The Words of the Carlson Family

National Conflict

Paul Carlson
March, 2000

This month we’re going to look at conflict, both within and between nations. Within nations, conflict is usually defined as crime, and is the concern of the police. Between nations it’s called war, and is the domain of the military. This is the second in a series of four articles with a ‘national’ theme.

Some anthropologists date human self-awareness to the period when primitive hominids began to comprehend other people’s awareness. The ability to grasp other’s thoughts, and to anticipate their actions, proved a tremendous advantage. This didn’t just deepen concern for others; in a fallen world, it allowed people to deceive one another with great effectiveness.

In primitive times, crime was personally avenged by the wronged party, or by their surviving relatives. In places like the Middle East such customs endure to this day.

In the modern world, rather than keeping a constant, armed guard over our property, we hire police to do it for us.

Our sense of justice has also matured. Societies pass many laws, and in a (mostly) just country like America, it is extraordinary indeed when it is found good to break those laws. We’re fortunate to live in a basically decent society.

On the other hand, with the US tax code (and many other regulations) running into tens of thousands of pages, almost everyone is already, technically speaking, a criminal.

That’s a great injustice, and it wasn’t imposed by some jack-booted conqueror, but by hordes of mild mannered bureaucrats, diligently helping us in ever-broader ways, with assurance that it’s for our own good.

In old Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia, and within various current dictatorships, good people will (and should!) routinely break the law. Referring to unjust laws, Thoreau called upon all people of conscience to do the same.

If the lawmakers are evil, good traditions are among the first things they’ll attack. Such ‘culture war’ issues dot the American landscape. Fortunately the fighting remains peaceful, and within the system.

Gun laws are among the most contentious. Soon, police in many areas will be able to raid your home with a ‘no knock warrant’ if someone even hints that you might own an banned gun.

The gun controllers tell us "guns are more likely to kill your family and friends" than criminals. However, they include rival gang members in the category of ‘acquaintances’—and if 18 or younger, they’re also counted as ‘children.’

In reality, for every innocent life lost to a gun, some 75 are spared by armed defense, even though the homeowner’s gun is seldom actually fired.

Many people don’t like guns, yet are canny enough not to put a sign in their front yard announcing it!


Ever since two rival tribes first went at each other with sticks and stones, war has shaped human history. Through the ages war has changed profoundly, and not just the weapons.

In Classical times battles always ended at dusk, when each army would retire to its own camp or city. Individual champions would square off, and the opposing soldiers would stop fighting, even doffing their armor to watch. The Bible, Homer, and other ancient sources describe this vividly.

During Europe’s innumerable wars, soldiers would usually dress up, line up, and battle each other eye-to-eye. Napoleon’s heavily armed ‘square formations’ decimated Egypt’s Mamlukes and other unsuspecting rivals.

When rebellious American colonists adopted the native Indian’s style of fighting from concealment, the British Redcoats complained bitterly that it wasn’t fair.

In the Civil War hundreds of thousands were slaughtered, yet opposing forces would often call -and honor- truces, for many reasons. Brothers on opposite sides could meet, and sometimes, regiments would pause in the evening if one side had a particularly talented musician!

The World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam featured unending combat, launched from above and from festering mudholes. The only breaks, if any, were for Christmas, or high level negotiations.

Nowadays, the African, Balkan, and many other battlefields feature teenagers -even small children- wielding machetes, AK47s, and RPGs, who get drunker (or otherwise more zonked) all day long, until they’ll just shoot at anybody (or anything) in sight.

Without effective leadership, the USA has a horrible record in recent conflicts. If the reader doesn’t mind salty language, Col. David Hackworth’s books cover this subject well. He contrasts our expensive, gee-whiz gadgetry with a terrible lack of basic essentials such as hand weapons, good boots, and body armor.

He even raises the terrible specter of the USA getting into -and losing- another major conflict, and suggests many improvements. Primary is clearing out the back office, cushy-jobbed Perfumed Princes (the only publishable term he uses for them). He also gives Eisenhower’s original quote, about the dangers of the incestuous, ossified Military Industrial Congressional Complex.

Strangely, war, or even its threat, has long been a force for national improvement. When the medieval Ottoman Turks confronted Europe, and the isolationist Japanese met Commodore Perry, they grasped that they must quickly modernize their armies, or perish.

To support that effort, their industries, and entire national infrastructures, also had to modernize. Their stratified cultures were uprooted as well, as rural peasants were urbanized as factory workers, and historic illiterates trained to be competent soldiers. (Read Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History.)

The Future

Just about everyone dreams of an Ideal World, a happier society where the Army could just go home, and all the Police have to do is escort old ladies across the street.

People generally regard themselves as good, and they usually are pretty decent folks! Most news-making crimes are committed by a small class of violent ‘supercriminals.’ Keeping those men in prison has cut the American crime rate dramatically.

However, even overlooking any spiritual aspects, crime is not about to go away. For example, the number of traffic tickets issued remains steady no matter how well or poorly motorists drive. If speeders slow down, broken tail lights get noticed. If red light running is quelled, idle cops round up jaywalkers. With a sharp eye on their coffers, the nation’s City Fathers will ‘adjust’ such enforcement quite finely . . .

For the bad guys the story isn’t all that different. America’s prison population is growing steadily. Everyone wants killers and rapists off the street, but it must be noted that over half of today’s prisoners are non-violent offenders. Most are ‘in’ on drug possession charges, but a few unfortunates managed to run over an endangered rat or something.

Prison guards have very influential unions, and get-tough politicians are always willing to make a few more things illegal. Some prisons even deny cooperative inmates a chance to learn an honest trade.

These are very controversial issues that beg for rational discussion.

On a larger level, the Principle expects, and good people everywhere hope, that the world will avoid further wars. Especially major ones.

Wise people must consider any threats. Small wars continue, and there are well-reasoned books titled The Next War, and The Coming Conflict with China (ditto Japan).

All societies need unity, but for some it’s proved elusive.

A old friend of this author, an adventurous sportsman, has spent a lot of time in back-country China. He reports that China could easily break up into several nations; regions that already have their own overlords, languages, etc. He says their famous dissidents are no more united than the officials. It’s said there are "1000 dissidents with 900 opinions."

While in Russia this author heard a new, popular saying, that "every village wants independence." It appears Chechnya isn’t going to get theirs—and both side’s brutal actions gained them little sympathy.

Indonesia is painfully letting East Timor go, and now Aceh and several other regions want out as well.


Don’t be discouraged. The overall picture is bright!

Some three-quarters of the world’s current inhabitants have never personally experienced war or severe unrest.

Almost everywhere, life expectancy, and the standard of living, are rising steadily. Science, medicine, and agriculture have stayed well ahead of any Malthusian disaster.

Commerce can foster a large degree of social harmony, otherwise impossible with isolated societies. All that remains is for the world to truly unite; legally as one nation, and culturally as one society.

However, no secular organization can fully accomplish this, though many have tried. No external entity can impose unity upon humanity’s proud and disparate peoples.

Unificationists know the answer. It was first detailed in a tiny shack in Pusan almost fifty years ago. Only a God centered world family can be truly harmonious.

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