(University of Hiroshima, 1978)
When I was kindly invited by Professors (Hakuji) Harada and (Mikio) Kanokogi to give a lecture at the Hiroshima Shudo University, I was asked to tell something about my personal history, in particular about what motivated me to concern myself with peace research.
I received formal training in mathematics at the University of Chicago and defended my doctoral dissertation on December 5, 1941. Two days later a war broke out between United States and Japan, and I entered military service soon after. Between two overseas assignments I was in Chicago on leave and visited my University. I wanted to go to the mathematics library to look something up that interested me at the moment. But although I was wearing the uniform of a captain in the U. S. Air Force, I was not permitted to enter the building where I spent five happy years as a student of mathematics. Secret research was carried on in that building. Later, after the war I learned the nature of that work. It was done by mathematicians like myself and was connected with an atomic reactor. The work was done under the direction of Professor Fermi, who, along with Albert Einstein was one of very few atomic scientists at that time.
At the time I was denied access to Eckhart Eall, where the mathematics department was located, I knew nothing about the secret work that was going on there. But I resented deeply the presence of armed guards in a building dedicated to science and enlightenment. I had one fervent wish: to come home after the war was over and to find Eckhart Hall just as it was as I knew and loved it: with offices where scholars worked and thought and conferred with students, with a quiet library on the second floor, with its seminar room, where creative mathematical work was discussed on Friday afternoons after fifteen minutes of sociability with tea.
Actually, this wish of mine came true. When I came back to Chicago in the fall of 1945, the armed guards were gone, and Eckhart Hall was its old self, or rather so it seemed. In reality, however, everything was changed — irrevocably and irreversibly. But the realization that the whole was changed came only gradually.
On the fence of Stagg Field, where football games were held, there was a reminder of what went on at Eckhart Hall and in the laboratories of the University of Chicago. It was a plaque. I don’t recall the exact wording, but the gist was something like this:
“On this site on such and such a date man first achieved a controlled chain reaction and the release of atomic energy.”
It was assumed when that plaque was put up that future generations of University of Chicago Alumni would read the plaque and be filled with pride of their Alma Mater. But Robert Hutchins, then Chancellor of the University, surely the greatest chancellor the University of Chicago ever had, said on one occasion that he blushed with shame when he passed that plaque.
When I came back to Chicago after the war, I joined a group led by Professor Nicolas Rashevsky. He became my sensei, and I owe about one half of my ideas about peace research to him. The other half I owe to a number of people, whom I will mention later. First I want to tell you about the impact of Rashevsky’s work on my thinking about war and peace from a scientific point of view.
Rashevsky was a pioneer in mathematical biology and later in mathematical sociology. I came to him, because I was especially interested in application of mathematical methods beyond the sphere of the physical sciences. That mathematical methods were indispensable in physical science was established several centuries ago. The extension of these methods to biology and especially to the social sciences, where human behaviour is at the center of attention presents serious problems and therefore a welcome challenge to the mathematician.
One might ask whether it is at all possible to apply mathematics in describing, explaining, or predicting human behaviour. Is not human behaviour notoriously unpredictable? And is this unpredictability not due, perhaps, to the fact that human beings possess “free will,” that is, are not subject to the laws of cause and effect, which govern the behaviour of non-living matter and so make it possible to describe, explain, and predict physical events by mathematically formulated physical laws?
The answer to this question is neither yes nor no or, perhaps, both yes and no. It seems that the behaviour of the human individual may well be governed by “free will” or, at any rate, by impulses, motivations, or purposes that arise within the individual and thus are not accessible to the outside observer. But the behaviour of large numbers of individuals is often predictable, sometimes quite accurately predictable. For instance, in a large city, where people go to work in the morning and go home in the evening, everyone knows that the streets will be crowded with traffic during the morning and evening rush hours but virtually deserted in the small hours of the night. Whether a person decides to go to work or not on a given day, his decision (presumably undertaken with “free will”) will not affect the general pattern. Or take the people in a large assembly, such as this one, or the audience in a theater or at a concert. Every individual in such an assembly may be free to come at any moment he chooses. Yet the rate at which the auditorium will fill before the performance and empty afterwards is predictable with quite good accuracy. The influx and the outflow of the people can be described by a mathematical formula.
In short, the behaviour of people in large masses is sometimes quite predictable. If it were not, insurance companies could not operate. In fact, no social planning would be possible, because all such planning is based on estimates of how masses of people are likely to behave in given circumstances.
If human behaviour in the mass is to some extent predictable, it is not unreasonable to assume that some historical events are to a certain extent predictable, at least to the extent that such events depend on the behaviour of large numbers of people rather than on behaviour of single individuals.
Now wars are historical events of very large maqnitude. Old fashioned historiographv ascribed wars to wills or ambitions of princes. Indeed, the decision to make war or peace seems to have been the prerogative of every prince. A prince onlv had to give an order, and this order would qo down the channels of command to generals, from generals to captains, from captains to soldiers, and large masses of people would start killing each other. The prince had only to give another order, and the killings would stop, and there would be peace.
This conception of war as an event that was instigated by princes exercising their wills or pursuing their goals was challenged by Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy was neither a historian nor a political scientist. He was a writer, a very great writer who delved deeply into the human soul and thought a great deal about historical events, especially about war. In his youth, he was himself an army officer and participated in the Crimean War between Russia on one side and England, France, and Turkey on the other. Tolstoy described that war in his Sebastopol Memoirs. About the causes and goals of the war he had little or nothing to say, and questions of strategy interested him even less. It is the behaviour of the people and their feelings and sufferings that Tolstoy described with lucid vividness, which marked him immediately as a great writer.
Tolstoy found it impossible to believe that masses of people
would engage in mass murder just because two kings quarreled about
something. He did not propose a theory of his own to explain war, but
he rejected categorically the idea that wars were started or stopped
simply because individuals called kings or emperors wanted to start or to stop a war.
Tolstoy’s greatest work is a novel entitled War and Peace. In it he describes the invasion of Russia by Napoleon’s army in 1812. In that novel Tolstoy expounds his conception of war as well as of other large historical events. He maintains that causal connection between the decisions of kings, generals, etc. and the events called “war” is only apparent. In his view, the potentates and commanders are only figureheads of history. Historical events, in Tolstoy’s view, are results of historical forces (the nature of which Tolstoy did not profess to know). If the orders qiven by a commander are in harmony with these forces, they appear to be obeyed.
To illustrate this idea, imagine a man standing on a busy street in Hiroshima or some other city in Japan and ordering all the motorists to drive on the left side of the street. Naturally, they seem to obey his “orders.” They would also seem to obey if he did the same thing in London. But if he tried to give such orders in Paris or in New York or in Moscow, where motorists drive on the right side of the street, no one would obey him. Similarly, Tolstoy argued, the Napoleonic invasion, which was a “flood” of violent masses from West to East in 1812, just like the invasions of Europe in the fifth century, which were violent floods going from East to West were results of some huge “pressures” generated by historical forces. We still know little or nothing about the nature of those forces, but we must assume that they exist; otherwise these floods are unexplainable. The “explanation” that hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen and other assorted West Europeans poured into Russia killing and plundering just because Napoleon told them to do so is only a pseudo-explanation. In the fall of 1812, when the flood receded and started going back West, no order of Napoleon’s could have stopped it, just as no one would obey someone who suddenly ordered the motorists of Hiroshima to drive on the right side of the street.
Tolstoy’s idea was, in effect, a systemic theory of war. A physical system, such as the solar system or a system of chemical reactions behaves as it does because it is governed by physical laws, not by some one’s will. Tolstoy assumed that similar laws govern historical events.
It is, of course, one thing to imagine that laws exist to which large human affairs are subjected and quite another to find them. A philosopher might content himself with assuming that systemic forces and causes of historical events exist. The business of the scientist is to look for them. The scientist has at his disposal two methods of investigation: induction and deduction. Induction begins with examining special cases and goes on to generalizing what has been observed. Deduction goes from general principles to specific cases. In science, observation under controlled conditions is called an experiment. For instance, we can put a kettle of water over a fire and observe that after a while it begins to boil. This happens every time and justifies an inductive inference: heated water will eventually boil. The heat is a cause; boiling is an effect.
Suppose now we are interested in causes of wars. Clearly, the experimental approach is not practical. We cannot arrange conditions that we think will cause a war just to see whether they will. And even if we could, we would be ill advised to do so.
The other approach to scientific investigation called the deductive approach begins with a particular model of the system to be investigated and proceeds to the consequences of the assumptions embodied in the model. A mathematical model is, in fact, nothing but a set of mathematically stated assumptions. The deduced consequences indicate what we should observe if the initial assumptions are correct. Mathematics is essentially a tool of deduction. With the aid of its techniques, we can arrive at deductions, which we might not have been able to derive by verbal reasoning alone.
Rashevsky used mathematical tools to construct models of some social phenomena, for instance mass behaviour engendered in people who imitate one another. Formally, this sort of process resembles an epidemic. In an epidemic, disease is transmitted from person to person by contact. Depending on the contagiousness of the disease, the density of the population, the state of sanitation etc., an epidemic may or may not occur. A mathematical model can examine theoretically the effects of various conditions. Imitative behaviour in a large population has many aspects of an epidemic. All of us are familiar with fads, explosions of mass violence, or of panics that suddenly flare up like epidemics and eventually peter out gradually or disappear as suddenly as they began.
Now Rashevsky was not directly engaged in peace research. But another scientist in England, using very similar mathematical methods in constructing models of war behaviour, is now often called the father of peace research. His name was Lewis F. Richardson. He was a meteorologist by profession and a pacifist by conviction.
Like Rashevsky, Richardson had a systemic view of large scale social phenomena. As a meteorologist, he was concerned with the problem of predicting the weather. Even today, it is sometimes very difficult to predict weather accurately. In Richardson’s days, before a global network of weather stations was established and before high speed computers came into use, weather prediction was still more difficult. Nevertheless no meteorologist doubted that weather is determined by physical laws that govern air currents, the flow of heat, and so on. The only obstacles to accurate weather prediction are the incompleteness of our observations and the enormous complexity of the events involved. Thus, predictability of weather is a matter of degree, not of principle. Richardson thought of large scale social phenomena in the same way. He was convinced that their predictability is a matter of degree, not of principle. So if we want to improve our ability to predict social phenomena, such as wars, with the view of avoiding them, we have to begin our investigations somewhere. Accordingly, Richardson started these investigations by constructing very simple models of some aspects of war behaviour, in particular of war hysteria and of arms races.
Richardson was led to the use of mathematical methods in his attempts to start the construction of a theory of war by his professional orientation — that of a meteorologist: he thought of wars as manifestations of the international “weather.” His pacifist convictions led him to the same point of view. As a pacifist, Richardson was not interested in the political causes of wars. He was interested in the dynamics of war-generating systems. From his pacifist point of view, wars appeared to Richardson simply as disasters (like typhoons, earthquakes or epidemics) that frequently afflict the human race or portions of it.
Two of Richardson’s mathematical models are very similar to Rashevsky’s models of social behaviour. One of these is a model depicting an epidemic of “war moods.” Richardson was strongly impressed with the sudden flare-up of war hysteria, which spread through European countries at the outbreak of World War I. Toward the end of that war, another mood spread through the populations, namely “war weariness”. Richardson attributed these changes in the “political weather” to contagion effects, just as Rashevsky attributed mob behaviour to such effects.
Another model proposed by Richardson, for which he is best known, is a model of an arms race. As I said, Richardson was not concerned with the political causes or goals of wars, factors that can be ascribed to human will and to so called “rational” pursuit of national interests. His concern was with systemic factors, independent of human planning or reasoning. Among these, he regarded mutually reinforcing fear as a factor of prime importance in the dynamics of the international system driving toward war. This mutual stimulation of fear and hostility is manifested in arms races.
Actually, this idea is very old. Already Thucydides, an ancient Greek historian, writing about the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta expressed this idea quite clearly. When the Greek city states were united in repelling the Persian invasion, Athens and Sparta were allies. But after the external danger receded, they became bitter rivals, contending for hegemony in the Hellenic world. Each was afraid that the other would attack it and made military preparations to repel the attack. Perhaps neither side had the intention (at least initially) of attacking the other. But each interpreted the other’s military preparations (which may have been purely defensive) as symptoms of hostile intent. The more Athens “made herself secure” against Sparta, the better “proof” it provided for Sparta that she meant to attack Sparta. And, of course, Sparta’s “security measures” had the same effect on Athens. The result was an arms race that ultimately exploded into war which brought losses and suffering to both sides.
Richardson constructed a mathematical model of an arms race between two nations. The assumptions of the model are expressed in so called “differential equations,” which specify how the rates of growth of armaments are affected by the levels of armaments. Specifically, the armament level of the other side acts as a stimulant, while one’s own armament level acts as an inhibitor of the rate of growth of armaments. Depending on the magnitudes of these influences, the system represented by the model may be stable or unstable. If it is stable, the level of armaments will reach some steady state, and the arms race will come to a halt, although these stabilized levels may be very high. If the system is unstable, it cannot persist in a steady state. It must keep moving in one direction or in the other, resulting in either a “runaway” arms race or, on the contrary, in complete disarmament. Which way an unstable system will go depends on where it starts from.
To test his model, Richardson examined the armament budgets of the principal antagonists in World War I, Russia, France, Germany, and Austo-Hungary during the years preceding the outbreak of that war — from 1908 to 1914. He was led to the conclusion that the system was unstable. Further, the actual combined armament budgets of the two sides corresponded almost exactly to the values calculated from the equations of the model. Finally, the direction in which the system was driven, namely toward war rather than toward disarmament, appeared in the light of the model to have been determined by a historical accident. Had the combined armament budgets been £5 million less, the model would have predicted a movement in the opposite direction — toward disarmament.
Now it stands to reason that a mathematical model is a highly idealized and drastically simplified representation of reality. Therefore Richardson’s conclusion cannot be taken entirely seriously. However, his theory might have a possible relevance to the dynamics of war. Certainly his assumption that mutually stimulating fears drive arms races is reasonable. We are now witnessing a gigantic arms race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Each claims to have no aggressive intentions and justifies the monstrous growth of its weapons of total destruction by the needs of “national security.” Yet as the weapons systems become more and more formidable, each feels less and less secure, which adds more fuel to the fire. The present day arms race bears an ominous resemblance to that of 1908 – 1914.
I return to my personal history. Under Rashevsky’s tutelage I was attracted to the idea that theories of large scale social phenomena could be constructed on the basis of idealized mathematical models. Besides this influence, which was reinforced by my professional commitment as a mathematician, there was another motivation to turn these methods in the direction indicated by Richardson, that is to research related to war dynamics. This motivation stemmed from an ideological commitment.
I cannot claim to be a pacifist by religious conviction as Richardson was. I thought I saw a justification for America’s involvement in World War II, because I succumbed to the illusion especially widespread in America, that World War II was a “war to end war.” But after that war was “won” by the powers that were supposed to establish a lasting peace, it became apparent very soon that a lasting peace was as far away as ever. New threats of war appeared, of a war far more terrible than the last “war to end war,” and these threats appeared in the post war policies of the erstwhile champions of a lasting global peace — the United States and the Soviet Union. What was most terrible to contemplate was that this prospect of total and senseless destruction, meticulously planned by the superpowers, was the end result of the work of scientists, people who were supposed to be the vanguard of human progress toward well being and enlightenment.
It seemed to me that since scientists by their research have contributed to this mortal danger to humanity, they should also contribute
to the cause of peace by providing knowledge about the dynamics of war
and enlightenment that would help to reverse the drift to war. Thus,
it seemed to me that at least some scientists should turn to peace research as Richardson had done immediately after World War I.
In 1954 I left the University of Chicago on a one year appointment as a Fellow at the newly established Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioural Sciences in California. The Center was interdisciplinary. Among the Fellows were psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, economists, and mathematicians.
One of the Fellows during that first year was Stephen Richardson, the son of Lewis F. Richardson, who, as I said, is regarded by many peace researchers as the father of peace research. Old Richardson died in the preceding year, leaving many unpublished papers, among them an analysis of the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, which he was not able to complete, because that race was just getting going when he died. The papers I mentioned before had been published only in professional journals and so were known only to very few. Young Richardson was afraid that his father’s life work would remain unknown.
After some discussion with Stephen Richardson on how to proceed, I contacted by old teacher Rashevsky and described the situation to him. Rashevsky (together with three other scholars, E. Truces, Q. Wright and C. C. Lienau) enthusiastically undertook to edit the mass of manuscripts left by Richardson. The work took over five years, and Richardson’s collected works finally appeared in two volumes entitled Arms and Insecurity and Statistics of Deadly Quarrels. Thereafter Richardson’s name became widely known, and peace science became firmly established as a discipline and a field of research.
Now I said that Rashevsky’s systemic approach, exemplified also in Richardson’s models, constituted one half of the influence on my thinking about peace research. The other half came from the opposite
direction. Richardson said this about his models: “The equations represent only what can happen if people do not think.” In other words, if the “system” is allowed to run without intervention, and if it is unstable, an explosive armament race is very likely to result. But what is likely to happen if people do think? Questions of this sort are posed in another branch of mathematics called the theory of games.
The theory of games is concerned with strategic decisions in conflict situations. I say the approach to problems of war and peace suggested by the theory of games is opposite to the systemic approach, because in the strategic approach “rational decisions” instead of blind systemic forces are at the center of interest.
Now rulers, diplomats, and generals tend to see international conflict as a strategic conflict like a game of chess or go or poker rather than as a manifestation of “political weather” as Richardson saw it. This is understandable, because rulers and generals make decisions in these conflicts, and no one likes to think of his decisions as being of no consequence.
The idea that decisions about war and peace and in the conduct of war can be made “rationally” was clearly and forcefully expressed by Carl von Clausewitz, who is sometimes called the philosopher of war. Clausewitz defined war as the “continuation of politics by other means.” We can see that Clausewitz’s and Tolstoy’s philosophies of war are at opposite poles.
It is reasonable to assume that the truth is somewhere in between. Systemic forces create conditions conducive to war or peace, but decisions made by rulers trigger wars. Therefore the peace researcher should concern himself not only with systemic historical forces but also with the logic that governs the thinking of decision makers, who often see themselves as players in a vast global game of strategy. Competence in this game is regarded as closely related to the ability to play chess or go or poker.
At the Center for Advanced Study, where I met young Richardson, I also met Duncan Luce, a young mathematician, who at that time was preoccupied with game theory. It was Luce who called my attention to a curious paradox that arose in the theory of games, which, as I said, is concerned with the analysis of rational decisions in situations defined by a conflict of interests. The paradox was originally illustrated by a story, from which it derives its name — Prisoner’s Dilemma.
Imagine two men accused of the same crime (of which they are guilty) and held incommunicado in separate cells. They are told that if both confess the crime, both will receive comparatively light prison sentences. If neither confesses, they must be set free, because there is not sufficient evidence to convict them. If only one confesses, then he will not only be set free but given a handsome reward to boot for helping convict the other; while the other, who did not confess, but was convicted by the testimony of his accomplice, will be given a heavy prison sentence.
Now what is the rational thing to do from each prisoner’s point of view— to confess or not to confess? If the other confesses, it is rational to confess also to avoid the heavy prison sentence. If the other does not confess, it seems still rational to confess, because by confessing one gets not only one’s freedom but also a reward, while by not confessing all one gets is freedom. Therefore it is always rational to confess, regardless of what the other does! But if both confess, both are convicted, whereas if neither confesses, both are set free! So what is the meaning of “rational decision” in situations of this sort?
It is easy to see that the problem of disarmament is closely related to Prisoner’s Dilemma. Consider the U.S. and the Soviet Union from the point of view of each of these superpowers. If the other disarms, it is more advantageous to remain armed than to disarm, since if one remains armed one has the disarmed opponent at one’s mercy. If the opponent does not disarm, then, of course, it would be a disaster to disarm unilaterally. Thus, from the standpoint of each power, it is more “rational” to remain armed than to disarm. But from their common standpoint, it is more rational to disarm, because two disarmed nations facing each other are at least as safe from each other as two armed nations and, in addition, are freed from the burden of armaments.
Professors of international relations sometimes recognize the force of this argument, but this insight does not seem to affect the defense policies of major powers. These policies are still dominated by “strategic analysis” and by the mentality of the power struggle, that is, by geopolitics, which is the global version of Clausewitz’s conception of international politics. This mentality makes arms races appear “rational” and frequently leads to war.
The theory of games was the other source of influence on my thinking about peace research. Strategic analysis, which is formalized in the theory of games, provides a key to the mentality that has long dominated and presently dominates international politics. It provides also an antidote to the poison generated by this mentality by disclosing the traps and fallacies of strategic thinking. The direction in peace research that I have been following during the past twenty years has been predominantly that of analyzing the fallacies and traps inherent in strategic thinking. The principal aim of this research is to promote changes in people’s thinking about policy decisions that seem “rational” from the point of view of national interest of each nation but are collectively irrational and make our planet a dangerous place to live in.
Now I have described two directions of peace research based on two different conceptions of international conflict, the systemic and the strategic. My first book dealing with international conflict was entitled Fights, Games, and Debates (Three Modes of Conflict).” I have just described the first two and will come to the third presently.
A systemic conflict is like a “fight,” driven by emotions such as fear and hatred. The participants in a fight are deprived of a capacity to make rational decisions based on anticipation of consequences. A strategic conflict, on the other hand, is like a game of strategy, where not the mobilization of energy driven by emotions or passions is decisive but rather reasoning and calculations.
One could say that the objective in a fight is simply to hurt or to scare the opponent, while the objective in a game is to outwit the opponent. In a fight the stronger or the braver or the fiercer one may come out the “winner.” In a game, strength and bravery are not important. It is the more “clever” one who presumably has the advantage. Of course in both fights and in games, both participants may be the losers. In a fight both may be maimed or killed. And we have just seen an example of a “game,” namely, Prisoner’s Dilemma, in which although both players reasoned perfectly “rationally,” both lost.
There is still a third mode of conflict, in which the objective is neither that of hurting the opponent nor of outwitting him but that of convincing the opponent, that is, changing his way of thinking. This sort of conflict I have called a debate.
At one time I thought that the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union was primarily about ideological issues. Today I no longer think it is so. The rulers and the diplomats of the two superpowers appear to be much more concerned with a global game of strategy than with ideology. Nevertheless the conflict is frequently depicted by the politicians and by the propaganda media of both sides as an ideological one. Throughout the Cold War, the publicized issues were “the preservation of our way of life” or “the containment of communism” on the American side and “the ultimate victory of socialism over capitalism” on the Soviet side.
In my book, Fights, Games, and Debates, I posed the question of what would happen if the ideological issue between the United States and the Soviet Union was made the subject of a debate instead of a war of words. Let me explain the difference. By a debate I mean a discussion, where opponents direct their arguments to one another rather than at third parties. In this sense, the verbal duels between opposing attorneys in courts of law or between leaders of government and opposition in parliaments are not genuine debates. Whatever arguments are presented in these encounters are directed by the opponents not at each other but at third parties, such as judges or juries or electorates. Moreover such arguments are not made to change the opponent’s way of thinking. Certainly no one expects the outpourings of the Soviet propaganda machine, whatever effect it may have on the Soviet population, to convince American or Chinese politicians that the Soviet cause is just or that Soviet intentions in international politics are entirely peaceful. The same goes for all other propaganda. It is directed predominantly at people who already accept what it maintains, not at opponents with the view of convincing or re-educating them.
How then should a genuine debate be conducted? In order to convince an opponent at least partially that one’s own perceptions are realistic or one’s own claims are just, one must make sure that the opponent understands one’s own point of view, quite aside from whether he agrees with it or not. Therefore a pre-requisite in a genuine debate is a complete understanding by each of the opponents of the other’s position. The criterion for such understanding must be not one’s own feeling that one has understood the other’s position but the other’s feeling that his position has been completely understood. In order to ensure this kind of understanding, a rule must be introduced into a genuine debate. There is nothing radically new in this idea, since all formal debates are conducted in accordance with specified rules.
The rule I have in mind is the following. Before each opponent is permitted to present his own case, he must state the case of the opponent to the opponent’s satisfaction. This means that when one side has presented the other side’s case, the other side must be asked, “Has your side been presented well?” If the answer is no, another attempt must be made and another until the opponent says, “Yes, now you have presented by case fairly.”
This procedure accomplishes several things. It ensures that each opponent has really understood the other’s position, as the other sees it, and in the process gives each opponent an idea of how it feels to espouse the opposing point of view. Second it gives both opponents the feeling that their own point of view has been understood. This assurance induces some measure of respect for the opponent. Finally, the procedure induces the opponent to say “Yes.” Many conflicts are incapable of resolution simply because neither side can be induced to say “yes” to anything the opponent says. Under the proposed rule, the opponent must ultimately say “yes,” because he must agree with his own arguments if they are well presented. And they must be well presented, otherwise, the first opponent will not be permitted to state his own case. The opponent must eventually say “yes,” and this is a matter of great psychological import.
The conduct of a genuine debate requires one additional rule. Each opponent must state the conditions under which the other point of view would be justified. It is always possible to find such conditions regardless how absurd the contention of the other side may seem. If some one says “White is black” I can say, “Yes, this is so if you are speaking of a photographic negative.
Only after one of the opponents has stated the other’s case to the other’s satisfaction and after he has stated the conditions under which the other’s point of view would be justified, is he allowed to proceed with stating his own case. In many cases, the arguments that will be left are arguments about whether the conditions that justify the other’s position are really satisfied. This reduces much of the debate to matters that in principle can be checked by facts. It is much easier to agree on facts than on feelings about what is “just.”
It is not expected, of course, that all debates can be reduced to disagreements about facts that can be resolved by examining reality. But the procedure suggested tends to focus the issues on “reality testing,” which is a principal component of rationality and even of sanity.
In the last chapters of Fights, Games, and Debates (Three Modes of Conflict) I pictured a debate between a proponent of American ideology (or rather of the best features of it) and what the Soviets profess to be their ideology (again of the best features of it). I did the same thing in the last chapters of my next book on a related theme, Strategy and Conscience. The three modes of conflict suggest three approaches to peace research, the systemic, as represented by mathematical models of arms races and more generally by models of international equilibrium and disequilibrium; the strategic, which concentrates on the analysis of traps inherent in military and geopolitical thinking; and the ideological, aimed at promoting better understanding among people who, for historical or cultural reasons, are committed to different conceptions of social reality or different ideas about social justice. None of these directions is more important or more promising than another. If peace research is to contribute to the hope of establishing a durable peace on this planet, all three directions must be synthesized into a science of peace.