In the book Ender's Game the hero Ender has a very particular philosophy regarding warfare. Essentially it boils down to avoiding fighting when at all possible and when avoiding it is not possible you fight with incredible violence and only stop when your opponent is destroyed. In the book Ender tries his best to avoid conflicts with others when he can but when he is finally forced into physical conflict with other boys he goes far and beyond the normal 'rules of warfare' that young boys typically follow. He strikes without warning, kicks people in the groin and stomps on their faces while they are down. He justifies it by saying that he does not want to win one battle, but rather all the battles. When his enemies know that finally provoking him to anger is going to force them to face down a raging berserker they stay away.
I find this particularly interesting because my father believes (or did believe when I was young, anyhow) in the same philosophy. I distinctly recall being told that there are two rules for fighting:
1. Don't fight.
2. If you absolutely have to disobey rule 1, then you fight to win.
Specifically he explained that if someone absolutely forces you to fight them you do whatever it takes. Ignore convention, ignore honour, the only thing that matters is that you win.
I think that in the schoolyard these strategies are effective. Nothing is as terrifying as someone who is utterly devoted to destroying you. When you know that someone will stop when you are knocked down it is easy to justify fighting them - how bad can it be? When your opponent will keep on attacking until they are dragged off your bloody, smashed body you surely do not want to provoke them in the first place, even if you are confident of winning.
I question the way in which Ender's Game portrays this philosophy as being applicable to all aspects of life though. Fear of brutal punishment is a tactic used as a deterrent to crime and yet it isn't especially successful in that regard. Capital punishment is a completely useless deterrent to murder because the difference between a life in prison and death is simply insignificant to people's decisions - once they decide to kill the punishment is simply not a factor.
I think the difference is that in any situation where good communication and arbitration is available using extreme violence as a strategy is ineffective - people who decide to ignore those structures and do terrible things are no longer concerned with the outcomes. In adult life extreme reactions simply aren't useful or profitable. In a playground or when battling an alien enemy however those messages do still serve a useful purpose - they communicate our desires and our commitment in ways that cannot be mistaken.