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1.  "The waging of armed conflict against an enemy; "thousands of people were killed in the war"
2.  "Open and declared conflict between the armed forces of two or more states or nations." 3.  "War is the use of organized, socially-sanctioned, armed violence to achieve a political, social, or economic objective."
4.  "A contest between nations or states, carried on by force, whether for defense, for revenging insults and redressing wrongs, for the extension of commerce, for the acquisition of territory, for obtaining and establishing the superiority and dominion of one over the other, or for any other purpose; armed conflict of sovereign powers; declared and open hostilities."
5.  "A state of opposition or contest; an act of opposition; an inimical contest, act, or action; enmity; hostility".
6. Any large scale, violent conflict. War grows from the almost universal tribal warfare that has occurred throughout history, to wars between city states, nations, or empires.  
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Look up war in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. War is any large scale, violent conflict. War grows from the almost universal tribal warfare that has occurred throughout 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 man was the only creature who fought wars, but closer observation of animal life has discovered wars between ant colonies and 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 theater, there may be one or more consecutive military campaigns. A military campaign includes not only fighting but also intelligence, troop movements, supplies, propaganda, and other components. Continuous conflict is traditionally called a battle, although this terminology is not always applied to conflicts involving aircraft, missiles or bombs alone, in the absence of ground troops or naval forces. A civil war is the use of force to resolve internal differences.

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


  1. Factors Leading to War
  2. Psychological theories
  3. Sociological theories
  4. Demographic theories
  5. Evolutionary psychology theories
  6. Rationalist theories
  7. Economic theories
  8. Marxist theories
  9. Political science theories
10. Types of war and warfare
11. By cause
12. Types of warfare
13. By style
14. Warfare environment
15. History of war
16. Morality of war
17. Factors ending a war
18. List of wars by death toll

Factors Leading to War

A 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 Darian Domer, 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

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, 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, 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. Humans have similar instincts to that of a chimpanzee but overwhelmingly more powerful. 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. Ashley Montagu strongly denies such universalistic instinctual arguments, pointing out that social factors and childhood socialisation 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.

Contributers 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".

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 demographically superfluous, might be out of work or stuck in a menial job, and 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:



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