January 1, 2009
From: Donald A. Collins
TITLE: Timely Book Puts Finger On Terrorist Attacks in the Gaza and Elsewhere
TEXT: Talk about timely! One of my regular writing assignments involves reviewing books on public policy. One of the co-authors sent me a copy of this book just as all hell broke loose on the Gaza strip. The book is Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World” by Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden (Benbella Books, Dallas, TX 2008)
Clearly as I read this book it is obvious to me after reading page 117 that the current Israeli Gaza attacks are certainly partially the result of Palestinian control of women who get little family planning and typically have 6 children. The 1950 population was 1 million, is now 3.1 million and could be 9 million by 2050. Sex and War reports, “Arab society is sexually chaste and few young men have sexual outlets prior to marriage but lack the financial independence to marry. Given the large pool of young men, the lack of opportunities, the sexual frustration and the inevitable resentment toward a dominant out group, it is hard to imagine a more perfectly conceived breeding ground for team aggression, in this case taking the form of terrorism.” Solution? First understand the problem, then take the actions suggested. Read on.
Of course, with endorsements from high profile people such as Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and world’s leading expert on our nearest to human primate, the chimpanzee, one can fully expect to find this book scientifically credible. But even better, it is a highly readable must read.
You may not be surprised to be told that the authors show with solid empirical proof that it is primarily male humans who bring us war, but perhaps you are unaware or unmindful of the driving force of male tendencies to make war since the dawn of human history, the sex drive.
British born and Cambridge educated, Dr. Potts, now Bixby Professor at UC Berkeley, an obstetrician and research biologist has pursued his humanitarian work worldwide, including helping women who were raped in Bangladesh during the War of Liberation in 1972. Then ever since in his travels to countless other climes torn by conflicts.
I met Malcolm in the 1960’s when he was the first Medical Director of International Planned Parenthood Federation in London and since have served on several boards and done many travels with him.
His co-author, Hayden, is a freelance journalist, who is no relation to the Vietnam War Berkeley firebrand, Tom Hayden. He co-authored a 2007 book “On Call in Hell: A Doctor’s Iraq War Story” with Cdr Rick Jadick, whose experience in ministering to wounded there brought high accolades from readers.
Rather ironically Hayden’s book truly may have helped spark his participation in Sex and War, for while tales of heroism and selfless bravery in battle are the historical standards for all such stories, “Sex and War” reminds us of our biological evolution. After all, for much of human history the most successful and dominant males went to war, took the spoils and raped and impregnated women in asserting that dominance. You know, Genghis Khan, etc.
One can see why Goodall could be so enthusiastic about this book, since Sex and War shows how close to chimpanzee behavior humans are. Bands of young males raid rival territories, finding the fittest females in classic Darwinian behavior, and thus benefitting the next generations with their genes. Chimps hunt in small packs, behave viciously at times.
Using chimp behavior as progenitor to human behavior allows the authors to cite the eerie similarity found in tribal wars, among inner city street gangs, and then in full warfare, whose aftermath Potts personally helped deal with in Bangladesh when helping war-raped women. Terrorists in our day obviously are imbued with stories of heroic male behavior, which is much more powerful than the reported financial inducements. The power of group loyalty and, yes, the reported joy of killing puts male behavior into sharp focus vs. that of females. A comparatively benign manifestation of aggressive male behavior or team aggression can be observed at NFL football games both on the field and in the stands.
Potts has always understood the urgency of dealing with our now overpopulated planet. This leads to explanations of how that crowding and the loss of food supplies leads to wars, again entered into often with enthusiasm by young males, motivated by patriotism, bonded with their mates in tight groups, even joy or excitement over battle, or their escape from dull underemployment or unemployment. The authors then most logically point to one way of cutting terrorism and the risk of wars (of which we now see so many going on around the world) and “a path to a safer world”. What is that? For example, first among nations we now can see are “failed” or getting close to failing: By aggressively lowering birth rates through planned parenting, birth control, and, yes, abortion.
Understand that Potts’ wife, Martha Campbell, who co-authored significant chapters of this book , like her husband brings extensive scholarship and worldwide travel to bear on illuminating a modern woman’s view. While such views remain still far from full acceptance in many cultures, including our own, the book’s strong recommendation for more women’s education as a major contributor to better family planning availability and fewer unplanned pregnancies surely is de rigueur among anyone doing strategic thinking about solving our pressing global problems. Key point: The authors clearly show that rarely in history have women been combatants in wars.
The deep biological nature of human evolution will not be altered easily. The world remains dominated by male leaders who all too often feel so bloody good about solutions that seem to require bloodletting. One could point to our Iraq invasion and countless prior sorties into battle which could have been avoided by less testosterone dominated negotiations.
Perhaps as the number of nations armed with nuclear weapons grows, as it surely will, major powers may be more globally fixated on planetary survival by means proposed by the authors. But then again, perhaps not. And of course people who purport to bring us absolute security have in history often lead us to absolute tyranny.
Potts had co-authored with world renowned anthropologist, Roger Short, a ground breaking earlier book, “Ever since Adam and Eve: The Evolution of Human Sexuality” in 1999, which I reviewed for Amazon.com, writing “that the main evolutionary drive for humans and mammals generally has been and is SEX, for the key to our existence is the need to produce the BEST next generation.” Now in a dangerous age, where planetary destruction looms in multiple forms both nuclear and environmental, we had better very soon find a new modus vivendi, one which will provide a workable form of making love, not war. It’s called women’s empowerment worldwide, including readily available, safe, economical birth control options.
About the Author: Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC, is President of International Services Assistance Fund (ISAF) and a board member of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). However, his views are his own.
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