Aggression as violence in various forms

Aggression as violence in various forms

By Chris Odinaka Nwedo  

Violence is the exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse. The word is used broadly to describe the destructive action of natural phenomenon like storms and earthquakes. More frequently the word describes forceful human destruction of property or injury to persons, usually intentional, and forceful verbal and emotional abuse that harm others.1 Violent behaviour as an ‘overt and intentional physical aggressive behaviour against another person.2 The idea that violence is inherently human is not perfectly harmonized among all scientists, however, in some scientific circles are the consensus that tendencies to aggression is natural. Gilligan observes that violence is ‘often pursued as an antidote to shame or humiliation.3  This observation was correlated by Michael Obsatz in his remark that ‘violence is often a source of pride and a defence of honour, especially among males who often believe violence defines manhood.4 Significant numbers of researchers suggested that violence springs from aggressiveness, a natural emotion. Aggression is presented as an enormously complex phenomenon. Aggression is different from, and irrelevant to the concept of self-defence.

On spheres of geo-politics, aggression occurs whenever a state’s actions threaten another state in specific ways. Aggression is not limited to force. Aggression can occur in other forms, thus the concept of economic aggression. It is certainly possible; however, that state misconduct can amount to both an armed attack and aggression. The issues are not mutually exclusive. Some sections of international community view state’s sponsored international terrorist acts as aggression and armed attacks justifying self-defence as was the case in the 1986 when United States raided Libya. Afghanistan and Iraq invasions between 2001 and 2003 were all predicated on the theory of aggression and the imperatives of self-defence. More recently, Russian aggression against Georgia was premised on the national imperative to defend an ally, South Ossetia. Today, Russia, Iran, Turkey are actively involved in the ravaging civil war in Syria on various pretext of self-defences imperatives.

It was a humanitarian polemics that gave Russia the opportunity it needs for dealing decisively with ‘erring’ Georgia.  Kremlin considered Georgia as spinning out of its control and moving towards the rivalry West. The chastising punishment by Russia’s invasion of Georgia was evidence that the blunder against the national interest cannot be without reprisal action. Analysists see Russian invasion and summary bombardment of Georgia as lesson for all the former principalities predisposed to the West. The Russian aggression degraded in absolute terms the military might of George.  “Aggressive war entail the negation of virtually all universally recognised principles and rules of international law and of the set of rights embodied in the covenant on human right and other international documents. It becomes a tool for mass killings of the civilian population, an instrument of open and repression and of the suppression and annulment of the most fundamental human right and freedoms.5

According to Vladimir Kartashkin, under the pretext of ‘saving’ the lives and properties of its citizens, the west has more than once in our times launched armed operations against independent developing countries.6 For Kartashkin, ‘it is enough to recall the tripartite aggression of Great Britain, France and Israel against Egypt in 1956; Belgium’s aggression against the Congo in 1960 and 1964; the Great Britain’s violation of Zanzibar’s territorial integrity in 1964; the unleashing by the West of military action against Zaire in 1978 and many other instances of the use of force.7 ‘Providentially’, jurists and scholars of varied backgrounds have “continued to profess the sullied theory of humanitarian intervention for justifying the use of armed force and the unleashing of aggressive wars to ‘defend’ the lives and properties of their fellow citizens and their economic and other interests.8  For Richard Lillich humanitarian intervention is lawful not only in the cases when such violations appear inevitable and unavoidable.9 

Histories of unprovoked aggression and invasion of sovereign nation by another have remained endless. The new twist is the use of proxy groups such as terror cells and secret agents. Iran allegedly uses Hezbollah as proxy in vexatious destabilizations in Lebanon. Also the wars between Israel and Hezbollah were blamed on Iran’s motivation and arming the group. The wars were sparked by an unprovoked attack by the Hezbollah’s agents through adduction and killing of Israel soldiers across the border. Israeli reprisal war resulted in disproportionate destruction of sections of Lebanon and death of 1200 Hezbollah militants and Lebanese. Northern and Southern Koreans have been involved in series of scuffles that were pretexted on one form of unprovoked aggression or the other. A ship named ‘Flotilla’ used by pro-Palestinian campaigners was assaulted by Israeli Armed Forces on the supposition that the ship’s violation of embargo on direct shipment into Palestinian territory was an unprovoked aggression. The assault on Flotilla was blood-spattered in the sense that Israeli soldiers killed and critically injured some of the campaigners who were mainly Turkish citizens. The aftermath of the lethal assault was diplomatic skirmishes between Israel and Turkey and breaking of all ties.

 In 1983, October 3, U.S. invaded Grenada under a ludicrous pretext of ‘defending’ the lives of its citizens. The UN regarded that act of aggression as a most gross violation of international law and an encroachment on the independence and sovereignty of this small state in the Caribbean. 108 members of the UN then including some of the U.S NATO allies voted in support of the UN’s resolution condemning this aggression and demanding the immediate withdrawal of the foreign troops from Grenada.10 The lapses in the legal interpretation of the rights of self-defense and attacks in the sense of humanitarian interventions progressively increased the prospects of gross violations of the provision and augmented the inclinations to threats of attacks, strife, hostilities and wars, thus the “increased degree of international violence, chaos and anarchy.11 According Richard B. Lillich ‘ realizing the unsoundness of arguments used to justify ‘humanitarian’ interventions, certain scholars and the statesmen of the west sometimes advance more ‘moderate’ positions and speak out in support of a different doctrine-‘humanitarian’ intercession, which they hypocritically equate with ‘good will’ services, ‘mediation’ and even ‘friendly advice’.12

For Kartashkin ‘Americans proposed such forms of humanitarian intercession as sending of observers into the territory of an independent state without its consent, the  launching of court procedures or arbitration processes, the use of economic sanction, the application of pressure through trade and other means.13 In his opinion, ‘all these actions represent open interference in the internal affairs of other countries.14 Intervention as concept of mediation and its legitimacy will always remain a contentious issue because of uncertainty of motives and the mutual suspicions that often trail the action. And again, encroachment on peace and the peaceful coexistence of states is always an infringement on the human right and freedoms. Preparation for an aggressive war inevitably involves an offensive on the right and freedoms of broad sectors of the population. “The unleashing of aggression, which is the gravest of international crime, is always accompanied by repression and by systematic and massive violation of the right and freedom of the peoples of the occupied territories.15 Kartashkin noted that to suppress the resistance of the people subjected to armed attack, the aggressor resorts to the most monstrous methods and means of conducting a war and breaks all its laws and customs.16

In psychology and other social and behavioural sciences, aggression refers to behaviour that is intended to cause harm or pain. Aggression can be either physical or verbal. However, behaviour that accidentally causes harm or pain is not aggression.17 There is the understanding that ‘property damage and other destructive behaviour may also fall under the definition of aggression. Aggression is not the same thing as assertiveness.18 From evolutionary and biological point of view, K. E. Moyer, enlisted the following as seven different forms of aggression: Predatory aggression, this is a brand of attack on prey by a predator. Inter-male aggression is a competition between males of the same species over access to resources such as females, dominance, status, etc. Fear-induced aggression is described as an aggression associated with attempts to flee from threat. Irritable aggression is aggression induced by frustration and directed against an available target; territorial aggression on the other hand is an invasion of a fixed area. Maternal aggression is a female’s aggression to protect her offspring from a threat. Paternal aggression also exists as a counterpart of maternal aggression.  And finally, instrumental aggression, this is an aggression directed towards obtaining some goals considered to be a learned response to a situation.19

Behar, D. Hunt, J Ricciuti, A.  et. al said there was a consensus in the scientific community for at least two broad categories of aggression, variously known as hostile, affective, or retaliatory aggression, versus instrumental, predatory, or goal-oriented aggression.20 Scholars identified the basis of aggression in man. These include biological, evolutionary and other aggression relating to the exigencies of human existence. Biological basis of aggression are studied under aggression in brain, neurotransmitters and hormones, genetic aggression. Evolutionary basis of aggression includes aggression against outsiders and aggression within specie.

Other types of aggression are studied in relation to state’s violation of the rights of the other as provided by the United Nation’s guidelines, culture, media, situational factors, gender and even sports. Scholars well as the provisions of United Nations consider as serious crimes breaches by states as aggression, establishment and maintenance by force of colonial domination as well as slavery, pursuing of policies of genocide, apartheid racism and racial intolerance and ecocide.             

  1. Arendt, Hannah. On Violence, Harvest Book See Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia, en. Wikipedia. Org. / wiki/ violence.
  2. See Jan Volavka  in Gilligan James, Violence: Our deadly Epidemic and Its Causes, Putnam Adult. (1996) See Wikipedia.
  3. Gilligan, James, Violence: Our deadly Epidemic and Its Causes, Putnam Adult. (1996) See Wikipedia
  4. Obsatz, M, in encyclopedia Wikipedia. Org./wiki/ violence
  5. Vladimir Kartashkin(1989) Human Rights and What We Argue About, Translated from Russia by Nancy R. Lasse .Progress Publishers USSR pp.174-1975
  6. Vladimir Kartashkin(1989) op.cit. p.21
  7. Ibid. p.20
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. American Journal of International Law(1984) vol. 78, no.1 cited by Kartashkin(1989) op.cit. p.22
  12. See Richard B. Lillich (1977) in Kartashkin(1989) op.cit p.22).
  13. Vladimir Kartashkin(1989) op.cit. p20
  14. ibid.
  15. Vladimir Kartashkin(1989) op.cit. p.174
  16. Ibid.
  17. George Shultz in Erickson op.cit.
  18. Moyer, K.E. Kinds Aggression and Their Psychological Basis, Communications in Behavioural Biology.  (1968). In Wikipedia, op. cit.
  19. Ibid.
  20. See Behar, D. Hunt, J Ricciuti, A.  et. al in  Wikipedia op. cit.

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