The Secret Ingredient

The Pivotal Catalyst for Change
and Longterm Stability

catalyst   n. a substance that speeds up a chemical reaction
catalyze v.t. to change by catalysis

The single most powerful justification for skepticism about the possibility of ending wars is a virtually unbroken history of battle after battle. Men who have tried to end this barbaric practice in the past have been thwarted by their own biology. Human males, like many other male primates, are instinctively motivated by a drive for status or dominance. The male social world is saturated with behaviors driven by status seeking. Men jostle with each other daily, if not hourly, to gain as much status as they can and to avoid losing the status they have. Men are not opposed to shaking up or even overturning the social order: changing the social order is what much of their social lives is all about (see Biological Differences between Men and Women With Respect to Aggression and Social Stability).

Women's biology is quite different in some critical respects regarding aggression and status which are related to child bearing (links to Empower Women and Biological Differences Between Men and Women With Respect to Aggression and Social Stability).1 Women prefer a socially stable environment. This is as innate in women as striving for status is innate in men.

It's not that women don't understand power or don't have dominance hierarchies. They do. In an ultimate sense, power is important for women because of their need to acquire resources for their children. But a critical difference is that, in general, social stability is more important to them than power. If given power, women tend to use it differently than men and women's priorities can sometimes be different. Rather than engaging in power struggles to improve their dominance over other individuals, women are, in general, more interested in creating conditions, such as a socially stable environment, in which to raise children. As a consequence, rather than engage in upheaval or conquest to gain status, women use more subtle means to attain power. To resolve conflicts, they prefer means like mediation, compromise, negotiation, and other forms of win/win conflict resolution.1,2,3,4 And as a group compared to men, they are extremely reluctant to engage in war.1

We need to embrace and deploy women's innate, unlearned, evolved, unchangeable proclivity to avoid war.

Our secret ingredient—the essential catalyst for triggering, hastening, and maintaining change to a warless society—is the global empowerment of women.5

When women occupy roughly half* of the seats of power in legislative bodies entrusted to make decisions about war and peace—whether to fight or to compromise, to contain or to conquer—men's innate urges for physically aggressive confrontation will be tempered (see Empower Women). What will not work is token female representation—placing a few women here and there in responsible positions. This will not tip the balance against the majority of men who are too ready to be drawn into physical struggles for domination (see Promote Nonviolent Conflict Resolution). Only when women have a roughly 50/50 partnership* with men in fully mature, liberal democracies** (see Spread Democracy) will the world permanently take its fingers off the trigger. At present (2005), none of the world's democracies, let alone oligarchies or tyrannies, have reached that fully mature point. Our most influential powers (the United States, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Japan, Russia), continue to be patriarchal light-years from male/female parity.  

Human behavior, however, is profoundly flexible. If we choose, those light-years can be spanned in merely decades (see How Long It Will Take). When fully empowered, educated women are involved in decision-making around the globe, the notion of following a charismatic leader into a program of conquest or terrorism will be unthinkable if not ludicrous.  

The female preference for choosing social stability over conflict has a second, critical benefit. Not only can it serve as catalyst that kicks off and energizes swift movement toward a warless society, it will also serve as a stabilizer that makes certain we maintain the goal once we reach it (see Empower Women).


For extensive discussion of how women differ biologically from men in ways that are pivotally critical to the cause of ending wars, see for example:

1 Hand, Judith L. 2003. Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace. San Diego, CA:
     Questpath Publishing. Free download at
2 Blumb, Deborah. 1997. Sex on the Brain. The Biological Differences between Men
     and Women
. NY: Viking Penguin.
3 Fisher, Helen. 1999. The First Sex: The Natural Talents of Women and How They
     Are Changing the World
. NY: Random House.
4   McDermott, R., and J. Cowden. 2001. "The Effects of Uncertainty and Sex in a
     Simulated Crisis Game." International Interactions 27: 353-380.
5 To be "fully empowered," women must have not only voting rights (and exercise them),
     they must be empowered educationally, legally, financially, and religiously.
     See Hand, 2003.

*The exact percentage of women required to reach a critical mass that tips the balance in decision-making bodies in favor of nonviolence is unknown. Research clearly reveals the effect of gender differences in other areas, however. In a cross-cultural study sponsored by the World Bank and reported in The Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, David Dollar, Raymond Fisman, and Roberta Gatti found that governments with more women in power had less corruption. Swedes, who have a legislature that is roughly 45% women, grant paternity leave for fathers and lead the world in fighting sex trafficking. Research could establish the actual proportion needed to bring nonviolence to international affairs. There may be cultural differences: a greater number of women might be required in societies that, for example, have historically been extremely aggressive. When the American Senate voted to support the second Iraq war, only thirteen percent of the Senators were women, and the Senate's response speaks for itself. It is reasonable to assume that when half the individuals in a governing body are female, the shift in preference favoring nonviolence and social stability would be pervasive in all aspects of decision-making, not just in decisions about war and peace.

**Liberal democracy - must include many features, among them the rule of law protected by a constitution, independent and impartial courts, separation of state from religions, equality for all under the law, freedom of speech, and protection of property rights

Mature democracy - one in which men and women are represented in roughly equal numbers in governing bodies and where all subsets of the population have a share in representation that is proportional to their numbers.   Length of existence is not the deciding factor for maturity.

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