News / Africa

Is War Inevitable?

Syria Rebels
Syria Rebels

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Throughout human history, war has taken countless lives, cost untold sums of money and brought great cities to ruin. But despite the long list of conflicts from ancient times to modern day, psychologists say war is not inevitable.


Much research has focused on the causes of war and how to deal with its aftermath. But three political psychologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst say a better understanding of the psychological roots of war “can increase the likelihood of avoiding violence as a way to resolve conflicts with others.”

Bernhard Leidner, Linda Tropp and Brian Lickel present their views in the peace psychology issue of American Psychologist.

Leidner, lead author, said “Mostly psychology, when it comes to war, focuses obviously on human tendencies to be aggressive, to be violent. So, it’s a lot of focus generally on the more negative end – problematic side – but not as much focus on either the positive side or how to actually prevent those problems in the first place.”

Research shows, he said, that those who tend to “glorify their country” – a kind of nationalism – are more likely to choose a violent solution.

“It’s not everything that you think about your country that has bad impacts. It’s usually only this aspect of glorifying your country. That you perceive other countries as more threatening. That you are more likely to be aggressive to them. On the other hand, if you’re just committed to your country in a more healthy way then you actually do not show these tendencies.”

How do you know if someone is glorifying their country? Leidner says just ask a few questions.

“How much do you think that your country would be superior to other countries? That’s one aspect. Basically thinking that my country is a more moral country -- a better country – more successful country in whatever domain. And also how much do you believe criticism of your own country is allowed? People sometimes believe that criticism of your own country is actually being disloyal to your country. This kind of unconditional loyalty,” he said.

The authors said that conflict and violence allow some people to “address psychological needs for identity, safety, security and power.” They said non-violence has received much less media attention.

“Even if you look at normal human interactions, most of them are non-violent. It’s just that the violent interactions stand out so much that often times we also just get this wrong idea of this is like how we are, although that’s not quite true,” said Leidner.

Leidner added that it’s important for political leaders to explain there may be different paths to crisis resolution – conflict on the one hand, and diplomacy on the other. He says when polls are taken asking people whether they prefer a violent or diplomatic solution – instead of just asking whether they favor an attack or not – there is great support for diplomacy.

“There are examples like Nelson Mandela in South Africa, whose rhetoric was very cooperative. And by that he also step by step changed the view of citizens in his country that it’s better to cooperate and live together in peace.”

Mr. Mandela said, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

Leidner compares that with rhetoric heard in the U.S. after the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks. He says it became harsher toward Muslim-Americans as time went on.

“Since all these attitudes and behavioral tendencies of people are very malleable, obviously the media and also politicians can actually gear them in a good or bad way, so to speak.”

Leidner and his co-authors said leaders should place more emphasis on increasing empathy and understanding of others. They write, “It is our contention that psychology can and should be applied to promote peace, not war.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid