The ‘solution’ of war is too often the first choice of politicians and leaders, taken before other tactics are seriously considered. Why? Because politicians and leaders have been raised through childhood in the same way as other men – to be pawns of war. They are equally brainwashed to link masculinity to war. They also use war as a platform to display their masculinity. However there is one giant difference. They generally stay safe behind the lives and bodies of younger men.
Let me briefly summarize my thoughts from previous posts: For our evolutionary survival throughout the centuries, men had to be able to kill. This required society to psychologically shape boys and men for war and killing. In order to do this, society used the tactic of linking war to the concept of masculinity. War became an important way for men to prove their masculinity. It seems to me that boys and men are raised and indoctrinated to value the characteristics of soldiers. And war provides the arena to prove their masculinity.
The result is that the likelihood of war increases. Men in government (think GW Bush), men in the military, men in the manufacturing of weapons, men in power, and lastly, the ordinary man – all opt for war as the first choice. Other means of conflict resolution are often passed over. Kennedy* (Professor David Kennedy, the Donald J. McLachlan Professor, at the inaugural symposium (2007) of the Stanford International Initiative argues that “it [is] too easy for those in power to resort to military solutions based on the assumption that they will be swifter and cheaper than pursuing the “tedious and vexatious process of diplomacy.”
The ‘solution’ of war, too often the first choice of politicians and leaders, is the platform for those in power to display their masculinity. But:
• War is cynically used to advance the political and military career prospects of political and military leaders.
• War is not about civilian protection when most displays of power go far beyond what is necessary for defence.
• The war system does not benefit ordinary men or women, besides allowing men a false arena to display their masculinity.
• The men in the manufacture of armaments, the most macho line of business, increase their power and make unbelievable amounts of money. In fact, expenditure on armaments far outweighs the social needs of the country and its citizens.
As Kennedy says, “My core concern is the matter of political accountability.” Is there any political accountability when a leader is prepared to put the lives of countrymen at risk for the sake of his own ego?
A politician who chooses war as first option is attempting to convince the ‘enemy’, other leaders, his own people and himself, that he has ‘the balls’: that he is the strongest, the biggest bully on the playground. His countrymen and other ‘friendly’ countries must be either ‘with him or against him’. If they are with him, they are real men, brave and disciplined. If they are against him, they are cowards, unpatriotic traitors.
It may sound sceptical, but I believe that Presidents / Prime Ministers and the top men in the military declare war to prove their own personal masculine power. They use war to prove their masculinity, not by fighting or killing, but by sending someone else’s young son into war, often to his death. The bodies, minds and lives of older men, the war experts and the politicians stay safe, unaffected by their choice of conflict. That leader will never have to fight or kill in the war he so easily declares. He ‘owns’ the bodies of the men further down the pecking order. As General Patton said in 1944, one wins by “making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country”.
Leaders and politicians misuse and abuse the ordinary man’s ideas of what it means to ‘be a man’. They easily appeal to men’s sense of patriotism and dutiful obedience and response to threat – no matter whether these are legitimate or not in the circumstances. Men offer themselves as pawns. These are usually very young men, who have only just left their boyhood.
It has become a self-sustaining spiral. Boys and men are raised to regard violence and war as linked to masculinity. Ordinary men as well as leaders want to prove their masculinity. Leaders make war their first choice. They – and war – are supported by ordinary men.
In this self-sustaining spiral, masculinity makes war and war makes masculinity.
In my next few blogs, I want to discuss the ways in which we continue to train our sons to be pawns for war, even though they may never be called to fight. I want to look at the idealistic characteristics of a soldier one-by-one and try to understand the effect that these have on boys, men, and society. Are these characteristics out of step with the needs of contemporary living? Are we still blindly following an outdated, primitive, evolutionary practice?
An important question that arises from all this – are we choosing to prepare boys for the increasing unlikelihood of them fighting in a future war,* rather than preparing them for the usual daily life that most men will lead: that of work, friends and family. Of the characteristics listed in my 1st post as those valuable and desirable in a soldier,* most seem to me to be actually negative for a man’s daily life. It also seems obvious that a man’s daily life of work, friends and family would need, among other things those characteristics that I listed 2nd – communication, team work and caring – qualities that would be regarded as negative by the military.