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Related subjects: Military History and War

War is any large scale, violent conflict. The conduct of war extends along a continuum, from the almost universal tribal warfare that began well before recorded human history, to wars between city states, nations, or empires. By extension, the word is now used for any struggle, as in the war on drugs or the war on terror. It was once thought humans were the only creatures who fought wars, but closer observation of animal life has discovered wars between ant colonies, and between chimpanzee tribes.

A group of combatants and their support is called an army on land, a navy at sea, and air force in the air. Wars may be prosecuted simultaneously in one or more different theatres. Within each theatre, 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. Continuous conflict is traditionally called a battle, although this terminology is not always fed to conflicts involving aircraft, missiles or bombs alone, in the absence of ground troops or naval forces. A civil war is the use of force to resolve internal differences.

Factors leading to war

A big war may begin following an official declaration of war but undeclared wars are common. Any general theory of war must explain not only war but also peace. It must explain not only the wars fought in almost every generation in almost every country in the world, but also the rare instances of extended relative peace, including the Pax Romana and the peace in Europe since World War II.

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 the population. 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 end the practice of child sacrifice. Since many people are involved, a war may acquire a life of its own -- from the confluences of many different motivations.

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 mis-perceptions of the enemy's intentions. In War Before Civilization, Lawrence H. Keeley, a professor at the University of Illinois, says that approximately 90-95% of known societies engaged in at least occasional warfare, and many fought constantly.

Costs vs Benefits Analysis of War theories

Wars happen when one group of people or organization perceives the benefits that can be obtained greater than the cost. This can happen for a variety of reasons:

  1. To protect national pride by preventing the loss of territory
  2. To protect livelihood by preventing the loss of resources or by declaring independence, or
  3. To inflict punishment on the "wrong" doer, especially when one country is perceived as stronger than the other and can effectively deal out the punishment.

All out war between nuclear powered states in the modern era is extremely unlikely in regards to this view, as demonstrated in the Cold War between two super-powers, because the perceived benefit is far outweighed by the costs when millions of lives could be lost and national economy destroyed in a nuclear war.

Psychological theories

Psychologists such as E.F.M. Durban and John Bowlby have argued that human beings are inherently violent. While this violence is repressed in normal society, it needs the occasional outlet provided by war. This combines with other notions such as displacement, where a person transfers their grievances into bias and hatred against other ethnic groups, racial groups, nations or ideologies. While these theories may have some explanatory value about why wars occur, they do not explain when or how they occur. Nor do they explain the existence of certain human cultures completely devoid of war. If the innate psychology of the human mind is unchanging, these variations are inconsistent. A solution adapted to this problem by militarists such as 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.

If war is innate to human nature, as is presupposed by many psychological theories, then there is little hope of ever escaping it. Psychologists have argued that while human temperament allows wars to occur, this only happens when mentally unbalanced people are in control of a nation. This school of thought argues leaders that seek war such as Napoleon, Hitler,Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti and Stalin were mentally abnormal, but fails to explain the thousands of free and presumably sane people who wage wars at their behest.

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. 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. The earliest advocate of this theory was Konrad Lorenz. 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 strongly denies such universalistic instinctual arguments, pointing out that social factors and childhood socialization are important in determining the nature and presence of warfare. Thus while human aggression may be a universal occurrence, warfare is not and would appear to have been a historical invention, associated with certain types of human societies.

The Italian psychoanalyst Franco Fornari, a follower of Melanie Klein, thought that war was the paranoid or projective “elaboration” of mourning. (Fornari 1975). Our nation and country play an unconscious maternal role in our feelings, as expressed in the term “motherland.” 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. Fornari called war the “spectacular establishment of a general human situation whereby death assumes absolute value.” We are sure that the ideas for which we die must be true, because “death becomes a demonstrative process.”

Sociological theories

Sociology has long been very concerned with the origins of war, and many thousands of theories have been advanced, many of them contradictory. Sociology has thus 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 war.

Demographic theories

Gari Melchers, Mural of War, 1896.

Demographic theories can be grouped into two classes, Malthusian theories and youth bulge 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 Sepulcher; 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 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,, U.S. sociologist Jack A. Goldstone,, U.S. political scientist Gary Fuller,, and German sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn. 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."

Youth Bulge theories represent a relatively recent development but seem to have become more influential in guiding U.S. foreign policy and military strategy as both Goldstone and Fuller have acted as consultants to the U.S. Government. CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson referred to youth bulge theory in his 2002 report "The National Security Implications of Global Demographic Change".

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 of in which the son will replace the father, the daughter 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.

The combination of these stress factors according to Heinsohn usually heads for one of six different exits:

  1. Violent Crime
  2. Emigration ("non violent colonization")
  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 legitimate 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. While during the period of European colonialism, European countries had high birthrates and huge youth bulges that fueled colonialist expansion, today Afghanistan, which has a total fertility rate of 6 children per woman and an estimated unemployment rate of 40%, would represent a typical youth bulge country. The Gaza Strip can be seen as another example of youth-bulge-driven violence, especially if compared to Lebanon which is geographically close, yet remarkably more peaceful. 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, and the importance of economic depression hitting the largest German youth cohorts ever in explaining the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s. The 1994 Rwandan Genocide has also been analyzed as following a massive youth bulge.

While the security implications of rapid population growth have been well known since the completion of the National Security Study Memorandum 200 in 1974, neither the U.S. nor the WHO have effectively implemented the recommended preventive measures to control population growth to avert the terror threat they are now facing. Prominent demographer Stephen D. Mumford attributes this to the influence of the Catholic Church.

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

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

Evolutionary psychology theories

Wars are seen as the result of evolved psychological traits that are turned on by either being attacked or by a population perception of a bleak future. The theory accounts for the IRA going out of business, but leads to a dire view of current wars. Studies of endemic violence and tribal warfare in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea demonstrate that intertribal warfare is highest in those parts of the country where population densities are greatest and pressure on land and other resources is thereby maximized. Similarly, evidence of organized warfare in the Ancient World, in pre-dynastic Mesopotamia and in Ancient Egypt, suggests that organized systematic warfare only appeared after population densities had increased, and there was increased pressure upon limited ecological resources.

(These ideas above are actually old International Relations ideas and are not based on Evolutionary Psychology at all, in fact they are not consistent with the Theory of Evolution and so cannot be Evolutionary Psychology theories. A central tenet of the Theory of Evolution is that populations quickly fill their ecological niches, creating selective pressure for the most fit. In effect, a "bleak future" is a given over evolutionary time, in fact this insight of Malthus's lead Darwin to the Theory of Evolution, and it is maladaptive to wait until you perceive it coming, when your attack will be anticipated. It is also maladaptive to not take the opportunity to gain habitat and women by attacking your neighbour when they are weak. When the bleak future arrives they may be strong or have new allies. Maladaptive behaviors cannot be selected for. So the ideas above do not mesh with the theory which is central to Evolutionary Psychology. Nor do they fit with the anthropological record which Evolutionary Psychology always seeks to corroborate its ideas with.)

The book "The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War" by David Livingstone Smith is much more relevant for those seeking a view generated by the Evolutionary Psychology methodology.

The paper "Altruism and War" which can be found here is a work written for an academic audience which takes an Evolutionary Psychology viewpoint on war as well, attempting to describe for the first time the entire psychological process from commitment to group to willingness to kill members of another group on one's groups behalf.

A critical aspect of all true EP based theories of war is the understanding that most or all of the proximate causes of war are little more than excuses that our minds need to fabricate to justify their actions. These justifications take universal forms at every level of human group conflict. They can include: 1)The assertion that the other group presents a threat which must be defended against, 2)The assertion that the other group has provoked the conflict, 3)The assertion that the other group has committed acts which violate morality (such as stealing from your group, raping women, taking premature babies out of incubators), 4)Descriptions of the other group as being threat animals or pathogens (snakes, bears, jackals, cancers, rats, and so on), 5)Asserting that the other is inherently evil, 6)Asserting that the other group are insane or lead by the insane. The other inherent pattern is that positive group definitional attributes are seen as being the opposite of the enemy or rival group.

Evolutionary Psychology hypothesis on war also importantly show that the decision making process is rarely rational, that in fact human belief and decision making processes are often not rational on the whole.

Of course, one side sometimes is simply defending itself. But more often both sides go through a similar and linked psychological process of justification, as above, and an escalating cycle of verbal and then violent action. Such escalation takes place as an effect of our evolved program to punitively punish the other for their transgression through acts which attempt to dissuade them from further transgression, by going well beyond simple tit-for-tat.

Looking for rational causes, as is common in most hypothesis and even in the above mentioned notions of perceived bleak futures, is not the path to understanding war.

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.

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 the 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.

Intelligence gathering may sometimes, but not always, mitigate this problem. For example, the Argentinian dictatorship knew that the United Kingdom had the ability to defeat them, but their intelligence failed them on the question of whether the British would use their power to resist the annexation of the Falkland Islands.

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. 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.

Economic theories

Another school of thought argues that war can be seen as an outgrowth of economic competition in a chaotic and competitive international system. In this view wars begin as a pursuit of new markets, of natural resources, and of wealth. Unquestionably a cause of some wars, from the empire building of Britain to the 1941 Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in pursuit of oil, this theory has been applied to many other conflicts. It is most often advocated by those to the left of the political spectrum, who argue such wars serve the interests of the wealthy but are fought by the poor. Some to the right of the political spectrum may counter that poverty is relative and one poor in one country can be relatively wealthy in another. Such counter arguments become less valid as the increasing mobility of capital and information level the distributions of wealth worldwide, or when considering that it is relative, not absolute, wealth differences that may fuel wars. There are those on the extreme right of the political spectrum who provide support, fascists in particular, by asserting a natural right of the strong to whatever the weak cannot hold by force. Some centrist, capitalist, world leaders, including Presidents of the United States and US Generals, expressed support for an economic view of war.

"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.

"I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism." - simultaneously highest ranking and most decorated United States Marine (including two Medals of Honour) Major General Smedley Butler (and a Republican Party primary candidate for the United States Senate) 1935.

"For the corporation executives, the military metaphysic often coincides with their interest in a stable and planned flow of profit; it enables them to have their risk underwritten by public money; it enables them reasonably to expect that they can exploit for private profit now and later, the risky research developments paid for by public money. It is, in brief, a mask of the subsidized capitalism from which they extract profit and upon which their power is based." C. Wright Mills, Causes of world war 3,1960

"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, Jan. 17, 1961.

Marxist theories

The Marxist theory of war argues that all war grows out of the class war. It sees wars as imperial ventures to enhance the power of the ruling class and divide the proletariat of the world by pitting them against each other for contrived ideals such as nationalism or religion. Wars are a natural outgrowth of the free market and class system, and will not disappear until a world revolution occurs.

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 Department of Peace and Conflict Research.

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, to ensure survival. One position, sometimes argued to contradict the realist view, is 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 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.

Effects of war

On soldiers

Many may experience post-traumatic disorder by becoming traumatized by the experience of war. They would have dedicated their lives to fighting battles, with little possibility of regaining the ability to live successfully as a civilian.

On civilians

Besides the untold losses of livelihoods and lives, people growing up under conflicts develop a heightened sense of justice and punishment, and more likely to believe it is morally justified to revenge against someone.

On the economy

Depending on the amount of damage and the weapons used, farmlands may become infertile and certain regions may be uninhabitable due to radiation contamination. In other cases, a victory and little damage to industrial capacity at home might pull the country out of a depression as happened to the United States in World War II.

Types of war and warfare

Just Cause War

The Just War Theory was asserted as authoritative Catholic Church teaching by the United States Catholic Bishops in their pastoral letter, "'The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response," issued in 1983. More recently, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2309, published in 1994, lists four "strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force.

By cause

Marxism, succeeded by the Soviet ideology, distinguished the just and unjust war. Just war was considered to be slave rebellions, or national liberation movements, while an unjust war carried the imperialistic character. Smaller armed conflicts are often called riots, rebellions, coups, etc.

When one country sends armed forces to another, allegedly to restore order or prevent genocide, or other crimes against humanity, or to support a legally recognized government against insurgency, that country sometimes refers to it as a police action. This usage is not always recognized as valid, however, particularly by those who do not accept the connotations of the term.

A Fault Line War is a war that is fought between two or more civilizations. The issue at stake in a fault line war is very symbolic for at least one of the groups involved.

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. 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. 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 using non-traditional means.

Civil war is a war where the forces in conflict belong to the same nation or political entity and are vying for control of that nation or political entity. Asymmetric warfare is a conflict between two populations of drastically different levels of military mechanization, size or capability. 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 weapons was principally used during World War I, and resulted in an estimated 91,198 deaths and 1,205,655 injuries. 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.

Type Example
Extortionate Pecheneg and Cuman forays on Rus in 9th–13th centuries
Aggressive the wars of Alexander the Great in 326– 323 BC
Colonial Sino-French War
Imperial Rebellion Algerian War
Religious Crusades
Dynastic War of the Spanish Succession
Trade Opium Wars
Revolutionary French Revolutionary Wars
Guerrilla Peninsular War
Civil Spanish Civil War
Secessionist American Civil War
Nuclear No true nuclear war fought. Nuclear weapons used during the Second World War.

By style

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. 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, 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:

  • Arctic warfare or Winter warfare in general
  • Desert warfare
  • Jungle warfare
  • Maneuver warfare
  • Naval warfare or Aquatic warfare that includes Littoral, Amphibious and Riverine warfare
  • Sub-aquatic warfare
  • Mountain warfare sometimes called Alpine warfare
  • Urban warfare
  • Air warfare that includes Airborne warfare and Airmobile warfare
  • Space warfare
  • Electronic warfare including Radio, Radar and Network warfare
  • Border warfare a type of limited defensive warfare
  • Mine warfare a type of static terrain denial warfare
  • Psychological warfare
  • Guerilla warfare
  • Cyber warfare
  • Energy warfare
  • Biological warfare
  • Trench warfare
  • Nuclear warfare

History of war

There is little agreement about the origins of war. Some believe war has always been with us; others stress the lack of clear evidence for war in our prehistoric past, and the fact that many peaceful, non-military societies have and still do exist.

Originally, war likely consisted of small-scale raiding. Since the rise of the state some 5000 years ago, military activity has occurred over much of the globe. The advent of gunpowder and the acceleration of technological advances led to modern warfare.

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 Peace and Conflict study indicates that the overall decline in conflicts has stalled.

Morality of war

My Lai Massacre.

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 some 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. 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. 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.

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 to defend itself against the aggressor.
  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.

The subset of international law known as the law of war or international humanitarian law also recognises 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.

Factors ending a war

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 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 war-like 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

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.

  • 60,000,000–72,000,000 - World War II (1939–1945), (see World War II casualties)
  • 30,000,000–60,000,000 - Mongol Conquests (13th century) (see Mongol invasions and Tatar invasions)
  • 25,000,000 - Manchu conquest of Ming China (1616–1662)
  • 20,000,000–70,000,000 - World War I (1914–1918) (see World War I casualties) note that the larger number includes Spanish flu deaths
  • 20,000,000 - Taiping Rebellion (China, 1851–1864) (see Dungan revolt)
  • 20,000,000 - Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945)
  • 10,000,000 - Warring States Era (China, 475 BC–221 BC)
  • 7,000,000 - 20,000,000 Conquests of Timur the Lame (1360-1405) (see List of wars in the Muslim world)
  • 5,000,000–9,000,000 - Russian Civil War and Foreign Intervention (1917–1921)
  • 5,000,000 - Conquests of Menelik II of Ethiopia (1882- 1898)
  • 3,800,000 - 5,400,000 - Second Congo War (1998–2007)
  • 3,500,000–6,000,000 - Napoleonic Wars (1804–1815) (see Napoleonic Wars casualties)
  • 3,000,000–11,500,000 - Thirty Years' War (1618–1648)
  • 3,000,000–7,000,000 - Yellow Turban Rebellion (China, 184–205)
  • 2,500,000–3,500,000 - Korean War (1950–1953) (see Cold War)
  • 2,300,000–3,800,000 - Vietnam War (entire war 1945–1975)
    • 300,000–1,300,000 - First Indochina War (1945–1954)
    • 100,000–300,000 - Vietnamese Civil War (1954–1960)
    • 1,750,000–2,100,000 - American phase (1960–1973)
    • 170,000 - Final phase (1973–1975)
    • 175,000–1,150,000 - Secret War (1962–1975)
  • 2,000,000–4,000,000 - French Wars of Religion (1562–1598) (see Religious war)
  • 2,000,000 - Shaka's conquests (1816-1828)
  • 2,000,000 - Mahmud of Ghazni's invasions of India (1000-1027)
  • 300,000–3,000,000 - Bangladesh Liberation War (1971)
  • 1,500,000–2,000,000 - Afghan Civil War (1979 -)
    • 1,000,000–1,500,000 Soviet intervention (1979–1989)
  • 1,300,000–6,100,000 - Chinese Civil War (1928–1949) note that this figure excludes World War II casualties
    • 300,000–3,100,000 before 1937
    • 1,000,000–3,000,000 after World War II
  • 1,000,000–2,000,000 - Mexican Revolution (1910–1920)
  • 1,000,000 - Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988)
  • 1,000,000 - Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598)
  • 1,000,000 - Second Sudanese Civil War (1983–2005)
  • 1,000,000 - Nigerian Civil War (1967–1970)
  • 618,000 - 970,000 - American Civil War (including 350,000 from disease) (1861–1865)
  • 900,000–1,000,000 - Mozambique Civil War (1976–1993)
  • 868,000 - 1,400,000 - Seven Years' War (1756-1763)
  • 800,000 - 1,000,000 - Rwandan Civil War (1990-1994)
  • 800,000 - Congo Civil War (1991–1997)
  • 600,000 to 1,300,000 - First Jewish-Roman War (see List of Roman wars)
  • 580,000 - Bar Kokhba’s revolt (132–135CE)
  • 570,000 - Eritrean War of Independence (1961-1991)
  • 550,000 - Somali Civil War (1988 - )
  • 500,000 - 1,000,000 - Spanish Civil War (1936–1939)
  • 500,000 - Angolan Civil War (1975–2002)
  • 500,000 - Ugandan Civil War (1979–1986)
  • 400,000–1,000,000 - War of the Triple Alliance in Paraguay (1864–1870)
  • 400,000 - War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714)
  • 371,000 - Continuation War (1941-1944)
  • 350,000 - Great Northern War (1700-1721)
  • 315,000 - 735,000 - Wars of the Three Kingdoms (1639-1651) English campaign ~40,000, Scottish 73,000, Irish 200,000-620,000
  • 300,000 - Russian-Circassian War (1763-1864) (see Caucasian War)
  • 300,000 - First Burundi Civil War (1972)
  • 300,000 - Darfur conflict (2003-)
  • 270,000–300,000 - Crimean War (1854–1856)
  • 255,000-1,120,000 - Philippine-American War (1898-1913)
  • 230,000–1,400,000 - Ethiopian Civil War (1974–1991)
  • 220,000 - Liberian Civil War (1989 - )
  • 214,000 - 1,124,303 - Iraq War (2003-Present) (see Casualties of the Iraq War)
  • 200,000 - 1,000,000 - Albigensian Crusade (1208-1259)
  • 200,000–800,000 - Warlord era in China (1917–1928)
  • 200,000 - Second Punic War (BC218-BC204) (see List of Roman battles)
  • 200,000 - Sierra Leone Civil War (1991–2000)
  • 200,000 - Algerian Civil War (1991 - )
  • 200,000 - Guatemalan Civil War (1960–1996)
  • 190,000 - Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871)
  • 180,000 - 300,000 - La Violencia (1948-1958)
  • 170,000 - Greek War of Independence (1821-1829)
  • 150,000 - Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990)
  • 150,000 - North Yemen Civil War (1962–1970)
  • 150,000 - Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905)
  • 148,000-1,000,000 - Winter War (1939)
  • 125,000 - Eritrean-Ethiopian War (1998–2000)
  • 120,000 - 384,000 Great Turkish War (1683-1699) (see Ottoman-Habsburg wars)
  • 120,000 - Bosnian War (1992–1995)
  • 120,000 - Third Servile War (BC73-BC71)
  • 117,000 - 500,000 - Revolt in the Vendée (1793-1796)
  • 101,000 - 115,000 - Arab-Israeli conflict (1929- )
  • 100,500 - Chaco War (1932–1935)
  • 100,000 - 1,000,000 - War of the two brothers (1531–1532)
  • 100,000 - 400,000 - Western New Guinea (1984 - ) (see Genocide in West Papua)
  • 100,000 - 200,000 - Indonesian invasion of East Timor (1975-1978)
  • 100,000 - Persian Gulf War (1991)
  • 100,000–1,000,000 - Algerian War of Independence (1954–1962)
  • 100,000 - Thousand Days War (1899–1901)
  • 100,000 - Peasants' War (1524-1525)
  • 80,000 - Third Punic War (BC149-BC146)
  • 75,000 - 200,000? - Conquests of Alexander the Great (BC336-BC323)
  • 75,000 - El Salvador Civil War (1980–1992)
  • 75,000 - Second Boer War (1898–1902)
  • 70,000 - Boudica's uprising (AD60-AD61)
  • 69,000 - Internal conflict in Peru (1980 - )
  • 60,000 - Sri Lanka/Tamil conflict (1983-)
  • 60,000 - Nicaraguan Rebellion (1972-91)
  • 55,000 - War of the Pacific (1879-1885)
  • 50,000 - 200,000 - First Chechen War (1994–1996)
  • 50,000 - 100,000 - Tajikistan Civil War (1992–1997)
  • 50,000 - Wars of the Roses (1455-1485) (see Wars involving England)
  • 45,000 - Greek Civil War (1945-1949)
  • 41,00–100,000 - Kashmiri insurgency (1989 - )
  • 36,000 - Finnish Civil War (1918)
  • 35,000 - 40,000 - War of the Pacific (1879–1884)
  • 35,000 - 45,000 - Siege of Malta (1565) (see Ottoman wars in Europe)
  • 30,000 - Turkey/ PKK conflict (1984 - )
  • 30,000 - Sino-Vietnamese War (1979)
  • 25,000 - Second Chechen War (1999 - present)
  • 23,384 - Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 (December 1971)
  • 23,000 - Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988-1994)
  • 20,000 - 49,600 U.S. Invasion of Afghanistan (2001 – 2002)
  • 15,000–20,000 - Croatian War of Independence (1991–1995)
  • 11,053 - Malayan Emergency (1948-1960)
  • 10,000 - Amadu's Jihad (1810-1818)
  • 7,264–10,000 - Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 (August-September 1965)
  • 7,000–24,000 - American War of 1812 (1812-1815)
  • 7,000 - Kosovo War (1996–1999) (disputed)
  • 5,000 - Turkish invasion of Cyprus (1974)
  • 4,588 - Sino-Indian War (1962)
  • 4,000 - Waziristan War (2004-2006)
  • 4,000 - Irish Civil War (1922-23)
  • 3,700 - Northern Ireland conflict (1969 - 1998)
  • 3,000 - Civil war in Côte d'Ivoire (2002 - 2007)
  • 2,899 - New Zealand Land Wars (1845 - 1872)
  • 2,604–7,000 - Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 (October 1947 - December 1948)
  • 2,000 - Football War (1969)
  • 2,000 - Irish War of Independence (1919-21)
  • 1,975–4,500+ - violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (2000 -)
  • 1,547–2,173+ - 2006 Lebanon War
  • 1,724 - War of Lapland (1945)
  • 1,500 - Romanian Revolution (December 1989)
  • 1,000 - Zapatista uprising in Chiapas (1994)
  • 907 - Falklands War (1982)
  • 0 - Pig War (1859)
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