Professor of Classics at Stanford University Ian Morris does not deny the perils of wartime. He does, however, also acknowledge that according to the Stone Age, humans have used punishment or violence to “settle an argument” for a long time and there is no evidence that this was considered criminal. Morris notes that “10 to 20 percent of all Stone Age humans died at the hands of other people.”
He goes on to explain that he sees a significant change. While humans have endured extreme violence since 1914, we are about 10 times less likely to settle our disputes, no matter the size, with aggression.
In Robert D. Kaplan’s Forbes review of Morris’ book on the evolution of wartime, he notes that even throughout 20th century violence, a person would have “only” a 1 to 2 percent chance of perishing by a violent hand. So, according to them, our wartime has gotten better because it is essentially less common and considered a dire circumstance.
Morris and Kaplan seem to believe that war is detrimental, but necessary to our society. Kaplan hypothesizes that science has overtaken our affinity for war, that we have found intellectual problem-solving to be the answer. Yet, Morris feels this is not the case at all, and that science is just another answer to add to the many tools we have built to grow, but which we fail to choose. According to Morris, war is the only way to assert power when we are threatened. It is also the most effective scare tactic; ‘if you do not back down, we will wage war.’ This is not always used for ‘good;’ imperialism wiped out entire cultures.
So, Morris and Kaplan do not deny that wartime is psychologically damaging. However, they believe we consistently look to it when we want to, ironically, both psychologically and physically protect our people, and when we want stability. Holding force over another nation’s head is a favored way of, somehow, keeping in the peace.