each other in five contiguous strips. Two ecological communities, the diurnal and noctural, live side by side. For instance, moths feed on flowers during the daytime which avoids competition with bees.

These ecologists' research indicates that mutual harm between animal species is not prevalent unless there is some interference by man. Ecologist Daniel Simberloff points out that it is rare to observe two animals, particularly from different species, competing for the same piece of meat. John Weins and John Rotenberry are ecologists who conducted a three year study of breeding birds in America and who observed that birds did not seem to exhibit a lot of competition, rather used "resources more or less opportunistically" (cited in Augros & Stanciu, 1988, p. 90). Frits Went is a plant physiologist who comments that there is "no violent struggle between plants, no warlike mutual killing, but a harmonious development on a share-and-share basis. The cooperative principle is stronger than the competitive one" (p. 93). The research by these ecologists clearly rejects Darwinian theory.

Erich Fromm and Erik Erikson, noted psychoanalysts, attributed aggression to a confluence of intrapsychic conflict and influences from culture, society, and environment (Barash & Webel, 2002). Fromm attributes alienation from others as a key factor in the avenging of their pain by acts of violence. He noted that they are also vulnerable to joining violent organizations such as the Klu Klux Klan in which their individual hatred is melded with the group enmity against a common enemy. Erikson highlighted that changing societies set the stage for unresolved stresses and ambiguities that are added to a person's psychosocial developmental problems to produce totalism. He defined this as a type of black-white thinking in which people are either all good or all bad and in which the individual is assumed to be "good" while the enemy is perceived as all "bad."

The frustration-aggression hypothesis developed by psychiatrist, John Dollard, and his colleagues proposes that aggression is produced by frustration. When humans seek things such as food and water, uniting with another similar group of people, or democracy, if they are unsuccessful in achieving that goal, this leads to frustration, then aggression. Building on Dollard's theory, modifications to the theory state that there is an intervening stage between frustration and violence in which the person develops the emotional stage of anger. Furthermore, there must be some external cues which act to converge with the frustration and anger in order for violence and war to erupt.

Theodor Adorno, a German philosopher, along with his colleague, Nevitt Sanford, social psychologist, teamed up after WWII to conduct studies to find answers to the causes of the Holocaust. Their research suggested that the authoritarian personality which engenders an autocratic and militaristic approach to social conflicts is strongly correlated with antidemocratic ideologies.

Contemporary scientists and social and peace psychologists have made cogent arguments that the determinants of violence are learned though structural and cultural aspects of society such as the violence seen in the media, or structural components such as racism, poverty, lack of opportunity (Galtung cited in Barash, 2000; Pilisuk, 1998; Berkowitz, 1990), or what Staub (1996) refers to as "difficult life conditions in a society... these include severe economic problems, intense political conflict, substantial and rapid technological and social change, and combinations of all these conditions" (p. 118). Geofrey Blainey, war analyst, believes that war is simply a matter of power conflicts while Michael Howard argues that war between nations is a result of the fear of restriction or extermination of people (cited in Barash, 2000). Social psychologist, Irvin Janis, argues that imperfect cognition, what he refers to as "groupthink," is the cause of war. He states the "deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures" (cited in Barash, 2000, p. 31) is the genesis of war. Meanwhile, anthropologist Margaret Mead, makes a convincing case of the cause of war being a socio-cultural invention not dissimilar from marriage, trial by jury, and the ritual of burying the dead. Citing supporting evidence, Mead remarks that the Eskimos are an example of a culture of men who resort to altercations, murder, and even cannibalism, but, interestingly, they do not wage wars. Additionally, the Pueblo Indians will only go to war as a defense, not offensively.

Proponents of learned aggression due to androcentric sociocultural norms are persuasive. Miedzian (2002) notes that, in American culture, there is a long parental tradition of rearing boys "to be tough, emotionally detached, deeply competitive, and concerned with dominance" (p. 178). She goes on to state that men who are on the lower end of the social hierarchy are more likely to prove their masculinity through violence. Mark May, another sociologist, argued that men are socialized early in childhood to hate through competitive games, military training, sociocultural beliefs, and adopting certain ideologies (Barash & Webel, 2002). Psychologists Albert Bandura admits to biological and genetic factors as influencers of violence, but after 30 years of research on aggression concludes there are three main sources of violence in the social environment: the modeling and reinforcement in the family, the subculture, and mass media, with television in particular (Miedzian, 2002, p. 63).

There is further evidence that some humans are disinclined to violence when we examine certain individuals who have attained a high level of spiritual maturity, or what has been called "spiritual enlightenment." Spiritual enlightenment, according to Buddhists, is the realization of the true nature of reality. Some of the more noted historical examples are Siddhartha Guatama (the Buddha), Jesus the Christ, and Mahatma Gandhi. If we examine the life of Mahatma Gandhi, it is possible to see that violence is not a predestined state for man.

Unlike a trait or passion which develops suddenly or slowly after some adult circumstance or event, such as occurs in epiphanies, Gandhi was born with an innate love of truth. As he grew older, this passion to seek truth was understood as an even larger desire to seek God through the act of seeking truth. Indeed, for Gandhi, God was Absolute Truth and the only essence that is real (Gandhi, 1983, p. ix). It is this uncompromising pursuit of truth through non-violence, what he called ahimsa, that was Gandhi's social and political alchemy. He embodied it for spiritual growth, but he also utilized it as a political and social force for change. For him, "truth and non-violence are... faces of the same coin" (Gandhi, 1961, p. 17), and ahimsa was both a strategy and a tool whereby Gandhi hoped to change the manner in which conflict, no matter how large, could be approached. Ahimsa has been mistaken as a kind of passive resistance, but Gandhi intended it to mean an active courage and strength to resist violence and to meet the adversary with unwavering and absolute virtues of compassion, kindness, respect, and truth.

The tenets of ahimsa were traits that Gandhi carried within himself. He was a fierce proponent of "soul-force... but another name for love-force" (Gandhi, 1983, 405). For him, truth and love were the essence of the Soul, and were intimately intertwined. Since "purity is an inherent attribute of the Soul" (Gandhi, 1983, p. 276), then truth and love had to be present and pure in order for the Soul to be operative. "Truth is the sovereign principle," he said (Gandhi, 1983, p. ix), and subsumed within that principle are many other principles such as love and non-violence. For Gandhi, the constant wooing of truth was a sacred path which, if sufficiently resolute, would only result in more benefits. He said, "Truth is like a vast tree, which yields more and more fruit, the more you nurture it" (Gandhi, 1983, p. 191). In order to be a person who seeks truth passionately and doggedly, love must also be a guiding principle. The way to subdue conflict was to love your enemy. Indeed, Gandhi said, "conquer your foe with love" (Gandhi, 1961, p. 17). Truth, as understood as another face of love, was this supreme goodness. Gandhi believed that the law of love was more potent than the law of destruction (Gandhi, 1961), that it had "infinite possibilities" (Gandhi, 1983, p. 140) and that this was evidenced in the fact that, despite destruction, life always manifested. In this sense, he understood love to be an inviolable law not unlike the laws of nature. To Gandhi, every human being is born with an innate goodness.

The means and end of ahimsa are both equal and the same. In order for peace to be an outcome, peace must be the means whereby that outcome is achieved. For Gandhi, there could be no other means. To him, the peace that lies within love is the only elixir strong enough to garner and secure peace on an individual and societal level. Gandhi advocated that the other party in conflicts be treated as equals, not necessarily in worldly title, but in their essence. Each side of a conflict deserves compassion. Ahimsa is, first and foremost, a consciousness of love and compassion for all. As such, whenever conflict arose, each side deserved equal consideration in terms of listening to their position and their needs. In his efforts to help mill-hands agitating for a higher wage who were opposed by the mill owners refusing their demands, Gandhi was clearly an advocate of the workers, but he also was friendly with the owners. It was Gandhi's inherent nature to find the good in everyone including his clients' opponents. When this consciousness manifests, one has attained a state whereby the heart and mind are in alignment, and love and compassion for all overrules the senses and desires of the ego.

Nonviolence was considered equally a science, alongside its psychological, religious, and ethical aspects. Gandhi referred to its scientific features saying:

The law of love will work, just as the law of gravitation will work, whether we accept it or not. Just as a scientist will work wonders out of various applications of the law of nature, even so a man who applies the law of love with scientific precision can work greater wonders. For the force of non-violence is infinitely more wonderful and subtle than the material forces of nature, like, for instance, electricity. The men who discovered for us the law of love were greater scientists than any of our modern scientists. Only our explorations have not gone far enough and so it is not possible for everyone to see all its workings. (Gandhi, 1961, p. 17).

Science is the study of phenomena that is consistent, reliable, and predictable. To Gandhi, the law of love, of doing no harm to another, had consistent and predictable outcomes. It is antithetical to the Hobbesian philosophy (MacIntyre, 1996) which argues that humans have an innate proclivity toward satisfying selfish desires. Gandhi was highly successful in implementing non-violence. He felt that a larger scale application of ahimsa would bear out the truth of its effectiveness.

Who can definitively say that man is doomed to violence? Substantial evidence exists in favor of it. There is an appreciable cultural and scientific bias toward theories of biological determinism which continues to provide validation for an innate masculine dominance and aggression. Yet, there clearly are examples of groups of people and specific individuals which give us persuasive evidence that man is not biologically destined to be violent. It seems that there is a possibility that every one of these theorists is correct depending upon the evolution of that person or group of people. In other words, there may be some people who are biologically predisposed to violence while others are influenced mostly by socio-cultural factors such as poverty. And there are individuals whose spiritual enlightenment affords them a perspective of harmlessness.


Augros, R., & Stanciu, G. (1988). The new biology. Boston: Shambhala.

Barash, D.P. (2000). Approaches to peace. New York: Oxford University Press.

Barash, D.P., & Webel, C.P. (2002). Peace and conflict studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Berkowitz, L. (1990). Biological roots: Are humans inherently violent? In B. Glad (Ed.), Psychological dimensions of war (pp. 24-40). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Chodorow, N. J. (1989). Feminism and psychoanalytic theory. Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky.

Darwin, C. (1859/1952). The origin of species by means of natural selection: In R. M. Hutchins (Ed.), Great books of the Western World, 49, 253-600. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica.

Freud, S. (1925/1959). Some psychological consequences of the anatomical distinction between the sexes. In E. Jones (Ed.), Sigmund Freud: Collected papers, 5, 186-197. New York: Basic Books.

Fromm, E. (1959). Sigmund Freud's mission: An analysis of his personality and influence. New York: Grove Press.

Gandhi, M. (1961). Non-violent resistance. New York: Schocken Books.

Gandhi, M. (1983). Mohandas K. Gandhi autobiography: The story of my experiments with truth. New York: Dover.

Michaud, S. G. (n.d.) Why serial killers must kill to feel. Retrieved 8/7/05, from http://www.crimelibrary.com/criminal_mind/psychology/hollow/4.html?sect=1

Miedzian, M. (2002). Boys will be boys: Breaking the link between masculinity and violence. New York: Lantern Books.

Nagler, M. (1982). The lie of otherness. In M. Nagler, American without violence: Why violence persists and how you can stop it (pp. 3-30). Covela, CA: Island Press.

Pilisuk, M. (1998). The hidden structure of contemporary violence. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 4 (3), 197-216.

Staub, E. (1996). Cultural-societal roots of violence: The examples of genocidal violence and of contemporary youth violence in the Unites States. American Psychologist, 51(2), 117-132.

Assignment IIB

Question #1: What is meant by "collective security" and "balance of power"? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of analyzing war in this way.

There is no explicit, formal agreement between any countries in a balance of power. There is a tacit understanding between governments/states that there will be a balance of power so that no one country becomes excessively powerful over the others. Balance of power is a form of deterrence in which an aggressor agrees to refrain from attacking a more powerful country (Barash & Webel, 2002). Unlike a balance of power, a collective security involves the express, open, declared commitment between countries who collectively agree not to wage war against each other and agree to unite and go to war against any member within the collective who attacks another member.

Since balance of power is based on military strength alone, there is the constant need to maintain arms and, the more deadly they are, the more strength that country is perceive to have. Constant shifts in alliance between countries occur so that no one country becomes too powerful. Wars tend to begin based upon specific, limited goals rather than on a universal goal such as "spreading democracy." WWII was fought, in large part, because Churchill demanded that the Allies intervene to avoid rule by one dictator: Hitler. Whether morally right or wrong, WWII was fought less to save millions of Jews, Christians, homosexuals, and disabled people from genocide than from the issue of an unwanted egregious imbalance of power.

It is unclear whether balance of power actually inhibits wars from breaking out. Proponents of balance of power say it does deter war, but that cannot be proven. During the unipolar power of Rome, there was relative peace. There have been no recent wars between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico even though there is clearly an imbalance of power. Wars can break out under a balance of power and the Cuban Missile Crisis, had it ended in war, was one example. This proves that misunderstandings and misperceptions can lead to war regardless of whether there is a balance of power or collective security. The U.S. went to war in Iraq for at least two political reasons: 1. oil, and 2. to avoid an imbalance of power should America become excessively dependent upon non-democratic Middle Eastern countries for oil.

Critics of balance of power point out that underlying the theory is a tacit assumption that a stronger nation can aggress against a weaker one. Also, when slight imbalances of power occur such as when one country rapidly expands in military strength, it can provoke war. A current example of the upset of balance of power lies with the current Bush administration. In December 2001, the Bush administration notified Russia in 2001 that the U.S. was withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, an important treaty negotiated 30 years ago during the Cold War in which there was a sort of balance of powers established (Sanger, 2001). This withdrawal marked the first formal unilateral withdrawal of a major power from a nuclear arms treaty and it also triggered Russia to withdraw from its commitments under the START II arms reduction treaty. Then in 2002, the Department of Defense presented the Nuclear Posture Review to Congress which expanded the range of situations in which the U.S. could use nuclear weapons allowing the option of using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations. This was another withdrawal from an agreement the U.S. had made in 1995 when it said it would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon parties unless they attacked the U.S. while allied with another nuclear-weapon country. The Nuclear Posture Review to Congress also allowed pre-emptive attacks and permitted the development of nuclear warheads.

In November 2006, the Bush administration posted plans on a public website stating intentions to build nuclear weapons. Immediately following, six Arab nations made formal announcements that they were launching nuclear programs of their own. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that Saudia Arabia, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, the United Arab of Emirates, and Egypt had revealed their nuclear ambitions the prior month and were giving formal notice of those plans. Arms experts called this announcement a "stunning reversal of policy" in the Arab world because of a long past of commitments to a nuclear free Middle East. While the six countries told the IAEA that their intention was the pursuit of nuclear energy, not nuclear weapons, it is clear that nuclear energy technology can be turned into weaponry.

Then in early 2007, Bush announced he was going to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe. Vladimir Putin responded by notifying NATO governments that Russia would suspend its obligations under the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, a cold war treaty that limited arms proliferation (Chivers & Landler, 2007). Putin said that the bullying of President Bush was forcing Russia to make this move because of two reasons: the combination of the U.S. backing away from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and its intention to rearm Eastern Europe.

Barash and Webel (2002) highlight other disadvantages of balance of power:

  1. when war breaks out, the likelihood of other states becoming involved is increased. WWII was one example. Today's Iraq War also threatens to widen into a broader regional, if not global conflict.
  2. it is a constantly shifting power dynamic that requires constant readjustments.
  3. slight changes by one country can lead to a war. Example: Russia putting nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962 almost led to war.
  4. military alliances can create situations whereby war is made easier because countries are pulled into conflict out of concern for negative affects on "national honor."

A collective security has some advantages over balance of power. In the former, it can be a substantial deterrent if a country knows that by attacking an ally, multiple countries will likely join together to go to war to punish the aggressor. Also, there is an old chestnut: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. This makes sense in forming some type of collective security agreement not only with true allies, but also with countries that are not necessarily friendly.

Disadvantages of collective security are that the agreement itself can become tenuous because of any number of political, social, or economic circumstances that would make the agreement less advantageous and, thus, vulnerable. For example, the non-attacked countries may rely on important natural and mineral resources from the aggressor. By adhering to the agreement of the collective security and entering into the conflagration to aid the attacked country, it may create economic hardships for other non-attacked countries. Also, if one country aggresses against another in the collective, other countries may fail to come to the aid of the attacked country because of the enormous economic, infrastructural, and humanitarian costs of war, and because of failure to generate sufficient popular will in support of entering the war. Even boycotts can cause economic hardships that would pose too great a strain on a country's economy and inhibit a country in the collective from coming to the aid of its ally. In the extreme case, allies in a collective can attack one another based upon many factors including misunderstandings and poor diplomacy.

In sum, both balance of power and collective security rely on military strength as the underpinning to deter conflict; both can, and have, led to war. Perhaps most importantly, both offer tenuous promise for negative peace and virtually no hope for positive peace.

Question #2: Is it desirable to think of any one religious or ideological approach to war and peace as valid?

Although all religions and major moral and ethical traditions have love and peace as core and ultimate ideals, there are significant differences in the definitions of peace and war as well as different ideas as to the means to achieve peace. It is difficult to say which one has superiority over the other rather it may be more accurate to reflect upon them as existing on a continuum of the evolution of human consciousness. In other words, some traditions are more psychologically and/or spiritually more mature than others. Let us examine some of the more widely known and influential.

Just War doctrine is the most influential moral approach to war and has derived from Christian theologians (Barash & Webel, 2002). Most credit is given to St. Augustine of Hippo and to a lesser degree St. Thomas of Aquinas who followed Augustine's thinking on many theological issues. The recourse to war, jus ad bellum, and the conduct of war, jus in bello, provide the acceptable moral conditions for going to war. Under jus ad bellum, there must first be a competent authority who wages war. In today's society, this poses problems because of organizations and individuals who invoke war as a form of revolution against so-called "competent government authorities" who are corrupt and/or tyrannical. Additionally, declaring war has become problematic in a world in which the timing of war is made quickly as a strategic maneuver.

Second, the "just cause" doctrine of being either a defensive war or a war to protect interests can easily be manipulated and expanded in meaning. For example, today's war in Iraq was initially presented to the world as a pre-emptive attack by the U.S. on Iraq under the auspices of defending against a so-called "imminent" attack of weapons of mass destruction. This was later proven to be false and many people believe was a willful falsehood presented to justify an otherwise illegal war.

Exhausting all other avenues prior to waging war, while admirable, can also be used by an aggressor and interpreted to suit the goal of war, not peace. With hidden agendas of taking land mass, stealing natural and mineral resources, and confiscating populations for slave labor or sexual slaves, an aggressor can use reasons such as "spreading freedom" as a political ruse to hide the underlying unjust reason for waging war.

Third, right intention has its vulnerabilities as well. It is humanly impossible to kill others while simultaneously having an authentic charitable disposition. Once the psyche has initiated killing as its goal and the enemy has been formed as a psychic projection, it is necessary to internalize hatred to achieve the objective of death of the enemy (Keen, 1988). One cannot willfully and gleefully kill a loved one.

Fourth, while the principle of a defensive just war has some moral justification, that of offensive just wars is dubious. The horrific "Holy Wars" of Christian Catholics were justified as a form of holy vindication which could be easily justified by reading certain passages from the Old Testament. This only serves to make the aforementioned point that the cause of wars can be easily justified by the aggressor simply by citing some religious or moral precept when, in actuality, the real reason for war is unsupported by the original just war doctrine.

Fifth, the core principle of just war---the proportion between ends and means---is a difficult strategic and mental exercise. This principle states that the probable good anticipated from the evil of war must be greater. Who is to define what "good" means? And who is to say that the likelihood of that "good" will be greater than the evil of killing? Moreover, consideration must be made for effects on third parties and the international community. In today's interdependent global society, this is even more important.

In the conduct of war, jus in bello, the principles of proportion and discrimination emerge. The aggressor must use proportionality between the means of war (weapons) and the ends of war. For instance, the aggressor violates this tenet when using nuclear weapons or chemical or biological weapons on an enemy who only has guns and hand grenades. The discrimination principle of not purposely attacking noncombatants is one of the most violated tenets of war in the latter 20th and early 21st century. In fact, there was an increasingly larger proportion of civilians being targeted during wartime in the latter 20th century than in any wars prior (Barash, 2000; Barash & Webel, 2002). Combined with the fact that war is causing unprecedented numbers of people to be refugees and internally displaced persons, the overall effect on noncombatants is overwhelming. The effect it is having on the world community is also large as refugees seek asylum and safety in nearby or far away countries.

Other religious war ethics include the Islamic jihad in which the warrior is assured a place in heaven although many Islamic scholars point out that this is a misinterpretation from the original meaning of an internal spiritual war between the forces of worldly senses versus the higher spiritual values and virtues. The Taliban in the Middle East has used this principle to justify its widespread suicide bombings and killings. This ideology has obviously been misinterpreted to justify death and destruction.

Ancient Jews engaged in bloody wars although today's European Jews are relatively peaceful. Today, militant Zionists (both secular and religious) in Israel are advocating for militaristic solutions to the Middle East conflict. The Old Testament version of God as being wrathful and vengeful is usually underlying religious Jewish militancy.

Hinduism has texts such as the Bhagavad Gita which extol war as a duty, even to the extent of sanctioning killing of friends and family. Battle is understood as a divine duty.

Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, has a very long history of using various scriptures to support whatever peaceful or aggressive means or goal that the proponent selects at will. The God of the Old Testament is very different from the Creator in the New Testament with the former, as was previously mentioned, being presented as wrathful, vengeful, and controlling, while the latter is portrayed as loving and compassionate. Depending upon which God a person wishes to worship seems to have a direct relationship to some people's attitude toward war. Many have argued that religion supports war. Pascale notes this in his famous quote: "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction" (cited in Barash & Webel, 2002, p. 413).

While the ancient warring Jews and the Christian "Holy Crusaders" follow the commandments laid down by a wrathful deity, and Just War doctrine is a legacy of Greco-Roman ethics (Barash & Webel, 2002), it is Christian pacifism amongst Quakers and Mennonites, to name a few, that hold the most promise with the Christian community for a positive peace. They are more aligned with Gandhi's ahimsa. Indeed, when Gandhi was once asked what he thought of Christianity, he replied he thought it would be good idea! Some people noting the hypocrisy in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam remark that they are the "three ugly sisters." Voltaire, Marx, and Kierkegaard were three examples of philosophers who wrote about the inconsistencies between Christian religious principles versus their actions. Marx commented on the Christian justification for slavery and serfdom as examples of Christian justification of social oppression which has, of course, led to wars.

Utilitarian vies of war consider only defensive war as justified while absolutists argue that there is no justification for war. Absolutist ethics considers all war as evil even if some good was achieved or some evil was deterred. This sounds optimal in principle, but it strains the compassionate heart to consider that it is acceptable to sit back and do nothing to stop someone like Hitler, Stalin, or Mao Zedung, or do nothing to stop the heinous genocide that occurred in Sierra Leone or Bosnia-Herzgovina, or the horrific genocide and mutilation against men, women, and children in today's Darfur.

Kant was an early proponent of some type of world government which laid down international principles to avoid war. He argued that peace is not a natural state, so it must be established; only when countries treat each other's citizens as means, not ends (objects), is when peace can be attained. There were three principles which Kant proposed: 1. principle of freedom of the members of society, 2. principle of dependence of all as subjects within a common constitutional republic, and 3. the law of equality of society's members (Barash, 2000). He advocated for a type of world government in which each country had rights but was subject to an international code of laws. He believed that human consciousness would evolve one day because "there is... to be found in man a still higher natural moral capacity by the aid of which he will in time gain the mastery over the evil principle in his nature" (cited in Barash, 2000, p. 125).

A. J. Muste, proponent of peace, has said that peace is not only a goal, it must also be the means. This echoes a similar sentiment that wars will end when men refuse to fight in them. Surely when the world was vastly segregated, prior to our current state of global interdependence, and before the invention of nuclear weapons, less incentive existed to consider other people in different countries as equal to ourselves. The ethic of considering all humans as fundamentally equal and that all people deserve social and economic justice is a more recent phenomenon. It usually surfaces only after a spiritual awakening or upon the wise realization that one's welfare is dependent, in large part, upon the welfare of other people in other countries who make goods and provide services for us. The Buddhist tenet of interdependence becomes a truth and the grounded reality for a path to positive peace.


Barash, D.P. (2000). Approaches to peace. New York: Oxford University Press.

Barash, D.P., & Webel, C.P. (2002). Peace and conflict studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Chivers, C.J., & Landler, M. (2007, April 27). Putin to suspend pact with NATO. The New York Times, p. A.1.

Keen, S. (1988). Faces of the enemy: The psychology of enmity. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Sanger, D.E. (2001, December 16). The end of Abm Treaty. The New York Times, p. 4.2.

Assignment IIC:

Is positive peace as much a matter of "national" and "international security" as negative peace?

Positive peace is not only a radically different outcome for society than is negative peace, but it is also based upon a radically different way of perceiving human nature, human potential, and human evolution of consciousness. As such, "national security" and "international security" share the same meaning at the macro level between states that have negative and positive peace, but national and international security have entirely different meanings at the microlevel of society between these different forms of peace.

Barash and Webel (2002) discuss negative and positive peace mostly in terms of the difference between "mainstream Western conservative political ideology" (p. 17) and that of "Anglo-American liberal" (p. 18) perspectives. Some conservatives are militant while, at best, conservatives advocate for negative peace through foreign policies of balance of power, collective security, or "peace through strength." All are based upon Western philosophical principles which date back to ancient Greek political and social thought, but which also have the influence of libertarianism of Hobbes and J.S. Mill. Western conservative ideologues are fierce proponents of individualism, private property, and socioeconomic hierarchies, and the way to achieve and maintain those are through a capitalist society. Like Hobbes and Freud, conservatives believe that man is, at root, aggressive and will never evolve beyond this biologically predisposed nature. No recognition is given to the role that unjust and inequitable socio-economic policies play in male aggression and violence. Conservative thinking is heavily andro-centric, patriarchal, and authoritarian (Barash & Webel, 2002), thus, all political, social, economic, and legal power structures must maintain the status quo of patriarchal supremacy. Socio-economic inequality is an expected and accepted outcome of androcentric, hierarchical power structures such as capitalism. Eighteenth century statesman, Edmund Burke, was a classic example of a vigorous proponent of the supremacy of masculine political and socio-economic supremacy and authority. The ancient western antecedent to this western Anglo-thought is best cited in the words of Roman general, Vegetius, who said that if you want peace, it is best to prepare for war. Underlying this is, as previously stated, the belief that man is forever destined, like animals, to be aggressive, violent, and selfish. With this worldview, it would be reasonable to prepare for perpetual conflict as national and international security would depend upon the ability for each country to best defend against the never ending violence and aggression of males.

Liberals value the principles of the inherent equality of all humanity, the interdependence of humans, animals, and the environment, and socio-economic justice. The political, social, and economic power structures that foster this worldview are either socialist or a mixed market economy, but not a free market society which is inherently hierarchical. Gender, race, and class inequalities are unfavorable and unacceptable outcomes of societies in which structural and institutional violence are rampant.

Unlike conservatives, liberals believe that most aggression and violence in man is not biological, rather surfaces from the human experience of unjust political, social, and economic institutions and power structures. The confluence of these inequitable factors leads to poverty, hunger, lack of adequate healthcare, and slave labor, to name a few, and it is the frustration and rage from the gross inequities in patriarchal and authoritarian societies that leads many to commit acts of violence.

The definition of "national security" has always been openly vocalized as the security of a nation and its people. Today, it is being increasingly understood to mean the security of those in positions of political, social, and economic power. Historically, people with wealth and power have maintained their power through various economic and ecological exploitations including defense (military weapons), natural and mineral resources (oil, gas, gold, silver, copper, steel, iron, wood, etc.), derivatives from natural resources (paper, rubber, etc.), and food. The mostly male stockholders and senior executives of the corporations who obtain, market, and sell these products hold the power in the world. The only way to maintain their wealth is to ensure that the political power is manned by those who legislate in favor of policies which are in the best interest of these wealthy few. Hence, "national security" is a euphemism for "the interests of the most powerful and wealthy." Notwithstanding that in a capitalist society "big business" must thrive, the combination of propaganda which fuels consumerism and creates an illusion of a benevolent corporatacracy, elected oligarchies which advocate policies that are favorable to the privileged elite, and military defense "peace through strength" policies are the only guaranteed mechanisms in a society that otherwise positions itself with the veneer of a "democracy." It is true that military strength is a "zero-sum game" (Barash & Webel, 2002, p. 302), however, that is the intention of the powerful elite whose obsession with control and power cannot be met without military might as a defender of what they euphemistically refer to as "national security." Strategies of balance of power, collective security, deterrence or military threats are the only strategies which are effective in societies in which the few and privileged elite are determined to hold onto power.

Positive peace, on the other hand, requires that security is broadened to include "economic, political, social, and environmental considerations" (Barash & Webel, 2002, p. 313) because of the recognition of multiple threats to life itself including overpopulation, diminishing natural and mineral resources, extinction of plants and animals, pollution, overharvesting of fisheries, and carbon emissions which are producing global warming. With the confluence of these factors, humankind will no longer be able to exist in a state of military strength. It will require, of necessity, a different consciousness, as Einstein once said, than the consciousness in which the problems manifested. In other words, the consciousness in which humanity created these vast planetary threats is the very consciousness which will ensure its complete annihilation. Thus, a new and more evolved consciousness is demanded if the planet is to survive total extinction of life. That more evolved consciousness is best embodied in the liberal view which considers positive peace to be intricately related to human rights, true democracy, and the belief that humankind is able to evolve beyond violence as a means of resolving conflict. The balance between individual liberty and socio-economic justice must be achieved, and it must be attained through interdependence, collaboration, mutual recognition of the absolute necessity of ecological sustainability, and a guarantee of basic freedoms such as religious and cultural freedom, and freedom of speech and press. National and international security under this scenario must involve a kind of "both/and" thinking, unlike conservativism which perceives solutions only through an "either/or" or zero-sum lens. "Both/and" liberal thinking would consider national and international security as being attainable only through a combination of the guarantee of certain basic, individual human rights and freedoms along with an overarching international rule of law that would govern all nations' conduct on an international scale. For instance, each country would guarantee freedom of religion and free speech, but no country would be allowed to go to war to achieve the resolution of conflicts which arose between countries as pertains to issues such as trade of goods. To paraphrase former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter, individuals rights could not be abrogated as a means to achieve the demands of the State (Barash & Webel, 2002). In other words, since life and liberty are human rights, and since going to war infringes on a person's right to live (both the person serving as a combatant and the civilians who are threatened by death), war would not be an option for resolving conflicts between countries.

Admittedly, the relationship between human rights and positive peace is complex, but peace activists and proponents of positive peace understand that neither is possible without the other. Only when the safety and security of all people is guaranteed can positive peace ever be achieved. It is insufficient that major wars are not fought as long as structural violence is ongoing, that is, as long as people are starving, living on the streets, unable to find clean water to drink, are dying due to access to healthcare resources, or are laboring under substandard wages. This gross injustice prevents millions from experiencing the ease of psychological peace that comes from a life in which the basics of food, water, safety and security are guaranteed. This will come only after a large enough mass of people conclude that it is possible for positive peace to exist, envision its unfolding, elect the leaders who are proponents of it, and are willing to make the necessary trade-offs for a world in which the security of life, the equality of human dignity, and the right to basic social, economic, religious and legal freedoms are more important than economic structures which perpetuate socio-economic inequality. When human consciousness has reached this more evolved state, then will the world know positive peace.


Barash, D.P., & Webel, C.P. (2002). Peace and conflict studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.