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Painting of Pier Gerlofs Donia and Wijerd Jelckama fighting for the freedom of his people

War is a situation or a period of fighting between countries or groups of people.[1] A war generally involves the use of weapons, a military organization and soldiers. War is a situation in which a nation enforces its rights by using force.[2] Not every armed conflict is a war. A fight between individuals, between gangs, drug cartels, etc. is not considered a war.[3] However, most wars are called armed conflicts. International humanitarian law is a set of rules that tries to limit the effects of wars.[4] International Humanitarian Law recognizes two kinds of wars. These are:

  • "International armed conflicts" between two or more states.[5]
  • "Non-international armed conflicts" as being between a government and a group that is not a government or one that is between two such groups.[5]

Karl von Clausewitz wrote in his classic book, On War, that "war is a mere continuation of policy with other means.”[a][6] Clausewitz viewed war as a political instrument.[8] His book about military philosophy remains the most influential work on the history and strategy of war.[9] An earlier authority on war was Sun Tzu.[8] In his book The Art of War, Sun Tzu saw war as a necessary evil.[8] It was something people do.[8]

Wars have been fought to control natural resources, for religious or cultural reasons and over political balances of power.[10] They have been fought over legitimacy (correctness) of particular laws. They have been fought to settle arguments about land or money, and many other issues. The reasons behind any war are often very complex.[11] While a war can start for just about any reason, there is usually more than one cause.[12]

War and the beginning of nations[change | change source]

From the earliest times, individual states or political factions have used war to gain sovereignty over regions.[13] In one of the earliest civilizations in history, Mesopotamia, they were in a near constant state of war.[13] Ancient Egypt during its Early Dynastic Period came about by war when Lower and Upper Egypt were joined together as one country, about 3100 BC.[13] The Zhou Dynasty ruled Ancient China came to power in 1046 through war.[14] Scipio Africanus (236-183 BCE) defeated Carthage leading Ancient Rome to begin a conquest of the known world.[13] Philip II of Macedon (382-336 BCE) united a group of city-states to become Ancient Greece.[13]

Kinds of war[change | change source]

Sometimes, people don't see a difference between fighting between countries or people, and the formal declaration of a state of war. Those who do see this difference usually only use the word "war" for the fighting where the countries' governments have officially declared war on each other. Smaller armed conflicts are often called riots, rebellions, coups, etc.

One country may send forces to another country for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is to help keep order or prevent killings of innocents or other crimes against humanity. It may be to protect a friendly government against an uprising. Here it may be called a police action or humanitarian intervention instead of a war. Some people think it's still a war.

Another kind of war existed from 1947 until 1991 called the Cold War.[15] This started when diplomatic relations between the United States and the Soviet Union broke down.[15] Both countries had nuclear weapons and both stood ready to use them against the other.[15] But there was no actual war between the two. It ended with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.[15] The cold war was also called a containment where the United States tried to prevent the spread of communism to other countries.[16] During the cold war, the major powers did not fight themselves, but often backed third parties in what was called a proxy war.[17] The Vietnam War is often given as an example of a proxy war.[17] But proxy wars happened long before the cold war and are still happening.[17]

A war between peoples and groups in the same country is known as a civil war.[18] It is generally agreed there are two things that make a war a civil war.[18] It must be a struggle between groups in the same country or state over political control or to force a major change in the government's policy.[18] The second criterion is that more than 1000 people have to have been killed, with a minimum of 100 from each side.[18] The American Civil War is an example of a civil war. While the figures are mere estimates, the total casualties are thought to be about 750,000.[19]

Laws of war[change | change source]

Only in the last 150 years or so, have states agreed on international laws to limit warfare.[20] This has been mainly for humanitarian reasons.[20] The Geneva conventions and the Hague Conventions are two examples of agreements that establish laws governing wars.[21] Collectively, these are usually called International humanitarian law (IHL).[21] Because these are established laws, they restrict those engaged in armed conflicts to follow the IHL.[20] Also, a country must not only respect the law but they also need to make sure other countries respect it as well.[20] They cannot turn a blind eye (meaning pretend they do not see a thing) to countries who are not following IHC.[20] The first of these was the Geneva Convention in 1864.[22] It became international law with the signatures of 10 countries.[23]

Statistical analysis[change | change source]

The statistical analysis of war was started by Lewis Fry Richardson following World War I. More recent databases of wars have been assembled by the Correlates of War Project and Peter Brecke.

Related pages[change | change source]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Clausewitz has for a long time been misquoted as saying "war is a mere continuation of policy by other means.” The difference between "with" and "by" changes the meaning of the quotation. The error in translation as "by" implies that all diplomatic attempts at finding a solution to a problem between two entities stops once the shooting starts.[6] Corrected, Clausewitz was simply saying the end justifies the means.[7]

References[change | change source]

  1. "war". Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. http://learnersdictionary.com/definition/war. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  2. "War Definition". Duhaime's Law Dictionary. Duhaime.org. http://www.duhaime.org/LegalDictionary/W/War.aspx. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  3. "Difference Between War and Conflict". Difference Between. 25 June 2011. http://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-war-and-vs-conflict/. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  4. "What is International Humanitarian Law?". International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). https://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/other/what_is_ihl.pdf. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "How is the term "Armed Conflict" defined in international humanitarian law?". International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). https://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/article/other/armed-conflict-article-170308.htm. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  6. 6.0 6.1 James R. Holmes (12 November 2014). "Everything You Know About Clausewitz Is Wrong". The Diplomat. http://thediplomat.com/2014/11/everything-you-know-about-clausewitz-is-wrong/. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  7. Thomas H. Etzold. "Clausewitzian Lessons for Modern Strategists". Air University (AU). United States Air Force. http://www.au.af.mil/au/afri/aspj/airchronicles/aureview/1980/may-jun/etzold.html. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Sarah Miller (20 July 2012). "Are Clausewitz and Sun Tzu Still Relevant in Contemporary Conflicts?". E-International Relations. http://www.e-ir.info/2012/07/20/are-clausewitz-and-sun-tzu-still-relevant-in-contemporary-conflicts/. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  9. Christopher Bassford (6 February 2012). "Carl von Clausewitz". Oxford Biographies. Oxford University Press. http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199791279/obo-9780199791279-0026.xml. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  10. [http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/file/08sg.pdf "Natural Resources, Conflict, and Conflict Resolution"]. United States Institute of Peace. http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/file/08sg.pdf. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  11. "The Philosophy of War". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://www.iep.utm.edu/war/. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  12. "Cause and Effect: The Outbreak of World War II". Teaching History. Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, George Mason University. http://teachinghistory.org/history-content/ask-a-historian/25268. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 "War". Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited. http://www.ancient.eu/war/. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  14. "Zhou Dynasty". Travel China Guide. https://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/history/zhou/. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 "Cold War History". History. A&E Television Networks, LLC. http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/cold-war-history. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  16. "Cold War - Containment". GlobalSecurity.org. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/cold-war-containment.htm. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 "What is a Proxy War?". The Vietnam War. http://thevietnamwar.info/proxy-war/. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Edward Wong (26 November 2006). "A Matter of Definition: What Makes a Civil War, and Who Declares It So?". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/26/world/middleeast/26war.html?_r=0. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  19. Rachel Coker (21 September 2011). "Historian revises estimate of Civil War dead". Discover-e. Binghamton University, The State University of New York. https://discovere.binghamton.edu/news/civilwar-3826.html. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 "War and international humanitarian law". International Committee of the Red Cross. 29 October 2010. https://www.icrc.org/eng/war-and-law/overview-war-and-law.htm. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  21. 21.0 21.1 "International Humanitarian Law". The International Justice Resource Center (IJRC). http://www.ijrcenter.org/international-humanitarian-law/. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  22. "War crimes". International Crimes Database project. http://www.internationalcrimesdatabase.org/crimes/warcrimes. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  23. Jean H. Quataert. "International Law and the Laws of War". 1914-1918-Online, International Encyclopedia of the First World War. http://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/international_law_and_the_laws_of_war. Retrieved 18 September 2016.

Other websites[change | change source]