A Green World

Saturday, 26 July 2014

War, aggression and how to control it.

Can a Green viewpoint help us control war and aggression?

In nature we see leopards killing antelopes, and ants waging war. So maybe war and aggression are not a uniquely human failing or sin. I would even argue that they are a natural behaviour in the ecology that we are part of. That doesn't mean they should be uncontrolled for people. Civilisation gives us the opportunity to improve on the law of the jungle. A better understanding of our ecology could help us put the right political mechanisms in place to help us create a better world.

The robber's risky lifestyle

When a leopard kills an antelope it takes a risk, investing a lot of time and energy for the reward of meat. It's not an easy life being a predator. Every time it hunts the leopard risks an injury that could cause it to starve if it can't hunt. Is this any different from the robber who steals and risks being caught and punished? This high risk lifestyle seems like the same ecological niche to me. We try to control the robbers by using punishment to make the long-term risks more expensive than the short-term gains. The alternative low-risk antelope lifestyle that most of us choose is of course what we want to convert the robber to. I think this analogy shows that the process of rehabilitation has got to include plenty of short-term nibbles if the robber is to be changed into an antelope.

War and Peace

When it comes to war, ants have been waging war since way before we did. They even take slaves, which is often the purpose of the war. Once again this is a specialised ecological niche that only some ant species occupy. Also the colony risks casualties for the expected gain of resources. Unlike the leopard, the ant colony takes fewer risks for it's gains. For ants, war pays. You could say, it's not war it's just business.

When people wage war is it any different?

So how do we control wars?

Well obviously the potential gains of war have to be outweighed by the potential losses. This is why countries band together in organisations like NATO. NATO is just too big to attack, it's too risky.

What about the United Nations as policeman of the world? The UN is a fine organisation that does marvellous humanitarian work around the world, but it's more of a social worker than a policeman. The UN is not in a position to treat countries like robbers. It can't impose adequate penalties.

Israel and Palestine

So what happens in situations like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My analysis is that both sides believe that aggression can gain them resources they desire. I believe and hope that the majority on both sides just want to get on with their lives, grazing away like the rest of us in peace. Too many politicians on both sides don't think that is enough. The Zionist movement in Israel wants to colonise all Palestinian land, and the response of the extremist Palestinians is to try and destroy Israel.

If we look at the costs and benefits, the political stance of both sides are very understandable. While Israel is supported, politically and financially, by the USA they can colonise the West Bank with near impunity, a big gain. Gaza is seen as the largest prison in the world, and with nothing to lose Hamas will use Iranian support to attack Israel by whatever means are available. Any change has got to be better than the current imprisonment, and a big gain. There is positive reinforcement of aggression. Since both sides see aggression as giving greater rewards than peace, there is no motivation to stop the conflict. It will not stop. There is no way out.

What about the silent majority who I believe want peace? Is there a political mechanism that can support them in achieving a peaceful outcome? Is there a settlement that the UN as social worker could negotiate to make peace grow? I think that if we look at the situation from an ecological systems viewpoint we can come up with something that will work.

In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict both sides want territory, that seems to be a prime motivating factor. Currently aggression is rewarded with territorial gain, peace with loss of territory. This needs to be reversed for a peaceful settlement. There have been a number of Israeli-Palestinian border agreements in the past. None of them have been stuck to. What if a new agreement incorporated a clause that said aggression on either side would result in a loss of territory from the aggressor? This would change the positive feedback system into a negative feedback that would reward peace and penalise aggression. Peace at last in the Middle East!

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