War is the natural state and heritage of evolving man; peace is the social yardstick measuring civilization’s advancement. Before the partial socialization of the advancing races man was exceedingly individualistic, extremely suspicious, and unbelievably quarrelsome. Violence is the law of nature, hostility the automatic reaction of the children of nature, while war is but these same activities carried on collectively. And wherever and whenever the fabric of civilization becomes stressed by the complications of society’s advancement, there is always an immediate and ruinous reversion to these early methods of violent adjustment of the irritations of human interassociations.
War is an animalistic reaction to misunderstandings and irritations; peace attends upon the civilized solution of all such problems and difficulties. The Sangik races, together with the later deteriorated Adamites and Nodites, were all belligerent. The Andonites were early taught the golden rule, and, even today, their Eskimo descendants live very much by that code; custom is strong among them, and they are fairly free from violent antagonisms.
Andon taught his children to settle disputes by each beating a tree with a stick, meanwhile cursing the tree; the one whose stick broke first was the victor. The later Andonites used to settle disputes by holding a public show at which the disputants made fun of and ridiculed each other, while the audience decided the winner by its applause.
But there could be no such phenomenon as war until society had evolved sufficiently far to actually experience periods of peace and to sanction warlike practices. The very concept of war implies some degree of organization.
With the emergence of social groupings, individual irritations began to be submerged in the group feelings, and this promoted intratribal tranquillity but at the expense of intertribal peace. Peace was thus first enjoyed by the in-group, or tribe, who always disliked and hated the out-group, foreigners. Early man regarded it a virtue to shed alien blood.
But even this did not work at first. When the early chiefs would try to iron out misunderstandings, they often found it necessary, at least once a year, to permit the tribal stone fights. The clan would divide up into two groups and engage in an all-day battle. And this for no other reason than just the fun of it; they really enjoyed fighting.
Warfare persists because man is human, evolved from an animal, and all animals are bellicose. Among the early causes of war were:
1. Hunger, which led to food raids. Scarcity of land has always brought on war, and during these struggles the early peace tribes were practically exterminated.
2. Woman scarcity—an attempt to relieve a shortage of domestic help. Woman stealing has always caused war.
3. Vanity—the desire to exhibit tribal prowess. Superior groups would fight to impose their mode of life upon inferior peoples.
4. Slaves—need of recruits for the labor ranks.
5. Revenge was the motive for war when one tribe believed that a neighboring tribe had caused the death of a fellow tribesman. Mourning was continued until a head was brought home. The war for vengeance was in good standing right on down to comparatively modern times.
6. Recreation—war was looked upon as recreation by the young men of these early times. If no good and sufficient pretext for war arose, when peace became oppressive, neighboring tribes were accustomed to go out in semifriendly combat to engage in a foray as a holiday, to enjoy a sham battle.
7. Religion—the desire to make converts to the cult. The primitive religions all sanctioned war. Only in recent times has religion begun to frown upon war. The early priesthoods were, unfortunately, usually allied with the military power. One of the great peace moves of the ages has been the attempt to separate church and state.
Always these olden tribes made war at the bidding of their gods, at the behest of their chiefs or medicine men. The Hebrews believed in such a “God of battles”; and the narrative of their raid on the Midianites is a typical recital of the atrocious cruelty of the ancient tribal wars; this assault, with its slaughter of all the males and the later killing of all male children and all women who were not virgins, would have done honor to the mores of a tribal chieftain of two hundred thousand years ago. And all this was executed in the “name of the Lord God of Israel.”
This is a narrative of the evolution of society—the natural outworking of the problems of the races—man working out his own destiny on earth. Such atrocities are not instigated by Deity, notwithstanding the tendency of man to place the responsibility on his gods.
Military mercy has been slow in coming to mankind. Even when a woman, Deborah, ruled the Hebrews, the same wholesale cruelty persisted. Her general in his victory over the gentiles caused “all the host to fall upon the sword; there was not one left.”
Very early in the history of the race, poisoned weapons were used. All sorts of mutilations were practiced. Saul did not hesitate to require one hundred Philistine foreskins as the dowry David should pay for his daughter Michal.
Early wars were fought between tribes as a whole, but in later times, when two individuals in different tribes had a dispute, instead of both tribes fighting, the two disputants engaged in a duel. It also became a custom for two armies to stake all on the outcome of a contest between a representative chosen from each side, as in the instance of David and Goliath.
The first refinement of war was the taking of prisoners. Next, women were exempted from hostilities, and then came the recognition of noncombatants. Military castes and standing armies soon developed to keep pace with the increasing complexity of combat. Such warriors were early prohibited from associating with women, and women long ago ceased to fight, though they have always fed and nursed the soldiers and urged them on to battle.
The practice of declaring war represented great progress. Such declarations of intention to fight betokened the arrival of a sense of fairness, and this was followed by the gradual development of the rules of “civilized” warfare. Very early it became the custom not to fight near religious sites and, still later, not to fight on certain holy days. Next came the general recognition of the right of asylum; political fugitives received protection.
Thus did warfare gradually evolve from the primitive man hunt to the somewhat more orderly system of the later-day “civilized” nations. But only slowly does the social attitude of amity displace that of enmity.