Active Thinking Topic 28 -  Wars Are Inevitable. Yes or No?

Tuesday 29 March 2022, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: ZOOM online

Focus Questions

1. Do mentally ill leaders start wars, or do wars come from religion & ideology, or do wars come from competition for resources, or do wars come from a real or imagined threat from other countries, or do wars come from militaries gone rogue, or do wars come from disguised struggles between corporations, or .....

2. Does the form of government (democracy, dictatorship etc) make much difference to the frequency of wars, or when and how they start?

3. Is it ever possible to get honest information accepted by the general public on both sides of a war? (Historical examples?) The first casualty of war is always the truth - on both sides. People's perception of why they are fighting, and their level of ongoing success, has a major effect on outcomes. Also, propagandists soon believe their own propaganda.

4. Why have decision makers throughout history again and again ignored accurate information from their spy agencies? Every country has spies and large intelligence gathering organizations. The main role of these organizations is to have accurate information about 'the enemy' so that problems can be fixed before it comes to war.

5. Are wars at bottom really a projection of daily human behavior such as sexual dominance and habits of personal aggression? Can modifying cultural acceptance of these kinds of behaviour also alter the probability of wars occurring?

6. How is it possible to short circuit a cycle of repeating wars? Wars, like child abuse, are often generational. That is, the brutalization and resentment that comes out of war can lead to a cycle of revenge. The is what happened after World War I, leading to World War II.

7. Why does belief in a god or gods (or an ideology) release some people's minds from responsibility for their actions, up to & including murder, war or genocide? [Examples?] Religions, regardless of their dogma, affect certain personality types in ways that for them justify violence. We might call the most extreme of these people extremists. However varying degrees of this tendency can be seen in people all around us.

8. A large part of life for the Tiktok generation has been transferred into an electronic "reality". That electronic reality can include endless fantasized violence, war, and sex. Will this kind of diversion draw that generation away from a lust for real violence and real wars?

9. There is an urban myth that business is war by other means. Ditto for organized sport. How real is this assumption? How effectively do activities such as these draw populations away from the tribal conflicts that have dogged humans since the dawn of time?

10. Life on earth is facing major existential crises, both man-made and natural. Humans have worked hard to destroy the natural environment which sustains us. Pandemics attack us. Now climate change is threatening to sweep us away. Will these major threats be enough to focus enough minds on species survival, as opposed cultural and political conflicts?


Extra Reading

Wikipedia (2022) "War" @ 

Legion Magazine (November 1, 2019) "Is war inevitable?" Legion Magazine @ 

Anonymous (n.d.) "Myth: War Is Inevitable. Fact: War is a human choice not limited by any law of nature or biological determinism". @ 

Nebula (2021) "Is Nuclear War Inevitable?". Nebula channel, Youtube @ 

Mike Mcrae (9 December 2018) "Is War an Unavoidable Part of Human Nature?" Science Alert @

Yusaf H. Akbar and Maciej Kisilowsk (March 5, 2022) "Of race and war: What the crisis in Ukraine tells us about ourselves - Let’s extend the empathy we have for Ukrainians to the victims of other conflicts". Politico @ 

Ben Scott (March 7, 2022) "The nature of US intelligence is radically different - and more open - with the Ukraine invasion". The Age @  [Quote: ""Because Ukraine is so clearly winning the information war, it’s hard to imagine it could have gone any other way. Everyone seems to know who the good guys are. Only five nations opposed a UN General Assembly resolution demanding a Russian withdrawal and 141 countries voted in favour ... Still, it’s too early to properly judge Washington’s new approach to intelligence and information competition ... the credibility of US intelligence still suffers from the use of faulty intelligence to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. American big tech has disseminated more misinformation than Russia. America’s own information environment remains unhealthy while the QAnon narrative – rooted in conspiracy theories about US intelligence – is still fighting fit. And all the while former president, and possible future president, Donald Trump continues to praise Putin. ... The essential Russian (and Chinese) narrative that US and NATO over-reach is the main cause of the conflict could have wider traction, especially in our confused – “post-truth” – information environment. ... [However] Ukraine’s information success is based on the heroism of Ukrainians resisting on the ground but the telling and sharing of their stories, especially through social media ... But Ukraine has also benefited from US determination to counter Russia’s information campaign before the invasion began. As Moscow sought to muddy the picture with a lengthy and vague list of grievances, Washington sought to clarify it. ... The US made unprecedented use of classified intelligence to shape the narrative. Impressively accurate intelligence was quickly declassified and shared, sometimes with allies and sometimes with the wider public ... Washington’s current tilt towards operationalising intelligence and away from it is driven by the information revolution and its contradictory consequences. On the one hand, there are fewer secrets in the world today. On the other, it’s becoming harder to determine what is true... "

Sonia Sodha (6 March 2022) "Male violence against women is about so much more than toxic masculinity - It is safer and more effective to disrupt dangerous men rather than trying to fix them". The Guardian @  [Quote: "Interestingly, the difference in physical aggression between the average man and the average women is moderate – to put it in context, about a quarter as significant as average sex differences in height. The big difference comes at the extremes of the distribution: there are many more very violent men than women ... What underpins this difference? In animals, scientists have found a clear link between testosterone levels and male aggression. But this is not replicated in humans, leading experts to believe that the complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors – the way children are socialised – plays a much greater role.".]

Thor May (2018) Emergent Systems - an Overview @  ; Mandarin Chinese translation: 新兴系统 -- 概述 @  [Thor, quote: "The challenges of governance, and of management, revolve around setting those boundaries within which individuals can make decisions and interact freely so that optimum outcomes emerge. If those optimums are of the Mills & Boon [romance novel] formula type, then the boundaries of variation will be narrow. If the optimum outcome is a creative society, or an innovative company, then the boundaries themselves will be wider, and often moved experimentally".]

Wikpedia (2022) "The Peace of Westphalia" @  [Thor, comment: The Peace of Westphalia was a treaty amongst European powers signed in 1648. For the first time it recognized and formalized what we call countries with sovereign borders. A sovereign country had a right to exist and prosper without interference from external forces. This treaty came after nearly a century of European wars that killed eight million people. These wars were typically fought in the name of religion, but were really vehicles for the ambitions of kings (war lords). Note that Putin's war on Ukraine violates the principal of sovereign countries. Putin, in his mind, is fighting a religious war, a jihad. This religious justification for violence is common to certain personality types.]

David Speers (3 March 2022) "With Western sanctions hitting Russia hard, Putin's top aides appear stressed. But how far can the president be pushed?" ABC News @  [Thor, comment: The photo with this article is a cartoon of mental illness - a long, long table with Putin at one end entirely alone while his aides cluster at the other end far away. There is nothing funny about the photo though. The Putin's of the world live in a sterile mental cage. They are not so rare. They always have enablers. How do you negotiate with a psychopath?"]

Tim Costello (6 March 2022) "Vladimir Putin: a miracle defender of Christianity or the most evil man? The Russian president’s Orthodox faith is central to his worldview but he has used it to justify invasion and violence in God’s name. What has been missed among Vladimir Putin’s ranting about Ukraine and Nato is the religious dimension in his thinking". The Guardian @ 

Nick Cohen (6 March 2022) "Far right and far left alike admired Putin. Now we’ve all turned against strongmen". The Guardian @ 

Sergio Olmos (5 March 2022) "‘Key to white survival’: how Putin has morphed into a far-right savior - The Russian president’s ‘strong man’ image and disdain for liberals has turned him into a hero for white nationalists". The Guardian @ 

Pjotr Sauer (12 March 2022) "Dysfunction and self-deception stalk Kremlin but who will stand up to Putin? - Russia launched its war with unrealistic expectations but there is little sign of voices that could halt the conflict’s relentless grind". The Guardian @  [Quote: "“The Kremlin’s disastrous move to invade was rooted in giant lapses of expertise about Ukraine,” said Gabuev, who added that officials close to Putin who helped plan the invasion sincerely believed that many Ukrainians would welcome Russian soldiers, and that the country’s leadership would offer little resistance. ... “Only a very small group of generals were informed about the war, and they didn’t ask difficult questions that could help prepare for any scenarios other than a speedy Russian victory."] [Thor, comment: This is the story of wars throughout history - leaders who in spite of huge and expensive intelligence organizations ignore obvious information and act blindly on the basis of their own prejudice. The Americans have done this again and again. Now with Russia and Ukraine we have extraordinary Russian leadership ignorance of a neighbouring country with a shared language, extensive intermarriage, and even militaries which were integrated until the early 1990s. ]

Sorry for the many links to the Ukraine situation on this topic, but they are a living illustration of how war, like a galactic black hole, sucks in everyone on both sides - the good, the bad & the indifferent. Here is an extended example of this : Andrew Salmon (March 17, 2022) "Zelensky isn’t a Nazi, but some of his soldiers are - Far rightist Azov troops’ mobilization of potent Nazi symbols muddies the waters of Western support for the Ukrainian resistance". Asia Times @  [Quote: " combat spread across Ukraine’s Donbas, rightist militias emerged. Some were neo-Nazi in orientation and drew white supremacist volunteers, often of dubious backgrounds, from across the world. The highest-profile among these was Azov – described as an “extreme rightist nationalist paramilitary. Many [Azov uni] soldiers profess far-right, white-supremacist sentiments. In 2015, a spokesperson for the regiment admitted that 10% to 20% of Azov’s recruits were neo-Nazis. It is not even clear how strong the unit is, given its various offshoots. Estimates of its military manpower range between 900 (a battalion) and 3,000 (a regiment or brigade, typically of three battalions).

The multiple references by Putin, Lavrov and Kadyrov to a dark past are emotively explosive for Russians, raising memories of both horror and pride. The Nazi invasion of the USSR was one of the bloodiest episodes in history – 28 million Soviet people, including millions of Ukrainians, died. But it was the Red Army that destroyed the bulk of the German Wehrmacht. The Azov movement and related ultra-nationalists are anathema to Russia – and the West. But as the struggle proceeds, they may become subsumed into the far more reasonable and inclusive Ukrainian nationalism that Russia’s invasion and Zelensky’s leadership is birthing. And if they do, indeed, fight with the ferocity for which they are known, it may be doubly difficult for post-war, democratic Ukraine to excise them from its military and its body politic".]

Brian Glyn Williams (March 18, 2022) "Ukraine: Nowhere left to run for Crimea’s Russia-hating Tatars - Tatar-Russian animosity goes back centuries and was strongly rekindled by Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea". Asia Times @  [Thor, comment: Excellent, insightful context for the Ukrainian-Russian conflict ]

Tom Joyner and Nick Dole (19 March 2022) "Moldova is one of Europe's poorest nations. But its people are doing everything they can to help Ukrainians fleeing war". ABC News @
Shannon Brincat (21 March 2022) "As war is waged in Ukraine, is there ever a legal or moral case to kill tyrants?" ABC News @  [Quote: 'One of the main problems is the outcome (of assassination) is unpredictable. In the case of Iraq, it created a hotbed for terrorism in the form of ISIS and in Libya it allowed slavery to return. Another fear is tyrannicide will spawn an even worse leader. Or result in an escalation of hostilities and retaliation. What leader would be safe in such a world? Ultimately, the problem of tyrannicide is not only ethically vexing but legally complex and politically doubtful. More than 2,000 years after Plato, we still don't have a definitive answer."]

Gordon Corera (20 March 2022) "Ukraine war: Western agents seek to get inside Putin's head." BBC @ 

Francesco Sisci (21 March 2022) "A Ukrainian Play in China". Settimana @  [translated from Italian. Sisci is a Chinese speaking Italian historian & journalist. He writes mostly about Chinese politics. Sometimes he is right, sometimes he is wrong and sometimes he breaks information that you don't hear elsewhere. In this piece he gives a very useful breakdown of global geopolitics involving choices facing China (not good) viz a viz Russia, Europe and the United States. Interestingly he reveals that "On March 11, Putin began a purge of his intelligence services blaming them for the mistakes. This purge could perhaps open the space for a way out." Whatever happens on the battlefield, it is already clear that Russia has lost politically and economically - and this is a dilemma for China.]

Robert Reich (25 March 2022) "It’s the beginning of a new era in Washington – and Putin is responsible". The Guardian @ [Thor, comment: This is interesting and important. Why do people who don't like each other come together for a common purpose? Most often it is money (which can also divide them). It can also be a common enemy or threat. There is no threat more instinctively powerful than war. When survival for everyone is at stake, smaller arguments are put aside. Thus Ukrainians are suddenly united against Russia. Politicians often use nationalism in this way to claim a (usually fake) external threat. Russia is doing that with Russians at the moment. The Chinese regime has used the 'external enemy' method a lot to unite Chinese. The Australian Prime Minister at the moment desperately wants to find 'external enemies too' to survive an election he is likely to lose. In this article Reich explains how the threat of Putin's Russia is bringing the bitterly divided American Republicans and Democrats back to some kind of cooperation.]

John Naughton (26 March 2022) "Putin has a 21st-century digital battle plan, so why is he fighting like it’s 1939?". The Guardian @ [Thor, comment: Read this article for the comments, many of them well informed. Like a majority of politicians worldwide (e.g. Xi Jinping and Scott Morrison), Putin himself doesn't understand technology. He hates the internet for example and thinks it's a foreign plot. That underlying weakness plays havoc with something and complex as a modern military]


 Wars Are Inevitable. Yes or No?  (c) Thor May 2022

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