Choosing Between Peace and War [report]

Herschel Grossman
2003 unpublished
Although most disputes between groups of people are settled peacefully, sometimes disputes result in war. This lecture uses historical examples to illustrate how the ability to negotiate a credible peaceful settlement of a dispute between sovereign states, typically a dispute over the control of territory or natural resources, depends on the divisibility of the outcome of the dispute, on the effectiveness of the fortifications and counterattacks with which an attacker would expect to have to
more » ... xpect to have to contend, and on the permanence of the outcome of a potential war. The lecture also contrasts the possibilities for avoiding wars between sovereign states with the possibilities for avoiding civil wars. Since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have wrecked their havoc on mankind. Although the meaning of the metaphor of the Four Horsemen remains subject to ongoing scholarly controversies, we can take the Four Horsemen to represent famine, disease, natural disasters, and the subject of this lecture, war. 1 In modern times science and technology have mitigated the ravages of three of the Four Horsemen. Improvements in agriculture and in transportation have helped to alleviate famine and to feed growing populations, medical science and public health have made steady progress in finding and effecting preventions and cures for diseases, and advances in structural and civil engineering have resulted in better protection from natural disasters. War, however, continues to be both an acute problem and a puzzle. I call war a puzzle because, this horseman being wholly man made, we might think that it would be easy to relieve ourselves of his torments. But, despite our achievements in science and technology, and in profound humanistic thinking, we have not made noticeable progress in solving the problem of war. A comparison of modern times with what we know about human history suggests that wars, both wars between sovereign states and civil wars, are as common now as they ever have been. People sometimes attempt to explain the persistence of war by claiming that wars are an inevitable consequence of "human nature". There are both scientific and religious versions 1 These controversies involve biblical exegesis and the interpretation of medieval iconography, The proximate source of the metaphor of the Four Horsemen is the New Testament Book of Revelation. Earlier sources include the Old Testament Books of Ezekiel and Zechariah. The Four Horsemen have often been popularized, perhaps most famously by the artist Albrecht Dürer in his brilliant woodcut of 1498 and by the sports writer Grantland Rice, who used the metaphor, with slightly different names for the Horsemen, to romanticize the 1924 University of Notre Dame football team. Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore, they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.
doi:10.3386/w10180 fatcat:bvzr6x4havaphkncf4x3dsinv4