WE HAVE DEALT only sketchily with proposed disarmament scenarios 
and economic analyses, but the reason r for our seemingly casual 
dismissal of so much serious and sophisticated work lies in no 
disrespect for its competence. It is rather a question of 
relevance. To put it plainly, all these programs, however detailed 
and well developed, are abstractions. The most carefully reasoned 
disarmament sequence inevitably reads more like the rules of a 
game or a classroom exercise in logic than like a prognosis of 
real events in the real world. This is as true of today's complex 
proposals as it was of the Abbe do St. Pierre's "Plan for 
Perpetual Peace in Europe 250 years ago.

Some essential element has clearly been lacking in all these 
schemes. One of our first tasks was to try to bring this missing 
quality into definable focus, and we believe we have succeeded in 
doing so. We find that at the heart of every peace study we have 
examined--from the modest technological proposal (e.g., to convert 
a poison gas plant to the production of 'socially useful 
equivalents) to the most elaborate scenario for universal peace in 
our time--lies one common fundamental misconception. It is the 
source of the miasma of unreality surrounding such plans. It is 
the incorrect assumption that war, as an institution, is 
subordinate to the social systems it is believed to serve.

This misconception, although profound and far-reaching, is 
entirely comprehensible. Few social clichés are so unquestioningly 
accepted as the notion that war is an extension of diplomacy (or 
of politics, or of the pursuit of economic objectives ) . If this 
were true, it would be wholly appropriate for economists and 
political theorists to look on the problems of transition to peace 
as essentially mechanical or procedural--as indeed they do, 
treating them as logistic corollaries of the settlement of 
national conflicts of interest. If this were true, there would be 
no real substance to the difficulties of transition. For it is 
evident that even in today's world there exists no conceivable 
conflict of interest, real or imaginary, between nations or 
between social forces within nations, that can-not be resolved 
without recourse to war--if such resolution were assigned a 
priority of social value. And if this were true, the economic 
analyses and disarmament proposals we have referred to, plausible 
and well conceived as they may be, would not inspire, as they do, 
an inescapable sense of indirection.

The point is that the cliché is not true, and the problems of 
transition are indeed substantive rather than merely procedural. 
Although war is "used" as an instrument of national and social 
policy, the fact that a society is organized for any degree of 
readiness for war supersedes its political and economic structure. 
War itself is the basic social system, within which other 
secondary modes of social organization conflict or conspire. It is 
the system which has governed most human societies of record, as 
it is today.

Once this is correctly understood, the true magnitude of the 
problems entailed in a transition to peace--itself a social 
system, but without precedent except in a few simple preindustrial 
societies--becomes apparent. At the same time, some of the 
puzzling superficial contradictions of modern societies can then 
be readily rationalized. The "unnecessary" size and power of the 
world war industry; the preeminence of the military establishment 
in every society, whether open or concealed; the exemption of 
military or paramilitary institutions from the accepted social and 
legal standards of behavior required elsewhere in the society; the 
successful operation of the armed forces and the armaments 
producers entirely outside the frame-work of each nation's 
economic ground rules: these and other ambiguities closely 
associated with the relationship of war to society are easily 
clarified, once the priority of war-making potential as the 
principal structuring force in society is accepted. Economic 
systems, political philosophies, and corpora jures serve and 
extend the war system, not vice versa.

It must be emphasized that the precedence of a society's war-
making potential over its other characteristics is not the result 
of the "threat" presumed to exist at any one time from other 
societies. This is the reverse of the basic situation; "threats" 
against the "national interest" are usually created or accelerated 
to meet the changing needs of the war system. Only in 
comparatively recent times has it been considered politically 
expedient to euphemize war budgets as "defense" requirements. The 
necessity for governments to distinguish between "aggression" 
(bad) and "defense" (good) has been a by-product of rising 
literacy and rapid communication. The distinction is tactical 
only, a concession to the growing inadequacy of ancient war-
organizing political rationales.  Wars are not "caused" by 
international conflicts of interest. Proper logical sequence would 
make it more often accurate to say that war-making societies 
require and thus bring about--such conflicts. The capacity of a 
nation to make war expresses the greatest social power it can 
exercise; war-making, active or contemplated, is a matter of life 
and death on the greatest scale subject to social control. It 
should therefore hardly be surprising that the military 
institutions in each society claim its highest priorities.

We find further that most of the confusion surrounding the myth 
that war-
making is a tool of state policy stems from a general 
misapprehension of the functions of war. In general, these are 
conceived as: to defend a nation from military attack by another, 
or to deter such an attack; to defend or advance a "national 
interest"-- economic, political, ideological; to maintain or 
increase a nation's military power for its own sake. These are the 
visible, or ostensible, functions of war. If there were no others, 
the importance of the war establishment in each society might in 
fact decline to the subordinate level it is believed to occupy. 
And the elimination of war would indeed be the procedural matter 
that the disarmament scenarios suggest.

But there are other, broader, more profoundly felt functions of 
war in modern societies. It is these invisible, or implied, 
functions that maintain war-
readiness as the dominant force in our societies. And it is the 
unwillingness or inability of the writers of disarmament scenarios 
and re conversion plans to take them into account that has so 
reduced the usefulness of their work, and that has made it seem 
unrelated to the world we know.




AS WE HAVE INDICATED, the preeminence of the concept of war as the 
principal organizing force in most societies has been 
insufficiently appreciated. This is also true of its extensive 
effects throughout the many nonmilitary activities of society. 
These effects are less apparent in complex industrial societies 
like our own than in primitive cultures, the activities of which 
can be more easily and fully comprehended.

We propose in this section to examine these nonmilitary, implied, 
and usually invisible functions of war, to the extent that they 
bear on the problems of transition to peace for our society. The 
military, or ostensible, function of the war system requires no 
elaboration; it serves simply to defend or advance the "national 
interest" by means of organized violence. It is often necessary 
for a national military establishment to create a need for its 
unique powers to maintain the franchise, so to speak. And a 
healthy military apparatus requires regular "exercise," by 
whatever rationale seems expedient, to prevent its atrophy.

The nonmilitary functions of the war system are more basic. They 
exist not merely to justify themselves but to serve broader social 
purposes. If and when war is eliminated, the military functions it 
has served will end with it. But its nonmilitary functions will 
not. It is essential, therefore, that we understand their 
significance before we can reasonably expect to evaluate whatever 
institutions may be proposed to replace them.


The production of weapons of mass destruction has always been 
associated with economic "waste." The term is pejorative, since it 
implies a failure of function. But no human activity can properly 
be considered wasteful if it achieves its contextual objective. 
The phrase "wasteful but necessary," applied not only to war 
expenditures but to most of the "unproductive" commercial 
activities of our society, is a contradiction in terms. ". . . The 
attacks that have since the time of Samuel's criticism of King 
Saul been leveled against military expenditures as waste may well 
have concealed or misunderstood the point that some kinds of waste 
may have a larger social utility."

In the case of military "waste," there is indeed a larger social 
utility. It derives from the fact that the "wastefulness" of war 
production is exercised entirely outside the framework of the 
economy of supply and demand. As such, it provides the only 
critically large segment of the total economy that is subject to 
complete and arbitrary central control. If modem industrial 
societies can be defined as those which have developed the 
capacity to produce more than is required for their economic 
survival (regardless of the equities of distribution of goods 
within them), military spending can be said to furnish the only 
balance wheel with sufficient inertia to stabilize the advance of 
their economies. The fact that war is "wasteful" is what enables 
it to serve this function. And the faster the economy advances, 
the heavier this balance wheel must be.

This function is often viewed, over-simply, as a device for the 
control of surpluses. One writer on the subject puts it this way: 
"Why is war so wonderful? Because it creates artificial demand . . 
. the only kind of artificial demand, moreover, that does not 
raise any political issues: war, and only war, solves the problem 
of inventory." The reference here is to shooting war, but it 
applies equally to the general war economy as well. "It is 
generally agreed," concludes, more cautiously, the report of a 
panel set up by the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 
"that the greatly expanded public sector since World War 11, 
resulting from heavy defense expenditures, has provided additional 
protection against depressions, since this sector is not 
responsive to contraction in the private sector and has provided a 
sort of buffer o balance wheel in the economy."

The principal economic function of war, in our view, that it 
provides just such a flywheel. It is not to be confused in 
function with the various forms of fiscal control, none of which 
directly engages vast numbers of men and units of production. It 
is not to be confused with massive government expenditures in 
social welfare programs; once initiated, such programs normally 
become .Integral parts of the general economy and are no longer 
subject to arbitrary control.

But even in the context of the general civilian economy war cannot 
be considered wholly "wasteful." Without a long-established war 
economy, and without its frequent eruption into large-scale 
shooting war, most of the major industrial advances known to 
history, beginning with the development of iron, could never have 
taken place. Weapons technology structures the economy.

According to the writer cited above, "Nothing is more ironic or 
revealing about our society than the fact that hugely destructive 
war is a very progressive force in it. . . . War production is 
progressive because it is production that would not otherwise have 
taken place. (It is not so widely appreciated, for example, that 
the civilian standard of living rose during World War II.)"  This 
is not "ironic or revealing," but essentially a simple statement 
of fact.

It should also be noted that war production has a dependably 
stimulating effect outside itself. Far from constituting a 
"wasteful" drain on the economy, war spending, considered 
pragmatically, has been a consistently positive factor in the rise 
of gross national product and of individual productivity. A former 
Secretary of the Army has carefully phrased it for public 
consumption thus: "If there is, as I suspect there is, a direct 
relation between the stimulus of large defense spending and a 
substantially increased rate of growth of gross national product, 
it quite simply follows that defense spending per se might be 
countenanced on economic grounds alone [emphasis added] as a 
stimulator of the national metabolism."  Actually, the fundamental 
nonmilitary utility of war in the economy is far more widely 
acknowledged than the scarcity of such affirmations as that quoted 
above would suggest.

But negatively phrased public recognitions of the importance of 
war to the general economy abound. The most familiar example is 
the effect of "peace threats" on the stock market, e.g., "Wall 
Street was shaken yesterday by news of an apparent peace feeler 
from North Vietnam, but swiftly recovered its composure after 
about an hour of sometimes indiscriminate selling."' Savings banks 
solicit deposits with similar cautionary slogans, e.g., "If peace 
breaks out, will you be ready for it?" A more subtle case in point 
was the recent refusal of the Department of Defense to permit the 
West German government to substitute nonmilitary goods for 
unwanted armaments in its purchase commitments from the United 
States; the decisive consideration was that the German purchases 
should not affect the general (nonmilitary) economy. Other 
incidental examples are to be found in the pressures brought to 
bear on the Department when it announces plans to close down an 
obsolete facility (as a "wasteful" form of "waste"), and in the 
usual coordination of stepped-up military activities (as in 
Vietnam in 1965) with dangerously rising unemployment rates.

Although we do not imply that a substitute for war in the economy 
cannot be devised, no combination of techniques for controlling 
employment, production, and consumption has yet been tested that 
can remotely compare to it in effectiveness. It is, and has been, 
the essential economic stabilizer of modern societies.


The political functions of war have been up to now even more 
critical to social stability. It is not surprising nevertheless, 
that discussions of economic conversion for peace tend to fall 
silent on the matter of political implementation, and that 
disarmament scenarios, often sophisticated in their weighing of 
international political factors, tend to disregard the political 
functions of the war system within individual societies.

These functions are essentially organizational. First of all, the 
existence of a society as a political "nation" requires as part of 
its definition an attitude of relationship toward other "nations." 
This is what we usually call foreign policy. But a nation's 
foreign policy can have I substance if it lacks the means of 
enforcing its attitude toward other nations. It can do this in a 
credible manner only if it implies the threat of maximum political 
organization for this purpose; which is to say that it is 
organized to some degree for war. War, then, as we have defined it 
to include all national activities that recognize the possibility 
of armed conflict, is itself the defining element of any nation's 
existence vis-à-vis any other nation. Since it is historically 
axiomatic that the existence of any form of weaponry insures its 
use, we have used the word "peace" as virtually synonymous with 
disarmament. By the same token, "war" is virtually synonymous with 
nationhood. The elimination of war implies the inevitable 
elimination of national sovereignty and the traditional nation-
state .

The war system not only has been essential to the existence of 
nations as independent political entities, but has been equally 
indispensable to their stable internal political structure. 
Without it, no government has ever been able to obtain 
acquiescence in its "legitimacy," or right to rule its society. 
The possibility of war provides the sense of eternal necessity 
without which no government can long remain in power. The 
historical record reveals one instance after another where the 
failure of a regime to maintain the credibility of a war threat 
led to its dissolution, by the forces of private interest, of 
reactions to social injustice, or of other disintegrative 
elements. The organization of a society for the possibility of war 
is its principal political stabilizer. It is ironic that this 
primary function of war has been generally recognized by 
historians only where it has been expressly acknowledged--in the 
pirate societies of the great conquerors.

The basic authority of a modern state over its people resides in 
its war powers. (There is, in fact, good reason to believe that 
codified law had its origins in the rules of conduct established 
by military victors for dealing with the defeated enemy, which 
were later adapted to apply to all subject populations.7) On a 
day-to-day basis, it is represented by the institution of police, 
armed organizations charged expressly with dealing with "internal 
enemies" in a military manner. Like the conventional "external" 
military, the police are also substantially exempt from many 
civilian legal restraints on their social behavior. In some 
countries, the artificial distinction between police and other 
military forces does not exist. On the long-term basis, a 
government's emergency war powers --inherent in the structure of 
even the most libertarian of nations--define the most significant 
aspect of the relation between state and citizen.

In advanced modern democratic societies, the war system has 
provided political leaders with another political-economic 
function of increasing importance: it has served as the last great 
safeguard against the elimination of necessary social classes. As 
economic productivity increases to a level further and further 
above that of minimum subsistence, it becomes more and more 
difficult for a society to maintain distribution patterns insuring 
the existence of "hewers of wood and drawers of water." The 
further progress of automation can be expected to differentiate 
still more sharply between "superior" workers and what Ricardo 
called "menials," while simultaneously aggravating the problem of 
maintaining an unskilled labor supply.

The arbitrary nature of war expenditures and of other military 
activities make them ideally suited to control these essential 
class relationships. Obviously, if the war system were to be 
discarded, new political machinery would be needed at once to 
serve this vital sub function. Until it is developed, the 
continuance of the war system must be assured, if for no other 
reason, among others, than to preserve whatever quality and degree 
of poverty a society requires as an incentive, as well as to 
maintain the stability of its internal organization of power.


Under this heading, we will examine a nexus of functions served by 
the war system that affect human behavior in society. In general, 
they are broader in application and less susceptible to direct 
observation than the economic and political factors previously 

The most obvious of these functions is the time-honored use of 
military institutions to provide antisocial elements with an 
acceptable role in the social structure. The disintegrative, 
unstable social movements loosely described as "fascist" have 
traditionally taken root in societies that have lacked adequate 
military or paramilitary outlets to meet the needs of these 
elements. This function has been critical in periods of rapid 
change. The danger signals are easy to recognize, even though the 
stigmata bear different names at different times. The current 
euphemistic clichés "juvenile delinquency" and "alienation"--
have had their counterparts in every age. In earlier days these 
conditions were dealt with directly by the military without the 
complications of due process, usually through press gangs or 
outright enslavement. But, it is not hard to visualize, for 
example, the degree of social disruption that might have taken 
place in the United States during the last two decades if the 
problem of the socially disaffected of the post-World War II 
period had not been foreseen and effectively met The younger, and 
more dangerous, of these hostile social 
groupings have been kept under control by the Selective Service 

This system and its analogues elsewhere finish remarkably clear 
examples of disguised military utility. Informed persons in this 
country have never accepted the official rationale for a peacetime 
draft--military necessity, preparedness, etc.--as worthy of 
serious consideration. But what has gained credence among 
thoughtful men is the rarely voiced, less easily refuted, 
proposition that the institution of military service has a 
"patriotic" priority in our society that must be maintained for 
its own sake. Ironically, the simplistic official justification 
for selective service comes closer to the mark, once the non-
military functions of military institutions are understood. As a 
control device over the hostile, nihilistic, and potentially 
unsettling elements of a society in transition, the draft can 
again be defended, and quite convincingly, as a "military" 

Nor can it be considered a coincidence that overt military 
activity, and thus the level of draft calls, tend to follow the 
major fluctuations in the unemployment rate in the lower age 
groups. This rate, in turn, is a time-tested herald of social 
discontent. It must be noted also, that the armed forces in every 
civilization have provided the principal state-supported haven for 
what we now call the "unemployable." The typical European standing 
army (of fifty years ago) consisted of "... troops unfit for 
employment in commerce, industry, or agriculture, led by officers 
unfit to practice any legitimate profession or to conduct a 
business enterprise."8 This is still largely true, if less 
apparent. In a sense, this function of the military as the 
custodian of the economically or culturally deprived was the 
forerunner of most contemporary civilian social-
welfare programs, from the W.P.A. to various forms of "socialized" 
medicine and social security. It is interesting that liberal 
sociologists currently proposing to use the Selective Service 
System as a medium of cultural upgrading of the poor consider this 
a novel application of military practice.

Although it cannot be said absolutely that such critical measures 
of social control as the draft require a military rationale, no 
modern society has yet been willing to risk experimentation with 
any other kind. Even during such periods of comparatively simple 
social crisis as the so-called Great Depression of the l930s, it 
was deemed prudent by the government to invest minor make-work 
projects, like the "Civilian" Conservation Corps, with a military 
character, and to place the more ambitious National Recovery 
Administration under the direction of a professional army officer 
at its inception. Today, at least one small Northern 
European country, plagued with uncontrollable unrest among its 
"alienated youth," is considering the expansion of its armed 
forces, despite the problem of making credible the expansion of a 
non-existent external threat.

Sporadic efforts have been made to promote general recognition of 
broad national values free of military connotation, but they have 
been ineffective. For example, to enlist public support of even 
such modest programs of social adjustment as "fighting inflation" 
or "maintaining physical fitness" it has been necessary for the 
government to utilize a patriotic ( i.e., military ) incentive. It 
sells "defense bonds and it equates health with military 
preparedness. This is not surprising; since the concept of 
"nationhood' implies readiness for war, a "national" program must 
do likewise.

In general, the war system provides the basic motivation for 
primary social organization. In so doing, it reflects on the 
societal level the incentives of individual human behavior. The 
most important of these, for social purposes, is the individual 
psychological rationale for allegiance to a society and its 
values. Allegiance requires a cause; a cause requires an enemy. 
This much is obvious; the critical point is that the enemy that 
defines the cause must seem genuinely formidable. Roughly 
speaking, the presumed power of the "enemy" sufficient to warrant 
an individual sense of allegiance to a society must be 
proportionate to the size and complexity of the society. Today, of 
course, that power must be one of unprecedented magnitude and 

It follows, from the patterns of human behavior, that the 
credibility of a social "enemy demands similarly a readiness of 
response in proportion to its menace. In a broad social context, 
"an eye for an eye" still characterizes the only acceptable 
attitude toward a presumed great of aggression, despite contrary 
religious and moral precepts governing personal conduct. The 
remoteness of personal decision from social consequence in a 
modern society makes it easy for its members to maintain this 
attitude without being aware of it. A recent example is the war in 
Vietnam; a less recent one was the bombing of Hiroshima and 
Nagasaki.9 In each case, the extent and gratuitousness of the 
slaughter were abstracted into political formulae by most 
Americans, once the proposition that the victims were "enemies" 
was established. The war system makes such an abstracted response 
possible in nonmilitary contexts as well. A conventional example 
of this mechanism is the inability of most people to connect, let 
us say, the starvation of millions in India with their own past 
conscious political decision-making. Yet the sequential logic 
linking a decision to restrict grain production in America with an 
eventual famine in Asia is obvious, unambiguous, and unconcealed.

What gives the war system its preeminent role in social 
organization, as elsewhere, is its unmatched authority over life 
and death. It must be emphasized again that the war system is not 
a mere social extension of the presumed need for individual human 
violence, but itself in turn serves to rationalize most 
nonmilitary killing. It also provides the precedent for the 
collective willingness of members of a society to pay a blood 
price for institutions far less central to social organization 
than war. To  take a handy example, ". . . rather than accept 
speed I limits of twenty miles an hour we prefer to let 
automobiles kill forty thousand people a year."l0 A Rand I analyst 
puts it in more general terms and less rhetorically:  "I am sure 
that there is, in effect, a desirable level of automobile 
accidents--desirable, that is, from a broad point of view; in the 
sense that it is a necessary concomitant of things of greater 
value to society." The point may seem too obvious for iteration, 
but it is essential to an understanding of the important 
motivational function of war as a model for collective sacrifice.

A brief look at some defunct premodern societies is instructive. 
One of the most noteworthy features common to the larger, more 
complex, and more successful of ancient civilizations was their 
widespread use of the blood sacrifice. If one were to limit 
consideration to those cultures whose regional hegemony was so 
complete that the prospect of "war" had become virtually 
inconceivable --as was the case with several of the great pre-
Columbian societies of the Western Hemispheric it would be found 
that some form of ritual killing occupied a position of paramount 
social importance in each. Invariably, the ritual was invested 
with mythic or religious significance; as with all religious and 
totemic practice, however, the ritual masked a broader and more 
important social function.

In these societies, the blood sacrifice served the purpose of 
maintaining a vestigial "earnest" of the society's capability and 
willingness to make war-i.e., kill and be killed in the event that 
some mystical--i.e., unforeseen --circumstance were to give rise 
to the possibility. That the "earnest" was not an adequate 
substitute for genuine military organization when the unthinkable 
enemy, such as the Spanish conquistadors, actually appeared on the 
scene in no way negates the function of the ritual. It was 
primarily, if not exclusively, a symbolic reminder that war had 
once been the central organizing force of the society, and that 
this condition might recur.

It does not follow that a transition to total peace in modern 
societies would require the use of this model, even in less 
"barbaric" guise. But the historical analogy serves as a reminder 
that a viable substitute for war as a social system cannot be a 
mere symbolic charade. It must involve real risk of real personal 
destruction, and on a scale consistent with the size and 
complexity of modern social systems. Credibility is the key. 
Whether the substitute is ritual in nature or functionally 
substantive, unless it provides a believable life-and-death threat 
it will not serve the socially organizing function of war.

The existence of an accepted external menace, then, is essential 
to social cohesiveness as well as to the acceptance of political 
authority. The menace must be believable, it must be of a 
magnitude consistent with the complexity of the society 
threatened, and it must appear, at least, to affect the entire 


Man, like all other animals, is subject to the continuing process 
of adapting to the limitations of his environment. But the 
principal mechanism he has utilized for this purpose is unique 
among living creatures. To forestall the inevitable historical 
cycles of inadequate food supply, post-Neolithic man destroys 
surplus members of his own species by organized warfare.

Ethologistsl2 have often observed that the organized slaughter of 
members of their own species is virtually unknown among other 
animals. Man's special propensity to kill his own kind (shared to 
a limited degree with rats) may be attributed to his inability to 
adapt anachronistic patterns of survival (like primitive hunting) 
to his development of "civilizations" in which these patterns 
cannot be effectively sublimated. It may be attributed to other 
causes that have been suggested, such as a maladapted "territorial 
instinct," etc. Nevertheless, it exists and its social expression 
in war constitutes a biological control of his relationship to his 
natural environment that is peculiar to man alone.

War has served to help assure the survival of the human species. 
But as an evolutionary device to improve it, war is almost 
unbelievably inefficient. With few exceptions, the selective 
processes of other living creatures promote both specific survival 
and genetic improvement. When a conventionally adaptive animal 
faces one of its periodic crises of insufficiency, it is the 
"inferior" members of the species that normally disappear. An 
animal's social response to such a crisis may take the form of a 
mass migration, during which the weak fall by the wayside. Or it 
may follow the dramatic and more efficient pattern of lemming 
societies, in which the weaker members voluntarily disperse, 
leaving available food supplies for the stronger. In either case, 
the strong survive and the weak fall. In human societies, those 
who fight and die in wars for survival are in general its 
biologically stronger members. This is natural selection in 

The regressive genetic effect of war has been often notedl3 and 
equally often deplored, even when it confuses biological and 
cultural factors.l3 The disproportionate loss of the biologically 
stronger remains inherent in traditional warfare. It serves to 
underscore the fact that survival of the species, rather than its 
improvement, is the fundamental purpose of natural selection, if 
it can be said to have a purpose, just as it is the basic premise 
of this study.

But as the polemologist Gaston Bouthoull5 has pointed out, other 
institutions that were developed to serve this ecological function 
have proved even less satisfactory. (They include such established 
forms as these: infanticide, practiced chiefly in ancient and 
primitive societies; sexual mutilation; monasticism; forced 
emigration; extensive capital punishment, as in old China and 
eighteenth century England; and other similar, usually localized, 

Man's ability to increase his productivity of the essentials of 
physical life suggests that the need for protection against 
cyclical famine may be nearly obsolete." It has thus tended to 
reduce the apparent importance of the basic ecological function of 
war, which is generally disregarded by peace theorists. Two 
aspects of it remain especially relevant, however. The first is 
obvious: current rates of population growth, compounded by 
environmental threat of chemical and other contaminants, may well 
bring about a new crisis of insufficiency. If so, it is likely to 
be one of unprecedented global magnitude, not merely regional or 
temporary. Conventional methods of warfare would almost surely 
prove inadequate, in this event, to reduce the consuming 
population to a level consistent with survival of the species.

The second relevant factor is the efficiency of modern methods of 
mass destruction. Even if their use is not required to meet a 
world population crisis, they offer, perhaps paradoxically, the 
first opportunity in the history I of man to halt the regressive 
genetic effects of natural  selection by war. Nuclear weapons are 
indiscriminate. Their application would bring to an end the 
disproportionate destruction of the physically stronger members of 
the species (the "warriors") in periods of war. Whether this 
prospect of genetic gain would offset the unfavorable mutations 
anticipated from post nuclear radioactivity we have not yet 
determined. What gives the question  a bearing on our study is the 
possibility that the determination may yet have to be made.

Another secondary ecological trend bearing on projected population 
growth is the regressive effect of certain medical advances. 
Pestilence, for example, is no longer an important factor in 
population control. The problem of increased life expectancy has 
been aggravated. These advances also pose a potentially more 
sinister problem, in that undesirable genetic traits that were 
formerly self-
liquidating are now medically maintained.

Many diseases that were once fatal at preprocreational ages are 
now cured; the effect of this development is to perpetuate 
undesirable susceptibilities and mutations. It seems clear that a 
new quasi-eugenic function of war is now in process of formation 
that will have to be taken into account in any transition plan. 
For the time being, the Department of Defense appears to have 
recognized such factors, as has been demonstrated by the planning 
under way by the Rand Corporation to cope with the breakdown in 
the ecological balance anticipated after a thermonuclear war. The 
Department has also begun to  stockpile birds, for example, 
against the expected proliferation of radiation-
resistant insects, etc.

Cultural and Scientific

The declared order of values in modern societies gives a high 
place to the so-called "creative" activities, and an even higher 
one to those associated with the advance of scientific knowledge. 
Widely held social values can be translated into political 
equivalents, which in turn may bear on the nature of a transition 
to peace. The attitudes of those who hold these values must be 
taken into account in the planning of the transition. The 
dependence, therefore, of cultural and scientific achievement on 
the I war system would be an important consideration in a 
transition plan even if such achievement had no inherently 
necessary social function.

Of all the countless dichotomies invented by scholars to account 
for the major differences in art styles and cycles, only one has 
been consistently unambiguous in its application to a variety of 
forms and cultures. However it may be verbalized, the basic 
distinction is this: I Is the work war-oriented or is it not? 
Among primitive

peoples, the war dance is the most important art form. I 
Elsewhere, literature, music, painting, sculpture, and  
architecture that has won lasting acceptance has invariably dealt 
with a theme of war, expressly or implicitly, and has expressed 
the centricity of war to society. The  war in question may be 
national conflict, as in Shakespeare plays, Beethoven's music, or 
Goya's paintings, or it may be reflected in the form of religious, 
social, or moral struggle, as in the work of Dante, Rembrandt, and 
Bach. Art that cannot be classified as war-oriented is usually 
described as "sterile," "decadent," and so on. Application of the 
"war standard" to works of art may often leave room for debate in 
individual cases, but there is no question of its role as the 
fundamental determinant of cultural values. Aesthetic and moral 
standards have a common anthropological origin, in the exaltation 
of bravery,  the willingness to kill and risk death in tribal 

It is also instructive to note that the character of a society's 
culture has borne a close relationship to its I war-making 
potential, in the context of its times. It is  no accident that 
the current "cultural explosion" in the United States is taking 
place during an era marked by an unusually rapid advance in 
weaponry. This relation  ship is more generally recognized than 
the literature on the subject would suggest. For example, many 
artists and writers are now beginning to express concern over I 
the limited creative options they envisage in the warless  world 
they think, or hope, may be soon upon us. They are currently 
preparing for this possibility by unprecedented experimentation 
with meaningless forms; their interest in recent years has been 
increasingly engaged by the abstract pattern, the gratuitous 
emotion, the random happening, and the unrelated sequence.

The relationship of war to scientific research and discovery is 
more explicit. War is the principal motivational force for the 
development of science at every level, from the abstractly 
conceptual to the narrowly technological. Modern society places a 
high value on "pure" science, but it is historically inescapable 
that all the significant discoveries that have been made about the 
natural world have been inspired by the real or imaginary military 
necessities of their epochs. The consequences of the discoveries 
have indeed gone far afield, but war has always provided the basic 

Beginning with the development of iron and steel, and proceeding 
through the discoveries of the laws of motion and thermodynamics 
to the age of the atomic particle, the synthetic polymer, and the 
space capsule, no important scientific advance has not been at 
least indirectly initiated by an implicit requirement of weaponry. 
More prosaic examples include the transistor radio (an outgrowth 
of military communications requirements ), the assembly line ( 
from Civil War firearms needs ), the steel-frame building (from 
the steel battleship), the canal lock, and so on. A typical 
adaptation can be seen in a device as modest as the common 
lawnmower; it developed from the revolving scythe devised by 
Leonardo da Vinci to precede a horse-powered vehicle into enemy 

The most direct relationship can be found in medical technology. 
For example, a giant "walking machine," an amplifier of body 
motions invented for military use in difficult terrain, is now 
making it possible for many previously confined to wheelchairs to 
walk. The Vietnam war alone has led to spectacular improvements in 
amputation procedures, blood-handling techniques, and surgical 
logistics. It has stimulated new large-scale research on malaria 
and other tropical parasite diseases; it is hard to estimate how 
long this work would otherwise have been delayed, despite its 
enormous nonmilitary importance to nearly half the world's 


We have elected to omit from our discussion of the nonmilitary 
functions of war those we do not consider critical to a transition 
program. This is not to say they are I unimportant, however, but 
only that they appear to present no special problems for the 
organization of a I peace-oriented social system. They include the 

War as a general social release. This is a psycho social function, 
serving the same purpose for a society as do the holiday, the 
celebration, and the orgy for the individual-- the release and 
redistribution of undifferentiated tensions. War provides for the 
periodic necessary readjustment of standards of social behavior ( 
the "moral climate") and for the dissipation of general boredom, 
one of the most consistently undervalued and unrecognized of 
social phenomena.

War as a generational stabilizer. This psychological function, 
served by other behavior patterns in other animals, enables the 
physically deteriorating older generation to maintain its control 
of the younger, destroying it if necessary.

War as an ideological clarifier. The dualism that characterizes 
the traditional dialectic of all branches of philosophy and of 
stable political relationships stems from war as the prototype of 
conflict. Except for secondary considerations, there cannot be, to 
put it as simply as possible, more than two sides to a question 
because there cannot be more than two sides to a war.

War as the basis for international understanding. Before the 
development of modern communications, the strategic requirements 
of war provided the only substantial incentive for the enrichment 
of one national culture with the achievements of another. Although 
this is still the case in many international relationships, the 
function is obsolescent.

We have also forgone extended characterization of those functions 
we assume to be widely and explicitly recognized. An obvious 
example is the role of war as controller of the quality and degree 
of unemployment. This is more than an economic and political sub 
function; its sociological, cultural, and ecological aspects are 
also important, although often teleonomic. But none affect the 
general problem of substitution. The same is true of certain other 
functions; those we have included are sufficient to define the 
scope of the problem.
Go To Part1
Go To Part 3