What does research on war and violence suggest about how to reduce their likelihood?
Understanding Conflict and War Vol. 1: The Dynamic Psychological Field, by R.J. Rummel
Violence and any attempt to deal with it should be considered a field phenomenon. It is an aspect of the Gestalt comprising our biopsychological nature, our sociocultural existence, and our environmental context. Our view of it depends on our ontological perspective, our attempts to understand it presuppose an epistemology, and our solutions manifest our ethical system.
Research by R. J. Rummel, whom I quote above, suggests that war and violence form a total concept that refers to as a Gestalt (i.e., Kurt Koffka, "The whole is other than the sum of the parts") comprised of physical-psychological perception, social and cultural experience, and "environmental context" (e.g., developed or developing country). He says the Gestalt concept of war and violence involves all of our most fundamental philosophical avenues of inquiry and lists them as ontological, epistemological and ethical systems.
Rummel suggests therefore that the solution to the reduction of the likelihood of the occurrence of war and violence rests in revolutionizing our most basic and most fundamental perspectives on life, thinking and living. Rummel implicates power, potentialities, latencies, psychological and dynamic spaces, behavior and expectations, and motivations as key areas where renovations of thought and perspectives will need to occur in order to reduce war and violence. This theorization accords with what psychiatrist Peter Kramer wrote in Against Depression.
Research on war and violence is difficult because there is no way to establish or observe a control group. In most fields, researchers are able to identify a group of people who do not possess the attribute being studied. For example, medical researchers give participants in the control group a placebo, in order to evaluate the true effect of the drug being tested. There is no way to establish any such control group when researching war and violence. Researchers have to examine history, correlations, and coinciding factors to try and figure out the causes of war and violence, as well as their solutions.
Economist Steven Levitt has suggested that one important factor in mitigating against violence is female reproductive choice. He examined a period of contemporary history between just before the Roe vs. Wade decision, and just after. He noticed a strong drop in crime rates corresponding to when women were able to legally abort unwanted pregnancies. He theorized that having fewer unwanted pregnancies during one generation led to having less violent and criminal activity in the next.