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Aleksandrowicz, D.R. (1974). The Psychiatrist in National Emergency. Am. J. Psychoanal., 34(1):85-90.

(1974). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 34(1):85-90

Brief Communications

The Psychiatrist in National Emergency

Dov R. Aleksandrowicz

But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the Lord whom we may inquire?” And Ahab, the king of Israel, said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him for he never prophesies good concerning’ me, but evil.” (1 Kings, Ch. 22)

Psychiatrists, like other scholars whose life-task is the study of men, must be particularly pained by the spectacle of war, with its wasteful destruction, naked, dehumanizing aggression, and threat to civilization. It is hard to see ourselves reduced to the role of helpless observers of the catastrophe, and to be reconciled to the fact that at times of great national crisis our expertise in human behavior becomes about as useful as Nero's fiddle. But are we that helpless? Since Freud wrote his letter to Einstein, psychoanalysts and other clinicians have been trying to probe the applicability of our knowledge to prevention of war. Much emphasis has been placed on the role of aggression and unconscious motivation. Clark went so far as to suggest subjecting political leaders to a “psychotechnical intervention” to reduce their aggressiveness and irrationality, but his proposal, apart from its questionable feasibility, implies an overestimate of the role of individual psychological factors in international conflict.

War, as Atkin points out, is a social institution. Moreover, not all wars are avoidable; many, like the Italian-Ethiopian war, are the result of a deliberate decision.

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