End of War: Chris Hedges and Barbara Ehrenreich

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chris Hedges, former war correspondent, senior fellow at The Nation Institute, and author of several books including War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning and Death of the Liberal Class, and Barbara Ehrenreich, author of several books including Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passion of War  and Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America, discuss why cultures are drawn to war.


Barbara Ehrenreich and Chris Hedges

Comments [66]

Dennis from Upstate

There is a distinction between the End of war and the Onset of Peace. One does not equate to the other. War is the outward expression of division while Peace is the outward expression of co-operation. Are we to be satisfied with the absence of armed combat but still engage in hostilities as we look out for ourselves as a nation or a people; or do we extend ourselves to see our neighbors a means to Peace? Until we are willing to tend to the needs of others as we tend to our own needs war will be inevitable.

Ed from Larchmont: In the 1940s-1970s Father Patrick Peyton preached to millions around the world that 'A world at prayer is a world at peace'. But we're moving toward secularism, and away from this idea.

- I agree that a world at prayer is a world at peace, though I disagree that we are moving toward secularism. I see us moving toward Spiritualism. Keeping the baby, throwing out the bath water.

Apr. 10 2012 11:41 PM
Bob Jane from NY

War will persist. Anyone wanting to wage war have easier access than ever before to arms, bombs and communication. Doesn't matter the motive, the technology is out there.

Mar. 02 2012 03:59 AM
Myriam Miedzian Ph.D. from New York, NY

John Horgan ignores or plays down several factors with respect to war. Nor were these factors mentioned by Barbara Ehrenreich or Chris Hedges.

One: Weapons manufacturers. One recent example: Bruce Jackson founded the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq in 2002, a few months after retiring from Lockheed Martin. While wars are draped in patriotic declarations of self- defense, for weapons manufacturers they mean enormous profits.
Nothing new about this. In his farewell address, President Eisenhower called for "an alert and knowledgeable citizenry" to stand up to the military industrial complex. Norman Cousin’s Pathology of Power and numerous other works document weapons manufacturers' role in instigating wars. As Cousins puts it: “they [weapons manufacturers] have often helped to supply the crucial push” towards war.

Two: Gender analysis. Horgan states that “99% of combatants in all wars have been male,” but dismisses this by arguing that “women can also make ferocious warriors if given the opportunity.” But studies indicate that boys as a group (not just a few bad apples) are more prone than girls to schoolyard brawls, to fighting when insulted, are more attracted to violent entertainment and games. FBI Uniform Crime Statistics reveal that year after year, men commit approximately 90% of homicides. Husbands and boyfriends are twice as likely to murder wives or girlfriends than vice-versa. Some young men seek out exciting and extremely dangerous activities including fighting in wars. That a small percentage of women have these violent inclinations, and that not all men have them doesn’t change the fact that criminal violence and warfare are overwhelmingly male, and that there is some biological basis for this significant difference.

Three: Specific recommendations for moving away from our culture of violence: Because statistically speaking, boys and men are at much higher risk of violence, in order to decrease all forms of violence including war,we need to focus on discouraging violence in boys from a young age, through school programs, through changes in family life, through entertainment that encourages pro-social behavior—-exciting, dangerous rescue missions instead of endless war and homicide. Instead of being glorified, all forms of violence including warfare have to become last resorts used only in genuine self-defense.

If we are ever to abolish, or at least significantly decrease the frequency of war, a realistic, complex analysis, and specific recommendations for change will have to be presented and eventually acted upon.

Feb. 28 2012 10:35 AM
Ed from Larchmont

If it weren't so serious this question would be funny, whether war is inevitable, since at this moment all over the world countries are at the brink of war.

Feb. 28 2012 06:12 AM
Shelley from Wisconsin

Did the guests address GREED as an underlying, root, or a contributing factor or variable of war?

Feb. 28 2012 01:41 AM

R we assuming that war is only bad? This premise can be argued, should b addressed or the convo sounds floppy

Feb. 27 2012 09:48 PM

Wow, what an interesting, wide-ranging conversation. I never would have thought to put Barbara Ehrenreich and Chris Hedges into the same format, but they complimented each other very well. This is the type of show that reminds me why I support public radio, and WNYC in particular. Thank you.

Feb. 27 2012 08:01 PM


The Great War is between reasonable folks and yourself!

Feb. 27 2012 07:10 PM

CheezleWhiz -

D_g knows the Israelites never had genocidal tendencies...

Except of course for... Hamor and his village... or, the Amalekites (both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox, and sheep, camel and ass)... or, the total annihilation of the Canaanites... or, the men women and children of Og... or, the men, women and children of Jericho... or, Ai... or, the Gibeonites... or, Makkedah...or Libnahites... or, Lachish... or, the the Eglonites... or... or... or...

Chat with those folks... Oop!! They're ALL DEAD!!!

Maybe, in the next chapter, we can start a modern list...

Feb. 27 2012 07:04 PM
kevin from upper LS

the military guy caller[ist call] seems to believe in a mechanistic mode of engagement,stemming from the interaction of the financial interests, weighed in against the military perogatives. i guess, he assumes that climate change, is going to go on an exteneded sabatical ,for the sake of proving his argument. just another tidbit of absurdity,from a caller who clearly thinks, that we can so easily transcend, the damage that we've inflicted on our planet.

Feb. 27 2012 05:04 PM
kevin from upper LS

barbara ehrenreich: excuse me,all models of resource depletion, go out the window,when you take into account climate change. [deforesstation,genetic-agriculture,and diminished potable watersupplies.] john horgan's model, is obsolete,barbara. how can you not see that. we are facing an ecologic catastrophe,that makes horgan sound like a quaint idiot fool.

Feb. 27 2012 04:53 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn, NY

Hi, If I had my way, there would be no wars. I think it would be good to interview war orphans and war widows and mothers who have lost sons and daughters in wars. And ex soldiers in wheelchairs. Eugenia Renskoff

Feb. 27 2012 04:22 PM
MikeC from manhattan

To prove my point...jgarbuz watches the History channel too much. So from his point of view, 95% of the planet, 4 billion Asians, South Amrericans, Europeans, and Africans are going to throw them selves into some sort of maddness over a tiny piece of real estate in the middle east. a tiny little spot that his god supposedly gave to him... but then promptly had it invaded and taken away from his own chosen few... well ... I quote some one with a name as descriptive of this line of reasoning as is jgarbuz's logic but with equally ironic biblical authority....Ludachris , who raps ..."like muslims eating pork chops....NEVER HAPPEN"

Feb. 27 2012 03:44 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. 27 2012 03:27 PM

In this video Eric Hobsbawm is interviewed by Jeremy Paxman.

Mr. Hobsbawn, explains that

"one element of production has
become surplus torequirement, namely people.

If there are no jobs, there will be more war.

Because how else, will the countries, with the surplus population,
get rid of the people?

The future may be very scary.

Feb. 27 2012 03:21 PM
Peter from Staten Island

@Jonny It's very disingenuous to label any pro-peace organization as "left-wing." It's quite evident today that the left has very little interest in peace when one of their own is in office.

Feb. 27 2012 03:18 PM

A brief and crucial history of the United States - video

The elites, politically/rich powerful, of a nation, use the military to get
rid of surplus population and to invade other countries to steal what
they covet, such as oil, water, land etc,.

Feb. 27 2012 02:31 PM
Ed from Larchmont

It didn't seem that the guests came to a concensus. Anyway, in 1917 Mary appeared once a month at Fatima to the three shepherd children, and she said to Lucia 'War is a punishment for sin'. Until we reform, war is inevitable.

Feb. 27 2012 01:17 PM
kevin from upper LS

these are our best minds- hedges and ehrenreich. they put your idiot republican bloggers to shame,wnyc.

Feb. 27 2012 01:05 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Janet from Westchester

You seems to be suffering from Estrogen poisoning.

Feb. 27 2012 12:35 PM

ReligiousNutZ, never cease to entertain!

Feb. 27 2012 12:18 PM

QUESTION: At the beginning of this segment, there was a mention of many 'left-wing' groups that were virtually wiped out by WWI. What were the names of some of those that the guest had mentioned?

Feb. 27 2012 12:12 PM
Amy from Manhattan

This time I actually deliberately waited till the segment ended, because I want to suggest a future guest for the series: Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist & author of "The Righteous Mind," who was on "Moyers & Company" on Feb. 3 (

Feb. 27 2012 11:56 AM
Chris from Greenpoint

@John A. (I think your question was directed at me, not the guest on the show, right?)

I'm not sure I can intelligently speculate on what might make an ideal global political climate. I assume that if a more enlightened world society were to evolve, we would find more creative and peaceful means of working with those who remain aggressive. My main contention is that inward transformation is the only option. We scream at societies and armies but these bodies are always made up of humans who have the capacity to overcome the ignorance that tends to separate us from each other. I see large scale war as an outward manifestation and magnification of our inner confusion and turmoil.

Feb. 27 2012 11:55 AM
George from Larchmont, NY

Does our 2-party, ‘Partisan’ voting system undermine World Peace by propagating a feeling of "It’s-US-against-THEM" instead of "We’re ALL in this TOGETHER"?

In other words, does our voting method itself undermine World Peace, and would simply expanding it into Range Voting (see have a significant, global effect on decision-making?

Feb. 27 2012 11:54 AM
Ed from Larchmont

I think we admire warriors because we sense the existence of evil, and that our life is a 'dour combat' with evil, and we admire those who conquer evil, God specifically.

It seems to me hard to explain war in materialist terms.

I bet the Swiss would have put up a good fight against the Nazis.

Feb. 27 2012 11:50 AM
Derek from Long Island

The idea that the left is anti-war is a myth. When you redefine invasion as "humanitarian assistance" how can you be against it?

Feb. 27 2012 11:49 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I disagree with ALL your guests! The Great War between God and Satan is just beginning, and it will be over Israel! The refusal of 66.6% of the world to accept the tiny state that God gave the Jews will be the spark for the Great War to come. The Final War in which there will be no neutrals and each person will have to pick a side.

Forget about the economic, or psychological or any of the other rationales! War will end when the world as we know it comes to an end in the Final War between the Followrs of God and minions of Satan!

Feb. 27 2012 11:46 AM
ericjhenderson from Brooklyn

It is odd that in the whole discussion we have maintained the fear bumper against linking war to the nature of man. We're leaving a large swath of history out, in fact the entirety of history before the Fall, if we do that.

Feb. 27 2012 11:45 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

To the last caller...the Canadians DO engage in warfare. That they don't is a myth. They have contributed troops to a few wars.

Feb. 27 2012 11:45 AM
MikeC from manhattan

I dont see violence after a crisis in the environment as an inevitable truth. Thou the propaganda to perpetuate this lie is taken as "common knowledge" I note the History Channel and its apocalypse propaganda shows with their western judeo christian bias, which sees everything as coming to an end with al hell breaking loose. Look at what happened after the calamity in Japan ... there were no riots, killings or return to some fantasy of a dog eat dog animal nature. People cooperated and helped each other ..period. Scarcity of water? Global warming? all of these problems can be solved with technology and cooperation . There wil never be a shortage of water on this planet. Look at what Singapore has done to bring itself to water self sufficiency ... without violence or war. NO war is not inevitable unless you continue to believe that that is so and perpetuate , argue for , teach and convince your self that there is no other choice. During the course of this show I hear so many of these propaganda points bandied about as if they are true , Its ridiculous ...

Feb. 27 2012 11:43 AM
Regina Gradess from New York City

What about a fully funded Department for Peaceful Resolutions to Conflicts in addition to our Department of Defense?

Feb. 27 2012 11:43 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Why did Ms. Ehrenreich say there was a peaceful period before WWI with not many wars? There were many: The Civil War, The Phillipine War, The Spanish American War, The Greco-Turkish war,The Sino-Jaopanese War, The First Italo-Ethiopian War, The Russo-Turkish war, The Franco-Prussian war, The Austro-Prussian War to name but a small few...

or did I hear her inorrectly?

Feb. 27 2012 11:41 AM

As long as there is a state, there will be war.
Especially a Keynesian state that believes in the absurd idea that war is somehow good for the economy.

War does not stimulate economies, it destroys wealth.

Feb. 27 2012 11:41 AM
The from Becky

Why North Africa as the example?

Feb. 27 2012 11:40 AM

I'm gobsmacked at how bellicose my nation's government --and its MCM (Mainstream Corporate Media)-- have become. I cannot believe what I hear from our Secty of State (whom I supported strongly for president), the president, the Congress about "everything is on the table" concerning the country of the month or year in terms of issuing constant threats toward that country.

Iran has not invaded a country in an aggressive war in about 200 years. We seem to do that about every 200 days, or oftener?, since WWII.

We look to me like a rogue nation, a nation that the UN needs to be using all its sanctions powers to begin to control or at least try to coax toward peaceful means of managing its disputes and fears.

Feb. 27 2012 11:39 AM
Ken from Queens

I'm reviewing an old evolutionary psychology text that states that percentage of deaths from war has dramatically decreased over time: prehistoric societies 10-40% of population; modern traditional societies 10-30%, and modern civilized societies <10%. I'm wondering if this trend will ever reach zero. Not sure if it's possible.

Feb. 27 2012 11:38 AM
Natalie from Brooklyn, NY

War will not end as long as it is financially profitable for some countries to initiate it. I do not think, however, that the instinct lies irrevocably in human DNA. Our distant ancestors include both stick-wielding chimps (fighting over territory) and the peaceful Bonobos who pursue sexual pleasures and would rather make love than war. If women had more power in our world societies, I believe war would swiftly decline.

Feb. 27 2012 11:36 AM
Steve from manhattan

War may be inevitable, deeply rooted in human greed and our species' (mostly male) lust for power. However, wars are not inevitable, and we in the peace movement know that we can stop many wars, and end many wars sooner than they might otherwise end... even if we can't end war itself. This is why a strong and ongoing peace movement remains vital to the survival of this modern world.

Feb. 27 2012 11:36 AM
George from Brooklyn

War will continue because politicans don't want to be seen as weak. War is good for business and wins votes. Peace doesn't win votes.

Feb. 27 2012 11:36 AM
Steve MacIntyre from Beaver Dam, AZ

I share Chris Hedges' dark view that war is virtually inevitable, a view which is reinforced by having recently read two accounts of the Trojan War.

Feb. 27 2012 11:35 AM
John A.

So Chris, describe a world without a "World's Policeman". Please.

Feb. 27 2012 11:35 AM
Tom from UWS

@ Chris from Greenpoint.

Feb. 27 2012 11:33 AM
Janet from Westchester

I think the only solution to wars would be to develop
an antidote to testosterone, which makes men aggressive, violent and just plain
disagreeable. If it could be made into a spray like mace and used when
confronted by an aggressive male, ir could turn him into a pussycat.

Women would especially appreciate this option.

Feb. 27 2012 11:33 AM
Richard Deats from Nyack, NY

War, like slavery and duelling in earlier times, is an institution that can--and must--be ended.Our society is, as Hedges said, awash in violence and war mongering but other nations, such as Scandanavia,Japan,and Costa Rica, point to a way forward.

Feb. 27 2012 11:32 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

LOL.....but we won't see that here

Feb. 27 2012 11:30 AM
Chris from Greenpoint

I believe that war is likely as long as we are inwardly at war. We haven't developed the capacity to wait in line for 10 minutes with equanimity let alone deal with serious conflicts! To think about ending war, I believe the focus must be on each individual removing our own ignorance of how our minds work and how we relate to nature and each other--an inward spiritual development.

Feb. 27 2012 11:24 AM
Jim B

Isn't war instigated by self-interested elite groups, and therefore shouldn't efforts be focused on institutional restraints at the top of society rather than seeing war as an expression from the bottom?

Feb. 27 2012 11:23 AM
David from UWS

I always find it strange that the US Open final starts with 4 soldiers parading on the tennis court. Not something you see in Western European countries.

Feb. 27 2012 11:23 AM
John A.

I do like how the definition of 'atrocity' seems to ratchet down with the passing of centuries, not fast enough for me, but still, progress.

Feb. 27 2012 11:23 AM
Stan from Montclair, NJ

Stupid conversation. The subject should be is "conflict" inevitable, not war. Every day is a war. People are constantly in conflict, long before war breaks out. I'm in a "war" right now with a bank. Humans are a contradiction—we are the only species that knows its death. We are individuals who are a communal animal. Each self-centered yet must cede to a communal society. Pessimism? Lehrer, as is frequently the case, uses the simplistic and incorrect words.

Feb. 27 2012 11:22 AM
B. Lynn from NY

What about the segment in NPR 100 articles in human history that when man started having surpluses of something one group had resources the other wanted so disputes or wars developed?

Feb. 27 2012 11:20 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

The Prophet Mohammad was a "predator" and gained his original fame as a highway robber attacking camel caravans in the Arabian desert.
So, Islam's very foundation is based on the hero worship of a predator upon the helpless.

No wonder there is this persistence of violence, fatwas and beheadings in this religion in the 21st century.

Feb. 27 2012 11:19 AM

Cough cough ** militaryindustrialcomplex cough cough * *

Feb. 27 2012 11:18 AM
Nick from UWS

War will end when representatives of military-industrial complexes, for their own profit, cease to brainwash simple-minded testosterone soaked populations with such mind rot as "serving with honor", the "glory of battle", "serving your country", "be all you can be" and all the rest of the evil jingoistic sloganeering. Since we have no draft because 99.9 times out of 100 their is no justification for it, cannon fodder has to be recruited by other means such as psychological manipulation by power brokers. Screw that crap...if you want to
"serve", be a waiter, and see killing innocent strangers by remote control to be what it is: psychotic.

Feb. 27 2012 11:16 AM
Samuel J. Howard from New York, NY

Chris Hedges and Barbara Ehrenreich? Yawn.

How about Chris Hedges and Victor David Hanson? Barbara Ehrenreich and John Keegan? Chris Hedges and Edward Luttwak (author of "Give War a Chance," Foreign Affairs, Vol. 78, No. 4, Jul. - Aug., 1999).

Feb. 27 2012 11:15 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

"the fruit of abortion is nuclear war"
A false quote and quite idiotic and nonsensical at any rate

Chimps, our closest relatives fight each other for dominance and kill outsiders from other chimp groups. The author's point that war started in Mesopotamia,etc doesn't seem to hold up to me. Maybe you wouldn't call it "war" but does anyone really believe that early man didn't band in groups (like chimps) and protect their own group, mates, children and food sources from other groups? C'mon.....

A rose is a rose by any other name. "War", tribal conflict, violence, etc Whatever, the instinct for these things are definitely part of our nature

Feb. 27 2012 11:13 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Most people on this earth live on less than 1$ a day. Wars are inevitable.

Plus, war is extremely profitable, ask Dick Cheney. The military industrial complex and its growing, equally powerful, privatized eco-system need conflict and the threat of it - to survive.

Feb. 27 2012 11:11 AM
Dr. Shirley koshi

If the USA goes to war with Iran or North Korea, we are idiots. We are no better than the british who are so much smarter now. BBC news is an example of that.
we need a civil war 1% against the 99%, that is democracy.
burn some bibles in solidarity

really, we dont need any more of our own to be killed. bring them back. can our economy endure all our troops back, will they have work and a home?

may I ask questions in the next debate, obama vs romney

Feb. 27 2012 11:10 AM
Ed from Larchmont

War started at the beginning, with Cain and Abel.

Feb. 27 2012 11:08 AM
Tom from UWS

There is certainly a difference between war and personal disagreement, but I must ask:
how do we expect to end war if we can't end petty fights (some to a mortal end) between neighbors, spouses, siblings? If fans of one team will verbally and physically attack fans of the opposing side, all over the world, how do we intend to address nationalism that escalates to war?

With water likely to surpass oil as the resource worth fighting for, where do we go from here? When politicians lie about their opposing candidate with cool aplomb, why wouldn't they continue to lie about other nations once elected?

Feb. 27 2012 11:07 AM
YZ from Brooklyn Heights

Any pop psychologist (Zimbardo, Milgram, Sherif, et al) can show you the easy ways to unlock behaviors that lead to peacefulness and cooperation between people. At the top of that list, I believe, is the homogenization of human identity.

We exist in an artificially segregated world, where the common characteristics that bond us as a species have been largely ignored and instead, we are taught from a very early age to internalize an identity within a much smaller in-group: as the adherent of a religion, as the citizen of a nation, as the diehard fan of a sports team, and so on. In many societies we enforce these internalizations by celebrating them, and in our celebration a chasm is implicitly created between our in-group and everyone else (the out-group).

This chasm is the thing that groups must take advantage of in order to mobilize armies. If someone does not feel inherently different from another given human being in any part of the world, it will be harder to turn that person into an obedient soldier, and eventually, leaders will have to find other, more peaceful, means of enacting change.

The most promising thing about the dawn of the global information age (into which we are now entering) is that it will hopefully serve to close those voids between strangers, to bring people closer together as a species, and to highlight the similarities that from the start far outnumbered the differences between them.

Of course it goes without saying that an ongoing campaign to stigmatize violence, corruption, greed, and intolerance must also play a part, but such stigmas can only yield limited results as long as the in-group/out-group identity barrier is maintained.

(this response was copied from an earlier thread)

Feb. 27 2012 11:02 AM
Jim B

Please ask Mr. Hedges about the status of his lawsuit challenging the National Defense Authorization Act, and in light of that, the fact that a recent poll suggests that a majority approves of President Obama's handling of foreign policy, which implicitly supports controversial practices such as rendition and the maintenance of the Guantanamo prison. There does not seem to be much information about the lawsuit on the internet, nor does it seem to have sparked significant interest among various political advocacy groups.

Feb. 27 2012 10:58 AM
John A.

"The fruit of abortion is nuclear war." appears on this page as a False quote of Mother Theresa.

Feb. 27 2012 10:50 AM
Ayn Marx 666 from Kallikak mountain

I think cultures are drawn to war to the extent that daily life is unsatisfying. It's a little like apocalyptic movies, e.g. all those zombie movies: life there is dangerous, but you don't have to show up at your desk at 8:30a.m.---none of your labour is alienated.

Thomas Pynchon correctly opined that one of the appeals of National Socialism was that every German male knew in his heart that there was an armchair and pipe waiting for him, ready to swallow him up and drown him in Gemütlichkeit.

It is when we feel like Samson, blinded and chained, that we become eager to see the temple fall, even if it falls on us.

Solution: not prayer, pacem Mr from Larchmont super, but make everyone on Earth fabulously rich and very long-lived. The strongest block to this will soon be not technical but social---many of the wealthy _love_ to watch the rest of us suffer, and all leaders know that rich women and men make terrible employees, parishioners and constituents.

Feb. 27 2012 09:35 AM
Ed from Larchmont

I'm also quite pessimistic about the end of war.

As Mother Teresa told us, the fruit of abortion is nuclear war, and we're still committing this crime, and our country is promoting it at home and abroad.

In the 1940s-1970s Father Patrick Peyton preached to millions around the world that 'A world at prayer is a world at peace'. But we're moving toward secularism, and away from this idea.

G.K. Chesterton wrote 'Justice is more important than peace, as the soul is more important than the body', injustice is a subcategory of sin, and today sin abounds.

But the enemies of peace are not primarily other people, but the 'principaties and powers, with the rulers of this present age, with the evil spirits' (Ephesians 6:12)- it's primarily a spiritual problem. 'He [Satan] will go out to deceive the nations ... and gather them for battle ...' (Revelations 20:8).

Feb. 27 2012 08:18 AM

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