War is a state of armed conflict between states or societies. It is
generally characterized by extreme aggression, destruction, and
mortality, using regular or irregular military forces. An absence of
war is usually called "peace". Warfare refers to the common activities
and characteristics of types of war, or of wars in general. Total
war is warfare that is not restricted to purely legitimate military
targets, and can result in massive civilian or other non-combatant
suffering and casualties.
While some scholars see war as a universal and ancestral aspect of
human nature, others argue it is a result of specific
socio-cultural or ecological circumstances.
The deadliest war in history, in terms of the cumulative number of
deaths since its start, is World
War II, from 1939 to 1945, with
60–85 million deaths, followed by the Mongol conquests at up to
60 million. As concerns a belligerent's losses in proportion to its
prewar population, the most destructive war in modern history may have
Paraguayan War (see
Paraguayan War casualties). In 2013 war
resulted in 31,000 deaths, down from 72,000 deaths in 1990. In
Richard Smalley identified war as the sixth (of ten) biggest
problem facing humanity for the next fifty years.
results in significant deterioration of infrastructure and the
ecosystem, a decrease in social spending, famine, large-scale
emigration from the war zone, and often the mistreatment of prisoners
of war or civilians. For instance, of the nine million people
who were on the territory of the Byelorussian SSR in 1941, some 1.6
million were killed by the Germans in actions away from battlefields,
including about 700,000 prisoners of war, 500,000 Jews, and 320,000
people counted as partisans (the vast majority of whom were unarmed
civilians). Another byproduct of some wars is the prevalence of
propaganda by some or all parties in the conflict, and increased
revenues by weapons manufacturers.
3.1 Largest by death toll
4.1 Military and civilian casualties in recent human history
4.2 On military personnel
4.3 On civilians
4.4 On the economy
4.5 On the arts
6 Ongoing conflicts
7 Limiting and stopping
8 Theories for motivation
8.1 Psychoanalytic psychology
8.5.2 Youth bulge
8.7 Political science
8.7.1 System-level theories
8.7.2 Societal-level theories
8.7.3 Individual-level theories
10 See also
12 External links
War (1896), by Gari Melchers
The English word war derives from the late
Old English (circa.1050)
words wyrre and werre, from
Old French werre (also guerre as in modern
French), in turn from the Frankish *werra, ultimately deriving from
the Proto-Germanic *werzō 'mixture, confusion'. The word is related
Old Saxon werran,
Old High German
Old High German werran, and the German
verwirren, meaning “to confuse”, “to perplex”, and “to bring
into confusion”. In German, the equivalent is Krieg (from
Proto-Germanic *krīganą 'to strive, be stubborn'); the Spanish,
Portuguese, and Italian term for "war" is guerra, derived like the Old
French term from the Germanic word.
The scholarly study of war is sometimes called polemology
(/ˌpɒləˈmɒlədʒi/ POL-ə-MOL-ə-jee), from the Greek polemos,
meaning "war", and -logy, meaning "the study of".
Main article: Types of war
War must entail some degree of confrontation using weapons and other
military technology and equipment by armed forces employing military
tactics and operational art within a broad military strategy subject
to military logistics. Studies of war by military theorists throughout
military history have sought to identify the philosophy of war, and to
reduce it to a military science. 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.
Asymmetric warfare is a conflict between two populations of
drastically different levels of military capability or size.
Biological warfare, or germ warfare, is the use of weaponized
biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and
Chemical warfare involves the use of weaponized chemicals in combat.
Poison gas as a chemical weapon was principally used during World War
I, and resulted in over a million estimated casualties, including more
than 100,000 civilians.
Guernica (1937). The
Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War was one of Europe's
bloodiest and most brutal civil wars.
Civil war is a war between forces belonging to the same nation or
Conventional warfare is declared war between states in which nuclear,
biological, or chemical weapons are not used or see limited
Cyberwarfare involves the actions by a nation-state or international
organization to attack and attempt to damage another nation's
Information warfare is the application of destructive force on a large
scale against information assets and systems, against the computers
and networks that support the four critical infrastructures (the power
grid, communications, financial, and transportation).
Nuclear warfare is warfare in which nuclear weapons are the primary,
or a major, method of achieving capitulation.
Total war is warfare by any means possible, disregarding the laws of
war, placing no limits on legitimate military targets, using weapons
and tactics resulting in significant civilian casualties, or demanding
a war effort requiring significant sacrifices by the friendly civilian
Unconventional warfare, the opposite of conventional warfare, is an
attempt to achieve military victory through acquiescence,
capitulation, or clandestine support for one side of an existing
War of aggression is a war for conquest or gain rather than
self-defense; this can be the basis of war crimes under customary
Main article: Military history
The percentages of men killed in war in eight tribal societies, and
Europe and the U.S. in the 20th century. (Lawrence H. Keeley,
The earliest recorded evidence of war belongs to the Mesolithic
cemetery Site 117, which has been determined to be approximately
14,000 years old. About forty-five percent of the skeletons there
displayed signs of violent death. Since the rise of the state some
5,000 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. According to Conway W. Henderson, "One
source claims that 14,500 wars have taken place between 3500 BC and
the late 20th century, costing 3.5 billion lives, leaving only 300
years of peace (Beer 1981: 20)." An unfavorable review of this
estimate mentions the following regarding one of the proponents of
this estimate: "In addition, perhaps feeling that the war casualties
figure was improbably high, he changed "approximately 3,640,000,000
human beings have been killed by war or the diseases produced by war"
to "approximately 1,240,000,000 human beings...&c."" The lower
figure is more plausible, but could also be on the high side,
considering that the 100 deadliest acts of mass violence between 480
BCE and 2002 CE (wars and other man-made disasters with at least
300,000 and up to 66 million victims) claimed about 455 million human
lives in total. Primitive warfare is estimated to have accounted
for 15.1 % of deaths and claimed 400 million victims. Added
to the aforementioned (and perhaps too high) figure of 1,240 million
between 3500 BC and the late 20th century, this would mean a total of
1,640,000,000 people killed by war (including deaths from famine and
disease caused by war) throughout the history and pre-history of
mankind. For comparison, an estimated 1,680,000,000 people died from
infectious diseases in the 20th century.
Nuclear warfare breaking
out in August 1988, when nuclear arsenals were at peak level, and the
aftermath thereof, could have reduced human population from
5,150,000,000 by 1,850,000,000 to 3,300,000,000 within a period of
about one year, according to a projection that did not consider "the
most severe predictions concerning nuclear winter". This would
have been a proportional reduction of the world’s population
exceeding the reduction caused in the 14th century by the Black Death,
and comparable in proportional terms with the plague’s impact on
Europe's population in 1346–53.
War Before Civilization, Lawrence H. Keeley, a professor at the
University of Illinois, says approximately 90–95% of known societies
throughout history engaged in at least occasional warfare, and
many fought constantly.
Keeley describes several styles of primitive combat such as small
raids, large raids, and massacres. All of these forms of warfare were
used by primitive societies, a finding supported by other
researchers. Keeley explains that early war raids were not well
organized, as the participants did not have any formal training.
Scarcity of resources meant defensive works were not a cost effective
way to protect the society against enemy raids.
William Rubinstein wrote "Pre-literate societies, even those organised
in a relatively advanced way, were renowned for their studied
cruelty...'archaeology yields evidence of prehistoric massacres more
severe than any recounted in ethnography [i.e., after the coming of
Japanese samurai attacking a Mongol ship, 13th century
In Western Europe, since the late 18th century, more than 150
conflicts and about 600 battles have taken place. During the 20th
century, war resulted in a dramatic intensification of the pace of
social changes, and was a crucial catalyst for the emergence of the
Left as a force to be reckoned with.
Recent rapid increases in the technologies of war, and therefore in
its destructiveness (see mutual assured destruction), have caused
widespread public concern, and have in all probability forestalled,
and may 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
altogether. 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 U.S. Department of
War was renamed as the U.S. Department of
According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census (1894), the Indian Wars of
the 19th century cost the lives of about 50,000.
In 1947, in view of the rapidly increasingly destructive consequences
of modern warfare, and with a particular concern for the consequences
and costs of the newly developed atom bomb,
Albert Einstein famously
stated, "I know not with what weapons World
War III will be fought,
War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."
Mao Zedong urged the socialist camp not to fear nuclear war with the
United States since, even if "half of mankind died, the other half
would remain while imperialism would be razed to the ground and the
whole world would become socialist."
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 the overall decline in conflicts
Largest by death toll
List of wars by death toll
List of wars by death toll and Outline of war
Three of the ten most costly wars, in terms of loss of life, have been
waged in the last century. These are the two World Wars, followed by
Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War (which is sometimes considered part of
War II, or as overlapping). Most of the others involved China or
neighboring peoples. The death toll of World
War II, being over 60
million, surpasses all other war-death-tolls.
World War II
World War II (see
World War II
World War II casualties) 
Mongol Conquests (see Mongol invasions and Tatar
Taiping Rebellion (see Dungan revolt)
World War I
World War I (see
World War I
World War I casualties)
An Shi Rebellion
An Shi Rebellion (death toll uncertain)
Qing dynasty conquest of Ming dynasty
Second Sino-Japanese War
Conquests of Tamerlane
Dungan revolt
Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War and Foreign Intervention
Global deaths in conflicts since the year 1400.
Military and civilian casualties in recent human history
Disability-adjusted life year
Disability-adjusted life year for war per 100,000 inhabitants in
less than 100
more than 8800
Human history had numerous wars coming and going, but the average
number of people dying from war has fluctuated relatively little,
being about 1 to 10 people dying per 100,000. However, major wars over
shorter periods have resulted in much higher casualty rates, with
100-200 casualties per 100,000 over a few years. While conventional
wisdom holds that casualties have increased in recent times due to
technological improvements in warfare, this is not generally true. For
Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) had about the same number
of casualties per capita as World
War I, although it was higher during
World War II
World War II (WWII). That said, overall the number of casualties from
war has not significantly increased in recent times. Quite to the
contrary, on a global scale the time since WWII has been unusually
On military personnel
Military personnel subject to combat in war often suffer mental and
physical injuries, including depression, posttraumatic stress
disorder, disease, injury, and death.
In every war in which American soldiers have fought in, the chances of
becoming a psychiatric casualty – of being debilitated for some
period of time as a consequence of the stresses of military life –
were greater than the chances of being killed by enemy fire.
— No More Heroes, Richard Gabriel
War II, research conducted by
US Army Brigadier General
S.L.A. Marshall found, on average, 15% to 20% of American riflemen in
WWII combat fired at the enemy. In Civil
Encyclopedia, F.A. Lord notes that of the 27,574 discarded muskets
found on the Gettysburg battlefield, nearly 90% were loaded, with
12,000 loaded more than once and 6,000 loaded 3 to 10 times. These
studies suggest most military personnel resist firing their weapons in
combat, that – as some theorists argue – human beings have an
inherent resistance to killing their fellow human beings. Swank
and Marchand’s WWII study found that after sixty days of continuous
combat, 98% of all surviving military personnel will become
psychiatric casualties. Psychiatric casualties manifest themselves in
fatigue cases, confusional states, conversion hysteria, anxiety,
obsessional and compulsive states, and character disorders.
One-tenth of mobilised American men were hospitalised for mental
disturbances between 1942 and 1945, and after thirty-five days of
uninterrupted combat, 98% of them manifested psychiatric disturbances
in varying degrees.
— 14–18: Understanding the Great War, Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau,
The Apotheosis of
War (1871) by Vasily Vereshchagin
Additionally, it has been estimated anywhere from 18% to 54% of
Vietnam war veterans suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Based on 1860 census figures, 8% of all white American males aged 13
to 43 died in the American Civil War, including about 6% in the North
and approximately 18% in the South. The war remains the deadliest
conflict in American history, resulting in the deaths of 620,000
United States military casualties of war since
1775 have totaled over two million. Of the 60 million European
military personnel who were mobilized in World
War I, 8 million were
killed, 7 million were permanently disabled, and 15 million were
The remains of dead
Crow Indians killed and scalped by Sioux c. 1874
During Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, more French military personnel
died of typhus than were killed by the Russians. Of the 450,000
soldiers who crossed the Neman on 25 June 1812, less than 40,000
returned. More military personnel were killed from 1500–1914 by
typhus than from military action. In addition, if it were not for
modern medical advances there would be thousands more dead from
disease and infection. For instance, during the Seven Years' War, the
Royal Navy reported it conscripted 184,899 sailors, of whom 133,708
died of disease or were 'missing'.
It is estimated that between 1985 and 1994, 378,000 people per year
died due to war.
Les Grandes Misères de la guerre
Les Grandes Misères de la guerre depict the destruction unleashed on
civilians during the Thirty Years' War.
Most wars have resulted in significant loss of life, along with
destruction of infrastructure and resources (which may lead to famine,
disease, and death in the civilian population). During the Thirty
War in Europe, the population of the
Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire was
reduced by 15 to 40 percent. Civilians in war zones may also
be subject to war atrocities such as genocide, while survivors may
suffer the psychological aftereffects of witnessing the destruction of
Most estimates of
World War II
World War II casualties indicate around 60 million
people died, 40 million of which were civilians. Deaths in the
Soviet Union were around 27 million. Since a high proportion of
those killed were young men who had not yet fathered any children,
population growth in the postwar
Soviet Union was much lower than it
otherwise would have been.
On the economy
See also: Military Keynesianism
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, war becomes intertwined with the economy and many wars are
partially or entirely based on economic reasons. Some economists[who?]
believe war can stimulate a country's economy (high government
World War II
World War II is often credited with bringing the U.S. out
Great Depression by most
Keynesian economists) but in many
cases, such as the wars of Louis XIV, the Franco-Prussian War, and
War I, warfare primarily results in damage the economy of the
countries involved. For example, Russia's involvement in World
took such a toll on the Russian economy that it almost collapsed and
greatly contributed to the start of the Russian Revolution of
Ruins of Warsaw's Napoleon Square in the aftermath of World
World War II
World War II was the most financially costly conflict in history; its
belligerents cumulatively spent about a trillion U.S. dollars on the
war effort (as adjusted to 1940 prices). The Great Depression
of the 1930s ended as nations increased their production of war
By the end of the war, 70% of European industrial infrastructure was
destroyed. Property damage in the
Soviet Union inflicted by the
Axis invasion was estimated at 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 mi (64,374 km) of
railroad, 4100 railroad stations, 40,000 hospitals, 84,000 schools,
and 43,000 public libraries.
On the arts
War leads to forced migration causing potentially large displacements
of population. Among forced migrants there are usually relatively
large shares of artists and other types of creative people, causing so
the war effects to be particularly harmful for the country’s
creative potential in the long-run.
War also has a negative effect
on an artists’ individual life-cycle output.
In war, cultural institutions, such as libraries, can become "targets
in themselves; their elimination was a way to denigrate and demoralize
the enemy population." The impact such destruction can have on a
society is important because "in an era in which competing ideologies
fuel internal and international conflict, the destruction of libraries
and other items of cultural significance is neither random nor
irrelevant. Preserving the world’s repositories of knowledge is
crucial to ensuring that the darkest moments of history do not
endlessly repeat themselves."
Entities deliberately contemplating going to war and entities
considering whether to end a war may formulate war aims as an
War aims may stand as a proxy for
Fried defines war aims as "the desired territorial, economic, military
or other benefits expected following successful conclusion of a
Tangible war aims may involve (for example) the acquisition of
territory (as in the German goal of
Lebensraum in the first half of
the 20th century) or the recognition of economic concessions (as in
the Anglo-Dutch Wars).
Intangible war aims – like the accumulation of credibility or
reputation – may have more tangible expression ("conquest
restores prestige, annexation increases power").
Explicit war aims may involve published policy decisions.
Implicit war aims can take the form of minutes of discussion,
memoranda and instructions.
"Positive war aims" cover tangible outcomes.
"Negative war aims" forestall or prevent undesired outcomes.
War aims can change in the course of conflict and may eventually morph
into "peace conditions" – the minimal conditions under which a
state may cease to wage a particular war.
Main article: List of ongoing military conflicts
There are currently dozens of ongoing armed conflicts around the
world, the deadliest of which is the Syrian Civil War.
Limiting and stopping
Anti-war rally in Washington, D.C., March 15, 2003
Main article: Anti-war movement
See also: Aestheticization of violence
Religious groups have long formally opposed or sought to limit war as
Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council document Gaudiem et Spes: "Any act of
war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of
extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and
man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation."
Anti-war movements have existed for every major war in the 20th
century, including, most prominently, World
War I, World
War II, and
the Vietnam War. In the 21st century, worldwide anti-war movements
occurred in response to the United States invasion of Afghanistan and
Iraq. Protests opposing the
War in Afghanistan occurred in Europe,
Asia, and the United States. Organizations like Stop the War
Coalition, based in the United Kingdom, worked on campaigning against
The Mexican Drug War, with estimated casualties of 40,000 since
December 2006, has recently faced fundamental opposition. In 2011,
the movement for peace and justice has started a popular middle-class
movement against the war. It won the recognition of President
Calderon, who began war.
Theories for motivation
The Ottoman campaign for territorial expansion in Europe in 1566
There is no scholarly agreement on which are the most common
motivations for war.
Carl von Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz said, 'Every age had its
own kind of war, its own limiting conditions, and its own peculiar
Joost Meerloo held that, "
War is often...a mass
discharge of accumulated internal rage (where)...the inner fears of
mankind are discharged in mass destruction." Thus war can
sometimes be a means by which man's own frustration at his inability
to master his own self is expressed and temporarily relieved via his
unleashing of destructive behavior upon others. In this destructive
scenario, these others are made to serve as the scapegoat of unspoken
and subconscious frustrations and fears.
Other psychoanalysts such as E.F.M. Durban and
John Bowlby have argued
human beings are inherently violent. This aggressiveness is fueled
by displacement and projection where a person transfers his or her
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
The Italian psychoanalyst Franco Fornari, a follower of Melanie Klein,
thought war was the paranoid or projective “elaboration” of
mourning. Fornari thought 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.
Despite Fornari's theory that man's altruistic desire for
self-sacrifice for a noble cause is a contributing factor towards
war,few wars have originated from a desire for war among the general
populace. 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. He argues
the general populace is more neutral towards war and wars occur when
leaders with a psychologically abnormal disregard for human life are
placed into power.
War is caused by leaders who seek war 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.
Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in
England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is
understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who
determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the
people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a
Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. ... the people can always be
brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to
do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for
lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the
same way in any country.
Hermann Göring at the Nuremberg trials, April 18, 1946
See also: Prehistoric warfare
Women and priests retrieve the dead bodies of Swabian soldiers just
outside the city gates of Constance after the battle of Schwaderloh.
Several theories concern the evolutionary origins of warfare. There
are two main schools: One sees organized warfare as emerging in or
after the Mesolithic as a result of complex social organization and
greater population density and competition over resources; the other
sees human warfare as a more ancient practice derived from common
animal tendencies, such as territoriality and sexual competition.
The latter school argues that since warlike behavior patterns are
found in many primate species such as chimpanzees, as well as in
many ant species, group conflict may be a general feature of
animal social behavior. Some proponents of the idea argue that war,
while innate, has been intensified greatly by developments of
technology and social organization such as weaponry and states.
Psychologist and linguist
Steven Pinker argued that war-related
behaviors may have been naturally selected in the ancestral
environment due to the benefits of victory.[not in citation given]
He also argued that in order to have credible deterrence against other
groups (as well as on an individual level), it was important to have a
reputation for retaliation, causing humans to develop instincts for
revenge as well as for protecting a group's (or an individual's)
reputation ("honor").
Increasing population and constant warfare among the Maya city-states
over resources may have contributed to the eventual collapse of the
Maya civilization by AD 900.
Crofoot and Wrangham have argued that warfare, if defined as group
interactions in which "coalitions attempt to aggressively dominate or
kill members of other groups", is a characteristic of most human
societies. Those in which it has been lacking "tend to be societies
that were politically dominated by their neighbors".
Ashley Montagu strongly denied universalistic instinctual arguments,
arguing that social factors and childhood socialization are important
in determining the nature and presence of warfare. Thus, he argues,
warfare is not a universal human occurrence and appears to have been a
historical invention, associated with certain types of human
societies. Montagu's argument is supported by ethnographic
research conducted in societies where the concept of aggression seems
to be entirely absent, e.g. the
Chewong and Semai of the Malay
peninsula. Bobbi S. Low has observed correlation between warfare
and education, noting societies where warfare is commonplace encourage
their children to be more aggressive.
Kuwaiti oil wells on fire, during the Gulf War, 1 March 1991
War can be seen as a growth of economic competition in a competitive
international system. In this view wars begin as a pursuit of markets
for natural resources and for wealth.
War has also been linked to
economic development by economic historians and development economists
studying state-building and fiscal capacity. While this theory
has been applied to many conflicts, 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 a
strong nation to whatever the weak cannot hold by force.
Some centrist, capitalist, world leaders, including Presidents of the
United States and U.S. Generals, expressed support for an economic
view of war.
The Marxist theory of war is quasi-economic in that it states all
modern wars are caused by competition for resources and markets
between great (imperialist) powers, claiming these wars are a natural
result of the free market and class system. Part of the theory is that
war will disappear once a world revolution, over-throwing free markets
and class systems, has occurred. Marxist philosopher Rosa Luxemburg
theorized that imperialism was the result of capitalist countries
needing new markets. Expansion of the means of production is only
possible if there is a corresponding growth in consumer demand. Since
the workers in a capitalist economy would be unable to fill the
demand, producers must expand into non-capitalist markets to find
consumers for their goods, hence driving imperialism.
Demographic theories can be grouped into two classes, Malthusian and
youth bulge theories:
U.S. Marine helicopter on patrol in Somalia as part of the Unified
Task Force, 1992
Malthusian theories see expanding population and scarce resources as a
source of violent conflict.
Pope Urban II
Pope Urban II in 1095, on the eve of the First Crusade, spoke:
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
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.
Median age by country.
War reduces life expectancy. A youth bulge is
evident for Africa, and to a lesser extent in some countries in West
Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Central America.
According to Heinsohn, who 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.
Heinsohn saw both past "Christianist" European colonialism and
imperialism, as well as today's Islamist civil unrest and terrorism as
results of high birth rates producing youth bulges. Among
prominent historical events that have been attributed to youth bulges
are the role played by the historically large youth cohorts in the
rebellion and revolution waves of early modern Europe, including the
French Revolution of 1789, and the effect of economic depression
upon the largest German youth cohorts ever in explaining the rise of
Nazism in Germany in the 1930s. The 1994 Rwandan
also been analyzed as following a massive youth bulge.
Youth bulge theory has been subjected to statistical analysis by the
Population Action International, and the Berlin
Population and Development.
Youth bulge theories
have been criticized as leading to racial, gender and age
U.S. soldiers directing artillery on enemy trucks in A Shau Valley,
Rationalism is an international relations theory or framework.
Rationalism (and Neorealism (international relations)) operate under
the assumption that states or international actors are rational, seek
the best possible outcomes for themselves, and desire to avoid the
costs of war. Under a game theory approach, rationalist theories
posit all actors can bargain, would be better off if war did not
occur, and likewise seek to understand why war nonetheless reoccurs.
In "Rationalist Explanations for War",
James Fearon examined three
rationalist explanations for why some countries engage in war:
Incentives to misrepresent or information asymmetry
"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, but only owned entirely by one side or the other.
U.S. Marines direct a concentration of fire at the enemy, Vietnam, 8
Information asymmetry with incentives to misrepresent" occurs when
two countries have secrets about their individual capabilities, and do
not agree on either: who would win a war between them, or the
magnitude of state's victory or loss. For instance, Geoffrey Blainey
argues that war is a result of miscalculation of strength. He cites
historical examples of war and demonstrates, "war is usually the
outcome of a diplomatic crisis which cannot be solved because both
sides have conflicting estimates of their bargaining power."
Thirdly, bargaining may fail due to the states' inability to make
Within the rationalist tradition, some theorists have suggested that
individuals engaged in war suffer a normal level of cognitive
bias, but are still "as rational as you and me". According
to philosopher Iain King, "Most instigators of conflict overrate their
chances of success, while most participants underrate their chances of
injury...." King asserts that "Most catastrophic military
decisions are rooted in GroupThink" which is faulty, but still
The rationalist theory focused around bargaining is currently under
Iraq War proved to be an anomaly that undercuts the
validity of applying rationalist theory to some wars.
The statistical analysis of war was pioneered by Lewis Fry Richardson
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.
The following subsections consider causes of war from system,
societal, and individual levels of analysis. This kind of division was
first proposed by
Kenneth Waltz in
Man, the State, and War and has
been often used by political scientists since then.:143
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, and conflicts can
arise from the inability to distinguish defense from offense, which is
called the security dilemma.:145
Within the realist school as represented by scholars such as Henry
Kissinger and Hans Morgenthau, and the neorealist school represented
by scholars such as
Kenneth Waltz and John Mearsheimer, two main
Balance of power theory: States have the goal of preventing a single
state from becoming a hegemon, and war is the result of the would-be
hegemon's persistent attempts at power acquisition. In this view, an
international system with more equal distribution of power is more
stable, and "movements toward unipolarity are destabilizing.":147
However, evidence has shown power polarity is not actually a major
factor in the occurrence of wars.:147–48
Power transition theory: Hegemons impose stabilizing conditions on the
world order, but they eventually decline, and war occurs when a
declining hegemon is challenged by another rising power or aims to
preemptively suppress them.:148 On this view, unlike for
balance-of-power theory, wars become more probable when power is more
equally distributed. This "power preponderance" hypothesis has
The two theories are not mutually exclusive and may be used to explain
disparate events according to the circumstance.:148
Liberalism as it relates to international relations emphasizes factors
such as trade, and its role in disincentivizing conflict which will
damage economic relations. Realists[who?] respond that military force
may sometimes be at least as effective as trade at achieving economic
benefits, especially historically if not as much today.:149
Furthermore, trade relations which result in a high level of
dependency may escalate tensions and lead to conflict.:150
Empirical data on the relationship of trade to peace are mixed, and
moreover, some evidence suggests countries at war don't necessarily
trade less with each other.:150
Diversionary theory, also known as the "scapegoat hypothesis",
suggests the politically powerful may use war to as a diversion or to
rally domestic popular support.:152 This is supported by
literature showing out-group hostility enhances in-group bonding, and
a significant domestic "rally effect" has been demonstrated when
conflicts begin.:152–13 However, studies examining the
increased use of force as a function of need for internal political
support are more mixed.:152–53 U.S. war-time presidential
popularity surveys taken during the presidencies of several recent
U.S. leaders have supported diversionary theory.
These theories suggest differences in people's personalities,
decision-making, emotions, belief systems, and biases are important in
determining whether conflicts get out of hand.:157 For instance,
it has been proposed that conflict is modulated by bounded rationality
and various cognitive biases,:157 such as prospect theory.
Morning after the
Battle of Waterloo, by John Heaviside Clark, 1816
The morality of war has been the subject of debate for thousands of
The two principal aspects of ethics in war, according to the just war
theory, are jus ad bellum and Jus in bello.
Jus ad bellum (right to war), dictates which unfriendly acts and
circumstances justify a proper authority in declaring war on another
nation. There are six main criteria for the declaration of a just war:
first, any just war must be declared by a lawful authority; second, it
must be a just and righteous cause, with sufficient gravity to merit
large-scale violence; third, the just belligerent must have rightful
intentions – namely, that they seek to advance good and curtail
evil; fourth, a just belligerent must have a reasonable chance of
success; fifth, the war must be a last resort; and sixth, the ends
being sought must be proportional to means being used.
Jus in bello
Jus in bello (right in war), is the set of ethical rules when
conducting war. The two main principles are proportionality and
discrimination. Proportionality regards how much force is necessary
and morally appropriate to the ends being sought and the injustice
suffered. The principle of discrimination determines who are the
legitimate targets in a war, and specifically makes a separation
between combatants, who it is permissible to kill, and non-combatants,
who it is not. Failure to follow these rules can result in the
loss of legitimacy for the just-war-belligerent.
In besieged Leningrad. "Hitler ordered that Moscow and
to be razed to the ground; their inhabitants were to be annihilated or
driven out by starvation. These intentions were part of the 'General
Plan East'." – The Oxford Companion to World
The just war theory was foundational in the creation of the United
Nations and in International Law's regulations on legitimate war.
Fascism, and the ideals it encompasses, such as Pragmatism, racism,
and social Darwinism, hold that violence is good. Pragmatism
holds that war and violence can be good if it serves the ends of the
people, without regard for universal morality. Racism holds that
violence is good so that a master race can be established, or to purge
an inferior race from the earth, or both.
Social Darwinism asserts
that violence is sometimes necessary to weed the unfit from society so
civilization can flourish. These are broad archetypes for the general
position that the ends justify the means. Lewis Coser, U.S. conflict
theorist and sociologist, argued conflict provides a function and a
process whereby a succession of new equilibriums are created. Thus,
the struggle of opposing forces, rather than being disruptive, may be
a means of balancing and maintaining a social structure or
Outline of war
Military operations other than war
Fault line war
War as metaphor
List of battles
List of battles and other violent events by death toll
List of battles by death toll
List of invasions
List of longest wars
List of ongoing conflicts
List of orders of battle
Lists of wars
List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll
List of wars by death toll
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military capacity than its adversary is more likely to prevail in wars
with 'total' war aims—the overthrow of a foreign government or
annexation of territory—than in wars with more limited
^ Fried, Marvin Benjamin (2014-07-01). Austro-Hungarian
War Aims in
the Balkans During World
War I. Palgrave Macmillan (published 2014).
p. 4. ISBN 9781137359018. Retrieved 2015-08-24.
War aims are
the desired territorial, economic, military or other benefits expected
following successful conclusion of a war.
^ Welch distinguishes: "tangible goods such as arms, wealth, and –
provided they are strategically or economically valuable – territory
and resources" from "intangible goods such as credibility and
reputation" – Welch, David A. (1995-08-10). Justice and the Genesis
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^ Fried, Marvin Benjamin (2014-07-01). Austro-Hungarian
War Aims in
the Balkans During World
War I. Palgrave Macmillan (published 2014).
p. 4. ISBN 9781137359018. Retrieved 2015-08-24. Intangibles,
such as prestige or power, can also represent war aims, though often
(albeit not always) their achievement is framed within a more tangible
context (e.g. conquest restores prestige, annexation increases power,
^ Compare:Katwala, Sunder (2005-02-13). "Churchill by Paul Addison".
Books. The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved
2015-08-24. [Churchill] took office and declared he had 'not become
the King's First Minister to oversee the liquidation of the British
empire'. [...] His view was that an Anglo-American English-speaking
alliance would seek to preserve the empire, though ending it was among
Roosevelt's implicit war aims.
^ Compare Fried, Marvin Benjamin (2014-07-01). Austro-Hungarian War
Aims in the Balkans During World
War I. Palgrave Macmillan (published
2014). p. 4. ISBN 9781137359018. Retrieved 2015-08-24. At
times, war aims were explicitly stated internally or externally in a
policy decision, while at other times [...] the war aims were merely
discussed but not published, remaining instead in the form of
memoranda or instructions.
^ Fried, Marvin Benjamin (2015-07-01). "'A Life and Death Question':
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War Aims and Military
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Walter de Gruyter GmbH (published 2015). p. 118.
ISBN 9783110443486. Retrieved 2015-08-24. [T]he [Austrian]
Foreign Ministry [...] and the Military High Command [...] were in
agreement that political and military hegemony over Serbia and the
Western Balkans was a vital war aim. The Hungarian Prime Minister
István Count Tisza, by contrast, was more preoccupied with so-called
'negative war aims', notably warding off hostile Romanian, Italian,
and even Bulgarian intervention.
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conditions, it is time to think of another thing than war aims.
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footnoting. (December 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this
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