In a study published in Scientific American, Ferguson argues that war may not be in our nature at all. People might fight and sometimes kill for personal reasons, but homicide, he argues, is not war.
“There is definitely controversy in the field when it comes to this question,” says Ferguson, who studies human nature, war and peace. “But it is the overall circumstances that we live in that creates the impulse to go or not go to war.” In his study, “War May Not Be in Our Nature After All. Why We Fight”, Ferguson reached back thousands of years to look at the historical roots of warfare to shed light on whether humans have always made war or if armed conflict has only emerged as changing social conditions provided the motivation and organization to collectively kill.
We are currently witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 70.8 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.9 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also millions of stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. In a world where nearly 1 person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution.
SINCE THE END of the Second World War in 1945 there have been some 250 major wars in which over 50 million people have been killed, tens of millions made homeless, and countless millions injured and bereaved. Estimates for the total number killed in wars throughout all of human history range from 150 million to 1 billion. War has several other effects on population, including decreasing the birthrate by taking men away from their wives. Putting aside the very real human cost, war has serious economic costs loss of buildings, infrastructure, a decline in the working population, uncertainty, rise in debt and disruption to normal economic activity. In many circumstances, war can lead to inflation which leads to loss of people’s savings, rise in uncertainty and loss of confidence in the financial system.
There is always a reason for war, World War I began in 1914, after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and lasted until 1918. During the conflict, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers) fought against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and the United States (the Allied Powers).
World War II was the biggest and deadliest war in history, involving more than 30 countries. Sparked by the 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland, the war dragged on for six bloody years until the Allies defeated Nazi Germany and Japan in 1945.
Wars don’t happen by accident. As well as weapons, wars need people who are prepared to use them: to kill, and to be killed. Certainly there are people who don’t need persuading. War is an activity that needs preparation, organisation, planning and calculation, like farming, or education, or building. It has little to do with aggressive moods or eruptions of anger.
Murder, the world over, is a crime punishable by long prison sentences (in some countries by execution). Yet hundreds of thousands of people in the world’s armed forces are trained to murder – and murder people they do not even know. But ‘murder’ is not a word used when talking about war. That would clearly make war a bad thing – something we should avoid at all cost, ready to lock up anyone who tries it.
By: Mohsin Durrani
International Human Rights Commission