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Sid Tafler

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Is war inevitable? Is it a natural state of human affairs or an aberration, absent from our distant past and perhaps, our future as well?

Human history is splattered with blood. 160 million people died in dozens of wars in the 20th century alone.
Although armed conflict still dominates the headlines, fewer people are fighting and dying in wars. Apparently, there were fewer war deaths in the last decade than any other in the last 100 years.
Go way back to prehistory, and you see little if any evidence of war. The living sites of Stone Age people are remarkably free of mass graves, fortified sites and depictions of war on cave art. Also missing are images of shields, which always rise as defensive weapons when people are attacked with spears. We can't say for sure there was no warfare 20,000 or 50,000 years ago, just that there is little or no sign that there was.
So can we abolish war, just as we seek to abolish slavery or smallpox? Or will we still keep fighting each other to settle our differences, with ever-more sophisticated weapons and techniques?

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  • Apr 10 2012: Heroism is central to the human condition. So is cowardice, so is war, so is fraternizing in the front ranks. But it's getting better. You're right, Sid (although are you sure about the pacifist "Stone Age"?) and so is Steven Pinker. Today is the 95th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, as we Canadians remember it. In that one battle, when Canada's population was less than a quarter of what it is today, 3,598 Canadian soldiers lost their lives. In one battle. Over the past ten years, the "war in Afghanistan" has claimed 158 Canadian soldiers' lives. Our hearts with their families, but hysteria is also central to the human condition.
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      Apr 10 2012: I saw SP on Colbert plugging the book. Good to hear that societies and nations are generally more peaceful now than ever.

      Tribalism, nationalism, religion, greed and old grievances still exist.

      Perhaps humans are moving in the right direction. But a long way to go.

      The tensions may increase as the global population grows and competition for oil, water, land, food, resources grow.

      Part of the more peaceful decades reflects the end of the cold war and peace due to US hegemony (except where they wanted a war or don't care). West Europe has grown tired of conflict and is more united.

      As China rises, perhaps tensions will increase as the US feels more challenged.

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