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How War Began (Texas A&M University Anthropology Series) Paperback – November 10, 2004
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Other books I would recommend to read are the following:
- above all, the masterful "War in human civilization", by Azar Gat;
- and then, "The Origins of War. From the Stone Age to Alexander the Great", by Arther Ferrill, "War before Civilization. The Myth of the Peaceful Savage", by Lawrence Keeley; and "Historical Dynamics. Why states rise and Fall", by Peter Turchin.
Otterbein shows clearly that this is not the case.
The "natural propensity" of humankind, he says, is peace (p. 222).
Otterbein backs his statement up with facts.
For example, if warfare were something inescapable, there would be no societies such as Abu Hureyra, which existed from 9500-5000 BC with no signs of warfare whatsoever during the entire 4,500-year period of its existence.
In my opinion, one of the most valuable aspects of the book are the charts vis-à-vis the origin of "the state" in various world areas. These suggest the way in which particular areas in the Near East, China, Mesoamerica and Peru moved through initial times of egalitarianism and minimal conflict, through stages characterized by class differences, internal warfare, external warfare, war captivity, slavery, torture, elite warrior classes, and institutionalized warfare.
As Otterbein notes, through the millennia, warfare-based societies have obliterated societies with the knowledge and ability to live without warfare. The result? What we have today: a world saturated with war -- or the threat of it, hanging always over our heads.
~ Jeri Studebaker, author of Switching to Goddess: Humanity's Ticket to the Future
"Although I agree that humans are important, I nevertheless believe that their decisions are determined. I have long noted that the more information available about an event and what led up to it, the more inevitable the event seems. It is a waste of time asking the `what if' questions, although it may be a lot of fun to do so...Multiple factors led to (a leader's) decision. A different decision could not have been made unless the factors had been different. And they were not."
Thus we have the epistle on war according to Otterbein - and for that matter the epistle on life according to Otterbein. From this point, EVERYTHING becomes abundantly clear - we are who we are and where we are in life because decisions and thus actions are determined by al the preceding unalterable factors...ergo, all of human life and history is predetermined.
Clearly, Otterbein is one of those limited people who quote Clausewitz but never actually read Clausewitz. Not that Clausewitz is the be-all-end-all god-of-war - but ever since Clausewitz inserted the elusive factor of chance into the overall theory of war, no one has been able to successfully remove the factor of chance from war - not by logic nor science - not even Otterbein.
Now it is one thing to ignore the factor of chance in war; it is something utterly ignorant to proclaim that humans are caught up in a vortex of preceding unalterable factors which predetermine human decisions and actions - ergo, humans have no vestige of free will whatsoever. Per Otterbein, there is no such thing as a good decision or a bad decision - only decisions determined by all the preceding unalterable factors.
Per Otterbein's logic, decisions could not have been different unless the factors had been different - and the factors could not have been different because they were not different, thus the decisions were not different. (Doesn't that have the distinct ring of a devious circuitous argument?) Ok, now hold your breath, shut your eyes, click your heels, and take a massive non sequitur leap down the yellow-brick road into the land where the preceding historical factors are what they are and could never have been different. Thus all the so-called decisions weren't really decisions at all...all historical decisions are merely an illusion...they were predetermined actions. Is that the world that YOU live in? Well apparently, it is the world that Otterbein lives in...a world where preceding unalterable factors determine all decisions and actions.
So I ask the reader: Do you honestly believe such unadulterated nonsense...such utter ignorance? Do you honestly believe that all your decisions / actions are all predetermined by preceding unalterable factors? Do you honestly believe that humankind arose out from the hard-wired ignorance of the jungle to the lofty heights as the dominating creature on the entire earth - all because humans operate by predetermined decisions / actions - no free will whatsoever?
For "IF" that is what you believe, then you have no purpose on this earth other than to be a minuscule predetermined cog in a massive predetermined mechanistic machine. At which point there is no purpose to your life, no purpose to you ancestor's lives, as well as no purpose to the lives of your children and no purpose to any of your descendants ad infinitum for eternity.
So as you read his book - please remember that in Otterbein's short but potent display of stupidity to the Nth degree on pages 20 & 21, he has stealthily slipped in his rigid, myopic belief that humans have absolutely no ability of free will - nor the ability to influence any outcome of history. All the factors of history were unalterable long before they took place - thus everything is determined. Yet, in the real world where chance is always the wild card in life, where people do have free will, where life, decisions, and actions are not determined by preceding unalterable factors - it is this sole factor alone that completely debunks the superficial credibility of Otterbein's entire thesis into nothing more than a specious curiosity.
Now ponder this minor thought for a moment. Is it a curiosity that Otterbein could write such utterly ignorant remarks, and yet still proffer a plausible and interesting thesis of dual paths for the origins of war? It is a curiosity only until you buy into Otterbein's rigid belief structure that decisions thus actions are all predetermined by preceding unalterable factors. For if you buy into the specious world of Otterbein's nonsense, then clearly it was nothing but a series of preceding unalterable factors in life that determined Otterbein decisions and actions to write this book - and it is a scientific book to boot!