Deep history of peace:
I don’t like wars.  People who get involved with them don’t like them either.  People who experience them directly suffer terribly at the time and afterwards.  So why would we do it?  Why would a president who was given a Nobel Peace Prize, presumably by informed people with good intentions, be seen promoting an act of war – that is the bombing of Syria – that is 1) Not supported by the people at large 2) Not supported by the congress, which is empowered to decide with whom we wage war 3) Not supported by any ally that would be willing to go in with us except France 4) Not supported by the people of France 5) Not legal under the rules of the United Nations, which we have signed on to and thus are legally binding for us 6) Not capable of achieving any clear goal 7) Not supported by his own wife and 8) Inescapably, if carried out, going to result in the horrible death of a large number of people, in all probability none of them people we would find fault with 9) Runs the serious risk of so disrupting the control of such things that they fall into the hands of people who hate us?  Yes, it seems inescapable that poison gas has been used and it seems highly unlikely that it was used by the rebels in the civil war going on there.  But the arguments for the US committing an act of war are weak.  “It was so horrible, what they did, that we have to do something, even if it’s bad.”

The drive to war is very strong.  In “Julius Caesar” Mark Antony uses the clause, “Let slip the dogs of war.”  That is a very wise insight, even if Antony is not a particularly wise man. 

As I see the cause, war is an extension – call it a perversion – of a biological necessity for marrying kin.  But at one time there really wasn’t much choice.  We were in little bands of hunters and gatherers and population density was light.  Eventually, when population densities rose sufficiently, it became necessary to shun outsiders and to structure the individual population.  The result would be civilization and warfare, and they should have arisen when high population densities became possible with the advent of agriculture – which appears to have arisen in Syria first. 

The congruence between civilization and agriculture is good but not perfect; at one time shellfish were sufficiently abundant in Florida to support a civilization.  But that is no real challenge to the idea; it just means that the population was dense enough.

The question is war.  By and large war seems to have arisen right along with civilization.  That is evidence that the biological explanation is correct.  But dissenting voices have long arisen pointing out such things as lethal raiding among chimpanzee bands.  Therefore war must be instinctive, part of the human behavioral package.  Maybe.  Such raiding seems to occur when population densities are high and resources are limited.  But I have never quite believed war is ancient.

So now there is evidence (Elizabeth Culotta Latest Skirmish Over Ancestral Violence Strikes Blow for Peace SCIENCE vol. 341 no. 6143 July 19, 2013 page 224 and Douglas P. Fry and Patrik Söderburg Lethal Aggression in Mobile Forager Bands and Implications for the Origins of War page 270 in the same issue) that among modern people who live in the old fashioned way there is no warfare.  All violence is personally motivated. 

I find that more than theoretically gratifying.  Not only do we have no instinct to commit war, people refrain from it even in a world where it is all too common.  Even if modern bands did, it might be something they caught from their civilized neighbors.  So maybe there is a way out.  In fact I think when we finally understand the biology we will find that way.

Meanwhile I notice that Russia and Syria seem to have agreed for Russia to take charge of those terrible chemical weapons.  That means Russian troops in Syria at their invitation AND at our invitation.  We may have little influence in Syria after this.  Well if that’s the cost of peace, I think higher prices have been paid in the past.

While on the topic of Syria, I do observe that Syria has the deep and numerous social – call them ethnic or religious but social all the same – rifts one would expect to develop under conditions of civilization long maintained.  The alternative would be severe popuatlion decline or extinction, instability any way you look at it.  On the other hand Syria has had rapid growth going from some 4.5 million in 1960 to over 20 million by 2010.  That seems to be a destabilizing force, too.  We simply are going to have to figure out how to control fertility and we won’t do that until we understand it. 

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