End of War: John Horgan Says War Can End

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Brian Lehrer Show is launching a new series today called End of War about whether war is inevitable--whether humans can ever stop fighting wars, once and for all.

John Horgan, science journalist, director of the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology, and author of the new book that inspired the series The End of War, discusses his book and why he thinks that war is NOT inevitable.


John Horgan

Comments [65]

JO from BK

As long as corporations run our government and control the media war will be inevitable, since these corporations profit immensely from perpetual war. The key to ending war and creating a peaceful world is ending corporate rule in the United States, which will likely take a very long time and a lot of coordination -- these guys aren't giving up without a serious fight. But more has happened toward this end in the past year than ever before, so it is possible I think.

Apr. 03 2012 11:08 AM
RA from NYC

Not much if anything has been said about the psychological motivations for war. Killing other human beings tends to be a repulsive act for most people. So if people are willing to participate in war and kill other people as well as risk their own lives it must indicate that something vital is at stake. One way to think about the psychological aspects of this is that the boundary between the nation and the person dissolves so that survival of the self is the same as the survival of the nation. There may be different reasons that this happens. Coincidentally, there is an upcoming conference by the same name "Is War Inevitable" addressing the psychological motivations for war on Saturday Feb. 25th in NYC. You can get more info. by writing to

If we think of religion or economics, etc. as causing war, we are referring to identity and the psychology behind it. The military industrial complex doesn't go to war, people do. There are both conscious and unconscious influences that lead us to war. This conference is unique in that it brings psychoanalysts and social psychologists together on panels to address the macrosocial and the intrapsychic as it relates to war.

Feb. 20 2012 02:56 AM
Charlotte from Sunset Park

There has been research, however, indicating that social instincts of cooperation and empathy are much more primal and basic than has been previously acknowledged, but have been suppressed (in non-nomadic cultures) since agriculture and the history of large-scale war (about 10,000 years). It could be that these previously suppressed instincts *are* already kicking in, in collective, spontaneous, and "selfish" recognition, in order to survive the very real threat of global warfare and annihilation.

Feb. 16 2012 03:15 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Mary at Fatima told the children 'War is a punishment for sin.'

Feb. 15 2012 08:43 AM
Rabbi Seth Adelson from Great Neck

Although some of the comments posted here dismiss religion as a prime source of war, I think that it is worth it to point out that religion also seeks peace. Judaism invokes the theme of peace multiple times during each of the thrice-daily services, with some of the best-known words in the Jewish prayerbook ("Oseh shalom bimromav") expressing our collective desire for peace. By keeping peace on our lips at all times, we constantly remind ourselves of the need to find the "cure" to war.

Feb. 14 2012 12:37 PM
Sebastian Polanco from Newark NJ

Wars are the result of either greed,(exceptionalism),or internal economic pressures. Of course a balanced combination of these two is to be expected.The Spanish -American War and the preemptive wars launched by the USA and Israel in the Middle East are examples of one. The Manchurian war, the re-arming of Germany which ended in WWII are of the second kind. Wars are political tools used to distract from heavy internal social, economic or political problems; the Falkland Islands war, again the Israeli wars, the North Korean production of nuclear weapons and the upcoming war against Iran could be cited as examples of this. Spice-up any of those situations with beliefs such as,(or rather biased definitions of) Democracy, Freedom, or tags such as Pure Race, Chosen People, Infidel or Terrorist. Top it off with average stupidity and ignorance and there you have it. Eliminate all of the above and then there will be peace.

Feb. 14 2012 11:21 AM
Michael from East Village

I've heard very little in this discussion about the most obvious reasons nations fight wars: religion and economics. Countless wars have been fought "in the name of God." Would we have set up Sadam Hussain and ultimately toppled him if Iraq had no oil? Nations that wage war put a lot of people to work and ultimately take control of the people they defeat and profit by it. Perhaps in today's poor economy we might rethink what benefit the last ten years of war have been for the U.S.A. I think one day man will learn not to make war. I don't believe it is inevitable. I only worry that there will still be a world worth living in by the time that day comes.

Feb. 14 2012 10:53 AM
Mikey from Staten Island

If there was no war, then art and culture would suffer. Think of the great paintings like Guernica, works of literature like "The Iliad", anti-war protest songs and "Platoon," "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Hurt Locker", all made possible by war.

Feb. 13 2012 10:51 PM
Kim Doggett from Manhattan

War is totally antiquated but most Americans can't think past the status quo to realize it. Ruling other countries was once a way to gain economically. Now it is a drain. While we are wasting money on the military China and Europe are building up their infrastructure. Modern competition is in the market place and all military spending weakens the nation in the economic competition. Further, sending our military all over the world is stirring up resentment against us making us less safe not more. Passivism has been a slowly building consciousness and it's not a question of if but when the tipping point comes that a sufficient number of people accept it to end war.

Feb. 13 2012 09:08 PM
Seymour Sherry

" Cain said something to his brother Abel. Then when they happened to be in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him."
(Genesis 4: 8 )

There will always be war because of who we are....humans, with all our frailities.

Feb. 13 2012 08:20 PM
Jeff Park Slope from Brooklyn

WWII did not prevent the Holocaust, that is true. However post WWI, England and the US disarmed and were ill-prepared to stop Germany when it militarized in the 1930s. If they had not disarmed, the war may have been prevented or shorter. Of course Chamberlain first appeased Hitler and this didn't help the effort to stop him. Also the Jews and others were slaughtered, but by 1945 the slaughter was brought to an end. If not ended by the allies, all of Europe would have been under the Nazi heel and Asia under Japan's. But again, surrender would have ended it. How lovely that would have been.

The US has many bases in Europe and Asia, yet the Europeans don't feel threatened and during the Cold War, East Germany was not attacked. The South Koreans rely on our bases for protection as do other nations. US bases protect the countries in which they are located. Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations admit to fears about an Iranian nuclear weapon, fears they don't have about an Israeli bomb. It is not the weapons that are the problem, it is the owner of the weapons.

Feb. 13 2012 06:59 PM
rose-ellen from jackson hts.

We're barking up the wrong tree if we look at women to put an end to war. Women- whether they engage in battles or not-have been cheering the men on as they go into battle and labeling them as heroes when they come back.Dehumanization and totalizing narratives of good vs. evil where we are good and our enemies are evil is what makes war persist.When two gangs are engaged in fighting each other in an inner city, say-it is when outsiders who have no axe to grind but want to put an end to the conflict step up and engage with both gangs in dialogue -that violence ends.War can end if the starting point is to be willing to see the humanity of the enemy.To see their acts and their beliefs and intentions as irrational pure evil and ours as rational and noble leads to glorifying war since it becomes a battle of good vs. evil.Doesn't matter how many men ,women and children get their arms and legs blown off if we believe they're evil or collateral damage and we're good.This "ends justifies the means" self serving narrative that glorifies us and demonizes the enemy has to be replaced before war can end.We have to see the death and destruction we inflict on the enemy with the same horror their acts invoke in us.That is the job of jornalists and unfortunately they have yet to step up to do that.And just like we are seen as more then our evil deeds-the enemy too has to be recognized as more then their evil deeds.The beliefs,rationales and intentions of the enemy have to be engaged with the same we would a street gang.World war 2 did not PREVENT the holocaust and the subsequent deaths of over 150 million people. Perhaps MORE talking,not less would have.

Feb. 13 2012 04:09 PM

Who is Threatening Whom?

45 US Bases Surround Iran

Each star is a US base.

But just to be clear,
Iran is the one that is threatening US.

Feb. 13 2012 03:30 PM

Note how many people's answers are qualified by "as long as," "not unless," "if and only if." I understand the question to be a pretty simple yes/no: Is war inevitable? Some say war is inevitable unless women have more power, or as long as corporations rule the world. Well? Can those conditions be changed, or not?

You may know the slogan "another world is possible." Is it? I believe it is. My answer is a flat no, war is not inevitable.

Feb. 13 2012 03:09 PM
Paula Swafford from Nashville TN




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