Newsletter Vol 11, No 1
March 2003
Killology: why do soldiers need so much training to kill? Page 3

Page 1

Is the Statement up to date?
Page 2

Page 3

Yanomamo data - fraudulent?
Page 4

Genetics, men, women and war
Page 5

Do primates make war?
Page 6

War abroad, violence at home
Page 7

The following book is highly recommended for anyone interested in the issues of the Seville Statement on Violence: "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society" by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, Little Brown and Co. Boston, 1995. Grossman is a specialist on training soldiers to kill. His credentials in the US army are extensive including having been a sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division, company commander in the 7th Infantry Division, deployment in the Arctic, Central America, NATO headquarters, Warsaw Pact and West Point where he was a Professor. He is now Professor of Military Science at Arkansas State University.

Grossman reviews extensive military data showing that until recently most soldiers refused to kill and most did not ever fire their rifles in combat. In the introduction (page xiv) he states: "One of my early concerns in writing On Killing was that World War II veterans might take offense at a book demonstrating that the vast majority of combat veterans of their era would not kill. Happily, my concerns were unfounded. Not one individual from among the thousands who have read On Killing has disputed this finding."

This thesis is summed up in the following citation that Grossman quotes from the book War by Gwynne Dyer: "There is such a thing as a "natural soldier"; the kind who derives his greatest satisfaction from male companionship, from excitement, and from the conquering of physical obstacles. he doesn't want to kill people as such, but he will have no objections if it occurs within a moral framework that gives him justification - like war - and if it is the price of gaining admission to the kind of environment he craves. Whether such men are born or made, I do not know, but most of them end up in armies (and many move on again to become mercenaries, because regular army life in peacetime is too routine and boring)."

"But armies are not full of such men. They are so rare that they form only a modest fraction even of small professional armies, mostly congregating in the commando-type special forces. In large conscript armies they virtually disappear beneath the weight of numbers of more ordinary men. And it is these ordinary men, who do not like combat at all, that armies must persuade to kill. Until only a generation ago, they did not even realize how bad a job they were doing."

Grossman describes how the US Army now uses sophisticated psychological training in order to overcome the resistance of soldiers to killing, and he claims that this training is so successful that the Americans are now training a generation of killers. Not only is this occurring in the military, but the methods they are using are similar to the videogames that millions of children are playing in which the player shoots at human targets. And the desensitization process is mirrored in the pervasive portrayal of murder in the commercial mass media.

It may be said that Grossman's data are a powerful support for the fifth thesis of the Seville Statement on Violence: "It is scientifically incorrect to say that war is caused by 'instinct' or any single motivation ... The technology of modern war has exaggerated traits associated with violence both in the training of actual combatants and in the preparation of support for war in the general population. As a result of this exaggeration, such traits are often mistaken to be the causes rather than the consequences of the process."

Grossman worries about where this process is taking our civilization. We could all gain from studying his book and finding ways to deal with the issues he raises.

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