2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Military History and War

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Wars may be prosecuted simultaneously in one or more theaters of war. Within each theatre, there may be one or more consecutive military campaigns. Individual actions of war within a specific campaign are traditionally called battles, although this terminology is not always applied to contentions in modernity involving aircraft, missiles or bombs alone in the absence of ground troops or naval forces.

The factors leading to war are often complicated and due to a range of issues. Where disputes arise over issues such as sovereignty, territory, resources, religion, or ideology and a peacable resolution is not sought, fails, or is thwarted, then war often results.

A war may begin following an official declaration of war in the case of international war, although this has not always been observed either historically or contemporarily. A declaration of war is not normally made in internal wars.

Conduct of war

The exact conduct of war will depend to a great extent upon its objectives, which may include factors such as the seizure of territory, the annihilation of a rival state, the subjugation of another people or recognition of one's own people as a separate state. Typically any military action by one state is opposed, ie is countered by the military forces of one or more states. Therefore, the ultimate objective of each state becomes secondary to the immediate objective of removing or nullification of the resistance offered by the opposing military forces. This may be accomplished variously by out-maneuvering them, by destroying them in open battle, by causing them to desert or surrender, or to be destroyed by indirect action such pestilence and starvation.

Limitations on war

At times throughout history, societies have attempted to limit the cost of war by formalising it in some way. Limitations on the targeting of civilians, what type of weapons can be used, and when combat is allowed have all fallen under these rules in different conflicts. Total war is the modern term for the targeting of civilians and the mobilization of an entire society, when every member of the society has to contribute to the war effort.

While culture, law, and religion have all been factors in causing wars, they have also acted as restraints at times. In some cultures, for example, conflicts have been highly ritualised to limit actual loss of life. In modern times increasing international attention has been paid to peacefully resolving conflicts which lead to war. The United Nations is the latest and most comprehensive attempt to, as stated in the preamble of the U.N. Charter, "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war."

A number of treaties regulate warfare, collectively referred to as the laws of war. The most pervasive of these are the Geneva Conventions, the earliest of which began to take effect in the mid- 1800s.

Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo

It must be noted that in war such treaties may be ignored if they interfere with the vital interests of either side; some have criticised such conventions as simply providing a fig leaf for the inhuman practice of war. By only illegalising "war against the rules", it is alleged, such treaties and conventions, in effect, sanction certain types of war.

Termination of war

How a war affects the political and economic circumstances in the peace that follows 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 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 in World War II after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (see Surrender of Japan). 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 symbolically poured salt over the earth to ensure that nothing would ever grow there again.

Some wars or war-like actions end when the military objective of the victorious side has been achieved. 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 avoid continued losses and cease hostilities without obtaining the original objective.

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, or combatants are gradually killed or decide the conflict is futile.

Factors leading to war

The causes of war are many and varied and have been examined historically with a view to understanding war and prosecuting it more effectively, and more recently with a view to avoiding it. Most basically, the causes of war are those of means, and those of motive: that is, for a war to be waged, a state or political unit must be both physicaly equipped to prosecute a war, and also motivated to do so. Most fundamentally this motivation consists of a basic willingness to wage war, but motivations may be analysed more specifically.

In looking at the motivations for war, one must also consider that these may be different for those ordering the war to those undertaking the war. In general, for a state to prosecute a war, it must have the support of the leader or leaders of the state, the support of the military forces and, to a lesser extent, the support of the wider populace. For example, in the case of the third Punic War, Rome's leaders may have wished to make war with Carthage in order to bring about the annihilation of a resurgent rival, the army may have wished to make war with Carthage since there was great opportunity for plunder in leveling the city of Carthage, and the Roman people may have been wiling to make war with Carthage on account of the demonisation of the Carthaginians in popular culture, including rumours of child sacrifice. Therefore a single war may have many contributory motivations or causes. Various theories have been presented historically to explain the causes of war:

Historical theories

Historians tend to be reluctant to look for sweeping explanations for all wars. A.J.P. Taylor famously described wars as being like traffic accidents. There are some conditions and situations that make them more likely, but there can be no system for predicting where and when each one will occur. Social scientists criticise this approach, arguing that at the beginning of every war some leader makes a conscious decision, and that they cannot be seen as purely accidental. Still, one argument to this might be that there are few, if any, "pure" accidents. One may be able to find patterns which hold at least some degree of reliability, but because war is a collective of human intentions, some potentially quite fickle, it is very difficult to create a concise prediction system.Other factors included are difference in moral and religious beliefs, economical and trade disagreements, declaring independence, and others.

Psychological theories

Psychologists such as E.F.M. Durban and John Bowlby have argued that human beings, especially men, 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, nations, or ideologies. While these theories may have some explanatory value about why wars occur, they do not explain when or how they occur. In addition, they raise the question why there are sometimes long periods of peace and other eras of unending 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. One alternative is to argue that war is only, or almost only, a male activity, and if human leadership were in female hands, wars would not occur. This theory has played an important role in modern feminism. Critics, of course, point to various examples of female political leaders who had no qualms about using military force, such as Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi or Golda Meir.

Other psychologists have argued that while human temperament allows wars to occur, they only do so when mentally unbalanced people are in control of a nation. This extreme school of thought argues leaders that seek war such as Napoleon, Hitler, and Stalin were mentally abnormal. Though this does nothing to explain away the thousands of free and presumably sane men that wage wars on their behalf.

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. We have similar instincts to that of a chimpanzee but overwhelmingly more power. The earliest advocate of this theory was Konrad Lorenz. These theories have been criticised by scholars such as John G. Kennedy, who argue that the organised, sustained war of humans differs more than just technologically from the territorial fights between animals. Others have attempted to explain the psychological reasoning behind the human tendency for warring as a joined effort of a class of higher intelligence beings at participating in, experiencing and attempting to control the ultimate fate of each human, death.

In his fictional book Nineteen-Eighty-Four, George Orwell talks about a state of constant war being used as one of many ways to distract people. War inspires fear and hate among the people of a nation, and gives them a "legitimate" enemy upon whom they can focus this fear and hate. Thus the people are prevented from seeing that their true enemy is in fact their own repressive government. By this theory war is another " opiate of the masses" by which a state controls its people and prevents revolution.

Anthropological theories

Several anthropologists take a very different view of war. They see it as fundamentally cultural, learned by nurture rather than nature. Thus if human societies could be reformed, war would disappear. To this school the acceptance of war is inculcated into each of us by the religious, ideological, and nationalistic surroundings in which we live.

Many anthropologists also see no links between various forms of violence. They see the fighting of animals, the skirmishes of hunter-gatherer tribes, and the organised warfare of modern societies as distinct phenomena each with their own causes. Theorists such as Ashley Montagu emphasise the top-down nature of war, that almost all wars are begun not by popular pressure but by the whims of leaders, and that these leaders also work to maintain a system of ideological justifications for war.

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.

Malthusian theories

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.

Evolutionary psychology theories

Close to Malthusians is the application of evolutionary psychology to analyse why humans wage wars. 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.

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 committments.

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 Argentinean 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 committments. 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 genocial 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.

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 that such wars serve the interests of the wealthy but are fought by the poor; however it is combated by the capitalist message of poverty is relative and one poor in one country can be the wealthiest in another ideology. Some social activists argue that materialism is the supreme cause of war.

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 (mostly) military and economic power or security. War is one tool in achieving this goal.

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.

Types of war and warfare

By cause

Type Example
Extortionate Pecheneg and Cuman forays on Rus in 9th–13th centuries AD
Aggressive the wars of Cyrus II in 550– 529 BC
Colonial Franco-Chinese War
National liberation Algerian War of Independence
Religious Huguenot Wars
Dynastic The War of the Spanish Succession
Trade Opium Wars
Revolutionary French Revolutionary Wars

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 the second type 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 recognised government against insurgency, that country sometimes refers to it as a police action. This usage is not always recognised as valid, however, particularly by those who do not accept the connotations of the term.

" Conventional warfare" describes either:

  • A war between nation-states
  • War where nuclear or biological weapons are not used

(Compare with unconventional warfare and nuclear warfare.)

A war where the forces in conflict belong to the same country or empire or other political entity is known as a civil war. Asymmetrical warfare is a conflict between two populations of drastically different levels of military mechanisation. This type of war often results in guerrilla tactics. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a common example of asymmetrical warfare.

Military action produces a very small percentage of air pollution emissions. Intentional air pollution in combat is one of a collection of techniques collectively called chemical warfare. Poison gas as a chemical weapon was principally used during World War I, and resulted in an estimated 91,198 deaths and 1,205,655 injuries. Various treaties have sought to ban its further use. Non-lethal chemical weapons, such as tear gas and pepper spray, are widely used.

By style

Historian Victor Davis Hanson has described 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
  • Mobile 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

History of war

Military activity has been a constant process over thousands of years. War was likely to have consisted of small-scale raiding only until the historically recent rejection of hunter-gatherer lifestyle for settled agricultural and city-based life. This change in lifestyle would have meant that when a group came under threat it was less likely to simply move on since it would have had crops and a settlement to defend. Further, it is widely accepted that the adoption of agriculture led to a food surplus, such that some individuals would have been excess to requirements for agricultural production and were able to specialist in other areas of employment, such as metalworking. The advent of gunpowder and the acceleration of scientific discoveries has led to modern warfare being highly technological.

Morality of war

Throughout history war has been the source of serious moral questions. Although many ancient nations and some more modern ones viewed war as noble, over the sweep of history, concerns about the morality of war have gradually increased. Today, war is generally seen as undesirable and, by some, 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. Many thinkers, such as Heinrich von Treitschke, saw war as humanity's highest activity where courage, honour, and ability were more necessary than in any other endeavour. 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. The defeat and repudiation of the fascist states and their militarism in the Second World War, the shock of the first use of nuclear weapons and increasing belief in the value of individual life (as enshrined in the concept of human rights, for example) have contributed to the current view of war.

Today, some see only just wars as legitimate, and believe that it is the responsibility of world organisations such as the United Nations to oppose wars of unjust aggression. Other people believe that world organisations have no more standing to judge the morality of a war than that of a sovereign country.

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