Why men fight wars—and what could make them stop

David Berreby in Psychology Today:

PT0715_Science-Of-Peace01_v1-1In a sparsely appointed trailer in northern Iraq, close to the sandbagged front line where Kurds faced the advancing forces of the Islamic State, fighters sat on the floor last spring and talked to Lydia Wilson about war. “Here,” one would say, pointing to his neck, “is where I was wounded—and here, and here.” Another trailed off from his own story to tell her about the wars in which his father and grandfather had fought in defense of their ethnic identity. Others praised their French allies’ efficiency in carrying out air strikes—the Americans, they said, took too long to arrive and flew away too soon. Some wondered out loud whether the coming night would bring suicide attackers driving trucks laden with explosives toward their position. Daytime offered quiet and some respite in the trailer, but by nightfall, they knew, ISIS would be back.

Wilson, an ebullient English research fellow at the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Oxford, sat beside the men asking questions, listening intently, and scribbling in her notebook. At certain points she focused her attention on two men in particular. They had been led into the trailer in handcuffs and with their eyes down and at first had little to say. These men, the Kurds told her, had been working undercover for ISIS, planting car bombs and plotting assassinations. They had already been tried in Mosul and would soon be executed. For Wilson, the opportunity to talk with them could offer valuable information for her study of what motivates young men to kill or die in war.

More here.