My three brothers and I are baby boomers. We were born after World War II, in 1948, ’49, ’50 and ’51. We grew up seeing the memorabilia that our dad brought back from the war — memorabilia that showed the horrors of governmental thugs and fascism, memorabilia that shaped our lives. Dad had a box full of original horrific photographs of the Holocaust. My brothers and I would steal into the closet where those photos were housed. Those images are still seared into my mind and have shaped who I am.
My fascination with the causation of civil conflict and war began at that time as a result of seeing those photographs. As a kid I wondered how this type of inhumanity could occur. Over many years I have made it a point to try to better understand the nature of conflict and war, not because I have any fascination with man’s inhumanity to man, or with war in general but because, like many from my generation, I was raised by a man who served in WWII; a man who was concerned about the future of our civilization. I was fortunate to have parents who could discuss these grim matters and were able to give good counsel.
We four boys went away to college and all of us joined various ROTC programs, where we studied warfare for four years. After college I stayed in the Army’s Inactive Reserves for 14 years. During all those years and the years since, I have made an effort to keep up on all things military and how we as a nation have used our military and State Department to deal with issues and disputes around the world. Just as so many others have, I’ve tried to be an informed citizen.
The Genetics of War
In high school my fascination with human conflict was again piqued. Not because it was the Vietnam ’60s era — which automatically puts me in the so-called peacenik hippy generation — but because I saw a documentary which chronicled the work of anthropologists studying conflict within Central African tribes over many generations. It advanced this belief: certain genetic traits of aggression within males would surface every couple of generations, causing conflict. Due to established social structures within those communities, such was reason for tribes to divide. The postulate: these episodes allowed for smaller groups to sustain themselves within their limited environments. Instead of big villages stressing their local environs, there would be more, yet smaller, villages within limited geographic areas. It meant that certain aggressive genetic traits, which evolved over the millennia, allowed for the species to survive.
Beyond the documentary that I watched those many years ago, there have been lots of studies by anthropologists in different parts of the world. Napoleon Chagnon studied an almost entirely unexplored region of the Amazon Basin starting in 1964. Over 35 years he researched one of the last isolated tribes in the world; the Yanomamö. He detailed the lives of 25,000 Yanomamö who lived in 250 separate villages, nearly unchanged from how humans existed for tens of thousands of years. He found that tribal peoples were not peaceful, but were practically in a constant state of war. It shaped every aspect of their lives and culture. He also found that their battles were not rooted in conflicts over material resources, but were almost entirely over women.
What’s Sex Got To Do With It?
Understand that I am not saying that war is about sex, per se. It is about evolution: the genetics of conflict that deal with survival of the species; based in the species propagating and sustaining itself. Up and until modern times — meaning artificial insemination and test-tube babies — it had to do with men and women having sex. Such genetic behaviors and corresponding beliefs evolved into our perpetuated male and female roles and institutions. Those genetic behaviors and resultant institutions (including early religious institutions) would obviously spurn behaviors that didn’t perpetuate the species.
Assuming these genetic predispositions exist and affect human behaviors, it is important in our modern democracy to be aware of which behaviors and institutions can positively affect our survival. And which behaviors and institutions need to be or can be changed. And, it is vitally important to identify which behaviors and institutions cannot be changed, but should be monitored or dealt with to assure our existence. Then throw into the mix — which new behaviors and institutions we have recently created that are a source for conflict with other cultures. Meaning, what do others find so abhorrent in our new behaviors that they consider us an obstacle to their survival, to the point they are willing to fight and kill? This is one reason why we, as a “modern” society, find ourselves in war with Islamic countries today.
The genetic predispositions that cause conflict and war may have skipped you and me, or maybe they mutated, or maybe you merely have the intellect to overcome the genetic impulses. But be aware, those impulses still exist. And all of us have to deal with the effects brought on by these inclinations. More correctly said: we deal with them every day of our lives. Conflict and war is all around us. We cannot pretend that they don’t exist; such behavior would be counter to our basic compulsion to survive.
Under this aggressive male genetic scenario, conflict and war seems to be a given. At least when you notice the constant warring of humans throughout the ages. None-the-less, for those who despise war and abhor the cause and effect and insanity that create war, then bless your little hearts. You may be the salvation of civilization. But that doesn’t mean conflicts are not an inherent aspect of life on earth, and it doesn’t mean we, as a civil society, shouldn’t be prepared to counter those genetic and institutional propensities.
On the morning of 9/11, my then 20-year-old daughter called me because she was scared, as many were. I suspected at the time that she wanted her dad to assure her that things would be okay; just as I had done on occasions since she was a little girl. I did assure her that the world would continue, but I let her know that what was ahead of us, as a nation, was a multi-generational struggle and quite possibly a multi-generational war; a confrontation between civilizations. And as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has noted, a struggle for the principles of modernity. (To better understand what Prime Minister Blair meant by this you can read about the origins and meaning of modernity in a book I wrote a few years ago.)
My mom and dad also called later that day. We discussed why a bunch of Muslims did what they did. It wasn’t difficult to understand that the gulf of institutional behaviors between the West and the Middle East had been widening at an alarming rate for the last couple of generations, and would result in conflict; a real conflict that had been festering and escalating for two decades. For my parents, it was a horrendous realization: the potential for a global conflict emerging that could affect the lives of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Having fought and lived through a global war, such a prospect was frightening for them.
Conflicting Behaviors – The Basis for War
Our discussions focused on this fact: our modern culture has embraced behaviors and new institutions that are in direct conflict with much of Middle Eastern culture. Dad’s take was that the looming conflict was not just foreseeable but inexorable. He suggested that the only question to answer is whether we believe our modern culture (our democracy) and our way of life is worth fighting for. His overriding concern wasn’t whether an uninformed media and an uninformed public would understand this, but whether our leaders would understand it and take appropriate action.
Dad was not a novice at winning the hearts and minds of enemies during and after war. He employed informational pamphlets against our enemies during WWII. He used loud speakers on tanks in battle and took over occupied radio stations and newspapers in Europe to disseminate the free flow of information during the war. He engaged in “information control” in Europe after the war, and was instrumental in creating the Psychological Warfare School for the U.S. Army. That being said, what dad meant by fighting for our civilization may not be what you think.
The Latest Semi-Shift in Policy
After 12 years of war in which we have finally grasped defeat from the jaws of victory, I noticed that former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has suggested that the war on terror may take 30 years. Such an epiphany acknowledges the fact that he had participated in and persisted in pursuing a flawed foreign policy. From this newly found belief we can surmise that he is either finally coming around to understanding the scope of this global conflict (a little late), or he may be trying to sell a few books. The fact of the matter: he was wrong in the past and is still wrong. Anyone who believes that this war is a 30-year war, whether we fight in it or not, is grossly mistaken and at best a fool, particularly in light of the way we are pursuing it.
The fact that Mr. Panetta has had an epiphany doesn’t correct his past folly, it doesn’t mean he is less unwise, and it doesn’t make him spontaneously intelligent. He and the President, as well as the former and current Secretaries of State, and most of the folks currently involved in our foreign policy, are either ill-advised or are boobs. If they are not able or willing to express the global struggle that has been ongoing since the demise of medieval culture as Tony Blair has done, then they should be fired or impeached.
For your edification, this discussion isn’t some kind of intellectual bullshit. It is the essence of the clash of civilizations in which we now find ourselves. And the confrontation won’t go away unless and until we make it go away…and we aren’t making it go away. We are, by our naive communal actions, adding fuel to the fire. We are actually exacerbating the problem by not confronting the nature of patriarchal authoritarian cultures head on, and how they are irreconcilable with our modern culture.
The Coming Recruitment of Mainstream Muslims
If you think housing prisoners at Guantanamo and treating prisoners poorly at Abu Ghraib are the reasons why Muslim radicals are successful in recruiting more people to their cause, then you don’t need to be conducting a war or a foreign policy, and you surely don’t need to be the free world’s leader. Recruitment of young men and women has more to do with Islamic patriarchal (male dominated) institutions proliferating the numbers of sexually frustrated young men, then telling them they’ll have 72 virgins when they die; it’s called Sensual Paradise. It is an institutional ploy that molds behavior. If you’ve been told these things relentlessly from the day you were born, then you believe it. Does it defy logic? Sure it does. But Imams vested in such a belief system and corresponding institutions tend not to rely on logic.
More chilling than the recruitment of sexually frustrated, horny young men is the looming proliferation of mainstream Muslims to the ranks of the radicals. Every time another one of their deeply held beliefs are mocked, or their most sacred institutions are ridiculed by our actions — or every time another one of our most sacred institutions is annulled that shows Muslims with deeply held beliefs that they don’t want to be like us, we run the risk of greater numbers of mainstream Muslims joining the fight. To counter this trend, we either need to aggressively counter the dogma or be prepared to fight and kill until everyone on both sides is tired of fighting and killing.
Even though the killing of four Americans at Benghazi wasn’t about a video, you have to give a little credit to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Susan Rice and President Obama for beginning to recognize that such an event does impact the perception that many Muslims have of us. They were beginning to see the origins of the conflict but were too inept to take it to an accurate conclusion.
Outside the fact that our leaders knowingly lied their butts off, what should bother us most is that they had no aggressive public response to clearly articulate the unalienable rights that all humans have. The entire situation could have been a teaching moment not just for those in the Middle East, but for Westerners as well. But most importantly is that if a video that attacks the fabric of Islam is considered blasphemous by our government, then why isn’t a law allowing homosexuals to serve in the military, which is repulsive to Muslims, also considered just as offensive? The Muslim world sees that and considers it to be an affront to their civilization. Why isn’t a court case which disallows religious icons to be displayed in the public square also considered offensive when Muslims don’t want such a religiously irreverent culture to inundate theirs? Or why isn’t allowing people of the same sex to marry considered an outrage when it is considered sacrilegious by Muslims. Why do we not think that the proliferation of pornography is considered an insult to the Muslim community and a powerful recruiting tool? The more we display behaviors which are an affront to their way of life, and the more we extoll the virtues of everything abhorrent to them, the more the extremists will be successful in recruiting mainstream Muslims.
The negative behaviors we display are much more powerful recruiting tools for extremists than is a video or a prison in Cuba. The ranks of Muslim warriors will swell unless we pull our heads out of our butts and start praising the beauty and virtues of modernity, rather than allowing all things repugnant to them to be what defines us. This naivety and outright stupidity defines our leaders.
Back to the first part of our headline for a moment: War and Sex. I’ve addressed the issue of sex as it relates to male genetic propensities and the evolution of male-dominated social structures. But to make it more plain: women of the world, the Islamic radicals want to subjugate you. Now, if that isn’t about sex I don’t know what is.
When President Bush went into Iraq after 9/11 he was real careful to say that we weren’t in a war with Islam. That was smart inasmuch as you definitely don’t want to get a billion people pissed off at you on the front end. The fact is this: under the scenario of limiting the war to a faction of Islam, we are able to divide various groups and limit the scope of the war. I’m not sure that anyone cares about all this, but I truly believe that the war we are waging should have had a more aggressive, two-pronged approach, with as much emphasis going into psychological operations as on bullets and bombs.
Such an approach would have assured that the cultural issues would have come to a head sooner rather than later. And such an approach would have created greater friction and warfare among Muslim factions. The net result would be that either the radical Islamic genie would be put back in the bottle by their own people, or the radical groups would prevail and create their own state that we could then bomb unhindered.
Assuming we want to decisively win this war on terrorism, we should have an extremely aggressive and effective informational operation: a part of our war operations that has been tragically neglected. The fear is that the longer the war goes on without such an effective offensive information drive, our western beliefs will be scrutinized, bastardized, dissected and found to be dubious. That will prolong the cultural conflict and widen the schism between the Middle East and the West, and will guarantee no end to the war.