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Anecdotes from the Archive

Antwerp, 1914: New Technology, Civilian Targets

Antwerp bombing

Reported in Scientific American—This Week in World War I: September 19, 1914 The Belgian field army retreated into the fortified city of Antwerp only 16 days after the Germans had invaded. During the German assault on the city, they dropped several bombs from a Zeppelin. Aiming was really nonexistent and the results were useless from [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

First Sea Battle of World War I

HMS Laurel

Reported in Scientific American this Week in World War I: September 12, 1914 The Battle of Heligoland Bight took place in the North Sea on August 28, 1914. Reports of the fight took a couple of weeks to make it into print. The battle was a convincing victory by the British Royal Navy against the [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

The First Week of World War I: August 2 – 8, 1914

Searchlights of the German fleet turn night into day. Scientific American, August 15, 1914

The Outbreak of War Reported 100 years ago in Scientific American The invasion of Belgium by the German army, in a bid to outflank French forces, led to Britain declaring war on Germany this week a century ago. The outbreak of a widespread war in 1914 took many people by surprise. That reaction was evident [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

The Army in the air

Before there were B-52s and F-15s, there were balloons. The issue from November 13, 1909, reported on the status of aeronautics in the U.S. military, which at the time was under the control of the Signal Corps, a branch in charge of the transfer of information and intelligence. According to the article, the United States [...]

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Cross-Check

Selma’s Timely—and Empirically Sound—Message of Nonviolence

The film Selma, about the struggle of Martin Luther King and other civil-rights activists in the mid-1960s, promotes a message that our violence-intoxicated era badly needs to hear.

Americans are flocking to a film that celebrates a soldier who killed lots of people during the U.S. war in Iraq. Meanwhile, a growing number of Americans want the U.S. to send ground troops back into Iraq to fight ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. So now is the perfect time for people [...]

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Cross-Check

What War Propaganda Like American Sniper Reveals about Us

If the urge to wage war were embedded deep in our genes, we wouldn't need propaganda like American Sniper to whip us into a righteous frenzy.

U.S. coalition forces killed at least 1,201 children in Iraq between 2003 and 2011. And that brings me to American Sniper, whose real-life “hero,” Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, was a child killer. Ever since I saw the film, I’ve been denouncing it to students, colleagues and other poor souls within hearing range as jingoistic, warmongering [...]

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Cross-Check

Would Global Violence Decline Faster If U.S. Was Less Militaristic?

Global violence has declined, but wars instigated by the U.S. have produced enormous casualties. Graph from costsofwar.org.

2015 has begun with horrific violence: the slaughter in Paris, allegedly by Muslim extremists, of the staff of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Outbursts like these lead many people to despair over the prospects for peace. A recent essay in Slate, “The World Is Not Falling Apart“–subtitled “Never mind the headlines. We’ve never lived in [...]

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Cross-Check

Anthropologist Finds Flaw in Claim That Chimp Raids Are “Adaptive”

Chimp violence by one community produces little or no net advantage over other communities and hence may not be adaptive, according to anthropologist Brian Ferguson.

Since September, I’ve posted three columns, including two written by others, on whether lethal chimpanzee raids–and by implication, human warfare—are adaptive and hence innate. In the first, I critique a widely reported study in Nature: “Lethal aggression in Pan is better explained by adaptive strategies than human impacts.” In the second, anthropologist Brian Ferguson criticizes the [...]

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Cross-Check

Thanksgiving and the Slanderous Myth of the Savage Savage

Native Americans, accused of Hobbesian savagery by modern scientists, actually treated Europeans kindly in some early encounters. This painting shows the legendary Thanksgiving feast between Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, who helped the newcomers survive and were eventually driven from their land.

The approach of Thanksgiving, that quintessential American holiday, has me brooding once again over slanderous scientific portrayals of Native Americans as bellicose brutes.* When I was in grade school, my classmates and I wore paper Indian headdresses and Pilgrim hats and reenacted the “first Thanksgiving,” in which supposedly friendly Native Americans joined Pilgrims for a [...]

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Cross-Check

Green Analysts Respond to Cross-Check Concerns about Warming, War and Hawkish U.S. Policies

Photo: Meditate.com, http://www.mediate.com/mobile/article.cfm?id=5042.

For a professional blowhard, there is no worse fate than being ignored. So I’m always—well, almost always—delighted when my posts get pushback, especially from people who are smart, well-informed and thoughtful. In my last post, “Hawkish U.S. Policies Pose Bigger Threat to Peace Than Climate Change,” I complained that discussions of how global warming might [...]

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Cross-Check

Hawkish U.S. Policies Pose Bigger Threat to Peace Than Climate Change

Hawkish U.S. policies are far more of a threat to world peace than global warming, if recent history is any guide.

In a previous post, I poked my nose into the debate over whether climate change will precipitate more conflict. I offered a half dozen objections to predictions that more warming means more war. One objection was that “many people making decisions that lead to large-scale violence—politicians, generals, warlords, drug kingpins and so on—work indoors in [...]

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Cross-Check

Does the Sebastian Junger/HBO Film Last Patrol Glorify War?

Sebastian Junger says that war is "exciting" and helped him become "the man I wanted to be." Photo: http://www.sebastianjunger.com.

“To honor a fallen peer and adjust to life outside the war zones, four men linked by combat journey by foot from Washington, D.C., to Pennsylvania.” That is how HBO describes Sebastian Junger’s new documentary, The Last Patrol, which HBO is airing Monday night. Last month I saw the film—and listened to Junger discuss it–at [...]

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Cross-Check

Chimp-Violence Researchers Respond to Criticism on “Cross-Check”

Lethal group aggression among both chimpanzees and humans suggests that "we may have inherited these patterns of behavior from our common ancestor," Wilson et al. state. "As many have noted, however, and as we fully recognize, the existence of bonobos, with their much less violent societies, highlights the need to be cautious in how much we infer along these lines."

Is chimpanzee violence a product of nature or nurture? Genes or environment? Two weeks ago Nature published a report, “Lethal aggression in Pan is better explained by adaptive strategies than human impacts,” in which 30 primatologists came down on the side of nature. The report triggered a wave of lurid mass-media claims that, as one [...]

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Cross-Check

New Report on Chimp Violence Fails to Support Deep-Roots Theory of War

Inter-group killings are rare among chimpanzees and non-existent among bonobos, according to a new report in Nature, thus undercutting the theory that the roots of war extend back to the common ancestor of humans and chimps.

On this blog, in my book The End of War and elsewhere (see Further Reading and Viewing), I have knocked the deep roots theory of war, which holds that war stems from an instinct deeply embedded in the genes of our male ancestors. Proponents of this theory—notably primatologist Richard Wrangham—claim it is supported by observations [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Could Deep-Brain Stimulation Fortify Soldiers’ Minds?

U.S. Army Soldiers with the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division stand guard at a market in Al Doura in Baghdad, Iraq, April 5, 2007, providing security for Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Curt Cashour via Flickr)

As many as 20 percent of war veterans return from combat in Afghanistan and Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression, according to a 2008 report from the RAND Corporation. Many experience constant nightmares and flashbacks and many can’t live normal lives. For significant number of veterans, available medications do not seem to [...]

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Observations

Why Lasers Won’t Protect Airliners

A mobile Buk surface-to-air missile launcher, similar to that believed to have been used to shoot down Flight 17. Image courtesy of .:Ajvol:. via Wikimedia Commons.

Questions over the best way to protect civilian aircraft from surface-launched missiles have reemerged in light of the recent Malaysia Airlines tragedy over the Ukraine. On July 17, a medium-range Buk surface-to-air missile fired from the territory controlled by pro-Russia separatists reportedly struck Flight 17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Boeing [...]

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Observations

Ukraine’s Top Scientists Turn to Academic Unity in Call for Peace

Image: Alex Khristov/Wikimedia Commons

The political unrest reverberating throughout the Ukraine has prompted its top scientists to send out a plea for peace. Since the crisis escalated last week, after Russia moved to establish control over the largely Russian speaking Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine, it has fueled fears that the conflict will boil over into military action between [...]

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Observations

Post-Conflict Libya and Iraq Should Now Wage War on Diabetes and Heart Disease

demonstration in libya

In a chaotic Libya or a post-war Iraq, achieving individual safety and the most basic of health care might seem to be the best any government or aid organization could hope for. But areas in transition and those still tending to the societal wounds of war are actually well poised to combat chronic conditions, such [...]

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Observations

What are contemporary warfare’s hidden assaults on public health?

DENVER—Few human undertakings have had such apparent and ceaseless negative impacts on human health and well-being as violent conflict. War might seem such an obvious assault on overall public health that it would hardly bear discussion at a scholarly meeting on that subject. But a slew of researchers are working around the globe to uncover [...]

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Observations

One in 10 veterans returns from combat in Iraq reporting serious mental health issues

iraq war veterans 10 ptsd depression functional

Veterans of war have been known to suffer from high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and traumatic brain injury in addition to any physical wounds. And a new study of thousands of U.S. Army soldiers returning from combat duty in Iraq found up to 31 percent reported symptoms of PTSD or depression as [...]

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