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Template:War War is a phenomenon of organized violent conflict,[1][2] typified by extreme aggression, societal disruption and adaptation, and high mortality.[1] There is some debate about other characteristics, but in general there is agreement that war involves at least two organized groups, is a premeditated activity at least on the part of one side, and at least one of the groups uses violence against the other.[3] The objective of warfare differs in accord with a group's role in a conflict: The goals of offensive warfare are typically the submission, assimilation or destruction of another group, while the goals of defensive warfare are simply the repulsion of the offensive force and, often, survival itself. Relative to each other, combatants in warfare are called enemies. The terms military, militant, and militarism each refer to fundamental aspects of war, i.e. the organized group, the combative individual, and the supportive ethos (respectively).

As a behavioral pattern, aggression is exhibited by many primate species and is sometimes characterized as "war".[4] Also, aggression has also been found in many ant species.[5][6][7] The primary feature of this behaviour pattern is a certain state of organized conflict that is engaged in between two or more separate social entities. Such a conflict is always an attempt at altering either the psychological hierarchy or the material hierarchy of domination or equality between two or more groups. In all cases, at least one participant (group) in the conflict perceives the need to either psychologically or materially dominate the other participant.


Amongst humans, the perceived need for domination often arises from the belief that either an ideology is so incompatible, or a resource is so scarce, as to threaten the fundamental existence of the one group experiencing the need to dominate the other group. Leaders will sometimes enter into a war under the pretext that their actions are primarily defensive, though when viewed objectively, their actions may more closely resemble a form of unprovoked, unwarranted, or disproportionate aggression.

In all wars, the group(s) experiencing the need to dominate other group(s) are unable or unwilling to accept or permit the possibility of a relationship of fundamental equality to exist between the groups who have opted for group violence (war). The aspect of domination that is a precipitating factor in all wars, i.e. one group wishing to dominate another, is also often a precipitating factor in individual one-on-one violence outside of the context of war, i.e. one individual wishing to dominate another.[8]

In 2003, Nobel Laureate Richard E. Smalley identified war as the sixth (of ten) biggest problems facing the society of mankind for the next fifty years. In the 1832 book "On War", by Prussian military general and theoretician Carl Von Clausewitz, the author refers to war as the "continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means."[9] War is an interaction in which two or more opposing forces have a “struggle of wills”.[10] The term is also used as a metaphor for non-military conflict, such as in the example of class war.

War has generally been considered to be a seemingly inescapable and integral aspect of human culture, its practice not linked to any single type of political organization or society. Rather, as discussed by John Keegan in his History Of Warfare, war is a universal phenomenon whose form and scope is defined by the society that wages it.[11] The conduct of war extends along a continuum, from the almost universal primitive local tribal warfare that began well before recorded human history, to advanced nuclear warfare between global alliances, with the recently developed ultimate potential for human extinction. More recently, other experts Douglas P. Fry and Judith Hand have argued that war only emerges in certain types of societies or cultures, being rare or absent, for example, in nomadic foragers societies and becoming common when humans take up settled living, particularly at the Agricultural Revolution.

Etymology and scope

From late Old English (c.1050), wyrre, werre, from Old Norman werre "war" (cf. French guerre), from Frankish *werra, from Proto-Germanic *werzó (Compare with Old Saxon werran, Old high German werran, German verwirren "to confuse, perplex"), from Proto-Indo-European *wers- "to mix up, confuse, thrash". Cognates suggest the original sense was "to bring into confusion." In Dutch, the word war is still commonly in use as meaning chaos, disorder.

There was no common Germanic word for "war" at the dawn of historical times. Spanish, Portuguese, Italian guerra are from the same source; Romanic peoples turned to Germanic for a word to avoid Latin "bellum" because its form tended to merge with bello- "beautiful."[12]

In an organized military sense, a group of combatants and their support is called an army on land, a navy at sea, and an air force in the air. Wars may be conducted simultaneously in one or more different theaters. Within each theater, there may be one or more consecutive military campaigns. A military campaign includes not only fighting but also intelligence, troop movements, supplies, propaganda, and other components. A period of continuous intense conflict is traditionally called a battle, although this terminology is not always applied to conflicts involving aircraft, missiles or bombs alone, in the absence of ground troops or naval forces. Also many other actions may be undertaken by military forces during a war, this could include weapons research, internment, assassination, occupation, and in some cases genocide may occur.

A civil war is a war between factions of citizens within one country (such as in the English Civil War), or else a dispute between two nations that were created out of one formerly united country. A proxy war is a war that results when two powers use third parties as substitutes for fighting each other directly.

Imperialism is also often the cause of war. This usually starts with a desire for the resources of the weaker nation or the supposed obligation of one country to "help" or civilize the other. This almost immediately builds tension between the two groups involved and is usually followed by the imperialist's army invading the other nation and forcing them to submit through violence.

History of warfare

File:War deaths caused by warfare.svg

Comparison of the percentage of male deaths caused by warfare in eight tribal societies and Europe and the US in the 20th century. The share of war deaths was many times higher in tribal societies. By archeologist Lawrence H. Keeley.

Before the dawn of history war likely consisted of small-scale raiding. One half of the people found in a Nubian cemetery dating to as early as 12,000 years ago had died of violence.[13] Since the rise of the state some 5,000 years ago,[14] military activity has occurred over much of the globe. The advent of gunpowder and the acceleration of technological advances led to modern warfare.

In the European medieval period, war was considered part of the set of seven mechanical arts.

File:Napoleons retreat from moscow.jpg

Napoleon retreating from Moscow after a disastrous French invasion of Russia.

In War Before Civilization, Lawrence H. Keeley, a professor at the University of Illinois, says that approximately 90–95% of known societies throughout history engaged in at least occasional warfare,[15] and many fought constantly.[16] There were 633 recorded intertribal Māori battles between 1801 and 1840.[17] Despite the undeniable carnage and effectiveness of modern warfare, the evidence shows that tribal warfare is on average 20 times more deadly than 20th century warfare.[15] For instance, at one battle lost in 1857 among the Mohave-Yumas, 49.6% of combatants were killed.[18] Historically, more than a third of the Yanomamö males, on average, died from warfare.[19] American anthropologist Chagnon claimed that men who participated in killings had more wives and children than those who did not.[20]

"One element in Shaka's destruction was to create a vast artificial desert around his domain ... 'to make the destruction complete, organized bands of Zulu murderers regularly patrolled the waste, hunting for any stray men and running them down like wild pig.' ... An area 200 miles to the north of the center of the state, 300 miles to the west, and 500 miles to the south was ravaged and depopulated ..."[21]

The Human Security Report 2005 documented a significant decline in the number and severity of armed conflicts since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. However, the evidence examined in the 2008 edition of the Center for International Development and Conflict Management's "Peace and Conflict" study indicated that the overall decline in conflicts had stalled.[22]

Recent rapid increases in the technologies of war, and therefore in its potential destructiveness (see Mutual assured destruction), have caused widespread public concern, and have in all probability forestalled, and may hopefully altogether prevent the outbreak of a nuclear World War III. At the end of each of the last two World Wars, concerted and popular efforts were made to come to a greater understanding of the underlying dynamics of war and to thereby hopefully reduce or even eliminate it all together. These efforts materialized in the forms of the League of Nations, and its successor, the United Nations. Shortly after World War II, as a token of support for this concept, most nations joined the United Nations.

During this same post-war period, with the aim of further delegitimizing war as an acceptable and logical extension of foreign policy, most national governments also renamed their Ministries or Departments of War as their Ministries or Departments of Defense, for example, the former US Department of War was renamed as the US Department of Defense.

In 1947, in view of the rapidly increasingly destructive consequences of and costs of the newly developed atom bomb, the initial developer of the concept of this bomb, Albert Einstein famously stated, "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."[23] Fortunately, the anticipated costs of a possible third world war are currently no longer deemed as acceptable by most, thus little motivation currently seems to exist on an international level for such a war.[citation needed]


Motivations for war may be different for those ordering the war than for those undertaking the war. For a state to prosecute a war it must have the support of its leadership, its military forces, and its people. For example, in the Third Punic War, Rome's leaders may have wished to make war with Carthage for the purpose of eliminating a resurgent rival, while the individual soldiers may have been motivated by a wish to make money. Since many people are involved, a war may acquire a life of its own from the confluence of many different motivations.

The Jewish Talmud describes in the BeReshit Rabbah commentary on the fight between Cain and Abel (Parashot BeReshit XXII:7) that there are three universal reasons for wars: A) Economic, B) Ideological/religious, and C) Power/pride/love (personal).[24]

In Why Nations Go to War, by John G. Stoessinger, the author points out that both sides will claim that morality justifies their fight. He also states that the rationale for beginning a war depends on an overly optimistic assessment of the outcome of hostilities (casualties and costs), and on misperceptions of the enemy's intentions.

As the strategic and tactical aspects of warfare are always changing, theories and doctrines relating to warfare are often reformulated before, during, and after every major war. Carl Von Clausewitz said, 'Every age had its own kind of war, its own limiting conditions, and its own peculiar preconceptions.'[25] The one constant factor is war’s employment of organized violence and the resultant destruction of property and/ or lives that necessarily follows.

Economic theories

That economic conditions have stimulated war in all ages is a commonplace of history.[26][27] In this view wars begin as a pursuit of territory for natural resources and for wealth.

"Is there any man, is there any woman, let me say any child here that does not know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry?" - Woodrow Wilson, September 11, 1919, St. Louis.[28]

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." - Dwight Eisenhower, Farewell Address, January 17, 1961.

According to Frans de Waal in his book, Age of Empathy, war, in the sense of being an organised conflict is more profitable to societies with the concept of property, than perhaps to Bushmen or other "technology-primitive" humans; he goes to argue that since the bushmen in their struggle for every-day survival and with limited resources, a large conflict with humans is viewed as unthinkable, as it poses a threat to the very survival of these small groups; "Lions", "hyenas", crocodiles and especially leopards are more immediate and less dangerous a threat than genocide, these communities being small in numbers without scarcely any technological advancement since the stone Age. Frans de Waal goes to suggests that war is more an affair "of profit and power" (Age of Empathy, Chapter1, page 44 éditions LIL).

Government funded war programs have historically produced some of the most innovative products we know today. The PhDs at the Universities that created things like the transistor were funded by war programs. War funded programs created the cell phone as a way for soldiers to communicate easily from within their tanks over long distances.

War is also very lucrative for central banks in the sense that governments have to borrow large amounts of money from their central bank, to be repayed with interest which the government collects through income tax. Several conspiracy theories claim that central banking systems like the Federal Reserve are secretly owned by international bankers who understand the economic benefits of war and thus manipulate the public to believe on an imaginary national enemy, whether that is terrorism or climate change in order to initiate the war process.[29]

Marxist theories

The Marxist theory of war is quasi-economic in that it states that all modern wars are caused by competition for resources and markets between great (imperialist) powers, claiming these wars are a natural result of capitalism and class systems. Part of the theory holds that war will only disappear once a world revolution succeeds in over-throwing capitalist markets and class systems.

Evolutionary psychology

A distinct branch of the psychological theories of war are the arguments based on evolutionary psychology. This school tends to see war as an extension of animal behaviour, such as territoriality and competition. Animals are naturally aggressive, and in humans this aggression manifests itself as warfare. However, while war has a natural cause, the development of technology has accelerated human destructiveness to a level that is irrational and damaging to the species.[citation needed]Template:Opinion The earliest advocate of this theory was Konrad Lorenz.[30]

Biologists studying primate behaviour have also added to the debate. Jane Goodall in 1974 documented what she called a war between groups of wild chimpanzees in the Gombe National Park of Tanzania.[31]

The BBC broadcast what narrator Sir David Attenborough called a 'raid into the territory of their neighbors' by a group of Chimps in the series Planet Earth.[32]

These theories have been criticized by scholars such as John G. Kennedy, who argue that the organized, sustained war of humans differs more than just technologically from the territorial fights between animals. Ashley Montagu[33] strongly denies such universalistic instinctual arguments, pointing out that social factors and childhood socialization are important in determining the nature and presence of warfare.

Evolutionary biologist and peace ethologist Judith Hand, looking at the proximal causes of war, also argues that a minority of mostly men—so called hyper-alpha males—are the instigators of wars.[34] She argues that while several aspects of biology, particularly male biology, make humans susceptible to making war, war only emerges when cultural conditions favor it. If conditions favoring war were eliminated, she argues, as does anthropologist Douglas P. Fry, war could be eliminated.[34][35]

Behavioural theories

Some psychologists such as E.F.M. Durban and John Bowlby have argued that human beings are inherently violent.[36] This aggressiveness is fueled by displacement and projection where a person transfers their grievances into bias and hatred against other races, religions, nations or ideologies. By this theory the nation state preserves order in the local society while creating an outlet for aggression through warfare. If war is innate to human nature, as is presupposed and predetermined by many psychological theories, then there is little hope of ever escaping it[citation needed].

The Italian psychoanalyst Franco Fornari, a follower of Melanie Klein, thought that war was the paranoid or projective “elaboration” of mourning.[37] Fornari thought that war and violence develop out of our “love need”: our wish to preserve and defend the sacred object to which we are attached, namely our early mother and our fusion with her. For the adult, nations are the sacred objects that generate warfare. Fornari focused upon sacrifice as the essence of war: the astonishing willingness of human beings to die for their country, to give over their bodies to their nation.

While these theories may have some general explanatory value about why war exists, they do not explain when or how they occur. Nor do they explain the existence of certain human cultures completely devoid of war.[38] If the innate psychology of the human mind is unchanging, these variations are inconsistent. A solution adapted to this problem by certain thinkers such as the psychologist, Franz Alexander is that peace does not really exist. Periods that are seen as peaceful are actually periods of preparation for a later war or when war is suppressed by a state of great power, such as the Pax Britannica.[39]

An additional problem with theories that rest on the will of the general population, is that in history only a tiny fraction of wars have originated from a desire for war from the general populace.[40] Far more often the general population has been reluctantly drawn into war by its rulers. One psychological theory that looks at the leaders is advanced by Maurice Walsh.[41] He argues that the general populace is more neutral towards war and that wars only occur when leaders with a psychologically abnormal drive to power and a disregard for human life are get themselves into power. War is caused by leaders that seek war as a means to even greater personal power such as Napoleon and Hitler. Such leaders most often come to power in times of crisis when the populace opts for a decisive leader, who then leads the nation to war.

Sociological theories

Sociological approaches are divided into a number of schools. One, the Primat der Innenpolitik (Primacy of Domestic Politics) school based on the works of Eckart Kehr and Hans-Ulrich Wehler, sees war as the product of domestic conditions, with only the target of aggression being determined by international realities. Thus World War I was not a product of international disputes, secret treaties, or the balance of power but a product of the economic, social, and political situation within each of the states involved. This differs from the traditional Primat der Außenpolitik (Primacy of Foreign Politics) approach of Carl von Clausewitz and Leopold von Ranke that argues it is the decisions of statesmen and the geopolitical situation that leads to peace. More recent sociological approaches focus on the role of geo-politics, fiscal crisis and expanding state power (Charles Tilly, Michael Mann), culture (John Hutchinson, Philip Smith), economic rationality (David Laitin, Stathis Kalyvas) and social organisations and ideology (Sinisa Malesevic).

Demographic theories


Gari Melchers, Mural of War, 1896.

Demographic theories can be grouped into two classes, Malthusian theories and youth bulge theories.

Malthusian theories

Malthusian theories see expanding population and scarce resources as a source of violent conflict.

Pope Urban II in 1095, on the eve of the First Crusade, wrote, "For this land which you now inhabit, shut in on all sides by the sea and the mountain peaks, is too narrow for your large population; it scarcely furnishes food enough for its cultivators. Hence it is that you murder and devour one another, that you wage wars, and that many among you perish in civil strife. Let hatred, therefore, depart from among you; let your quarrels end. Enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulchre; wrest that land from a wicked race, and subject it to yourselves."

This is one of the earliest expressions of what has come to be called the Malthusian theory of war, in which wars are caused by expanding populations and limited resources. Thomas Malthus (1766–1834) wrote that populations always increase until they are limited by war, disease, or famine.

This theory is thought by Malthusians to account for the relative decrease in wars during the past fifty years, especially in the developed world, where advances in agriculture have made it possible to support a much larger population than was formerly the case, and where birth control has dramatically slowed the increase in population.

Youth bulge theory


File:Median age.png

Median age by country. A youth bulge is evident for Africa, and to a lesser extent for South and Southeast Asia and Central America.

Youth bulge theory differs significantly from Malthusian theories. Its adherents see a combination of large male youth cohorts—as graphically represented as a "youth bulge" in a population pyramid—with a lack of regular, peaceful employment opportunities as a risk pool for violence.

While Malthusian theories focus on a disparity between a growing population and available natural resources, youth bulge theory focuses on a disparity between non-inheriting, 'excess' young males and available social positions within the existing social system of division of labour.

Contributors to the development of youth bulge theory include French sociologist Gaston Bouthoul,[42] US sociologist Jack A. Goldstone,[43] US political scientist Gary Fuller,[44][45][46] and German sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn.[47] Samuel Huntington has modified his Clash of Civilizations theory by using youth bulge theory as its foundation:

I don't think Islam is any more violent than any other religions, and I suspect if you added it all up, more people have been slaughtered by Christians over the centuries than by Muslims. But the key factor is the demographic factor. Generally speaking, the people who go out and kill other people are males between the ages of 16 and 30.

During the 1960s, 70s and 80s there were high birth rates in the Muslim world, and this has given rise to a huge youth bulge. But the bulge will fade. Muslim birth rates are going down; in fact, they have dropped dramatically in some countries. Islam did spread by the sword originally, but I don't think there is anything inherently violent in Muslim theology."[48]

Youth Bulge theories represent a relatively recent development but seem to have become more influential in guiding US foreign policy and military strategy as both Goldstone and Fuller have acted as consultants to the US Government. CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson referred to youth bulge theory in his 2002 report "The National Security Implications of Global Demographic Change".[49] Critics of this theory say it ignores political events in the Muslim world which motivate resistance to the West.

According to Heinsohn, who has proposed youth bulge theory in its most generalized form, a youth bulge occurs when 30 to 40 percent of the males of a nation belong to the "fighting age" cohorts from 15 to 29 years of age. It will follow periods with total fertility rates as high as 4-8 children per woman with a 15-29 year delay.

A total fertility rate of 2.1 children born by a woman during her lifetime represents a situation where the son will replace the father, and the daughter will replace the mother. Thus, a total fertility rate of 2.1 represents replacement level, while anything below represents a sub-replacement fertility rate leading to population decline.

Total fertility rates above 2.1 will lead to population growth and to a youth bulge. A total fertility rate of 4-8 children per mother implies 2-4 sons per mother. Consequently, one father has to leave not 1, but 2 to 4 social positions (jobs) to give all his sons a perspective for life, which is usually hard to achieve. Since respectable positions cannot be increased at the same speed as food, textbooks and vaccines, many "angry young men" find themselves in a situation that tends to escalate their adolescent anger into violence: they are

  1. Demographically superfluous,
  2. Might be out of work or stuck in a menial job, and
  3. Often have no access to a legal sex life before a career can earn them enough to provide for a family. See: Hypergamy, Waithood.

The combination of these stress factors according to Heinsohn[50] has typically lead such young men to pursue one of the following six different strategies:

  1. Emigration ("non violent colonization")
  2. Violent Crime
  3. Rebellion or putsch
  4. Civil war and/or revolution
  5. Genocide (to take over the positions of the slaughtered)
  6. Conquest (violent colonization, frequently including genocide abroad).

Religions and ideologies are seen as secondary factors that are being used to legitimize violence, but will not lead to violence by themselves if no youth bulge is present. Consequently, youth bulge theorists see both past "Christianist" European colonialism and imperialism and today's "Islamist" civil unrest and terrorism as results of high birth rates producing youth bulges.[51] Youth bulge theorists consider the Gaza Strip as another example of youth-bulge-driven violence, especially if compared to Lebanon which is geographically close, yet remarkably more peaceful.[52]

Among prominent historical events that have been linked to the existence of youth bulges is the role played by the historically large youth cohorts in the rebellion and revolution waves of early modern Europe, including French Revolution of 1789,[53] and the importance of economic depression hitting the largest German youth cohorts ever in explaining the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s.[54] The 1994 Rwandan Genocide has also been analyzed as following a massive youth bulge.[55]

While the implications of population growth have been known since the completion of the National Security Study Memorandum 200 in 1974,[56] neither the US nor the WHO have implemented the recommended measures to control population growth to avert the terrorist threat.

Youth Bulge theory has been subjected to statistical analysis by the World Bank,[57] Population Action International,[58] and the Berlin Institute for Population and Development.[59] Detailed demographic data for most countries is available at the international database of the United States Census Bureau.[60]

Youth bulge theories have been criticized as leading to racial, gender and age "discrimination".[61]

Rationalist theories

Rationalist theories of war assume that both sides to a potential war are rational, which is to say that each side wants to get the best possible outcome for itself for the least possible loss of life and property to its own side. Given this assumption, if both countries knew in advance how the war would turn out, it would be better for both of them to just accept the post-war outcome without having to actually pay the costs of fighting the war. This is based on the notion, generally agreed to by almost all scholars of war since Carl von Clausewitz, that wars are reciprocal, that all wars require both a decision to attack and also a decision to resist attack. Rationalist theory offers three reasons why some countries cannot find a bargain and instead resort to war: issue indivisibility, information asymmetry with incentive to deceive, and the inability to make credible commitments.[62]

Issue indivisibility occurs when the two parties cannot avoid war by bargaining because the thing over which they are fighting cannot be shared between them, only owned entirely by one side or the other. Religious issues, such as control over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, are more likely to be indivisible than economic issues.

A bigger branch of the theory, advanced by scholars of international relations such as Geoffrey Blainey, is that both sides decide to go to war and one side may have miscalculated.

Some go further and say that there is a problem of information asymmetry with incentives to misrepresent. The two countries may not agree on who would win a war between them, or whether victory would be overwhelming or merely eked out, because each side has military secrets about its own capabilities. They will not avoid the bargaining failure by sharing their secrets, since they cannot trust each other not to lie and exaggerate their strength to extract more concessions. For example, Sweden made efforts to deceive Nazi Germany that it would resist an attack fiercely, partly by playing on the myth of Aryan superiority and by making sure that Hermann Göring only saw elite troops in action, often dressed up as regular soldiers, when he came to visit.

The American decision to enter the Vietnam War was made with the full knowledge that the communist forces would resist them, but did not believe that the guerrillas had the capability to long oppose American forces.

Thirdly, bargaining may fail due to the states' inability to make credible commitments.[63] In this scenario, the two countries might be able to come to a bargain that would avert war if they could stick to it, but the benefits of the bargain will make one side more powerful and lead it to demand even more in the future, so that the weaker side has an incentive to make a stand now.

Rationalist explanations of war can be critiqued on a number of grounds. The assumptions of cost-benefit calculations become dubious in the most extreme genocidal cases of World War II, where the only bargain offered in some cases was infinitely bad. Rationalist theories typically assume that the state acts as a unitary individual, doing what is best for the state as a whole; this is problematic when, for example, the country's leader is beholden to a very small number of people, as in a personalistic dictatorship. Rationalist theory also assumes that the actors are rational, able to accurately assess their likelihood of success or failure, but the proponents of the psychological theories above would disagree.

Rationalist theories are usually explicated with game theory, for example, the Peace War Game, not a wargame as such, rather a simulation of economic decisions underlying war.

Political science theories

The statistical analysis of war was pioneered by Lewis Fry Richardson following World War I. More recent databases of wars and armed conflict have been assembled by the Correlates of War Project, Peter Brecke and the Uppsala Conflict Data Program.

There are several different international relations theory schools. Supporters of realism in international relations argue that the motivation of states is the quest for security. Which is argued to contradict the liberal view, that there is much empirical evidence to support the claim that states that are democracies do not go to war with each other, an idea that has come to be known as the democratic peace theory. Other factors included are difference in moral and religious beliefs, economical and trade disagreements, declaring independence, and others.

Another major theory relating to power in international relations and machtpolitik is the Power Transition theory, which distributes the world into a hierarchy and explains major wars as part of a cycle of hegemons being destabilized by a great power which does not support the hegemons' control.

Military adventurism can sometimes be used by political leaders as a means of boosting their domestic popularity, as has been recorded in US war-time presidential popularity surveys taken during the presidencies of several recent US leaders.[64]

Morality of wars

File:Morgen nach der Schlacht967b.jpg

"The morning after the battle of Waterloo", by John Heaviside Clarke, 1816.

Throughout history war has been the source of serious moral questions. Although many ancient nations and some modern ones have viewed war as noble, over the sweep of history, concerns about the morality of war have gradually increased. Today, war is seen by many as undesirable and morally problematic. At the same time, many view war, or at least the preparation and readiness and willingness to engage in war, as necessary for the defense of their country and therefore just war. Pacifists believe that war is inherently immoral and that no war should ever be fought.

The negative view of war has not always been held as widely as it is today. Heinrich von Treitschke saw war as humanity's highest activity where courage, honour, and ability were more necessary than in any other endeavour. Friedrich Nietzsche also saw war as an opportunity for the Übermensch to display heroism, honour, and other virtues.[citation needed] However, it is important to note that both Heinrich Von Treitschke and Frederich Nietzsche never participated in any wars due to incidents beforehand. Von Treitschke fell deaf at a young age, preventing him from any military service. Nietzsche endured a tragic riding accident which left him unfit for military service. Also, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Thomas Mann, who are mentioned in the following paragraph, both never participated in any wars either, but are regardless, well known, influential and intelligent philosophers of their time.

Another supporter of war, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, favoured it as part of the necessary process required for history to unfold and allow society to progress. At the outbreak of World War I, the writer Thomas Mann wrote, "Is not peace an element of civil corruption and war a purification, a liberation, an enormous hope?" This attitude has been embraced by societies from Sparta and Rome in the ancient world to the fascist states of the 1930s. Support for war continues to this day, especially regarding the notion of a Just War (necessary wars required to halt an aggressor or otherwise dangerous nation or group).

International law recognizes only two cases for a legitimate war:

  1. Wars of defense: when one nation is attacked by an aggressor, it is considered legitimate for a nation along with its allies to defend itself against the aggressor (where retaliation is considered a form of defense).
  2. Wars sanctioned by the UN Security Council: when the United Nations as a whole acts as a body against a certain nation. Examples include various peacekeeping operations around the world, as well as the Korean and Iraq-Kuwait War.

The subset of international law known as the law of war or international humanitarian law also recognizes regulations for the conduct of war, including the Geneva Conventions governing the legitimacy of certain kinds of weapons, and the treatment of prisoners of war. Cases where these conventions are broken are considered war crimes, and since the Nuremberg Trials at the end of World War II the international community has established a number of tribunals to try such cases.

A nation's economy is often stimulated by government war-spending. When countries wage war, more weapons, armor, ammunition, and the like are needed to be created and sold to the armies, thus their economies can enter a boom (or war economy) reducing unemployment.

Conduct of wars

Template:Original research The war, to become known as one, must entail some degree of confrontation using weapons and other military technology and equipment by armed forces employing military tactics and Operational art within the broad military strategy subject to military logistics. War Studies by military theorists throughout military history have sought to identify the Philosophy of war, and to reduce it to a Military science.

In general, modern military science considers several factors before a National defence policy is created to allow a war to commence: the environment in the area(s) of combat operations, the posture national forces will adopt on the commencement of a war, and the type of warfare troops will be engaged in.

Behaviour and conduct in war

Template:Rquote The behaviour of troops in warfare varies considerably, both individually and as units or armies. In some circumstances, troops may engage in genocide, war rape and ethnic cleansing. Commonly, however, the conduct of troops may be limited to posturing and sham attacks, leading to highly rule-bound and often largely symbolic combat in which casualties are much reduced from that which would be expected if soldiers were genuinely violent towards the enemy.[65]

Situations of deliberate dampening of hostilities occurred in World War I by some accounts, e.g., a volley of gunfire being exchanged after a misplaced mortar hit the British line, after which a German soldier shouted an apology to British forces, effectively stopping a hostile exchange of gunfire.[66] Other examples of non-aggression, also from World War I, are detailed in Goodbye to all that. These include spontaneous ceasefires to rebuild defences and retrieve casualties, alongside behaviour such as refusing to shoot at enemy during ablutions and the taking of great risks (described as 1 in 20) to retrieve enemy wounded from the battlefield. The most notable spontaneous ceasefire of World War I was the Christmas truce.

It has been postulated that sport serves as a direct alternative to war, and may be regarded as having an equivalent social function. Sipes found war and sporting alternatives to be positively correlated.[67]

The psychological separation between combatants, and the destructive power of modern weaponry, may act to override this effect and facilitate participation by combatants in the mass slaughter of combatants or civilians, such as in the bombing of Dresden in World War II.[citation needed] The unusual circumstances of warfare can incite apparently normal individuals to commit atrocities.[68]

Types of warfare

  • Conventional warfare is an attempt to reduce an opponent's military capability through open battle. It is a declared war between existing states in which nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons are not used or only see limited deployment in support of conventional military goals and maneuvers.
The opposite of conventional warfare, unconventional warfare, is an attempt to achieve military victory through acquiescence, capitulation, or clandestine support for one side of an existing conflict.
  • Nuclear warfare is a war in which nuclear weapons are the primary method of coercing the capitulation of the other side, as opposed to a supporting tactical or strategic role in a conventional conflict.
  • Civil war is a war where the forces in conflict belong to the same nation or political entity and are vying for control of or independence from that nation or political entity.
  • Asymmetric warfare is a conflict between two populations of drastically different levels of military capability or size. Asymmetric conflicts often result in guerrilla tactics being used to overcome the sometimes vast gaps in technology and force size.
  • Intentional air pollution in combat is one of a collection of techniques collectively called chemical warfare. Poison gas as a chemical weapon was principally used during World War I, and resulted in an estimated 91,198 deaths and 1,205,655 injuries.[22] Various treaties have sought to ban its further use. Non-lethal chemical weapons, such as tear gas and pepper spray, are widely used, sometimes with deadly effect.

Military posture

Historian Victor Davis Hanson has claimed there exists a unique "Western Way of War", in an attempt to explain the military successes of Western Europe.citation needed It originated in Ancient Greece, where, in an effort to reduce the damage that warfare has on society, the city-states developed the concept of a decisive pitched battle between heavy infantry. This would be preceded by formal declarations of war and followed by peace negotiations. In this system constant low-level skirmishing and guerrilla warfare were phased out in favour of a single, decisive contest, which in the end cost both sides less in casualties and property damage. Although it was later perverted by Alexander the Great?, this style of war initially allowed neighbours with limited resources to coexist and prosper.

He argues that Western-style armies are characterised by an emphasis on discipline and teamwork above individual bravado. Examples of Western victories over non-Western armies include the Battle of Marathon, the Battle of Gaugamela, the Siege of Tenochtitlan, the Battle of Plassey and the defence of Rorke's Drift.

Warfare environment

The environment in which a war is fought has a significant impact on the type of combat which takes place, and can include within its area different types of terrain. This in turn means that soldiers have to be trained to fight in a specific types of environments and terrains that generally reflects troops' mobility limitations or enablers. These include:

Conventional warfare

Unconventional warfare

Effects of war

File:War world map - DALY - WHO2004.svg

Disability-adjusted life year for war per 100,000 inhabitants in 2004.[69]

  no data
  less than 100
  more than 8800

It is estimated that 378 000 people died due to war each year between 1985 and 1994.[70]


The Apotheosis of War (1871) by Vasily Vereshchagin

Today, for Iraq alone, there has been over a million deaths as a direct consequence of the American occupation of Iraq.[71][72][73][74]

On soldiers


For instance, during the Seven Years' War, the Royal Navy reported that it conscripted 184,899 sailors, of whom 133,708 died of disease or were 'missing'.[75] Based on 1860 census figures, 8% of all white American males aged 13 to 43 died in the American Civil War, including 6% in the North and 18% in the South.[76] Of the 60 million European soldiers who were mobilized in World War I, 8 million were killed, 7 million were permanently disabled, and 15 million were seriously injured.[77]

During Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, more French soldiers died of typhus than were killed by the Russians.[78] Felix Markham thinks that 450,000 crossed the Neman on 25 June 1812, of whom less than 40,000 recrossed in anything like a recognizable military formation.[79] More soldiers were killed from 1500–1914 by typhus than from all military action during that time combined.[80] In addition, if it were not for the modern medical advances there would be thousands of more dead from disease and infection.

On civilians

Many wars have been accompanied by significant depopulations. During the Thirty Years' War in Europe, for example, the population of the German states was reduced by about 30%.[81][82] The Swedish armies alone may have destroyed up to 2,000 castles, 18,000 villages and 1,500 towns in Germany, one-third of all German towns.[83]

Estimates for the total casualties of World War II vary, but most suggest that some 60 million people died in the war, including about 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians.[84] The Soviet Union lost around 27 million people during the war, about half of all World War II casualties.[85] Since a high proportion of those killed were young men, the postwar Soviet population was 45 to 50 million smaller than post–1939 projections would have led one to expect.[86] The largest number of civilian deaths in a single city was about 1 million citizens dead during the 872-day Siege of Leningrad.

On the economy

Once a war has ended, losing nations are sometimes required to pay war reparations to the victorious nations. In certain cases, land is ceded to the victorious nations. For example, the territory of Alsace-Lorraine has been traded between France and Germany on three different occasions.

Typically speaking, war becomes very intertwined with the economy and many wars are partially or entirely based on economic reasons such as the American Civil War. In some cases war has stimulated a country's economy (World War II is often credited with bringing America out of the Great Depression) but in many cases, such as the wars of Louis XIV, the Franco-Prussian War, and World War I, warfare serves only to damage the economy of the countries involved. For example, Russia's involvement in World War I took such a toll on the Russian economy that it almost collapsed and greatly contributed to the start of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

World War II

One of the starkest illustrations of the effect of war upon economies is the Second World War. The Great Depression of the 1930s ended as nations increased their production of war materials to serve the war effort.[87] The financial cost of the World War II is estimated at about $1.944 trillion US dollars worldwide,[88][89] making it the most costly war in capital as well as lives.

By the end of the war, the European economy had collapsed with 70% of the industrial infrastructure destroyed.[90] Property damage in the Soviet Union inflicted by the Axis invasion was estimated to a value of 679 billion rubles. The combined damage consisted of complete or partial destruction of 1,710 cities and towns, 70,000 villages/hamlets, 2,508 church buildings, 31,850 industrial establishments, 40,000 miles of railroad, 4100 railroad stations, 40,000 hospitals, 84,000 schools, and 43,000 public libraries.[91]

Factors ending a war

File:Aftermath Battle of Triboltingen.jpg

Women and priests retrieve the dead bodies of Swabian soldiers just outside the city gates of Constance after the battle of Schwaderloh. (Luzerner Schilling)

The political and economic circumstances in the peace that follows war usually depends on the "facts on the ground". Where evenly matched adversaries decide that the conflict has resulted in a stalemate, they may cease hostilities to avoid further loss of life and property. They may decide to restore the antebellum territorial boundaries, redraw boundaries at the line of military control, or negotiate to keep or exchange captured territory. Negotiations between parties involved at the end of a war often result in a treaty, such as the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, which ended the First World War.

A warring party that surrenders or capitulates may have little negotiating power, with the victorious side either imposing a settlement or dictating most of the terms of any treaty. A common result is that conquered territory is brought under the dominion of the stronger military power. An unconditional surrender is made in the face of overwhelming military force as an attempt to prevent further harm to life and property. For example, the Empire of Japan gave an unconditional surrender to the Allies of World War II after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (see Surrender of Japan), the preceding massive strategic bombardment of Japan and declaration of war and the immediate invasion of Manchuria by the Soviet Union. A settlement or surrender may also be obtained through deception or bluffing.

Many other wars, however, have ended in complete destruction of the opposing territory, such as the Battle of Carthage of the Third Punic War between the Phoenician city of Carthage and Ancient Rome in 149 BC. In 146 BC the Romans burned the city, enslaved its citizens, and razed the buildings.

Some wars or aggressive actions end when the military objective of the victorious side has been achieved. Others do not, especially in cases where the state structures do not exist, or have collapsed prior to the victory of the conqueror. In such cases, disorganised guerilla warfare may continue for a considerable period. In cases of complete surrender conquered territories may be brought under the permanent dominion of the victorious side. A raid for the purposes of looting may be completed with the successful capture of goods. In other cases an aggressor may decide to end hostilities to avoid continued losses and cease hostilities without obtaining the original objective, such as happened in the Iran–Iraq War.

Some hostilities, such as insurgency or civil war, may persist for long periods of time with only a low level of military activity. In some cases there is no negotiation of any official treaty, but fighting may trail off and eventually stop after the political demands of the belligerent groups have been reconciled, a political settlement has been negotiated, or combatants are gradually killed or decide the conflict is futile.

List of wars by death toll

Template:Merge to These figures include deaths of civilians from diseases, famine, atrocities etc. as well as deaths of soldiers in battle.

This is an incomplete list of wars.

In popular culture

See also

Template:Very long


Possible causes-
General reference-
War related lists-

Further reading

  • Barzilai Gad, Wars, Internal Conflicts and Political Order: A Jewish Democracy in the Middle East (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996).
  • Clausewitz, Carl Von (1976), On War (Princeton and New Jersey: Princeton University Press)
  • Codevilla, Angelo and Paul Seabury, War: Ends and Means (Potomac Books, Revised second edition by Angelo Codevilla, 2006) ISBN-X
  • Codevilla, Angelo, No Victory, No Peace (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005) ISBN
  • Fry, Douglas P., 2005, The Human Potential for Peace: An Anthropological Challenge to Assumptions about War and Violence, Oxford University Press.
  • Gat, Azar 2006 War in Human Civilization, Oxford University Press.
  • Heinsohn, Gunnar, Söhne und Weltmacht: Terror im Aufstieg und Fall der Nationen ("Sons and Imperial Power: Terror and the Rise and Fall of Nations"), Orell Füssli (September 2003), ISBN, available online as free download (in German)
  • Heuser, Beatrice, "Misleading Paradigms of War: States and Non-State Actors, Combatants and Non-Combatants", War and Society Vol. 27 No. 2 (Oct. 2008), pp. 1–24 [23].
  • Fabio Maniscalco, (2007). World Heritage and War — monographic series "Mediterraneum", vol. VI. Massa, Naples. ISBN.
  • Keegan, John, (1994) "A History Of Warfare", (Pimlico)
  • Kelly, Raymond C., 2000, Warless Societies and the Origin of War, University of Michigan Press.
  • Small, Melvin & Singer, David J. (1982). Resort to Arms: International and Civil Wars,. Sage Publications. ISBN 0803917767. ISBN.
  • Malesevic, Sinisa, (2010). The Sociology of War and Violence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Otterbein, Keith, 2004, How War Began.
  • Turchin, P. 2005. War and Peace and War: Life Cycles of Imperial Nations. New York, NY: Pi Press. ISBN
  • Van Creveld, Martin The Art of War: War and Military Thought London: Cassell, Wellington House
  • Fornari, Franco (1974). The Psychoanalysis of War. Tr. Alenka Pfeifer. Garden City, New York: Doubleday Anchor Press. ISBN: . Reprinted (1975) Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN
  • Walzer, Michael (1977) Just and Unjust Wars (Basic Books)
  • Keeley, Lawrence. War Before Civilization, Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Zimmerman, L. The Crow Creek Site Massacre: A Preliminary Report, US Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, 1981.
  • Chagnon, N. The Yanomamo, Holt, Rinehart & Winston,1983.
  • Pauketat, Timothy. North American Archaeology 2005. Blackwell Publishing.
  • Wade, Nicholas. Before the Dawn, Penguin: New York 2006.
  • Rafael Karsten, Blood revenge, war, and victory feasts among the Jibaro Indians of eastern Ecuador (1923).
  • S. A. LeBlanc, Prehistoric Warfare in the American Southwest, University of Utah Press (1999).
  • Duane M. Capulla, War Wolf, University of Pili (2008)


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  4. O'Connell, Sanjida (2004-01-07). "Apes of war... is it in our genes?". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2010-02-06. Analysis of chimpanzee war behaviour
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