The Scientific Fundamentalist
Why we are losing this war
All you need is hate.
Posted Mar 06, 2008
As we explain in Chapter 8 of Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters (“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”), ethnocentrism (or “racism”) is an innate human tendency. We are designed by evolution to love members of our group and hate members of other groups, in order to motivate and facilitate intergroup conflict. Yes, hate is natural. But remember the danger of the naturalistic fallacy -- deriving moral implications from scientific facts. “Natural” means neither “good” nor “desirable.” Nor does it mean “inevitable.” Most of us learn to overcome our innate evolutionary tendencies.
Both World War I and World War II lasted for four years. We fought vast empires with organized armies and navies with tanks, airplanes, and submarines, yet it took us only four years to defeat them. Now we are in the middle of what the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman aptly calls World War III, a global clash of civilizations with localized struggles against enemies ranging from al Qaeda in the Middle East, to Jemaah Islamiyah in the South East Asia, to the Chechen rebels in Russia, to the Taliban in Afghanistan, to the Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel, to the Sunni insurgents in Iraq. World War III, which began on September 11, 2001, has been going on for nearly seven years now, but there is no end in sight. There are no clear signs that we are winning the war, or even leading in the game. Compared to our enemies, we have much more money, much more technologically advanced weapons and machinery, and better organized and trained armies (although far fewer actual combatants). Why isn’t this a slam dunk?
It seems to me that there is one resource that our enemies have in abundance but we don’t: hate. We don’t hate our enemies nearly as much as they hate us. They are consumed in pure and intense hatred of us, while we appear to have PC’ed hatred out of our lexicon and emotional repertoire. We are not even allowed to call our enemies for who they are, and must instead use euphemisms like “terrorists.” (As I explain elsewhere, we are not really fighting terrorists.) We may be losing this war because our enemies have a full range of human emotions while we don’t.
This has never been the case in our previous wars. We have always hated our enemies purely and intensely. They were “Japs,” they were “Krauts,” they were “Gooks.” And we didn’t think twice about dropping bombs on them, to kill them and their wives and children. (As many commentators have pointed out, the distinction between combatants and civilians does not make sense in World War III, and the Geneva Convention -- an agreement among nations -- is no longer applicable, because our enemies are not nation states.) Hatred of enemies has always been a proximate emotional motive for war throughout human evolutionary history. Until now.
Here’s a little thought experiment. Imagine that, on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers came down, the President of the United States was not George W. Bush, but Ann Coulter. What would have happened then? On September 12, President Coulter would have ordered the US military forces to drop 35 nuclear bombs throughout the Middle East, killing all of our actual and potential enemy combatants, and their wives and children. On September 13, the war would have been over and won, without a single American life lost.
Yes, we need a woman in the White House, but not the one who’s running.