Close In or Far Away? The Psychology of Killing by Col. Daniel Smith

Dandelion Salad

by Col. Daniel Smith
The Smirking Chimp
February 13, 2008

“There will one day spring from the brain of science a machine or force so fearful in its potentialities, so absolutely terrifying, that even man, the fighter, who will dare torture and death in order to inflict torture and death, will be appalled, and so abandon war forever.”
–Thomas A. Edison

War is a progressive concept.

Not sociologically, but in the sense that what began as an “art” has evolved through direct and indirect absorption of advances in peripheral disciplines (e.g., chemical and nuclear energy and health and medicine) into a separate “discipline” that is studied in its own right. Nonetheless, the elements of science–ballistics, ordnance engineering, propellant source , mechanical engineering, electronics and nanotechnology–focus more on the generally incremental development of weapons and support systems than on analyzing the implications for fighting formations and tactics of more effective weaponry.

(There are many who contend that success or failure in battle arguably is as much the result of one commander’s superior or inferior imagination and ability to integrate the essential elements of mission, enemy, terrain, troops available, and training in formulating and implementing a battle plan.)

Modern “conventional” war–as well as the possibility of nuclear war–complicates armed conflict because the fighting systems cannot simply be plucked off a shelf at a moment’s notice. Those who engage in or favor a “war footing” thus are forever seeking new materials, new combinations of known materials, or new variations in fabricating instruments that can kill and destroy efficiently.

Contrast the huge amount of resources devoted to modern weapons development with the historically resource-starved and thus limited (or even totally ignored) study of the psyche’s rational and emotional “switches” inhibit or propel extreme behavior in groups who are allowed or who have seized an opportunity to rampage through towns and villages in a manner comparable to the “hordes” of recorded history.

While obviously incomplete and invariably written from the perspective of the winner, oral traditions and the earliest chronicles detail numerous instances when the “hordes” of “barbarians” on far-ranging conquests engaged in the frenzied slaughter of entire populations–acts that today would be considered war crimes and crimes against humanity.

…continued

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see

We Are Trained Killers! (video; over 18 only)