How wars proved the non-violent nature of humans

Started by Volunto, Feb 07, 2023, 06:37 PM

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According to the American publicist and former Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, most humans have an intense resistance to killing other people. The resistance is so strong that, in many circumstances, soldiers on the battlefield will die before they can overcome it. A strong kill inhibitor is inherent in 98% of soldiers. Psychologists Roy Swank and William Marchand found that after 60 days of ongoing battles, 98% of surviving soldiers are psychologically traumatized, and only 2% of them who are predisposed to be "aggressive psychopaths" are not concerned with this kind of problem since they do not experience any resistance to killing [31]. Also, among the many mental disorders observed in soldiers, it is worth highlighting the psychosomatic paralysis, common during the First and Second World Wars, most often of the hand and fingers which they shot with (respectively, left-handers experienced paralysis of their left hand).

According to the American military commander, brigadier general, and historian Samuel Marshall, in the Second World War among American soldiers, only 15-20% fired at the enemy positions. In many cases, those who did not fire were willing to risk great danger to rescue comrades, get ammunition, or run messages. As studies by army psychiatrists show, the biggest cause of combat defeats in the European theater of World War II was the fear of killing other people and not, as many might think, the fear of being killed (or wounded), which came in second place.

It is worth noting that Marshall's research is sometimes criticized. However, as Grossman writes, this criticism is unfounded, it was not presented in real academic studies, and Marshall's conclusions still turned out to be correct. Perhaps Marshall's methodology may not meet rigorous modern standards, but this does not mean that he lied.

Back in the middle of the 19th century, French army officer and military theorist Charles Ardant du Picq conducted his own research – a survey among other officers, who told him that many soldiers simply shoot in the air without aiming. At the beginning of the 18th century, at the Battle of Belgrade, there was a case when two imperial battalions fired at Turkish enemies until they approached them at a distance of only 30 paces. However, as a result, they were able to kill only 32 Turkish soldiers. At the same time, an experiment conducted a little earlier in the Prussian army showed that soldiers hit non-living targets from a distance of 225 yards (205 meters) in 25% of cases, and from a distance of 75 yards (68 meters) – in 60% of cases. Such cases in the armies of that time, when an entire line of soldiers killed only a few enemies, were extremely common.

The Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War, is quite a demonstrative example. Of the approximately 170,000 soldiers involved, approximately 7,000 died, and after the battle, more than 27,000 abandoned rifles were found, 90% of which were loaded. Rifles of that type took a long time to load compared to the time it took to fire a shot. This could mean that most of the soldiers on both sides were loading their rifles, perhaps even pretending to shoot if someone nearby actually fired, but couldn't fire themselves. And many of those who did shoot most likely did not aim at the enemy.

There is also another interesting fact from the statistics of the US Air Force. Less than 1% of pilots accounted for about 40% of downed enemy aircraft. Most of the pilots did not shoot down anyone and did not even try to shoot down. In addition, when the US Air Force tried to identify commonalities among aces after World War II, it was found that in childhood they often fought with their peers. And they were not just bullies, as a rule, avoiding real fights, they were "fighters".

It is also worth mentioning the statement, that roughly 80% of males choose to avoid violent conflict. If forced into violent conflict, they just do not fight, although present. The 20% left does not reject violence as a behavioral option. Nevertheless, the main part is probably defensive only, that is, they use violence only if compelled to. Finally, about 1 percent adopts an offensive elementary strategy. Historical and statistical facts confirm the existence of a ratio noncombatants : defensive combatants : offensive combatants. Roughly, this ratio looks like 80:19:1.

Looking back at how many victims some wars, and especially World War II, had, it is difficult to agree that only 2% of soldiers actually committed murders. However, this can be explained by distancing, which allows soldiers not to perceive their potential victims as real and concrete people. As Canadian historian, journalist, and retired naval officer Gwyn Dyer describes, such a strong resistance to killing was not observed among gunners, bomber crew members, and naval personnel. Also, a decrease in resistance to killing could be observed in machine gunners who, without seeing their target, were able to convince themselves that they did not kill anyone at all.

In modern contract armies, for example, the US Armed Forces, a thorough selection is carried out, and the design of soldier training takes into account lessons of the past and is aimed at turning the killing from a conscious action into a conditioned reflex. Yet, many soldiers who end up committing murder are later unable to come to terms with this fact and begin to suffer serious psychological trauma.

As current data shows, this problem even affects the operators of combat drones, sometimes located in another part of the planet from the battle. In one study of 600 operators, 42% reported moderate to high stress, and 20% reported emotional exhaustion or burnout. A later study found that drone operators suffered from the same levels of depression, anxiety, PTSD, alcohol abuse, and suicidal ideation as traditional combat aircrews. It can be concluded that one person's awareness of the fact of a killing can lead to psychological trauma, even if it was a distant killing.