Masters of war

This morning, I caught the tail end of an NPR interview with David Kilcullen who has written Out of the Mountains, a book about war.  One point he made struck me: some people make conflict their business.  These people are conflict entrepreneurs.  I know this is kind of obvious–the masters of war and all–but you do not hear much about it in descriptions of conflicts.  You will hear about the reasons group x has gone to war with group y, but you will not hear about, as parties to the conflict, people whose interests lies in the conflict itself.  These people are war trolls.  He says:

And to me that’s a great example. Right now we have what I would call a lot of conflict entrepreneurs. They’re prolonging conflicts not because they want to win some political goal or because they want to change the form of government of a particular area, but just because they make a lot of money, they get a lot of power from conflict and they want to preserve that conflict to keep going. So I think part of it is about shifting people away from being conflict entrepreneurs to being stakeholders in a peaceful environment.

This is another under-theorized (in my mind at least) connection between just war theory and argumentation.  Argumentation tends to take as its central focus the study of reasons–good ones, bad ones, etc, as they are oriented towards the objectives of argumentation (being correct, convincing, etc.).   So we watch Bill O’Reilly and we shake our heads at the poverty of good reasoning, thinking him and his ilk to be ignorant or dishonest.

Maybe, however, their objectives are not the objectives of anyone else: they’re not trying to be correct, to show someone else to be incorrect, maybe they’re not even trying to win an argument at all.  They’re just making sure that unresolvable argumentation continues indefinitely.  This is their job.

**UPDATE: links, other info added above.

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One Response to Masters of war

  1. Sean Leather says:

    This seems closely related to the concern that TV news media are as or more interested in entertainment than news. The profit motivation fits: they can attract and keep viewers by showing scandal and showy argumentation. That said, it’s still dishonest of pundits if they are not forthcoming with their objectives.

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