Warrior Ants: The Enduring Threat of the Small War and the Land-Mine
Times Literary Supplement, March 1996
6 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2006 Last revised: 6 Oct 2013
Date Written: November 21, 2010
This 1996 Times Literary Supplement essay examines two very different books about aspects of warfare. Robert O'Connell's Ride of the Second Horseman is a speculative history of the rise of warfare among human beings, looking back to early human beings. It is a striking account, even though speculative, because it deals in early human behavior without offering an explanation from evolutionary biology. O'Connell acknowledges that non-human species can engage in warfare, and specifically notes ants. In that process, he carefully distinguishes - as few writers do - between aggression, violence, weapons use, predation, and war. His conclusion is that although both ants and humans engage in warfare, and although ants do so as a genetic adaptation, war among human beings is a cultural adaptation (and a late one at that) to ecological conditions of resource scarcity. He offers an account of the rise of war based around the domestication of plants and animals, and the tempting targets for raiders of the fruits of agriculture - really taking off into warfare with the domestication of the horse, on the one hand, and the development of the walled city, on the other. Siege warfare, war against the walled city, is therefore the most ancient form of warfare - and, then as today, the most brutal and unsparing of noncombatants. Shawn Roberts considers the threat posed by landmines especially in civil wars, and the way in which they create long term problems for peace and reconstruction.
Keywords: Robert L. O'Connell, history, warfare, Ride of the Second Horseman, genetic, human behaviour, human aggression, weapons possession, prehistory, American liberalism, sociobiological, haplodiploidism, class, ideology, religion, nomad, farmer, soldier, war, civil war, Bosnia, peacekeeping forces
JEL Classification: K39, N40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation