ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Why War is Good, or War, Progress and Civivilization

Updated on May 4, 2013
quotations profile image

Robert writes eclectic and informative articles about weird historical incidents and speculative science.

This article discusses why war and not peace is the driving force behind human civilization, and how war has led to the development of almost all technology and knowledge.

War and Human Civilization

The social organization needed to wage war is the basis of the modern state. To war modern nation owe their make up as well as their boundaries. The history of the human race is written in blood.
The social organization needed to wage war is the basis of the modern state. To war modern nation owe their make up as well as their boundaries. The history of the human race is written in blood.

We are taught that war is bad, that it it is wasteful of human life and resources, that it spreads destruction and misery. All these things are true: war is to be avoided. It is immoral. It is evil. It inflicts suffering on the innocent, and destroys untold lives, causes the fall of civlilzations and debases the human spirit. But ... war is also essential to human civilization.

The very thing that threatens to destroy civilization is what drives civilization to improve its technology and social development. It is a sad fact that from the art of killing other humans, we have derived most of the tools and social organization that make up our societies.

The connection between war and the advancement of learning was noted even in ancient times. The ancient Greek writer Aristophanes stated:

"Yet, certainly, the wise learn many things from their enemies; for caution preserves all things. From a friend you could not learn this, but your foe immediately obliges you to learn it . For example, the states have learned from enemies, and not from friends, to build lofty walls, and to possess ships of war. And this lesson preserves children, house, and possessions."

War leads people to learn to build walls. To build walls people must learn masonry, and organize themselves into states & governments capable of commanding workers to build walls for the common good. From this grow tax collectors to finance the admin
War leads people to learn to build walls. To build walls people must learn masonry, and organize themselves into states & governments capable of commanding workers to build walls for the common good. From this grow tax collectors to finance the admin | Source

Technological Progress and War

There is much truth embedded in this simple statement: cities learn how to build walls from their enemies.They learn because of war.

Now of course we no longer build walls around cities, but this is because the art of war has made walls obsolete.In other words, the science of war has led to seige engines, counter seige engines, explosives, artillery, airplanes, which have made walls and fortifications useless.

But the truth is still there: cities learned to build walls to protect themselves against attackers. To build walls, the people learned to quarry rock, they developed masonry, they developed the social organization to organize and command groups of people to get the rocks, shape them, and erect them. In so doing, cities learned geometry, mathematics, architecture and so on.

And the attackers, those who would breach the walls learned from their enemies too: they learned to build seige engines, and learned the principles of ballistics, of mathematics. They learned how to lay seige to impregnable fortresses by surrounding them and starving them into submission, and in so doing they learned how to keep large armies in the field around the cities and how to supply them with provisions for a long campaign.

To attack a city, people learned how to organize and move large numbers of men and camp followers. They developed logistics: wagons to move food end equipment, social organizations to draft soldiers, institutions such as the army to train them, chain of command, communication systems, maps, and so on.

How Wars and Aggression Drive Human Progress

War and Technology

War has been the driving force behind almost all technological innovation, such as the jet engines.
War has been the driving force behind almost all technological innovation, such as the jet engines.

War Drives Technolgical Advancement

And this pattern continues to the present day. Our present civilization reaps the bitter fruits of a thousand wars, most long forgotten, that have been the true mother of invention.

Our commercial aircraft can fly through crowded skies because of radar, which was developed during world war 2 to defend against Nazi air raids (a modern wall, if you will). And we have microwave ovens thanks to military research to improve radar designs. In fact we have commercial jet aircraft because of the work in world war 2 to develop jet fighters and bombers. The technology was later adapted to civilian use. The fast connections between continents made possible by jet powered passenger planes have changed our world. We could hardly imagine a world where it still took weeks to travel from San Francisco to China. And we can honestly say that the free exchange of people between countries made possible by regular air routes has gone a long way to making the world one and developing understanding and exchanges between countries and different cultures. But all this is built on a foundation of war; we simply would not have had the jet engine without it.

We have nuclear power plants because of the advancements made in nuclear energy during the Manhattan project and the race to produce the first atomic bomb. The age of computers began in the 1940s with the efforts to build code breaking machines, and developed through the cold war and today as competing nations strove to to make computers smaller and faster to handle the requirements of missile guidance systems and advanced fighter aircraft.

Even the internet, the invention which perhaps most defines our modern age, was built on the foundations of a military system designed to provide a distributed, and therefore difficult to destroy, communication system which would allow government entities to continue to communicate in the event of nuclear war.

The D Day landings required amazing feats of engineering and design: millions of workers built the landing craft, the tanks, the ships and ammunition, spurring the development of new industrial techniques and scientific advances in the fields of weather and tide prediction, engineering (everything from floating docks to undersea pipelines had to be invented from scratch).

Civilization is Built on A Ladder of Bones
Civilization is Built on A Ladder of Bones

War Is a Harsh But Good Teacher

Would we have had all of these things without war, or would we be even more advanced? It is difficult to say with certainty because war has been so pervasive in human history that it is not possible to conduct a double blind study and compare an unwarlike civilization to ours. However, the fact that most technological advancement has happened as a result of war or during arms races in preparation for war suggests that war is indeed a teacher to humankind.

Despite its title the intent of this article is not to glorify war or argue that it is morally good. It is however useful, and we need to understand its role in shaping and advancing human civilization if we are ever going to find a way out of this paradigm and learn to progress and advance though peace and cooperation. But unless we can face the reality of our nature and recognize the bones that form the scaffolding and foundation of our society, we will never be free of war and will forever be the unhappy students of this harsh teacher.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • quotations profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert P 

      5 years ago from Canada

      I wrote it.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      where did you find this article? is it yours?

    • quotations profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert P 

      5 years ago from Canada

      It is possible for war to be moral, but it rarely is in practice. For example, the fight by the Allies against the Nazis is generally seen as a Good War in the sense that the allies were definitely attacked and the Nazis were the aggressors. But the reality is not as black and white, because the British and the Americans got in league with Soviet Russia - out of necessity and on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Thus while we condemned the slaughter and genocide committed by the Germans, we were silent about equal atrocities committed by the Soviets both before the war (for example the Ukranian genocide) and during the war, in which millions of innocent civilians were slaughtered.

    • quotations profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert P 

      5 years ago from Canada

      Thanks. I appreciate the feedback. To me it is amazing that we seem unable to make progress without killing other humans, yet also amazing that we are able to make progress in spite of almost constant warfare.

    • aethelthryth profile image


      5 years ago from American Southwest

      Sorry, I meant to say "who started it, why, and what (if any) rules are being followed."

    • aethelthryth profile image


      5 years ago from American Southwest

      You have some good points here, which a lot of people don't seem to have thought about. However, I don't think you can sweepingly say that war is immoral. I think all you could sweepingly say is that war involves a lot of unpleasantness, which is very unevenly distributed.

      But if you want to talk about the morality of war, you have to get into the details of who started it, why, what if any rules are being followed. Because even some conscientious objectors, notably Congressional Medal of Honor winner Alvin York, have decided that fighting can be a good thing if it keeps people who are doing bad things from doing even worse things.

    • Matthew Kirk profile image

      Matthew Kirk 

      5 years ago from Liverpool

      Never a truer hub! I think perhaps intense capitalism (or the miracle of capitalism as a well known comic character once said) is another major driving force, but the technology itself is always based in war.

      Shared, thanks!

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      boom boom boom

    • quotations profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert P 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for the feedback Hambali.

    • profile image

      Hambali O.E 

      6 years ago

      Frankly, this is a nice piece but I just fear what critics can do / undo with it. Sometimes i don't like them!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice! Thank you for your great perspective about war! :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      @quotations, your essay seems to me to be unusually well thought out and written. I would like to read more of your ideas on this.

    • quotations profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert P 

      7 years ago from Canada

      @Ralphoo - thank you for your thoughtful comments. I have not read the story by Greg Bear that you mentioned although I have read some of his books and have always enjoyed his writing.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I found this page ( ), while searching Google for "war drives progress."

      That search suggested itself after I had just been reading a novel, Hull Zero Three, by Greg Bear, in which a man wakes from suspended animation aboard a damaged starship, and must fight his way through many almost-lethal situations. He learns that he (his body) is actually just one of a series of identical copies, each of which has been thawed out whenever the previous incarnation died. Each copy leaves behind a journal, which the next copy can use to progress beyond the survival point of its predecessor. 

      As the ship's robots become increasing dangerous, the protagonist eventually begins to believe he is part of a war of some sort. 

      The plot of Hull Zero Three led me to think once again about the power of war to induce progress. I also often ask myself the question of what makes humans so different from other animals and allows us to create technology of stunning complexity and sophistication. Happening to combine the two threads, abruptly I found myself wondering, "What if the human tendency to make war turns out to have been fundametal to of our species' ability to progress so far?"

      It is a thought both chilling and, in its own way, amusing -- a prime example of our recent human realization that whatever is good is bad, and whatever is bad, is good. For example, improved human health enriches our lives and lengthens our lifespan. That result is, of course, good. Yet success in keeping people alive and healthy eventually creates a catastrophe of overpopulation, leading in turn to serious degradation of our own human environment -- which is, as we all know, bad.

      Naturally, therefore, your essay interests me.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)