The Minds of Leaders:
De-linking War and Violence
Dr Christopher Williams
(United Nations University Leadership Academy)
Lee Yun Joo
(University of London – School of Oriental and African Studies)
"As part of the Society of Friends Preparing for Peace (PfP) initiative he, with Korean scholar Yun-joo Lee, proposes that, whilst war intrinsically entails the use of force, this need not be perceived in terms of violence. They
quote Sun Tzu (500BC), from The art of war—"The supreme act of war is to win without fighting...Thus those skilled in war subdue the enemy's army without battle.... They conquer by strategy"—and argue that in the last half century, war in the East, for example in Korea, has been less violent than the 'retributive accountability' wars in the West, notably in Iraq and Northern Ireland. They also suggest that violent political and religious leaders should be viewed as people with mental health problems, and any response planned on the basis of that assumption." source: wikipaedia
Dr Christopher Williams
and Lee Yun Joo
Dr Christopher Williams
(United Nations University Leadership Academy)
Lee Yun Joo
(University of London – School of Oriental and African Studies)
photo - "Chris Williams in Chengdu, China, with students and colleagues" wikipaedia
War is made in the minds of men, concluded the founders of the UN. But it is made in the minds of particular ‘men’ – those who are leaders. If the idea of war as a political force is to change, the minds of those with power must change. We cannot make war totally unthinkable. It has been invented, so it will always be thinkable. But how is it is possible to create a context in which war is unthinkable because it is not perceived as a feasible, rational or legitimate political act by those with power?
The first part of this paper outlines familiar understandings of the evolutionary/biological drivers of violence and aggression, but also the argument that this alone does not create war. It then establishes that war is made by leaders. Despite this, leadership theory has been ignored, yet straightforward conceptual frameworks are relevant and applicable. The discussion then identifies contexts in which war seems to have been made less thinkable. Regionalisation is central, but there are other aspects: cosmopolitanism, nuclear deterrence, and the self-perception and persona of leaders. North Korea is then used as a case study, which pulls together many of the themes of the paper. Leaders ‘invent’ war through linking and de-linking functions, circumstances and ideas, and naming events and concepts, in a way that suits their personal ambitions. Therefore in conclusion, ‘re-linking’ strategies are identified, which can frame the work of civil society organisations and progressive leaders who aim to make war less thinkable. It can provide the means to de-link war from violence.
The term ‘war’ is used broadly throughout this discussion to include organised aggression and violence between states or other significant political actors. But there is no assumption that legitimate defense and humanitarian intervention should be precluded, nor that the use of force is morally wrong. Arguably, small-scale conflict acts like intermittent bush-fires or earthquakes,[i] and may prevent total destruction. Large-scale political violence is now wrong through self-interest. We have become too good at war, and it now amounts to potential suicide. Harm caused by war has escalated exponentially, and this is not just because technology has created weapons of mass destruction. The genocide in Rwanda resulted from small handheld weapons, often no more than knives. It was information technologies that permitted aggression to be organised and promoted on a genocidal scale.
Asymmetrical war provides the new dimension. The obvious example seems to be the US. Decades of war in the form of aggressive foreign policy has become suicidal because those who see themselves as victims, rightly or wrongly,[ii] can now find novel ways of employing technology to retaliate.[iii] Retaliation is equally suicidal. No expense will be spared to eliminate the apparent aggressors – and anyone else who happens to be in the way. Any act of political violence now has the potential for self-destruction, and that is a form of madness which rational self-interested people will seek to prevent. In the future, the main weapon of mass destruction will be the human mind, particularly the minds of leaders, and that is where prevention must start.
1.1 The evolutionary/biological drivers
In his book Straw Dogs, philosopher John Gray argues that humans are simply another kind of animal, war is a game, and those who play it greatly enjoy it.[iv] At an interpersonal level, the main drivers of competition and aggression are evolutionary and biological,[v] and include status, possessions, group loyalties and a hunting instinct. These motivations are now not a declared purpose or reason of war, but they remain a means to inspire men to fight. Stephen Pinker shows that one of the goals of tribal raiding was men’s desire to capture women,[vi] and anthropologists point to social benefits such as increasing genetic diversity and exchanging ideas and culture.[vii] Traditional male ‘rights’ over women in warfare are even noted and sanctioned in the Bible.
"And the children of Israel took all the women of Midan captives…
And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?
…kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him.
But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him,
keep alive for yourselves." (Numbers 31)
Pinker points out that rape remains one of the hidden rewards of war for men. Proposals for an international convention to make political and military leaders responsible if their troops engage in systematic rape, may do more to make war unthinkable than conventions about weapons of mass destruction.
These evolutionary/biological drivers clearly persist in modern humans. But Pinker reminds us that fighting is not rational evolutionary behaviour, if combatants recognise that the likelihood is death or injury. The difficulty is that the recognition of the threat usually comes too late or is masked by technology or tactics by military and political leaders. He also argues that humans engage in organised conflict because of our mental ‘enforcement calculator’ – we can contrive enforcement systems for punishing deserters and cowardice, and for rewarding bravery.
Pinker might have added another of his insights – that evolution has programmed us to dislike being cheated. Getting people to fight often entails deception and violence by leaders against their own group. In evolutionary terms, a leader is an extension of the head of a family – a trusted life-maker and breadwinner. So this form of deception and self-harm raises strong emotions, and is hidden by despots. Making the unseen seen, is a significant strategy for making war unthinkable.
1.2 Inventing war
In 1940, anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote a paper called ‘Warfare is only an invention’.[viii] War is learned, she argued. It is a social invention like writing or marriage, and should be viewed as distinct from interpersonal violence and aggression, which have evolutionary/biological roots. At certain times societies believe that their history proposes that war is the right response to a particular set of circumstances. It seems to follow that if we can change that perception of tradition, the likelihood of war would be diminished.
But war is more than an anonymous social invention. It cannot be achieved just by a population working in an unconscious harmony. Societies have to be persuaded to believe that their history proposes that war is a necessary and viable option. This is achieved by powerful individuals who do the ‘inventing’ and utilise the desire and ability of human beings to follow. Social inventions arise through linking (or conflating) to create a concept. Marriage in the West has been invented by religious and political leaders by conflating functions, circumstances and ideas, such as weddings, love, co-habitation, sexual ethics, birth, child-rearing, and family. Yet there are many examples of marriage or its equivalent occurring in other configurations. Like marriage, ‘war’ can be de-linked to change the nature of the concept.
Gray, Pinker and Mead identify the two factors that make war thinkable – the awareness of evolutionary/biological drivers, and the knowledge that these can be harnessed through societal action to achieve mass violence. This is broadly accepted, but writers rarely go further and point out that this would not happen without power elites. It is leaders who can manipulate our primitive instincts to fight, can mask the risks of fighting, and can create enforcement systems. It is leaders who set goals, plan, strategise and arrange for the mass production and accumulation of weapons.
1.3 Leading and following
If we are looking for the roots of war – evolutionary or social - the human ability to lead and follow are arguably the most significant reasons. Without those human abilities, aggression would involve little more than punch-ups and skirmishes. In The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, Eric Fromm identifies the instinct to follow as crucial. ‘Conformist aggression’, as he terms it, ‘comprises various acts of aggression that are performed not because the aggressor is driven by the desire to destroy, but because he [sic] is told to do so and considers it his duty to obey orders.’ He continues in relation to World War II, ‘The soldier had traditionally been made to feel that to obey his leaders was a moral and religious obligation for the fulfillment of which he should be ready to pay with his life.’ He concludes that ‘major wars in modern times and most wars between the states of antiquity were not caused by dammed-up aggression, but by instrumental aggression of the military and political elites.’ In support he quotes a study by Q. Wright,[ix] which leads him to conclude that the intensity of war ‘is highest among the powerful states with a strong government and lowest among primitive man without permanent chieftainship.’[x] War would be unthinkable if uncritical obedience, unquestioning followers, and abuse of power by leaders became unthinkable.
In the legal arena, the recognition of the accountability of individual leaders for political violence stems from precedents from the Nuremberg and Tokyo trails. These were then affirmed in the Statutes of the Yugoslav and Arusha Tribunals, and that of the International Criminal Court. This marks a new era in which powerful people can be held responsible for harm, as individuals. But the new ethic goes further. It is an era in which leaders are likely to be seen as more culpable because of their power, and the breach of trust. And it is now well established that ‘only following orders’ is not a defense.[xi] The international community seems not yet to realise fully the significance of this new ethos, and its implications for the accountability of powerful people in other spheres of life.[xii]
Reflecting this ethic, there is now a broader realisation: contemporary conflicts are not fundamentally caused by phenomena described in popularist terms such as ‘nationalism’, ‘ethnic hatred’ or a ‘clash of civilisations’. Such conflicts are constructed and fuelled by powerful people to serve their own ends. Fromm points out that, ‘when Hitler started his attack against Poland and, thus, as a consequence triggered the Second World War, popular enthusiasm for the war was practically nil. The population, in spite of years of heavy militaristic indoctrination, showed very clearly that they were not eager to fight this war.’[xiii] Distinctions such as ‘Serbs’, ‘Muslims’, ‘Croats’ in the Balkans were not significant until they served a purpose for local despots. The Carnegie inquiry into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars in 1912-13 (note the date) concluded:
"The real culprits... are not, we repeat, the Balkan peoples...The true culprits are those who mislead public opinion and take advantage of the people’s ignorance to raise disquieting rumours...inciting their country and consequently other countries into enmity. The real culprits are those who by interest or inclination, declaring constantly that war is inevitable, end by making it so, asserting that they are powerless to prevent it. The real culprits are those who sacrifice the general interest to their own personal interest..." [xiv]
More broadly, Mark Mazower argues:
"Ethnic cleansing’ – whether in the Balkans in 1912-13, in Anatolia in 1921-2 or in erstwhile Yugoslavia in 1991-5 - was not, then, the spontaneous eruption of primeval hatreds but the deliberate use of organised violence by paramilitary squads and army units; it represented the extreme force required by nationalists to break apart a society which was otherwise capable of ignoring the mundane fractures of class and ethnicity." [xv]
Conclusions of this nature are common. It is curious that, although the implication of powerful individuals is clear, the word ‘leader’ has not appeared in such statements until very recently. But then the minds of leaders often control the discourse of history.
Bill Berkeley’s book, "The Graves Are Not Yet Full", demonstrates the implication of powerful individuals very directly in relation to certain African countries. He concludes: ‘Call it “tribalism”, call it “nationalism”, call it “fundamentalism” – the role of political leaders in fomenting civil conflicts has been the paramount civil rights issue of the post-Cold War era.’[xvi] Similarly, if less convincingly, Rubin argues that although the US has made significant contributions to regional stability, ‘Arabs throughout out the Middle East are constantly told by their leaders that the United States is the party responsible for Iraq’s problems.’ He continues, ‘The basic reason for the prevalence of Arab anti-Americanism, then, is that it has been a useful tool for radical rulers…to build domestic support and pursue regional goals with no significant cost.’[xvii]
" It takes leadership, operating in a context of political upheaval and insecurity – and impunity – to translate hostility and suspicion into violent conflict. "
The Graves Are Not Yet Full [xviii]
Leaders invent war by linking and de-linking functions, circumstances and ideas - and naming the resultant concepts and events - in ways that make war thinkable to themselves and to followers. Discourse is central. Currently we are to fear “Islamic terrorists”, yet we were not told to fear “Christian terrorists” in the form of the IRA. The perception of whether conflict is between or within particular social groups is manipulated. At a global level, it is hard to think of an inter-civilisational war since the crusades, yet we are to believe that a war between civilisations is immanent and needs preventing.[xix] Arguably the main inter-civilisational ‘clashes’ we witness have been conceptual, cultural or in the sports arena, not on the battlefield. Whether wars are between or within defined social groups is not as clear as our leaders would like us to believe. Wars are made by leaders to justify and further their own ends, and they will construct and present seeming adversaries in the way that best suits those ends.
A view of 20th century history that was created without the influence of powerful people, might further question the standard perceptions of whether wars are between or within particular groups. The so-called ‘World Wars’ were primarily between Europeans. Should we talk of ‘World Wars’, or the ‘Christian Wars’ or ‘European Wars’? The Cold War was presented as between two radically different ideologies. Yet, as John Gray points out, more accurately, it was ‘a family quarrel among Western ideologies,’[xx] with their conceptual roots in England. Ireland’s quasi-religious and quasi-political leaders have fomented an ongoing and unfathomable conflict for centuries, but is it between Catholics and Protestants, or among Christians? Why was the Balkan conflict ‘between’ Serbs and Muslims, but not another ‘European War’.
Beyond Europe, the Iran-Iraqi war can be seen as a war among Moslems, not between two nations. Even the violence between the Arabs and Jews is, from another perspective, within a Semitic group, genetically indistinguishable and with very similar cultural and legal practices – ‘salem’ and ‘shalom’ both mean peace. East Asian people have been fighting with themselves for a hundred years, yet the East Asian region is the most homogeneous in the world. Japan’s colonial violence included seemingly ‘international’ aggression against Korea. But historically Korean and Japanese people are genetically, linguistically and culturally linked. The current Japanese Emperor has now even acknowledged the Korean ancestry of his family. The Korean War might seem to exemplify an in-group war. But the ‘opposing forces’ of North and South were constructed by Russia and the US. The war was started by the Soviet Union[xxi] and fought between the US and China, supported by other Cold War factions (including a manipulated UN), and played out on Korean territory at the expense of Korean people. Currently it is termed an ‘international war’.[xxii] This may be terminologically correct, but is not a distinction that can be substantiated on cultural, racial, or arguably even on ‘national’ grounds.
Was the West responsible for constructing the idea of modern war – of linking war and violence in a way that was not known before. For example, did the Meiji rulers in Japan learn to become an aggressive expansionist force by watching the conduct of their Western counterparts? Before this time, conflict in and around Japan was ritualised in the form of the Samurai, an idea that was probably imported from Korea (sa ur ae be). Only 8 per cent of Japanese families were Samurai, and they operated within a strict code of honour. Commoners were not allowed to carry swords, so violence was contained within this small military cadre. In 1869, the government pensioned off the Samurai. Was this to diminish violence, or to create a context in which a large national, European style army could be created, under the control of a single leader?
One of the things that unifies an army is attack by an opposing force. Observers of the confrontation between South Korean students and the army in the 1980s remark that the adversaries were often college friends, and at first the soldiers were reluctant to confront the students. When (apparently) a few students attacked the army, this changed and the soldiers quickly engaged in a brutal confrontation. But, as may have happened in Korea, a leader can construct this effect. At the start of World War II, Hitler staged an attack on a Silesian radio station, using Nazi officers disguised as Polish soldiers.[xxiii] The burning of the Reichstag, which was attributed to communists, has come to symbolise the phenomenon of self-attack by warring leaders. The creation of false fears or false enemies is related, even if there is no self-harm.
Exposing violence and deception against ones own group, and holding leaders responsible for supposed ‘retaliation’, is an important means to dis-invent war.
As George Orwell proposed in Nineteen Eighty-Four, it seems that in certain circumstances political or military leaders need to construct an ‘enemy’ to create fear and legitimate and further their own power. In Orwellian tradition, the progeny of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon is a so-called ‘War against Terrorism’. There can be no dispute that this particular ‘war’ is made entirely by political leaders. The enemy is an abstract noun, not an identifiable aggressor.
Having constructed an enemy, there was then need to construct ‘terrorist leaders’. Of the many candidates, an obscure US-trained opportunist called Osama bin Laden was identified. Assuming that the videos and tapes are genuine, he quickly rose to fulfil a role. In return, bin Laden helped to build the image of George Bush as a seemingly great leader. In November 2002, a videotape apparently from bin Laden talked of Bush as ‘the Pharoe of the age’.[xxiv] The phrase will certainly help to demonise Bush in the eyes of Arabs. The name ‘Pharoah’ was applied to the Western-oriented Anwar Sadat by his killers twenty years ago. But doubtless George Bush would have been grateful for the vote-winning accolade. The phenomenon is not new. Erich Fromm makes this point in his description of World War I: ‘The Germans claimed that were…fighting for freedom by fighting the Csar; their enemies claimed that they were…fighting for freedom by fighting the Kaiser.’[xxv]
How often has the power of ‘enemy leaders’ been created as much through the propaganda of adversaries than by their own actions? In December, a senior US army officer told Robert Fisk:
We caught a couple of really high-profile, serious al-Qa’ida leaders but they couldn’t tell us what specific operations were going to take place. They would know that something big was planned but they would have no idea what it was.[xxvi]
The officer did not appear to question whether this level of awareness equated with men called ‘high-profile’ ‘serious leaders’. Warring leaders need to construct one another as great ‘men’ – a symbiotic relationship that fuels war. Paradoxically, they use each other as a ‘resource’ (below, 1.5) – an entity that supports a leader in much the same way as a political party or administration.
This need to construct enemy leaders probably reflects two obvious insights by powerful aggressors.
First, attacking a ‘terrorist leader’ is tangible and comprehensible to the public. Attacking amorphous and abstract ‘terrorist cells’ is not. On its own, for the US military to drop bombs on UN centres, weddings and other civilian gatherings in Afghanistan, might have led the American public to question the nature of this aggression. The US needed the excuse of trying to eliminate ‘terrorist leaders’ and a few itinerant clerics elevated to the status of ‘Taliban leaders’. Local Afghan people would probably say that controlling their feuding warlords would have been a greater step towards ensuring their security. We all like to hate powerful people – almost any leader can easily be presented as a natural enemy of any followers.
Second, if an enemy appears leaderless, it may become very clear to the public that, while wars are made by leaders, they are fought by their followers. And it is usually not the leaders who suffer most. In ancient Greece, leaders who declared war were morally required to lead their troops into battle. Since then, leaders have cleverly de-linked themselves from the dangers of war. When a US leader takes off in Air Force I or hides in a nuclear shelter, because of a threat of attack, this should be presented to the public as an act of cowardice, not leadership. During World War II, the British royal family stayed in London and shared the dangers of bombing with their subjects.
Another trick of warring leaders is to present disagreements between elites as intrinsically disagreements between the masses. This is rarely true, and is reflected in the traditions of war. Arthur Nussbaum concludes of the ‘quasi-international mores’ of China during the first millennium BC, ‘one stands out: the people of belligerent rulers definitely did not consider each other as enemies, and there was no discrimination against the subjects of an enemy prince.’[xxvii] More formally, the principles embodied in the Hague Conventions and the Geveva Convention affirmed that war should not harm innocent or neutral parties.[xxviii]
The ethic can evolve one stage further - as wars are made by leaders they should therefore be fought between leaders. Disputes between Korean gangs were traditionally settled through a fistfight between gang leaders, which avoided large-scale gang warfare.
Leaders present small conflicts as precipitants of a full-scale war, yet this is often untrue. They may act to limit the scale of aggression. Among East African tribes, Colin Turnbull concludes that raiding was often ‘far from being an act of war, the raid acted as a mechanism for peace.’[xxix] A few warriors might die, but that settled things and avoided war for others. Eventually, the scale can become symbolic, and fought between leaders. In Arab countries, family feuds were often fought out for centuries through exchanging poetry between elites. War and violence were completely de-linked.
The central assumptions of this paper are therefore very simple. Wars are not fundamentally between social, groups – nations, religions, tribes, peoples, or civilisations. Wars are constructed and presented in this way by powerful people. Wars are between leaders, real or constructed.
1.5 The academic view
The significance of powerful people seems obvious, yet in discussions about war and peace, leadership has received remarkably little analytical attention beyond the vilification of a few infamous individuals. In recognition of this, Gordon Peake asks key questions.[xxx] In conflict situations:
To these questions might be added, what is in the minds of leaders who instigate and promote conflict – what is their perception of themselves?
The absence of a holistic leadership approach to the analysis of war is evident from the indexes of standard texts on peace and security. Taking one at random, the seven-page index of Beyond Confrontation[xxxi] includes twenty or so immediately recognizable political leaders, power relationships are acknowledged under headings such as ‘power politics’ and ‘authority’, and context in headings such as ‘Vietnam war’ and ‘Yalta Conference’. But there is no entry for ‘leadership’. In Erich Fromm’s comprehensive Anatomy of human destructiveness, the index similarly has no entry for ‘leadership’. The 630 pages of text includes one page on ‘conformist aggression’, and there are a few sentences of elaboration elsewhere. But a whole chapter analyses Hitler psychologically.[xxxii]
Standard analysis may focus on individual personalities, and may go further and assess the power relationships within administrative institutions, such as that of the Nazis. And history is almost obsessive about context and the significance of events such as the assassination of Francis Ferdinand at Sarajevo. But rarely does analysis adopt the approach of leadership studies and look at the three aspects holistically – how did particular powerful individuals behave in particular power hierarchies within particular contexts? Leadership studies have the potential to contribute more significantly to the achievement of a world without large-scale war.
Leadership can be seen as operating within identifiable but related ‘parameters’:[xxxiii] [xxxiv]
The familiar reasons why leaders may opt for war can be linked to these three parameters.
The holistic question is how do these together affect how leaders use or abuse their power? The parameters are linked by relationships, including perception and trust. Followers, in the form of civil society, cannot have much direct impact on ‘abilities’ or ‘resources’, but they can create a relational context in which these might change.
Some phenomena can be ‘context’ or ‘resources’, according to circumstances, the media for instance. Some aspects are ‘transferable context’ but some are ‘fixed’. A leader may transfer men from ‘context’ to ‘resources’ by creating military service, but factors such as the weather are non-transferable. Internet is providing another dimension – the possibility for followers to create their own leaderless ‘resources’ to challenge and control traditional leadership. The South Korean elections in December 2002 were significantly influenced by home pages of ‘netizens’, which supported the successful candidate, Roh Moo Hyun, not his pro-US anti-unification opponent Lee Hoi Chang.
One of the main explanations for the demise of aggressive regimes is that their ‘resources’ become stressed and exhausted, and that ‘transferable context’ also becomes stressed or not available. The Soviet Union seems the obvious example. Unplanned, this is also the effect that terrorists are having on the US, where intelligence systems are saturated with information, and the military is too stretched to protect Americans overseas. This proposes a strategy for hastening the decline of a despot. Information overload is the main weapon. A dictator, who must utilise his/her ‘resources’ and ‘transferable context’ for fighting a major information war, will have little capacity left to utilise them for other means of maintaining power. And this is war without violence.
The lack of academic interest in the relationship between leadership and war means a lack of questioning. When leadership is placed as the unit of analysis, there are very obvious examples to consider. Why is it unthinkable that the Dalai Lama would promote war, or advocate suicide bombing? The circumstances of his people are certainly analogous to those of Palestinians. Religious belief cannot be the only answer. A proper observance of Islam would outlaw suicide bombing in Israel because it leads to the death of women and children. Is it because the Dalai Lama perceives himself as a living God? And as a result, his leadership embraces the whole of humanity, so it is unthinkable that he would advocate the killing any human being. War has already been made unthinkable for particular forms of leadership, yet we have not asked why or how.
In a world where conflicts and the threat of mass destruction seem omnipresent, it is hard to remember that we are also in a world where there are significant examples of war having been made unthinkable in the minds of leaders. In which contexts has that been achieved and can the principles be extended?
The first example is perhaps uncomfortable but must be acknowledged – nuclear deterrence.
Whether of not the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), makes war more or less thinkable will be probably argued about until the day that the former view is evidenced by a nuclear holocaust. But half a century of the threat of nuclear extinction has passed without it happening. The biographies of those who have had their fingers on the nuclear button disclose very little about how individuals have reconciled their personal conscience with the possibility of having to ‘do their duty’ as public officials, and perhaps exterminate a large sector of humanity. The nearest we seem to get to a clear answer to the question, ‘Would you have pushed the button’, has been, ‘I did not know that I would not.’ [xxxv]
MAD has not made war unthinkable - arguably the reverse in some contexts. It has seemingly made the use of nuclear weapons less thinkable, but that is a unique circumstance from which it is hard to generalise about other contexts that lessen the likelihood of war. But there is one generalisable aspect. So far, MAD has de-linked war and violence.
The concept of de-linking war from violence may become of greater significance in an increasingly technological world. John Gray concludes that beyond ‘the ragged armies of the poor…’, ‘[w]ars are no longer fought by conscript armies but by computers…’[xxxvi] The idea is reflected in the views of Korean politician Lee- Sang-Hee, who argues that conscription is redundant in the context of future technological warfare. Virtual war creates the possibility that, as suggested above (1.4), wars could soon really be fought between leaders, without significant harm to others. And if countries have smaller armies of technical experts, the military are less likely to be used to maintain authoritarian governments through brute force.
Virtual war also raises another possibility, the full inclusion of women in warfare. The argument is not that women are intrinsically against war, nor about equal opportunities. As has been demonstrated in the workplace and parliament, the inclusion of women in male-dominated settings brings new dynamics and new ideas. In the male domain of war, women may well contribute intellectual tools that can help to de-link war from violence. There are already precedents. The use of Japanese soldiers as part of the peacekeeping forces in East Timor is not only significant because this is the first time since World War II that Japanese soldiers have been deployed internationally. It is also significant because many of those soldiers were women.
The second context – supra-state regionalisation – demands more detailed consideration, because the trend is towards creating regional identities. These aim directly or indirectly to increase security in its broadest sense, and that concept is replicable in many ways. Since 1945, over a hundred such regional agreements have been made.[xxxvii] Historically, we perhaps forget that the minds of leaders have already made war virtually unthinkable within formerly warring regions such as a United Kingdom and a United States of America. Europe is the more familiar example. There are other less obvious instances, which western minds do not appreciate. These include the United States of Mexico, the Peoples Republic of China, the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries, Nasser’s attempt to create a United Arab Republic, and the recent African Union. Regions not only foster peace internally. They can broker peace elsewhere. Currently, the EU is working unobtrusively with North Korea.[xxxviii]
Although the political impetus to regionalise Europe came directly from the two world (European) wars, the idea was established much earlier. The publication of Kant’s Perpetual Peace a Philosophical Sketch in 1795 is often seen as the origins of a unified Europe, but arguably the vision of regionalisation can be traced back to the Renaissance and figures such as Juan Luis Vives and Hugo Grotius. The idea is also evident in works such as William Penn’s Present and Future Peace of Europe (1693), and Jeremy Bentham’s Plan for a Universal and Perpetual Peace (1786-9).[xxxix] The lesson from history is that an idea must wait for an opportunity before it can become reality, and that may take a long time. But history also reminds us of the corollary, that good ideas eventually find their opportunity. Mike Moore, former Director-General of the WTO, claims of prescient leadership, ‘It is wrong to be right too soon’.[xl] The idea of making war unthinkable is perhaps an example.
Regions that are not based on geographical adjacency arguably have had a similar effect to that envisaged for a united Europe – the Commonwealth seems an example, as do trade blocs such as The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). It is also relevant to consider regional international governmental organizations (IGOs) such as the Arab League. The OECD and IMF have made Japan economically part of the west, and the possibility of a war between Japan and the West is certainly now unthinkable. The WTO may have similar effect. That is likely to be an underlying reason for admitting China and Taiwan within twenty-four hours of one another, in 2001. With the specific purpose of security, NATO similarly links two geographically distant regions, which we forget have not historically always been at peace. If we view that planet also as a region, the League of Nations and United Nations also become part of the regionalisation and security picture.
The significant point about the modern regions is their federal nature and plurality of power – no single leader has absolute power. Leaders are part of a regional leadership; they are not regional leaders. In contrast, the older regions of China, US, and UK have single overlords. Is it just coincidence that these older regions seem to display a greater propensity for war the newer ones with a greater plurality of leadership? The newer regions seem to combine two ideas – that a common interest makes war less thinkable, and the (supposedly Confucian) truism that ‘Good fences make good neighbours’.
There is another notable aspect of supra-regions. Political parties less often feature as an aspect of a regional leadership’s ‘resources’. It is arguable that political parties do little to benefit the public in a national setting. They only assist leaders as individuals, and that assistance has often been in relation to war. Hitler and Mussolini would not have got far without the Nazi and Fascist parties. Communist leaders are inherently the product of their political parties. The Catch 22 is that few political leaders will criticize the idea of political parties. And this denial is compounded through the coincidence of interest between political leaders throughout the world, even if adversaries. The party of the opposition can be criticised, but not the concept of parties. Regions usually de-link leaders from political parties, and that seems to make war less thinkable.
De-linking politicians from parties can also be achieved through utisling democratic processes. Civil society organisations might adopt a policy of encouraging people to vote for independent candidates. In parallel, there might be a greater exposure of the dynamics that make political parties a historical legacy that is of questionable value to the general populace, and of the circumstances in which parties have clearly been a precipitant of war. This is not such a dramatic idea. The leaders of multi-national companies are not hampered by having to work within political parties, and many of them now run organisations that have a bigger budget than many countries.
The arms trade, international law and technological vulnerability make modern war intrinsically a regional context for leaders. Many conflicts have shown how weapons can end up being used against their manufacturers and their allies. A leader who permits his/her soldiers to rape women anywhere in the war region, will now be held responsible for that conduct. If a leader permits his/her army to win by causing major environmental damage to achieve victory (e.g. by bombing a nuclear power station or chemicals factory), the job of putting that right may eventually fall to that leader. Environmental impacts do not respect borders, and so problems may well be own goals or have global impacts. It is often claimed that modern democracies have avoided war, but is it that these nations are coincidentally technologically vulnerable, and have too much to lose? The international context of war entails a regional/global interest and responsibility, but that is not widely recognised. If not regional/global leaders, we need regionally/globally minded leaders.
2.3 The planetary region
If the planet were seen as a region, would the development of a pluralist planetary leadership create a world in which war is unthinkable? There are precedents. If we look at leaders within the international organizations, that seems to be true. It is hard to envision Director-Generals such as Gro Harlem Brundtland (WTO), Mary Robinson (UNHCR) or Mike Moore (WTO) as thinking of war is a rational response to any situation, however threatening. Yet these particular international leaders have all been national leaders and, at least technically, that means they would have been prepared to sanction war in their national interests.
But this list is selective. These were all national leaders with a planetary-regional vision of some sort – leaders who recognised a global or ‘Planetary Interest’[xli]. Brundtland originated the concept of sustainable development in Our Common Future. Mary Robinson had promoted global human rights for many years. Mike Moore was dedicated to the idea of free world trade well before he headed the WTO. It seems that there is more to the personality of leaders who eschew war than their job title. The key factor is that they have a planetary vision, and that has arisen because of an interaction between their ‘ability’ and the context in which they found themselves. Brundtland, for example, was a medial doctor and was strongly influenced by her father who was an international medic. She then had the chance, as Prime Minister of a progressive nation, to promote a vision of sustainable development and later at the WHO, the vision of ‘Healthy people – healthy planet’.[xlii] We need to understand better the context in which some leaders perceive themselves as part of a global leadership, even when working at a national level?
One explanation is that some leaders recognise the concept of common threats. International relations classes sometimes engage in counterfactual analysis of the consequences of the threat of invading aliens from another planet. One conclusion is common. National leaders would forget their differences and unify into a planetary leadership, to fight the common foe. The concept of global security - which links environment, development and conflict - tries to build this ethos through presenting the new common ‘threats without enemies’, such as climate change and ozone depletion, in the form of security discourse.[xliii] Current discussions about the Earth being hit by asteroids are in this genre. Even if this threat is remote, the process of addressing it could engender more global forms of leadership.
The main progenitor of a planetary region is probably not global politics, but the increase in population movement throughout the world - greater cosmopolitanism through international living[xliv] and transnational communities.[xlv] The British population comprises 340 spoken languages and 33 national groups of more than 10,000 people. By 2001, the number of immigrants became more than the natural growth of the population. The increase in international living may not guarantee peace, but it constructs a context in which too many people have too much to lose from war, and leaders are likely to recognise that.
The idea reducing the propensity for war through uniting Europe can be traced back even earlier than prescient texts, and interestingly to leadership and elites. Arranged marriages within elite European families were intended to reduce conflict and increase trade. The marriage between King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, aimed to link England with Spain and the Hapsburg Empire. Similar arrangements occurred in other parts of the word, for example in East Asia, and were accompanied by a near acceptance of mistresses and concubines signaling that these arranged marriages were for the purpose of international not human relations. The Jordanian Royal family provides a notable contemporary example of marriages that, although not arranged, have contributed to international harmony and regional security.
International marriage is not now just the privilege a few elites, and this aspect of globalisation clearly reduces the likelihood of popular support for war. Most countries have a significant number of nationals with family links in other nations. In Germany one in six families is transnational. Even in hitherto homogenous Japan, the proportion of marriages to someone from outside Japan is now one in thirty-five. Interestingly, international marriage also brings the same benefits to communities that were achieved through the appropriation of women as a prize of primitive warfare – genetic diversity and an exchange of ideas and culture (see above 1.1).
The role of leadership is not now to arrange unpalatable marriages between themselves, or even to promote international marriage between their followers. It is to reduce the barriers to international marriage for everyone. So far they have failed to achieve this, and have actively blocked this simple and cheap route to enhancing international relations and security. In the UK, a ‘spouse visa’ for legal married immigrants takes up to three years to obtain. Japan can issue the same visa in three days.
Regions create ‘contexts’ and ‘resources’ in which war becomes less thinkable. Potentially warring factions are constrained by the institutions, systems, cross-border economic interests, codes and ethos, and cosmopolitan communities. And the reduced influence from political parties removes a major progenitor of war. But might a ‘personal resource’ - the mind of a leader - be changed because of these dynamics? Regionally minded leaders, even if nationally based, seem less inclined to war. The world certainly seemed safer with a globally minded Clinton as President of the US, than with a provincially minded George Bush.
The basic self-perception mechanisms seem simple. If regional leaders proposed war, they would be proposing war against themselves, because they are responsible for a regional interest. War framed in this manner is not a rational act, and leaders do not want to perceive themselves as irrational, so war is avoided. Similarly, the ethic that binds regional leaderships together is about group and territorial unity, and it would be contradictory to create group divisions as is common among leaders who want to create war (1.3). Again, no leader wants to appear self-contradictory.
Self-perception theory supports the idea that contexts are important. D.J. Bem’s original premise is that people come to know their internal states ‘partially by inferring them from observations of their own behaviour and/or the circumstances in which this behaviour occurs.’[xlvi] For example, politicians who observe themselves enthusiastically applauding a particular speech may infer that this is because they agree with that speech and are therefore ideologically a member of that political group. But ‘circumstances’ also play a part. Those who find themselves spontaneously applauding an unknown speaker, will perceive this as greater agreement than if they are routinely applauding a colleague who they know they wish to please. When there are no obvious alternative circumstantial explanations for particular behaviour, self-perception mechanisms will be strongest and will draw conclusions from self-observation. Leaders who observe themselves in the context of a regional leadership seem more likely to perceive themselves as having regional responsibility, and this perception is strong because there are few alternative explanations.
The significance of self-perception theory is that it sets up ‘the conditions for attitude change…if attitudes are determined by behaviour rather than the other way around, then modification of behaviour will produce concomitant modification of attitude.’[xlvii] It seems possible to change the minds of leaders through creating a ‘context’ in which they perceive themselves as having regional responsibility, even if they are not regional leaders. But how can this be done?
In the classical Roman theatre, persona was the mask that an actor wore to express the role being played. Jung then used the term to mean the role a person takes on because of social pressures – a role that society expects someone to play – the public face. Are there social pressures, perhaps brought about by civil society, which can change a leader’s persona, from provincial to regional?
One approach is to return to the significance of ‘relational context’ (1.5), and employ a theoretical framework developed Lee, who proposes that the relations, including perceptions, can be viewed in two categories: ‘Hard’ relations, which are coercive, law-based and rooted in written codes. And ‘soft’ relations which are negotiated, empathy-based and reflect social norms and traditions. The relations of a coercive politician such as Korea’s President Park exemplifies the former, and public empathy with the personal experiences of a leader such as Nelson Mandela reflects the latter.[xlviii] Most leaders are likely to use, and be perceived to use, a mixture of both ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ – carrot and stick – relations. The effectiveness probably arises because of the link between the two. Like the donkey, followers do not have a clear perception of what is leading them, and so to challenge and refusal becomes less easy. But leaders can also be led by followers, through the effective linking of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ relations.
3.2.1 ’Hard’ relations
Precipitating persona changes in relation to ‘hard’ relationships is probably easiest to envisage. These would come about through reference to the frameworks now provided by international law, other codes of conduct, or emergent norms such as the global/planetary interest[xlix] and enforcement institutions such as the Yugoslav and Arusha war tribunals. National courts also have a role. In December 2002, CND started a case in the high court against the UK government on the basis that a war with Iraq would be unlawful without UN consent. This was the first case of its kind.[l] Leaders intrinsically wish to appear strong. So the strategy is to propose the need for strong leadership to uphold a regional interest and international norms. Leaders who follow popularist calls for aggression or act out of self-interest, should be seen as weak.
Although the centrality of leadership to world security is readily accepted, there is no formal international code of conduct regulating global leadership.[li] Formally acknowledging the responsibility of identifiable leaders within codes that restrain aggression and violence, would probably greatly improve their effectiveness.[lii] The Chemical Weapons Convention provides a rare example. This requires registration of the name of the owner of factories that can produce chemicals that could be utilised in weapons.[liii] But the lack of codification of leadership responsibility is perhaps not so surprising. The minds of leaders also control whether or not they regulate themselves.
3.2.2 ’Soft’ relations
‘Soft’ change is more subtle, and stems from a psychological truism that we are all ‘a reaction to the reaction to us’. The reaction of others to our persona will create a reaction by us, which then evolves the persona we use in the future.
Simple experiments show that daily interaction is related to our outward appearance. For example, a young attractive woman asking busy bus conductors foolish questions will get helpful accommodating answers. But if the same women is dressed and made-up as an older woman, she acts as if having a mental disability, and she asks the same foolish questions, the response is usually less helpful and sometimes hostile. As a reaction to this, people who actually have this experience may take on the persona of an aggressive individual, and they get caught in a negative ‘persona trap’.
Other lessons about marginalised people can be applied to powerful leaders. Professionals who work with people with mental disabilities who display ‘challenging behaviour’ (aggression or violence) employ straightforward psychology. They ignore bad behaviour and reward good, unless there is an immediate likelihood of harm. To acknowledge bad behaviour, even in the form of punishment, can become a reward. For people with mental disabilities and powerful leaders alike, the reward of gaining attention can outweigh the pain of punishment. Rewards are often symbolic – maybe just simple praise. For leaders, symbolic rewards such as Peace Prizes, de-link the evolutionary/biological demand for the rewards of aggression, from rewards that have real value, such as water and land.
Punishment is avoided because it will be seen as unjust or irrelevant, and may precipitate aggression. If remedial action is necessary, it is decided outside the heat of an irritating event. If critical comment is necessary, then the rule is ‘condemn the behaviour not the person’.
Academics who have studied people responsible for torture point out that men who can order or carry out horrible atrocities, may at home be wonderful, gentle loving husbands and fathers. It is therefore more accurate to talk of, ‘People who torture’ rather than, ‘Torturers’. Condemning the action and not the person leaves the possibility for rehabilitation.
Like marginalised people, marginalised leaders may need facilitation to take part in discussions and negotiations. Facilitation is considered necessary in relation to minority groups, but it is hard to extend this ethos to people who we have been taught to hate. We need to extend contemporary principles of redressing social exclusion to apparent despots. They need to be drawn into the international community, not pushed away. Exclusion, whether in a psychiatric hospital or a palace, is not going to create people who can contribute the building a safer world, because this does not build the empathy necessary for ‘soft’ relations in a large community.
Is it possible to engender regional and global personas and changes in self-perception through the media? Would a CNN programme that showed Saddam Hussein positively as part of a global leadership help to change his perception of himself of lessen the (supposed) threat he poses? Would a portrayal of Israeli leaders as part of a regional Middle East leadership have a similar effect? At present, the media usually presents a stereotypical view of these leaders as isolationist. Other forms of information technology might be employed. Isolationist leaders could take part in public videoconference meetings of international leaders - virtual G-meetings.
A carrot-and stick approach links ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ relations. The building of relational contexts that engender a positive persona and self-perception change therefore includes:
As with good horse-riding, ultimate goal of using a carrot-and-stick approach, is that the stick is effective because it is there, not because it is used. Like the whip of a good horse-rider or the sword of a modern king, enforcement measures should become largely symbolic.
The Korean peninsula provides an instance of an ongoing ‘international war’. North Korean President Kim Jong Il is presented as an international recluse who is a threat to world security. He is also presented as a leader who harms his own people through oppressive social control,[liv] appropriation of resources and consequent mass poverty, and through imprisoning his opposition in labour camps[lv] where pregnant women are forced to have abortions or their infants are killed.[lvi] Such stories are presented by western observers, and usually at times when it thought necessary to construct Kim Jong Il as an enemy leader. Whatever the truth, North Korea seems to show that provincially-minded leaders are more inclined to war, and the peninsular exemplifies other important themes.
Korea demonstrates that paradoxical coincidences of interests between leaders can fuel war. In November 2002, the Herald Tribune reported an exchange of military technology between North Korea and Pakistan. North Korea had allegedly supplied Pakistan with ballistic missile parts, and Pakistan had provided North Korea with machinery to improve its production of highly enriched uranium. The Pakistani plane that took the missile parts from North Korea to Pakistan was a Lockhead-built C-130, made available to Pakistan by the US leadership, in return for Pakistan’s co-operation in the US ‘War against terrorism’.[lvii] A few days later, a ship carrying scud missiles from North Korea to Yemen was intercepted, but it was permitted to continue because the US did not want to upset Yemen when a war with Iraq seemed immanent.[lviii] War is now intrinsically regional/global.
In September 2002, The People’s Korea website provided ‘answers to written questions raised by the president of the Kyodo News Service’, by Kim Jong Il, which included the following statement:
"Korea and Japan are geographically close countries, and they had maintained relations from olden times exchanging visits with each other. But in the past century discord and confrontation have brought the relations between the two countries to an extremely abnormal state…Normalizing relations between the two countries and developing good-neighborly relations accords with the aspirations and interests of the peoples of the two countries…
Korea and Japan are Asian nations. They should live in friendship as nearest neighbours, not as near yet distant neighbors, and promote coexistence and co-prosperity. This is our will and consistent standpoint." [lix]
The significance is not just about relations with Japan, which is probably due to North Korea’s economic problems. It is that Kim Jong Il chose to adopt a regional argument, yet he seems an unlikely advocate of regional concern. Did the planned meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister Koizumi four days later engender in Kim a persona of being a regional leader because he was treated as a regional leader. Did he perceive himself as a regional leader, because he observed himself as part of a regional leadership, as self-perception theory proposes? (para 3.1 above)
Whatever the truth, why did the international community not react to this statement? World leaders might have encouraged Kim’s newfound regional concern through promoting Korean unification and encouraging international dialogue. Current international rhetoric is about controlling weapons of mass destruction in the North, not about full reunification of Korea, as in Germany. Why? It is very probable that a unified Korea would quickly become a significant economic rival for Japan, the US, Russia, China and Europe. So there is a disincentive for national leaders outside Korea to encourage full unification, but also within the peninsula, because this would reduce the power of most Korean leaders. This dynamic was demonstrated by the campaign by the South Korean opposition party, the Grand National Party (GNP), against the unification minister Lim Dong-Won, in 2001. The GNP accused Lim of a technical breach of the law, which prohibits praising the North. Constructive dialogue is hard if the Minister cannot display a few courtesies towards the North. The persona of an aggressive leader is being constructed, and war fuelled, through coincidences of leadership interests, internal and external.
Acceptance that Korea may not be fully unified may seem strange to outsiders. But this policy may create another pluralist region, not much different from the United Kingdom, and only differing from the EU in scale and complexity. Historically, Korea was three nations from 4th to 7th century, and two from 698-926AD. Perhaps ultimately a regional pluralist Korean leadership will bring greater stability than would a fully unified Korea.
Since July 1953, the Korean war has been a war without significant violence. Has South Korea’s lead in economic and technological development extended, unnoticed, to demonstrating a lead in how we unthink war, through de-linking war and violence? The demise of oppressive leadership in the North is likely to come about because the ‘resources’ of the regime become exhausted and the world ‘context’ no longer provides the needed ‘transferable resources’ (1.5). The international community could probably hasten this process, if it wanted to.
At the Asian games in Busan in September 2002, athletes from North and South Korea entered the stadium holding hands. They also carried a flag showing the whole Korean peninsula as blue, as did the teams at the Inter-Korean football match.[lx] It is unlikely that this would have happened without agreement from power elites in North and South. Create the right context and leaders recognise that the evolutionary/biological drivers of war can be de-linked from war, and they even use the context to promote peace. In sports, the competing is real but the prize is symbolic – a medal. Leaders attending the games observed themselves as part of a regional leadership, and their self-perception may change accordingly.
Accompanying the North Korean athletes were many conspicuously beautiful young North Korean women. Local men were so impressed that a North Korean dialect became fashionable in Busan. More surprisingly, the clothes and hair-styles of the North Korean women reflected current western fashions. Again, this is likely to have been sanctioned from the highest level. Was this another signal that Kim Jong Il was starting to think globally? Kim is known to pay attention to such details. In 1996, he took personal responsibility for redesigning the uniforms of his own traffic police, who also ‘appear to be chosen for their beauty’.[lxi] If intelligence agencies employed more women, perhaps the significance of such details would be noticed and built upon.
In the right context, the prey of male warfare can become the leaders who show that evolutionary/biological drivers can operate in different ways. Historically, if not a prize of war, women have often cheered and encouraged their men to go and fight. Can they now show second-track global leadership and support men who want to find alternatives to war? In May 2002, Ms Park Keun Hye, daughter of the former president Park Chung Hee, went to the North to meet Kim Jong Il and the National Reconciliation Council.[lxii] Then in October, women students from North and South gathered at Mt. Kumgang, as did Korean women overseas, to promote reconciliation and co-operation.[lxiii] The world media ignored both events. The role of Korean women in peace-making is not new. In 1919, during Japanese occupation, Yu Gwan Sun was among activists who organised a peaceful protest in the form of a ‘Declaration of Independence’ distributed to 35,000 Christian, Buddhist and other Korean leaders, in three days. She was imprisoned, where she died.
The refusal to give Kim Jong Il the Nobel Peace Prize, when it is was given to Kim Dae Jung following the historic handshake between the two Kims, is a major failure of the international community. It would have rewarded good behaviour while ignoring bad, and engendered ‘soft’ empathy, but in relation to ‘hard’ traditional norms of the prize. It would have helped to build Kim Jong Il’s international persona, probably evolved his self-perception and reversed his provincialism and international exclusion. It might have started to de-link him from his Korean People’s Party. His status would have been enhanced, and he would have captured a major symbolic possession, with no violence. All this for the cost of a medal. There is more to be gained from using a Peace Prize to reward the good behavior of a ‘bad leader’, than from giving it to a Saint.
Leaders invent war by linking and de-linking functions, circumstances and ideas - and naming events and concepts - to suit their own purposes. So re-linking – alternative linking and de-linking - may help to make war less thinkable. A framework can be constructed in relation to the three parameters of leadership (Figure 1). Linking and de-linking are a matter of degree, and do not imply total unity or separation. Many of the strategies are, of course, not new. But it is the possibility of a holistic approach, within civil society and its ‘netizens’, which presents the likelihood of greater efficacy.
This re-linking builds a bigger idea – de-linking war from violence. The phrase appears an oxymoron, yet history provides many examples. Put another way, ‘wars’ involve force but need not use violence. Gandhi, like Yu Gwan Sun, used non-violent force, and his ‘war’ tactics avoided directly attacking the British army. The British forces did not build group solidarity in the way that armies usually do because of attack. Perhaps British leaders eventually sensed this, and so sought a resolution. Contrast this with armies that have presented themselves as invincible and willing to use any degree of violence to win – the Japanese in World War II, and Hitler against the Russians. The result was eventual defeat. The lesson from history, which seems to have been well-disguised for too long, is that one way to win a war is by not using violence. This is especially relevant to modern asymmetrical war, which cannot be won by force, only by removing the motivation of the aggressors. In future war, the leader who avoids harming the opposing force is more likely to win, and the tools of information and computing technology make this more thinkable.
War is made by leaders, but so is peace and security, and many other ‘goods’ of life. Without leaders we would not have war, but without leaders we would probably still exist in the primitive context of petty feuding for the purpose of men obtaining women and other instinct-based rewards. Historically, it is progressive leaders - intellectual, religious, political – who have shown us that this is an undesirable state, and have created the social systems to bring about change. It is leaders who can make war unthinkable by de-linking war from violence. The message to them is that this is one of two scenarios in which war becomes unthinkable. The other is a world in which no-one follows leaders. Information technology is making that a possibility, but perhaps that is not a scenario that will lead us to a better world overall.