View Full Version : New book: Why We Fight by Mike Martin

05-15-2018, 12:11 PM
The book 'Why We Fight' is by a British veteran of Afghanistan, now @ Kings War Studies as a Research Fellow and the author of 'An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict'. So he refers to his talking to Afghan soldiers, alongside his own experiences to argue it is basically status and belonging to a cohesive social group.

The publishers description:
Why are we willing to die for our countries? How can ideology persuade someone to blow themselves up? When we go to war, morality, religion and ideology often take the blame. But Mike Martin boldly argues that the opposite is true: rather than driving violence, these things help to reduce it. While we resort to ideas and values to justify or interpret warfare, something else is really propelling us towards conflict: our subconscious desires, shaped by millions of years of evolution. Why We Fight will change the way we think about both violence and ourselves.

There's also a one minute video by the author.

The Guardian has a fourteen minute podcast, with the author and two academics:
Experts have been fighting about fighting throughout the ages. While theories have emerged to explain why we fight, there isn’t a consensus in the research. In general, theories of war miss the mark for some. So why do we fight? And what can science tell us?

I have asked a USMC Afghan veteran to do a book review (if the publisher is willing). It is on Amazon US & UK, the later has three five star reviews and Frank Ledwidge ends his with:
This is an excellent book, and absolutely essential for anyone who wants to know what makes us go to war, and what can hold us back.

There is an existing, closed thread 'How soldiers deal with the job of killing' into which this thread maybe folded one day. See:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?13523-How-soldiers-deal-with-the-job-of-killing

06-07-2018, 01:10 PM
Found via Twitter a Q&A podcast (30 mins) and a lively exchange with Dan Snow, a UK TV historian.

10-11-2018, 07:43 PM
A powerful short article based on his book. He starts with:
It took me a long time to work out what was going on in Afghanistan. What I saw in front of me—everyone’s behaviour—did not match any of the narratives describing the war.
(He ends with) Essentially, the character of the war was one of manipulation, specifically four manipulations used by pretty much all of the Afghan actors: side-switching, betrayal, denunciation, and collaboration. This meant that—during every era of the conflict—Afghans pursued their own personal and group interests, yet justified them in the dominant ideological narrative of the outsiders. Thus, an old personal enemy would be described to the foreigners as a Talib, or a Mujahed, in order to get the foreigners to kill them. When actions of the foreigners were deemed to impinge upon the interests of a particular Afghan actor, appeals would be made to the defense of Islam. In short, pursuit of personal interest—accruing power (status) and allies (belonging) in order to survive—was always justified by the prevailing ideological framework.

12-17-2018, 08:01 PM
Spotted via Twitter and may be of interest if you can get to Kings College London. It is a public lecture and requires booking via the link.

The Abstract:
Mike will make the argument that conflict scholarship, and prevention, must increasingly look to biology and psychology in order to explain the most essential and everlasting question in our field: why do humans fight? He will draw on the most recent research in those two fields, as well as his own experiences fighting in Afghanistan, in order to outline a radically different framework for both understanding, and working in, conflict: namely that the sub-conscious, emotional drives of status- and belonging-seeking are what drive conflict, rather than conscious, societal-level factors such as religions and ideologies.
Mike will look at some of the implications – both practical and ethical – of adopting this new approach to the study of war, and he will ask whether the advent of new technologies – particularly AI – will render this approach out-dated before it has even become mainstream.