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War, Peace, and Human NatureThe Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views$
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Douglas P. Fry

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199858996

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199858996.001.0001

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The Challenge of Getting Men to Kill

The Challenge of Getting Men to Kill

A View from Military Science

(p.495) 25 The Challenge of Getting Men to Kill
War, Peace, and Human Nature

Richard J. Hughbank

Dave Grossman

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that soldiers have a natural reluctance to take human life, even on the battlefield, where it is their obligation to do so, and this resistance to killing must be overcome by extensive training and even then often breaks down. To understand the nature of this resistance, it must first be recognized that most participants in close combat are literally “frightened out of their wits,” as the saying goes. Once the arrows or bullets start flying, combatants stop thinking with the forebrain (that part of the brain which makes us human). Instead, their thought processes localize in the midbrain, or mammalian brain, that primitive part of the brain generally indistinguishable from that of an animal. At this point, the trust in one's training, equipment, and fellow warrior become the essence of how a person acts in the chaos known a combat.

Keywords:   soldiers, combat, killing, training

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