Wars as Sacrifices to Reduce Guilt

By deMause, Lloyd | The Journal of Psychohistory, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

Wars as Sacrifices to Reduce Guilt


deMause, Lloyd, The Journal of Psychohistory


Wars as Sacrifices to Reduce Guilt The War Puzzle Revisited. John A. Vasquez. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. xxi + 477 pages. $37.99 (hardcover).

Vasquez's latest book reviews over a hundred books and articles on the causes of wars, studies that cover the causes of thousands of wars by proponents of "Realist" analysis of social systems. The focus of these analysts is that territory (proximity) is the central cause of wars, since "most wars (70%) are fought between neighbors."

Such a simplistic notion that proximity itself causes war is like saying that most schoolyard fights are between children in the schoolyard, not with children at school. All of the Realist analyses assume wars are fought to get something economic, political or religious. None imagine like psychohistory that wars are begun for self-destructive purposes as groups seek to inflict their abusive childhoods on others. There have also been hundreds of articles on war and child abuse in The Journal ofPsychohistory in 38 years, and thousands of references in these articles to books and articles showing how child abuse causes makes them walking time bombs and produces adults who re-inflict their abuse on others.

Vasquez concludes that wars break out "after a rapid power transition occurs between nations struggling for power." He sees the outbreak of war as being mainly "about territory," occurring in steps, beginning with arms races, which he shows are attempts to demonstrate their masculinity, as kings and knights used to do by dueling. Psychohistorians too see wars growing out of a need of nations to demonstrate a hypermasculinity, only as a defense against feelings of impotence remaining from their widespread child abuse. I myself witnessed the importance of masculinity in war when I was in the Army and sent to Korea, and because I happened to be a good tennis player was told that I had better lose in tennis contests with officers, so their masculinity wouldn't be challenged. Actually, Truman sent the U.S. military to die in the Korean War without proper authorization from Congress. George W. Bush used the same tactic when he started the Iraq War without consulting Congress, saying "I'm the decider." And Richard Nixon was so borderline that his Secretary of Defense concluded he was "suicidal" and gave orders to the military to disregard Nixon's orders to go to war.1 The Presidential use of the military without Congressional approval is the aim of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's quip that "What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?" Vasquez reviews the large number of empirical studies showing that when nations are under emotional stress they choose authoritarian leaders, who are preoccupied with virility and domination of others and need to act out their fantasies of narcissistic grandiosity.2 Yet it is emotional stress, not economic, that leads to more wars with "the most severe wars occurring near the end of an economic upswing phase"3 because of what I term "growth panic" from fears of punishment by an authoritarian parental figure. The same principle accounts for why the wealthier a nation is the more wars it has.4 These results were first called "K-waves" by Nikolai Kondratieff, who discovered 50-year cycles in economics, showing that major wars occurred most during upswings.5

Next, Vasquez shows nations forming alliances, which like arms races, are only provocative. He demonstrates that WWI began only because France, Britain, Russia and the U.S. formed an alliance against Germany, which saw it as "encirclement," and, with Austria, started the war. The reason, he shows that the 19th century had fewer wars, and that wars were more limited, was that nations were uneven in power then and didn't have to demonstrate their power so much, while the 20th century had more wars because nations were "more evenly matched." In addition, the 19th century in Europe (the peaceful period between 1815 and 1941 had major nations that set up "buffer zones" that prevented the escalation of conflicts. …

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