Why do we like to go to war?

Rob et al,

In last night’s call, I said that the decision to go to war with Sicily reminded me of the atmosphere in the U.S. when we decided to go to war with Iraq.

Rob chided me (politely, of course 😉 reminding me that the world of Athens is very different from our own. While I agree that it is too easy to make comparisons that don’t take into account the differences, I was actually making a slightly different point.

Rob rightly reminded us that the ancient Greek world had a militaristic culture where all the citizens of all the poli – not just of the Spartans – were trained to fight from an early age. Thus, for them going to war was what they did – it was expected.

Bruce also said that the *reason* Athens had to go to war against Sicily/Syracuse was flimsy. It would have been like the U.S. deciding to invade India- another democracy – because we could – rather than invading Iraq where there was a brutal dictator.

True – though the point I was making was more about the fact that there seems to be a common thread running through history. People like to go to war whatever the context or reasons given.

Generally speaking – and this is certainly true today – it’s more unpopular to oppose a war – any war despite its context – than to support one. Once the drumbeat starts it seems to be human nature to get excited for the adventure.

As Laurel put it on the call, the Athenians seemed to think it would be great fun to open a can of whoop *ss on the Sicilians/Syracuseans. [Ed: Laurel didn’t actually say the whoop *ss part.]

Why is it that peoples – whether living in democracies or tyrannies – consistently love the idea of going to war – whether “justified” or not?


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1 Response to Why do we like to go to war?

  1. August 08, 2006 at 03:44 PM says:

    <p>I’m sure there are many possible answers to this, including religious fervor, cool uniforms, the thrill of conflict and simple bloodlust, all of which can be expounded in good time.</p><p>But probably the most basic reason that people (perversely) seem to like the idea of going to war is that one of our most basic desires is for a sense of community. And nothing unites people like a common enemy. Even if we have to make one up.</p><p>If there were a true global community, with all peoples working together for the betterment of all, it wouldn’t truly be a community. We always need that "other" that we can point at and say "That’s bad. We’re not like that."</p><p>The only way all the peoples of the earth will band together is if we are invaded by belligerent aliens. "Independence Day" may have been one of the worst movies in the history of the medium, but it had that part right.</p><p>Mark</p>

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