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March 13, 2009


Eric J. Johnson

I'm probably a different guy - it would be hard to prove I haven't been somnambulating, but I live a long way from Manhattan.

Another fascinating thing is the test battles of the Dani of highland New Guinea. Casualties are few and far between, and yet these are existential wars: groups that fail to show prowess and valor in the relatively safe formal battles tend to wind up on the receiving end of surprise massacres, carried out by alliances of strong groups.

I wonder if something kind of like that is going on in Kashmir - a show of strength, that is. It seems to be a commonplace to say that the disputed zones are worth very little, though I don't know if there's a good analysis of that. The point of the war may actually have nothing to do with those zones; it may be simply to say: "hey over there... here on this side we are still making our kids play outside in the cold and join sports teams in high school, etc; in short we have a non-decadent culture that's still pretty willing to kill and die, pretty much just like we were last year and the year before, so don't get any big ideas about overrunning our whole country."

I think that notion about Kashmir has a grain of truth, but it's hard to say exactly how true it is, or exactly what's going on with the Dani tribes. Animals are much simpler since we assume they are pretty mindless and pretty cultureless; the sole variable is their innate instincts, which we can assume have evolved to produce the behaviors corresponding to the evolutionarily stable strategies. And they only "consider" one good - reproduction. Thus, the exact reason bird species XYZ does ABC should be expected to be very clear, unless maybe we have an incomplete picture in that bird species XYZ has some important additional behavior or characteristic that has never been observed by science. These simplicities doesn't hold at all for humans in Kashmir or New Guinea.


I don't know much about the other EJJ, but I like this one. A lot of people have dismissed the battles of some primitive peoples as just "play-fighting", but your point reconciles that with the anti-noble-savage POV about their high death rates. The War Nerd has a piece on silly warring over Kashmir here. He's got other chucklers on the subject, but I don't feel like linking to them at the moment.

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