Fareed speaks with Ian Morris, author of War, What Is It Good For? Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots, about the changing nature of conflict.
Is that data pretty clear, that particularly among the major states of the world, there has been a decline in war?
Yes, I think so. And what you see is this huge paradox. And strategists love to say that everything about war is paradoxical. But the biggest paradox is that in this weird way, war has driven processes that have made the world a less violent place over the very long term.
Explain that. So you're saying war makes peace.
Yes, which, again, just sounds completely insane. But the way it seems to have worked is if you go back 15,000 years – the end of the Ice Age – and the world, of course, warming up at the end of the Ice Age, and farming begins, populations begin to grow very rapidly. And before that, if two bands of hunter-gatherers got into a fight with each other, the losing band always had the option of moving up and hunting and gathering someplace else. The world is relatively empty, low populations.
Now, as the population starts going up, that gets harder. And so new things start happening. And the winners of wars start swallowing up the losers and forming a bigger society. And as they do this, the people who run these societies figure out very quickly that the only way to hold these societies together and to stay in power is by pacifying their subjects, driving down the rates of violence and violent death. Because if you are a ruler, what you want is people who get up in the morning, go out and plow their fields, pay you taxes and so on. You don't want angry murderous subjects who are killing each other.