1. When it comes to conflict, there’s probably a sense of escalation that tends to happen. Let’s say person A caught a deer. Their neighbor, person B from the neighboring tribe, demands that person A give up some of the deer. The exchange can be civil at first, the A saying no a few times before taking on an angrier tone. B gets frustrated, and reaches for the deer to hack off a piece. A lashes out to keep B away. B is angry and strikes back. They fight and struggle until one dies.

    That can be applied to more modern situations as well. Two people, or even nations, might not set out with the intention to hurt each other, but it happens over the natural course of two sides having interests that clash. Both sides get angry, or are unwilling to give in, so the only recourse is to fight until one side is incapacitated.

    It is also interesting to note how human conflict compares to many(though not nearly all) animal conflicts. When conflict comes, at least between members of the same species, animals might prefer to use threat displays, or short contests to compare strength. In those cases, the weaker one typically runs off before grievous injury occurs. This is because actual fights are risky, and wild animals can’t get medical care. So if they know they aren’t going to win, they’d rather avoid the risk and find a way to obtain their desires through less dangerous means.

    Now and then this might apply to humans, since we might try to warn or negotiate before fighting. But could you imagine two countries in real life avoiding war merely by having two athletes face off in a contest? Humans place a lot of importance on the things they are willing to fight for. If they want something bad enough, be it land or resources or freedom, they aren’t going to accept the results of a petty contest.

    In my current WIP, one reason fighting happens within a particular area of the world is that the residents of that area consider fighting and hardship to be necessary to have a worthwhile life, to give beings the ability to adapt and survive, etc. Their philosophy is a bit complicated, but that’s why they purposefully live in a war torn area. They usually still have reasons for attacking each other, though, like the reasons you mentioned.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Autumn, one of the major views of causes of warfare (what we can call the “Political Science” view) is that war is essentially caused by a breakdown in negotiations leading to escalating hostilities and eventually conflict. The example you give is a basic version of that happening.

      While I agree that breakdowns in negotiations often happen in warfare, I would say they are not primary. The reason why they aren’t is some wars have started with no negotiation at all–the launch of a surprise attack driving for taking whatever the goal of the war is. Yes, breakdowns of negotiations happen–not only in wars, but in personal situations that can escalate into murder. But even though an escalation is common, as is a breakdown in negotiations, are they essential to conflict? Again I say “no.” What is essential? What are they essentially fighting FOR in your example?

      In your example, the deer. A resource. The conflict over the deer isn’t the fault of the slain animal itself–it stems from the fact both parties long to have the deer. Envy or greed or some other emotion motivates them to prize the deer so much it’s worth killing over.

      They might also fight because of a sense of justice. Example: “Hey, you shot that deer on the hunting ground that MY tribe uses!” “Yes, but I shot it, so it’s still mine.” People often at least appeal to justice when disagreeing with one another (and sometimes they really mean it).

      The sense of justice comes out especially in the terms of their debate over who gets the deer. And appeasing the other person’s sense of a “fair deal” (which I’d say is justice in the economic arena) is how a negotiation can successfully avoid a conflict.

      Yes, it is true that risk to self is a reason most parties try negotiation first before straight-out attacking. Though I will make the case in another post there is another reason–humans empathize with other humans to the degree that killing another person up close is usually very traumatic for the killer. So yes, humans usually attempt to negotiate first and only fight after an escalation.

      But I still don’t think negotiations going downhill leading to escalating anger are primary causes of warfare. Though there are very common and perhaps I should have said more about them.

      • Yeah, I definitely don’t think it’s the only/primary cause. I brought those things up earlier as factors and details, not necessarily primary causes.

        Personally I think war is usually caused by a combination of things, and the particular combination will depend on the situation. Sheesh, it might even depend on the person one asks. Now days, the decision to go to war is made by groups of people on both sides. Each politician or whatever might have slightly different motivations for saying ‘Yeah, let’s attack them.’

  2. Have you seen Naruto, Naruto Shippuden, and Fate Zero? Their takes on war and conflict are very interesting.

    • Travis Perry says:

      I’m sorry but I have actually seen relatively few Japanese-produced movies or series. The ones I have seen are mostly Gundam based–I especially liked 0083 Stardust Memory and 0080, War in the Pocket. Have you seen those? (Their view of warfare embraced both heroic and tragic aspects.)

      • notleia says:

        You realize that means we have to spam you with suggestions until you become as otaku as we are, right?

        Noob’s first anime: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (is on Netflix). Brotherhood is the adaptation that didn’t outrun the manga and therefore has a coherent story. Also the dub is A+

        Like, all of Studio Ghibli’s works, but my personal picks are: Laputa: Castle in the Sky (considered a seminal steampunk piece in Japan), Princess Mononoke (pretty good dub, SO PRETTY ANIMATION). Those are distributed by Disney so there’s a good chance you can find them to rent at a library (or maybe thru inter-library loan).

        Also one more military-oriented is “Space Blazers.” They remade it in 2016(?) so it looks slightly less egregiously 70s. The real Japanese name is “Space Battleship Yamato 2199.” It’s on the streaming site Crunchyroll, but it may or may not have a dub (I watch it in subs).

        • Actually haven’t seen a lot of those yet XD

          What do you tend to like/dislike as far as anime genre goes, notleia? A lot of my faves have probably been classified as shounen and I guess seinen. Now and then I watch some shoujo stuff too though.

          • notleia says:

            I’m pretty tired of shounen, TBH. Right now most of what I’m watching is moe trash with high school girls and slice-of-life and not much plot but okay for junky decompression watching. Seinen’s generally okay, every once in awhile I’ll watch a shoujo.
            I’ve been trying to catch some of the well-known older works, but it’s very much dependent on what I feel like watching.

            • Eh, yeah. Haven’t been keeping up with a lot of the newer shounen releases, but from what I’ve seen some of them haven’t been all that great. Haven’t really had time to watch a lot of new anime, though. There’s several on Netflix of various genres I might want to try later, though.

              Have you seen Wolf’s Rain? Not sure what genre it’s in, but it’s an older show, and it’s one of the few anime I like watching the dubbed version of. Haven’t seen it in ages, but it was one of my first anime.

              I’ve been watching Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast For Spirits lately as well. It’s sort of in the same vein as the happy fluffy decompression idea you expressed.

              • notleia says:

                Totally on top of Kakuriyo. Still think she should’ve taken up Matsuba-sama up on his offer to take her to Mt Shumon so she’d have to deal with at least 90% less bullcrap that the plot keeps throwing at her. On the flip side, there would be 90% less plot.

                Have watched Wolf’s Rain, but I’d like it better if I could ever find the OVA with the ending. I think they miscast Crispin Freeman, tho.

              • I don’t think I even knew there was an OVA, so all I really saw was a glimpse of them in the rebirthed world.

        • Jo Michelle says:

          I’m just here to gush about FMA: Brotherhood and the “whole new world” it introduced to me, namely, manga/anime, when I watched it for the first time this January. ?

          I mean, I knew from what I’d heard about that whole world that once I let myself enter it, I’d love it, but it also…. was ….. so…. nerdy.

          Well, it’s happened, and I’m in now. ?

      • Haven’t seen those. Not much of a mecha fan usually, though I might watch them some day.

        To quickly summarize, the warfare in Naruto/Naruto Shippuden is often depicted as a cycle of hatred. So revenge and loss and loneliness are big themes there. There’s a lot of sub themes in there as well, such as political corruption(which has a lot to do with the plotlines surrounding the Uchiha clan.) It’s very interesting since the show basically follows the struggle to attain long lasting peace. Once the show gets into the origins of Konoha, (the village the main character is from), that theme is felt very strongly. Before Konoha’s formation, ninja clans fought each other constantly, even sending little six year olds out to fight and die. Average life expectancy was around thirty for the lucky ones.

        But then Konoha is built, and children weren’t sent into combat until around twelve, and it was something people from that generation would have seen as a blessing. But then as future generations suffer, they see twelve year olds sent into combat as a tragedy, and want to get rid of war and conflict so no one has to fight anymore.

        Fate Zero is rather dark and complicated, and almost seems nihilistic on the surface. The main character, a jaded assassin named Kiritsugu, is fighting for the Holy Grail so he can end all conflict in the world. The entire show is basically a small scale war, with the characters fighting for their own goals, hurting others and suffering in the process. The heroic and tragic aspects of war are explored heavily in this show as well, so maybe it’s like Gundam in that way. There’s still some hope and happiness in the show too, though, like with Alexander and Waver’s plotline, or the very very last scene involving Kiritsugu.

        • Travis Perry says:

          0083 especially is not really about the mecha. It has them, but it’s about a lot more. I’d like to think you’d enjoy it.

        • Jo Michelle says:

          I started two of the Fate series on Netflix (Fate/Stay Night, and another one that I don’t remember, but what I read about it said it was an alternate history, but still connected to the Holy Grail War.)

          But I haven’t tried Fate/Zero – which is also on Nf, apparently. I just added that one to my list… ?

          • I’ve only seen Fate Zero, the new Fate Stay series (Unlimited Blade Works I think) and maybe one or two episodes of Apocrypha. Fate Zero’s probably the best and most well written thus far, but it’s very dark. If you really pay attention to everything the chars are thinking and feeling, it can really put you through the emotional wringer.

            And it’s so deep and complex that you have to watch it several times to truly appreciate it. There’s some great girl chars in there, too. Fate Zero’s one of those shows that can give a character lots of depth even when that char’s only in there for only one or two episodes worth of time.

  3. There’s also Attack On Titan, though I haven’t seen nearly all of that show yet. I think their philosophy on war is going to be along the lines of human/political corruption and beings doing everything they can to survive against vicious threats, though. Yet another amazing show on my list of things to finish.

  4. No fair Travis. You can’t write this book, because I have my outline of “War, and Things Like It: How To Write Better Conflicts From Skirmish to Campaign” well in the advanced draft stage for the same purpose! (Smiles) This is great. Writers need great resources like this!

    • Travis Perry says:

      Well, my fellow Travis 🙂 I happen to be open to collaboration. Perhaps we could merge our ideas into one book?

      Perhaps you wouldn’t want to do that–but think about it anyway and let me know if you might be interested in a joint project.

      It’s a big project writing a book like this–I certainly feel it could profit from perspective other than my own.

  5. Ned Barnett says:

    As a traditionally-published speculative fiction author who has also self-published a series of 10 novels based on the air war in the Pacific in 1941-42, I find this both compelling and fascinating, and to the extent that human war can be summarized briefly, you’ve done an excellent job. In an old Anthropology class, I studied New Guinea tribes that did not have war as we understand the topic. They would sometimes fight over arable land, but since they use slash-and-burn agriculture and move on once the land is spent, such actions seldom take place. It’s more about pride and women, but even then, deaths are rare. However, I think they are the exception, akin to your oasis example.

    More to the point, few would think of Hitler as a man driven by religious fervor; yet he was savvy enough that the belt buckles worn by each German soldier in World War II read “Gott Mitt Uns” (God with us). Imagine that – Nazis thinking that God blessed their racist slaughter.

    Thanks for this intro – I look forward to the other elements in your series.

What do you think?