There Will Be No WWIII
By Masse Bloomfield
Harry Bloomfield Memorial Research Institute
Throughout history human beings have taken up arms against one another. During the agricultural period, armies were created which used spears, arrows and cavalry. War became part of the culture of nobility, as noblemen went to war to gain more land.
In the industrial age, after the development of tanks, airplanes and nuclear weapons, it became evident that everyone loses in global war. In World War II, industries destroyed were worth more than the land sought.
However many countries still operate with agricultural period mindsets. These countries will still fight, but their wars will not escalate to global industrial wars.
Can anyone be so positive as to say there will not be another World War? I believe we have had our last worldwide military conflict. I say this for several reasons, but basically my opinion has its roots in human history.
Otterbein has written:
Warfare is defined as armed combat between political communities. Armed combat, which is fighting with weapons, is performed by military organizations.1
It is hard to picture Stone Age man being a part of a military organization. Yet tribal communities did manage to raid each other for revenge or women. These early men had developed shock and missile weapons.
Shock weapons are those used at close range. These weapons began as wooden or bone clubs, then advanced when stones were attached to the clubs.
Missile weapons began by throwing rocks and clubs. Some leather slings added distance to rock throwing. The thrown clubs became a javelin or a dart. The missile weapons also developed into an arrow. Then with the advent of gunpowder, the missile weapons became more efficient. The machine gun is one of the more efficient missile weapons.
Animals were not used in warfare until a few thousand years ago. Horses became the favorite animal integrated into military operations as cavalry. The horse was not displaced until World War I when automobiles, trucks and tanks appeared. Airplanes also appeared in World War I.
Each set of weapons can be identified with a specific social system. Theses societies and their military technology will be discussed in turn.
The first social system to be discussed is the animal society, normally no tools are available for armed conflicts. The animals have to use their own strength plus claws, horns or teeth in dealing with other animals, whether their own species or another species. And animals do fight within one species. Zuckerman who studied a community of baboons at the London Zoo noted:
that one of the most common causes of fighting (among baboons) was for the possession of objects – usually for females or food, with disputes over the possession of wives provoking by far the most serious battles. In one instance, when thirty new females were introduced into the colony in an attempt to make the ratio of sexes more even, the result was a major disaster. Within one month, one-half of the newly imported females had been killed in the continuing melee which developed over them.2
The baboons do not have weapons to fight with each other. However, they are powerful enough to kill each other. The human animal has characteristics than resemble other primates. There has been a comparison made between primate behavior and human conduct once restrains of civilization were removed from the human.
One such fascinating example is to be found in the history of Pitcairn Island’s colony of English seamen mutineers of the H.M.S. Bounty … Nine English seamen, six native men and eleven native women fled from Tahiti to Pitcairn Island where they lived peacefully for the first two years. Then, much as Monkey Hill, a dispute arose over the possession of one of the females. At the end of ten years on the island, twelve of the fifteen men had been murdered and peace finally reigned when the population was reduced to a lone white man, nine native women and twenty-five children.3
Residing in animals, including Homo sapiens, there is a reservoir of violent aggression. However, as animals, humans restricted most of their killing to other animals, if they were vulnerable. These other animals were used mostly for food. Human beings, who eat vegetables and meat, began their history of killing in the human animal society. I am sure that occasionally the human animal killed one of its own in rage or over a woman or over some object. This experience has continued on with murder being a rather repetitious event reported in our newspapers.
The next human social system that developed is called the tribal society. Among the tools that were developed in the tribal society were shock and missile weapons. The shock weapons consisted of clubs, some with stone heads. The missile weapons included spears or javelins, and bows and arrows. These people were also aware of poisons so that poisoned darts, arrows and spears could be used to kill large game. With the use of weapons, it is possible for warfare to break out.
Barnouw reported that:
Some tribes, such as the Jivaro of Ecuador, live in a state of endemic warfare. In some societies, for example, the former Plains Indian tribes, warfare was a seasonable matter, taking place in summer. In some societies, warfare had acquired ritualized aspect, with some of the qualities of a game.4
In tribal societies, the technology included stone and wooden tools, language and fire. The weapons of the tribal society developed from their tools. Since tribal societies are informally organized, so too we would expect the organization of tribal warfare to be fairly informal in most cases, even when the whole tribe was involved.
Then the agricultural society developed. During the ten thousand years of the agricultural period, ninety percent of the people were peasants. Only ten percent of the population could be supported with the surplus food.
This put quite a restriction on the number of men who could become part of the military organization. Even as recently as the eighteenth century, this limitation was defined in the following quotation:
Eighteenth century governments, although stronger than their early modern and medieval predecessors, had only limited authority over persons and purse of the governed, and economics could not sustain more than two or three percent of the population in the field.5
The military organization for the first time, became socially structured and separate from the food producers. The technology which developed from having time to invest in military equipment, took the shock and missile weapons of the tribal period and improved them. The weapons of the agricultural period began with spears or pikes and bows and arrows. Then when metal was found, swords and daggers were added to the armaments. Protective equipment was also made from metals. Later animals were trained for warfare. Horses and infrequently elephants, joined the agricultural period typed armies. With horses, it was possible to add chariots. Also machines of war were developed such as catapults.
The wars during the agricultural period were fought with masses of armed men protected with helmets, shields and breastplates. The Roman legion was a sophisticated as an army could be during the agricultural period. The Roman legion, called the foremost tactical organization until the 1800sm was made up of ranks of infantrymen and cavalry.
When gunpowder was used for guns and cannon, the tactic of war did not change. The standard battle was a charge of massed armed men in ranks plus cavalry. The cannon used after 1400AD made fortified cities obsolete, but this was the only difference between the kind of war the Romans fought and the kind of war the Europeans fought from 1500AD through 1750AD. Cannons were not used all that time because they were heavy and difficult to transport to the battlefield. This changed for cannon when lighter and stronger pieces became available. By the time of Napoleon, artillery was part of the army.
The reasons for going to war during the agricultural period was to gain more land and to gain slaves to work the land at home and in the conquered territories. Land was source of wealth in the agricultural period. To produce food, land was needed. The nobility decided for themselves that they owned the land and the people who live on that land. The stronger and greedier nobles decided they could annex the land of other nobles. At times, the nobility of one culture banded together to seize large areas of land from other cultures. The Romans were good at this for a time. Many other cultures also seized land for their own use.
But the 1500s, agricultural societies had organized themselves into nations. All of these nations with agricultural technologies had armies that were involved in wars. The acquisition of more land was the major cause of these wars. Land grabbing is better known as imperialism.
It was from the agricultural society that man evolved into our present industrial society. However, many of the values from the agricultural period have carried over into the industrial society. War was one of the normal activities of the agricultural period.
Beginning at about 1700AD, the agricultural society began to change to a transitional industrial society. In contrast to the agricultural society, the industrial society is capable to supplying a larger percentage of its population for soldiers during wars, more than the two or three percent that was possible in the agricultural period. Not only was it possible to have armies of millions of men during World War II, but it was also possible to supply them with food, clothing and weapons of enormous lethal power.
With the transition came immense change in the technology of war. Until 1850AD, armaments had improved, but not substantially over those of the Roman legions of the agricultural period. Rifles with bayonets and cannon were improved during the seventeenth century, making them more lethal. The effective, efficient machine gun was invented when a satisfactory metallic cartridge had evolved. Dr. Gatling invented the first machine gun in 1861. Prior to that, attempts were made to use muskets in a line which were fired almost simultaneously.
During World War I, military vehicles were introduced such as trucks and tanks. Airplanes were also used. The use of navies improved considerably when cannon were placed on ships. I consider the navy was subsidiary to the army. To take land, the essence of imperialism, it is essential that armies be involved.
It was in World War II that technology really made an impact on the lethality of weapons. The airplane was used both as a fighter and as a bomber. The tank became the lead weapon in ground battles. The use of tanks introduced the word “blitzkrieg” into our vocabulary. The tank was so potent and mobile that armed conflict on the ground was call “lightning war.” The dive bomber and tank were the weapons that allowed Germany to nearly conquer Europe.
The atom bomb delivered by U.S, bombers in World War II became the ultimate weapon. The bomb came too late to change any tactics during the war. Its tremendous destruction as shown in Hiroshima and Nagasaki seem to be enough to deter its use by those countries that possess it.
The tactics of the agricultural period of massed lines of men had disappeared in World War II. The trench warfare of World War I was an outgrowth of those massed lines.
In World War II, the battlefield was usually too fluid for trenches. The attacks were led by tanks followed by infantrymen on foot. The infantrymen had only a helmet for protection. The usual weapon for the infantry was a rifle or an automatic weapon. Mobile heavy artillery and tactical aircraft with bombs were used to weaken the enemy armor and infantry.
Warfare in World War II became an activity where it was no longer possible to win anything useful. The price of warfare between major powers for either victor or vanquished was the vast destruction of real property and the death of millions of people, even excluding the damage that was done with atomic bombs. No nation, after seeing the destruction resulting from World War II, would care to ever duplicate those loses again, no matter what the gain of victory might be.
In our present industrial world, the usual objective of the agricultural period conflict – land – no longer has the value it once did. Industrial plant and equipment are much more valuable as national assets than undeveloped or agricultural land. Thus, imperialism is no longer the potent force it once was. Worldwide markets are far more important than colonies. Japan, the usual example of a land and mineral poor nation, has achieve enormous economic success by the superior use of industrial techniques in producing desired products.
Because aggression in selling machined products has snot led to armed conflicts, it is assumed that this competition will remain peaceful. There are many ways the demand for markets can lead to heightened national emotions, but the current thinking is that markets can be captured by increasing efficiency in production. Warfare is thought to be a mechanism to reduce the productive capacity of the world and destroy wealth thereby reducing markets rather than expanding them.
It is possible to put a numerical value on the killing capacity of weapons. Dupuy in Evolution of Weapons and Warfare6 gives a dramatic statistical effect concerning the improvement of the killing power of weapons. In tribal and agricultural periods, Dupuy’s Theoretical Lethality Index (TLI) ranged from 20 to 45. The machine gun is about one hundred times more lethal than any weapon from the earlier periods. The machine gun had a TLI of 3,463 by World War I. One machine gun would have obliterated any number of Roman legions. It is no longer possible for people fighting with agricultural-type weapons to withstand modern weapons. It is plain suicide or complete stupidity. When Poland used horse cavalry against German tanks in World War II, it was a catastrophe for the Poles. A World War II tank has a TLI of 575,000, and the ultimate weapon, the atomic bomb, has a TLI of 695,385,000.
Despite the introduction of modern weapons such as tanks, bombers and atomic bombs, the mentality of many human cultures still reflects agricultural period thinking. For Iraq to have gone to war with Iran in the 1980s, means the Iraqis felt that there was value in obtaining territory from Iran.
In a 1983 article from U.S. News and World Report,7 forty wars were reported to be in progress. In 1983, the Iraq-Iran war and the conflict in Afghanistan might have qualified as full-scale wars. Most of the other wars seemed to be minor civil wars featuring guerrilla tactics such as happened the Philippines, Spain, El Salvador, Angola, Northern Ireland, Lebanon and other places. In a 1991 article in the Economist, twenty-six wars were listed as being engaged. We now have to add Rwanda and Yemen to the list. Expect the list to include other nations in the future.
None of the conflicts mentioned in the 1983 and 1991 articles – other than the Iraq-Iran war and the Persian Gulf War – used masses of men and material in land battles. There are no wars going on with battles equal to those of World War I or World War II.
In my judgment, it is only possible to conduct an armed conflict in our present world if the cultures of the nations fighting reflect the thinking of the past agricultural era. Someone at the beginning of the conflict felt that the loss of life and material and industrial assets was an acceptable price to pay, the way Hitler did. Usually the agricultural mind in was not satisfied until the maximum amount of land was seized. The Romans subdued much of Europe, some of Asia and some of Africa. Napoleon was willing to invade Russia. After 1820, the French did not attempt that kind of territorial aggrandizement again in Europe. The Germans took up that kind of activity and tried to subdue Russia twice after Napoleon. Stalin, after World War II, took as much land as he was allowed which included part of Germany. His thinking seemed to be that if Russian lives had been lost, then Russia ought to be paid for them in land. And besides that, he had the opportunity.
The United States became involved in an agricultural period-type war when it sent soldiers into Vietnam in the 1960s. The American people did not fully support that Vietnam War and the President who involved us in it, lost his office as a result of the backlash to the war. Americans are not going to allow the government to become involved in another agricultural period-type war if they have any say.
Nor will the American people support a nuclear war. This does not mean the United States with unilaterally disarm. There are too many leaders in the world who think that the world is still in an agricultural period. The world does not have a homogeneous culture. We will still experience wars for some time to come. And the Persian Gulf War of 1991 was one of those wars.
Japan has found that it does not need to go to war to gain an economic advantage. Their industrial growth, without additional land on the Asian mainland, is an argument that land is no longer the key to economic power. There are other ways to become a leading nation without grabbing land. The Russians for all their land-grabbing in the Ukraine, Siberia and Eastern Europe find that wealth has eluded them. The Russian move into Afghanistan was a disaster. The Russians may have finally learned the lesson of the present industrial order: that land and imperialism are not the keys to economic success; that large armies, universal conscription and nuclear weapons are no guarantee of wealth. The Russian failure to provide the Marxist utopia promised by socialism may be due in part by their thinking they must have the largest and best army in the world. What country would be stupid enough to start a war with Russia in the 1990s?
This brings up the question: What is there to gain in our present industrial world by going to war? The First World countries have nothing to gain. For Third World countries the answer is not a clear-cut. The Serbs cannot abide the presence of the Muslims. What to do?
When Ireland provides the equal economic opportunity for Catholics and Protestants alike, perhaps the Irish will give up killing each other and the English. But as long as Catholics are second class citizens in Northern Ireland, we can expect them to continue on with the killing.
In may be possible to recognize the agricultural period mindset in some of the Third World countries as they try to change into industrialized nations. The agricultural period social system has at its core a nobility-led food production category, a religious category and a military category. In my recollection of history through the agricultural period, I cannot remember an instance where the religious category did not support its military organization. The generals who led the military organization were supported by the nobility and the priests. In many cases, the nobility led the armed forces.
The mindset of the military category supported the nobility in its imperial quest. Generals felt that they would be heroes and rewarded for their victories in claiming new lands for either their kings or themselves. This is a mindset that I believe still permeates through military establishments. Thus when you talk to a general, no matter whose uniform he wears, we should expect that his mindset is one of being focused on combat to secure land.
Could the mindset of the generals from Iraq be anything but a representation of the agricultural period? Does not this mindset exist to some measure in every general alive now? If this is true, then we have to fear what these people have in store for humankind.
To say again, the religious and military categories from the agricultural period have been transmitted to the industrial society intact. There has been little change from the generals of the eighteenth century to those of today. Just as there have been practically no changes in how the bishops thought in the eighteenth century to the way they think now. Of the categories of the agricultural period, these two have been able to maintain themselves with almost no change. The Catholic cardinals of the twentieth century wear the same uniforms as did the cardinals of the seventeenth century. The dogma of the Catholics and the dogma of the general entered the industrial society with little change.
One of the problems Russia is facing comes from having an empire (an empire is the result of successful imperialism). The Russian empire was put together by generals and there is no Russian general today who would view the dismemberment of the empire as something he would support. Thus, there is the real possibility that the present trend of the peoples of the former Soviet Union aiming for independence, will be met with military force keeping them in the empire. Yeltsin may be face with a coup from a disillusioned military. This may be one of the legacies of the mindset given the generals during the agricultural period and held over in our time.
In Central America, where agricultural period societies still exist, there is a problem of the large landowners (equal to nobility) who have teamed up with the military to smother the aims of the peasants and a Catholic clergy that has reformed. In Cuba, the old large landowners and generals were replaced by the new Communist large landowners and the new generals. The peasants in Cuba gained only a little in the Cuban revolution. In Nicaragua, the Contras who have the support of the large landowners have been fighting the Sandinistas (who are Communists supporting the peasants) and in my estimation, everyone has lost something. The recent election in Nicaragua may result in a compromise between the Contras and the Sandinistas. In El Salvador, the large landowners and the military are still in power and fighting with the Communists in a guerilla action. My opinion is that the fighting will continue on until Central America is finally industrialized.
War, for the purpose of gaining land, and thereby power, was a staple of the agricultural period. In our present transitional industrial society, we find that many cultures are still indoctrinated with an agricultural period heritage. There is no quick and easy way to change any society from an agricultural one to a modern industrial society. The star success in making this change is Japan. But is the history of Japan’s last hundred years defined well enough so that we can teach it to the Algerians or the Iranians or any other people?
In a world where there are uneven economic and cultural systems, we will continue having agricultural period-type conflicts including guerrilla actions. This opinion is repeated in a 1984 article from Harper’s:
With ongoing sporadic armed conflict, blurred in time and space, waged on several levels by a large array of national and subnational forces, warfare in the last quarter of the twentieth century may well come to resemble warfare during the Italian Renaissance or in the early seventeenth century, before the emergence of national armies and more organized modern warfare.9
The industrialized nations will not go to war with each other. There is nothing to be gained by war, certainly not a nuclear war. This opinion is stated in an article from Foreign Affairs.
Our conclusion, in its narrowest terms, must be that the deliberate resort to war by a nuclear power against a power capable of effective nuclear retaliation is permanently ruled out.10
The lesson of Monkey Hill and Pitcairn Island has not been learned by everyone. This behavior pattern is still observable in the world. There is a never-ending series of newspaper articles about murders. Murders due to jealousy and greed and rage and surprised lovers will not stop. Handguns are used on men and women alike. But there is a semblance of civility in all human societies. We can be assured that the murder of individuals will not decimate our population.
However, we will not be able to stop either individual murders of minor wars. We will not be able to educate the Irish or the Serbs or others quickly enough to stop their wars. They are condemned to kill each other for many years to come. But we can be relieved that there will be no World War III between major industrialized nations.
1. K, F. Otterbein. The Evolution of War; A Cross-Cultural Study. New Haven, Connecticut Human Relations Area Files, Inc., 1970. P.3.
2. E. B. McNeil. “The Nature of Aggression.” In: E. B. McNeil, ed. The Nature of Human Conflict. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1965, p. 16.
3. Ibid, p. 17.
4. V. Barnouw. An Introduction to Anthropology. Vol. 2 Ethnology. Third Ed.
Homewood, Illinois: Dorsey Press, 1978, p. 211.
5. Encyclopedia Britannica. Chicago, 1954. Volume 23, p. 331.
6. T. N. Dupuy. The Evolution of Weapons and Warfare. Indianapolis, Indiana:
Bobbs-Merrill, 1980, p. 92.
7. “Even in ‘Peace Time’ 40 Wars Are Going On,” U.S. News and World Report, 95,
July 11, 1983, pp. 44-45.
8. “The World’s Wars; tribalism Revisited,” Economist, December 21, 1991-January 3, 1992, pp. 45-46.
9. “The Future of War,” Harper’s 268, May 1984, p. 24.
10. L. J. Halle. “Does War Have a Future,” Foreign Affairs, 52, October 1973, p. 23.
Note: Published in the International Journal on World Peace, 13, December 1996,