Is War Inevitable? Here's What You Think

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Over the last four months, the Brian Lehrer Show has been asking our guests and you, our listeners, to tell us whether you think war is inevitable. Hundreds of you responded. Thanks! Below are some examples of the responses we got. To read ALL of the responses we got, go here.

And by the way, about 60% of people who responded think war is inevitable while about 40% think it's not. We're still accepting responses, so tell us whether you think war is inevitable. Survey here.  And be sure to tune in on June 13th for the final End of War show live from the Greene Space. 

As I argue in a recent book which is (in part) complementary to John's (The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined), I think that the causes of war -- human avarice, short-sightedness, vengeance, dominance, tribalism, and self-deception -- will always be with us, but that wars may not be (at least, not in the sense of big interstate wars that kill a lot of people -- local skirmishes and small civil wars that blend into turf battles and mafia-like feuds will be with us a lot longer). The more institutionalized the practice (as in human sacrifice or chattel slavery), the easier it is to abolish, and big interstate wars are highly institutionalized, hence the decline we've seen since 1946 could very well continue until the practice no longer exists. --Steven Pinker
War is clearly NOT inevitable, as Paul Chappell explains in his three books. Wars benefit the few at the expense of the many; wars can be avoided by mutual understanding and a willingness to address each others' needs; wars reflect a win-lose mindset, whereas the obvious interdependence of modern life demonstrates that there is no US/THEM; we're all in it together, so we need a win/win approach. Moreover, modern wars always end with negotiated settlements. If we don't have an us vs. them mentality, we can skip the bloodshed and begin with negotiation. Since the majority of people don't benefit from war, we can become the force that advocates negotiation and rejects war. -- Leslee Goodman
The idea that one person would sacrifice his life for another is what keeps war from total obsolescence. The people who benefit from war are glorified by the sacrifice, and the people who do the fighting are ennobled by it. Valor, sacrifice, honor. Now that the USA wages war by remote control, all three values have been removed from the equation, and war is just murder. Now if we Americans can ever get over our craving for violence, war will fade into history. War is not inevitable. -- Steve Fournier
War is inevitable as long as males are in charge of the world. If we ever got majority female governments in all countries we'd be sitting in circles discussing things and empowering each other. -- Carol
NO, war is not inevitable. Carl Von Clausewitz famously said that "war is an extension of foreign policy by other means," which assumes that wars are discrete events that are marginal to the operation of modern states and international norms. However, wars and the monopoly of violence are central to the formation of nation-states after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Indeed, philosophers like Michel Foucault would argue that peace is an extension of war by other means. Mass murder and genocide only appear to be aberrations when Europeans kill their own or terrorists fly an airplane into the World Trade Center, but have been a historic lived reality for much of the world's people. Police brutality, surveillance, and violent control over public space in New York City only appear to be aberrations when reporters witness the eviction of Occupy Wall Street protestors and video is broadcast via YouTube. But for many low-income people of color, violent social control is a built-in part of life in modern America. War is not inevitable. But the way to eliminate war is to fundamentally change the nature of our society. -- John Choe
As long as humans insist on dividing themselves along religious lines and proclaiming vast theological differences -often over tiny disagreements of interpretation- they will feel the need to fight and either impose their will on others or defend against perceived incursions on their freedoms. How can we even dream of the end of war when religions fight among themselves with such violence? -- Nat Benchley
Yes. First stop dehumanizing the enemy. Stop glorifying warriors. Stop the simplistic false narrative of totalizing good vs. evil and that when we kill we're good but when the enemy kills they're evil.Stop imposing conditions for peace talks. Stop assumung we're rational but the enemy is not. Though we like to say war is hell and that we try to avoid war-in reality we make heroes out of warriors thereby glorifying war. All these memorials to soldiers of war lend cache to the narrative that war is a noble endevour-if you're one of us. Perhaps we need memorials to the victims of all these wars-civilians.We need more stories of civilians deaths-and less of "heroes" accomplishments.Stop portraying terrorism as inhuman and terrorists as not worthy of any human consideration. -- Rose-Ellen Caminer