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War is a behavior pattern exhibited by many primate species[1] including man, and also found in many ant species.[2] [3] [4] The primary feature of this behavior pattern is a certain state of organized violent conflict that is engaged in between two or more separate social entities. Such a conflict is always an attempt at altering either the psychological hierarchy or the material hierarchy of domination or equality between two or more groups. In all cases, at least one participant (group) in the conflict perceives the need to either psychologically or materially dominate the other participant. Amongst humans, the perceived need for domination often arises from the belief that an essential ideology or resource is somehow either so incompatible or so scarce as to threaten the fundamental existence of the one group experiencing the need to dominate the other group. Leaders will sometimes enter into a war under the pretext that their actions are primarily defensive, however when viewed objectively, their actions may more closely resemble a form of unprovoked, unwarranted, or disproportionate aggression.

In all wars, the group(s) experiencing the need to dominate other group(s) are unable and unwilling to accept or permit the possibility of a relationship of fundamental equality to exist between the groups who have opted for group violence (war). The aspect of domination that is a precipitating factor in all wars, i.e. one group wishing to dominate another, is also often a precipitating factor in individual one-on-one violence outside of the context of war, i.e. one individual wishing to dominate another.[5]

In 2003, Nobel Laureate Richard E. Smalley identified war as the sixth (of ten) biggest problems facing the society of mankind for the next fifty years. In the 1832 book "On War", by Prussian military general and theoretician Carl Von Clausewitz, the author refers to war as the "continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means."[6] War is an interaction in which two or more opposing forces have a “struggle of wills”.[7] The term is also used as a metaphor for non-military conflict, such as in the example of Class war.

War is a seemingly inescapable and integral aspect of human culture. Its practice is not linked to any single type of political organization or society. Rather, as discussed by John Keegan in his History Of Warfare, war is a universal phenomenon whose form and scope is defined by the society that wages it.[8] The conduct of war extends along a continuum, from the almost universal primitive local tribal warfare that began well before recorded human history, to advanced nuclear warfare between global alliances, with the recently developed ultimate potential for human extinction.


Etymology and scope

From late Old English (c.1050), wyrre, werre, from Old North French werre "war" (Fr. guerre), from Frankish *werra, from Proto-Germanic *werso (Compare with Old Saxon werran,Old high German werran, German verwirren "to confuse, perplex"). Cognates suggest the original sense was "to bring into confusion."

There was no common Germanic word for "war" at the dawn of historical times. Spanish, Portuguese, Italian guerra are from the same source; Romanic peoples turned to Germanic for a word to avoid Latin "bellum" because its form tended to merge with bello- "beautiful."[9]

In an organized military sense, a group of combatants and their support is called an army on land, a navy at sea, and an air force in the air. Wars may be conducted simultaneously in one or more different theaters. 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. A period of continuous intense 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. Also many other actions may be undertaken by military forces during a war, this could include weapons research, prison internment, assassination, occupation, and in some cases genocide may occur.

A civil war is a war between factions of citizens of one country (such as in the English Civil War), or else a dispute between two nations that were created out of one formerly-united country. A proxy war is a war that results when two powers use third parties as substitutes for fighting each other directly.

History of warfare

Battle of White Mountain, 1620, an early battle in the Thirty Years' War.
Napoleon retreating from Moscow after a disastrous French invasion of Russia.
Army 89th Infantry Division cross the Rhine River in assault boats, 1945.

Before the dawn of history war likely consisted of small-scale raiding. One half of the people found in a Nubian cemetery dating to as early as 12,000 years ago had died of violence.[10] Since the rise of the state some 5,000 years ago,[11] military activity has occurred over much of the globe. The advent of gunpowder and the acceleration of technological advances led to modern warfare.

In War Before Civilization, Lawrence H. Keeley, a professor at the University of Illinois, says that approximately 90–95% of known societies throughout history engaged in at least occasional warfare,[12] and many fought constantly.[13] Despite the undeniable carnage and effectiveness of modern warfare, the evidence shows that tribal warfare is on average 20 times more deadly than 20th century warfare.[12] At one battle lost in 1857 among the Mohave-Yumas, 49.6% of combatants were killed; in a great Aztec battle fought in 1478, 87.1% of 24,000 combatants were killed, while 100% of combatants were killed during the Blackfoot Indian raid which annihilated the Assiniboins in 1849.[14]

In Western Europe, since the late 18th century, more than 150 conflicts and about 600 battles have taken place.[15]

The Human Security Report 2005 documented a significant decline in the number and severity of armed conflicts since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. However, the evidence examined in the 2008 edition of the Center for International Development and Conflict Management's "Peace and Conflict" study indicated that the overall decline in conflicts had stalled.[16]

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 hopefully 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 all together. 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 US Department of War was renamed as the US Department of Defense.

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, the initial developer of the concept of this bomb, Albert Einstein famously stated, "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." [17] Fortunately, the anticipated costs of a possible third world war are currently no longer deemed as acceptable by most, thus little motivation currently seems to exist on an international level for such a war.

Still since the close of World War II, limited non-nuclear conflicts continue, and surprisingly enough, some outspoken celebrities have even advocated for the proclamation of another world war.[18]


World War I,sequences from Romania

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 its people. 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 make money. Since many people are involved, a war may acquire a life of its own from the confluence of many different motivations.

The Jewish Talmud describes in the BeReshit Rabbah commentary on the fight between Cain and Abel (Parashot BeReshit XXII:7) that there are three universal reasons for wars: A) Economic, B) Ideological/religious, and C) Power/pride/love (personal).[19]

In Why Nations Go to War, by John G. Stoessinger, the author points out that both sides will claim that morality justifies their fight. He also states that the rationale for beginning a war depends on an overly optimistic assessment of the outcome of hostilities (casualties and costs), and on misperceptions of the enemy's intentions.

As the strategic and tactical aspects of warfare are always changing, theories and doctrines relating to warfare are often reformulated before, during, and after every major war. Carl Von Clausewitz said, 'Every age had its own kind of war, its own limiting conditions, and its own peculiar preconceptions.'[20]. The one constant factor is war’s employment of organized violence and the resultant destruction of property and/ or lives that necessarily follows.


Economic theories

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. 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 the strong to whatever the weak cannot hold by force. Some centrist, capitalist, world leaders, including Presidents of the United States and US Generals, expressed support for an economic view of war.

Marxist theories

The Marxist theory of war is quasi-economic in that it states that 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 only disappear once a world revolution, over-throwing free markets and class systems, has occurred.

Evolutionary psychology

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. Animals are naturally aggressive, and in humans this aggression manifests itself as warfare. However, while war has a natural cause, the development of technology has accelerated human destructiveness to a level that is irrational and damaging to the species. The earliest advocate of this theory was Konrad Lorenz.[21]

Biologists studying primate behavior have also added to the debate. Jane Goodall in 1974 documented what she called a war between groups of chimpanzees in the Gombe National Park of Tanzania.[22]

The BBC broadcast what narrator Sir David Attenborough called a 'raid into the territory of their neighbors' by a group of Chimps in the series Planet Earth.[23]

These theories have been criticized by scholars such as John G. Kennedy, who argue that the organized, sustained war of humans differs more than just technologically from the territorial fights between animals. Ashley Montagu[24] strongly denies such universalistic instinctual arguments, pointing out that social factors and childhood socialization are important in determining the nature and presence of warfare. Thus while human aggression may be a universal occurrence, warfare is not and would appear to have been a historical invention, associated with certain types of human societies.

Behavioral theories

Some psychologists such as E.F.M. Durban and John Bowlby have argued that human beings are inherently violent.[25] This aggressiveness is fueled by displacement and projection where a person transfers their 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 through warfare. If war is innate to human nature, as is presupposed and predetermined by many psychological theories, then there is little hope of ever escaping it[citation needed].

The Italian psychoanalyst Franco Fornari, a follower of Melanie Klein, thought that war was the paranoid or projective “elaboration” of mourning.[26] 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.

While these theories may have some general explanatory value about why war exists, they do not explain when or how they occur. Nor do they explain the existence of certain human cultures completely devoid of war.[27] If the innate psychology of the human mind is unchanging, these variations are inconsistent. A solution adapted to this problem by certain thinkers such as the psychologist, 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.[28]

An additional problem with theories that rest on the will of the general population, is that in history only a tiny fraction of wars have originated from a desire for war from the general populace.[29] 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.[30] He argues that the general populace is more neutral towards war and that wars only occur when leaders with a psychologically abnormal disregard for human life are placed into power. War is caused by leaders that 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.

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 peace.

Demographic theories

Gari Melchers, Mural of War, 1896.

Demographic theories can be grouped into two classes, Malthusian theories and youth bulge theories.

Malthusian 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 Sepulchre; 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

Median age by country. A youth bulge is evident for Africa, and to a lesser extent for South and Southeast Asia and Central America.

Youth bulge theory differs significantly from Malthusian theories. Its adherents see a combination of large male youth cohorts - as graphically represented as a "youth bulge" in a population pyramid - with a lack of regular, peaceful employment opportunities as a risk pool for violence.

While Malthusian theories focus on a disparity between a growing population and available natural resources, youth bulge theory focuses on a disparity between non-inheriting, 'excess' young males and available social positions within the existing social system of division of labour.

Contributors to the development of youth bulge theory include French sociologist Gaston Bouthoul,[31] U.S. sociologist Jack A. Goldstone,[32] U.S. political scientist Gary Fuller,[33][34][35] and German sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn.[36] Samuel Huntington has modified his Clash of Civilizations theory by using youth bulge theory as its foundation:

I don't think Islam is any more violent than any other religions, and I suspect if you added it all up, more people have been slaughtered by Christians over the centuries than by Muslims. But the key factor is the demographic factor. Generally speaking, the people who go out and kill other people are males between the ages of 16 and 30. During the 1960s, 70s and 80s there were high birth rates in the Muslim world, and this has given rise to a huge youth bulge. But the bulge will fade. Muslim birth rates are going down; in fact, they have dropped dramatically in some countries. Islam did spread by the sword originally, but I don't think there is anything inherently violent in Muslim theology."[37]

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".[38]

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, and the daughter will replace the mother. Thus, a total fertility rate of 2.1 represents replacement level, while anything below represents a sub-replacement fertility rate leading to population decline.

Total fertility rates above 2.1 will lead to population growth and to a youth bulge. A total fertility rate of 4-8 children per mother implies 2-4 sons per mother. Consequently, one father has to leave not 1, but 2 to 4 social positions (jobs) to give all his sons a perspective for life, which is usually hard to achieve. Since respectable positions cannot be increased at the same speed as food, textbooks and vaccines, many "angry young men" find themselves in a situation that tends to escalate their adolescent anger into violence: they are

  1. Demographically superfluous,
  2. Might be out of work or stuck in a menial job, and
  3. Often have no access to a legal sex life before a career can earn them enough to provide for a family. See: Hypergamy, Waithood.

The combination of these stress factors according to Heinsohn[39] usually heads for one of six different exits:

  1. Violent Crime
  2. Emigration ("non violent colonization")
  3. Rebellion or putsch
  4. Civil war and/or revolution
  5. Genocide (to take over the positions of the slaughtered)
  6. Conquest (violent colonization, frequently including genocide abroad).

Religions and ideologies are seen as secondary factors that are being used to legitimate violence, but will not lead to violence by themselves if no youth bulge is present. Consequently, youth bulge theorists see both past "Christianist" European colonialism and imperialism and today's "Islamist" civil unrest and terrorism as results of high birth rates producing youth bulges.[40] With the Gaza Strip now being seen as another example of youth-bulge-driven violence, especially if compared to Lebanon which is geographically close, yet remarkably more peaceful.[41]

Among prominent historical events that have been linked to the existence of youth bulges is the role played by the historically large youth cohorts in the rebellion and revolution waves of early modern Europe, including French Revolution of 1789,[42] and the importance of economic depression hitting the largest German youth cohorts ever in explaining the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s.[43] The 1994 Rwandan Genocide has also been analyzed as following a massive youth bulge.[44]

While the implications of population growth have been known since the completion of the National Security Study Memorandum 200 in 1974,[45] neither the U.S. nor the WHO have implemented the recommended measures to control population growth to avert the terrorist threat. Prominent demographer Stephen D. Mumford attributes this to the influence of the Catholic Church.[46]

Youth Bulge theory has been subjected to statistical analysis by the World Bank,[47] Population Action International,[48] and the Berlin Institute for Population and Development.[49] Detailed demographic data for most countries is available at the international database of the United States Census Bureau.[50]

Youth bulge theories have been criticized as leading to racial, gender and age "discrimination".[51]

Rationalist theories

Rationalist theories of war assume that both sides to a potential war are rational, which is to say that each side wants to get the best possible outcome for itself for the least possible loss of life and property to its own side. Given this assumption, if both countries knew in advance how the war would turn out, it would be better for both of them to just accept the post-war outcome without having to actually pay the costs of fighting the war. This is based on the notion, generally agreed to by almost all scholars of war since Carl von Clausewitz, that wars are reciprocal, that all wars require both a decision to attack and also a decision to resist attack. Rationalist theory offers three reasons why some countries cannot find a bargain and instead resort to war: issue indivisibility, information asymmetry with incentive to deceive, and the inability to make credible commitments.[52]

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 that both sides decide to go to war and one side may have miscalculated.

Some go further and say that there is a 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.

The American decision to enter the Vietnam War was made with the full knowledge that the communist forces would resist them, but did not believe that the guerrillas had the capability to long oppose American forces.

Thirdly, bargaining may fail due to the states' inability to make credible commitments.[53] In this scenario, the two countries might be able to come to a bargain that would avert war if they could stick to it, but the benefits of the bargain will make one side more powerful and lead it to demand even more in the future, so that the weaker side has an incentive to make a stand now.

Rationalist explanations of war can be critiqued on a number of grounds. The assumptions of cost-benefit calculations become dubious in the most extreme genocidal cases of World War II, where the only bargain offered in some cases was infinitely bad. Rationalist theories typically assume that the state acts as a unitary individual, doing what is best for the state as a whole; this is problematic when, for example, the country's leader is beholden to a very small number of people, as in a personalistic dictatorship. Rationalist theory also assumes that the actors are rational, able to accurately assess their likelihood of success or failure, but the proponents of the psychological theories above would disagree.

Rationalist theories are usually explicated with game theory, for example, the Peace War Game, not a wargame as such, rather a simulation of economic decisions underlying war.

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 Conflict Data Program.

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. Which sometimes is argued to contradict the realist view, 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 that has come to be known as the democratic peace theory. Other factors included are difference in moral and religious beliefs, economical and trade disagreements, declaring independence, and others.

Another major theory relating to power in international relations and machtpolitik is the Power Transition theory, which distributes the world into a hierarchy and explains major wars as part of a cycle of hegemons being destabilized by a great power which does not support the hegemons' control.

Military adventurism can sometimes be used by political leaders as a means of boosting their domestic popularity, as has been recorded in US war-time presidential popularity surveys taken during the presidencies of several recent US leaders.[54]

Morality of wars

"The morning after the battle of Waterloo", by John Heaviside Clarke, 1816.

Throughout history war has been the source of serious moral questions. Although many ancient nations and some modern ones have viewed war as noble, over the sweep of history, concerns about the morality of war have gradually increased. Today, war is seen by some as undesirable and morally problematic. At the same time, many view war, or at least the preparation and readiness and willingness to engage in war, as necessary for the defense of their country and therefore a just war. Pacifists believe that war is inherently immoral and that no war should ever be fought.

The negative view of war has not always been held as widely as it is today. Heinrich von Treitschke saw war as humanity's highest activity where courage, honour, and ability were more necessary than in any other endeavour. Friedrich Nietzsche also saw war as an opportunity for the Übermensch to display heroism, honour, and other virtues.[citation needed] However, it is important to note that both Heinrich Von Treitschke and Frederich Nietzsche never participated in any wars due to incidents beforehand. Von Treitschke fell deaf at a young age, preventing him from any military service. Nietzsche endured a tragic riding accident which left him unfit for military service. Also, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Thomas Mann, who are mentioned in the following paragraph, both never participated in any wars either, but are regardless, well known, influential and intelligent philosophers of their time.

Another supporter of war, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, favoured it as part of the necessary process required for history to unfold and allow society to progress. At the outbreak of World War I, the writer Thomas Mann wrote, "Is not peace an element of civil corruption and war a purification, a liberation, an enormous hope?" This attitude has been embraced by societies from Sparta and Rome in the ancient world to the fascist states of the 1930s. Support for war continues to this day, especially regarding the notion of a Just War (necessary wars required to halt an aggressor or otherwise dangerous nation or group).

International law recognizes only two cases for a legitimate war:

  1. Wars of defense: when one nation is attacked by an aggressor, it is considered legitimate for a nation along with its allies to defend itself against the aggressor.
  1. Wars sanctioned by the UN Security Council: when the United Nations as a whole acts as a body against a certain nation. Examples include various peacekeeping operations around the world, as well as the Korean and 1st Gulf Wars.

(According to this logic, the recent 2003 US sponsored invasion of Iraq as advanced by the Bush administration was clearly illegal under international law due to the facts that the US was never actually attacked by Iraq, and also that the UN security council did not authorize this war.)

The subset of international law known as the law of war or international humanitarian law also recognises regulations for the conduct of war, including the Geneva Conventions governing the legitimacy of certain kinds of weapons, and the treatment of prisoners of war. Cases where these conventions are broken are considered war crimes, and since the Nuremberg Trials at the end of World War II the international community has established a number of tribunals to try such cases.

A nation's economy is often stimulated by government war-spending. When countries wage war, more weapons, armor, ammunition, and the like are needed to be created and sold to the armies, thus their economies can enter a boom (or war economy) reducing unemployment. A very popular example of this was the United States' ability to overcome the Great Depression with the onset of World War II. Emerging afterwards as one of two superpowers (the other being the USSR).

Conduct of wars

The war, to become known as one, must entail some degree of confrontation using weapons and other military technology and equipment by armed forces employing military tactics and Operational art within the broad military strategy subject to military logistics. War Studies by military theorists throughout military history have sought to identify the Philosophy of war, and to reduce it to a Military science.

In general, 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.

Behaviour & conduct in war

The nature of warfare never changes, only its superficial manifestations. Joshua and David, Hector and Achilles would recognize the combat that our soldiers and Marines have waged in the alleys of Somalia and Iraq. The uniforms evolve, bronze gives way to titanium, arrows may be replaced by laser-guided bombs, but the heart of the matter is still killing your enemies until any survivors surrender and do your will.

Ralph Peters[55]

The behaviour of troops in warfare varies considerably, both individually and as units or armies. In some circumstances, troops may engage in genocide, war rape and ethnic cleansing. Commonly, however, the conduct of troops may be limited to posturing and sham attacks, leading to highly rule-bound and often largely symbolic combat in which casualties are much reduced from that which would be expected if soldiers were genuinely violent towards the enemy.[56]. Situations of deliberate dampening of hostilities occurred in World War I by some accounts, e.g., a volley of gunfire being exchanged after a misplaced mortar hit the British line, after which a German soldier shouted an apology to British forces, effectively stopping a hostile exchange of gunfire.[57] Other examples of non-aggression, also from World War I, are detailed in Goodbye to all that. These include spontaneous ceasefires to rebuild defences and retrieve casualties, alongside behaviour such as refusing to shoot at enemy during ablutions and the taking of great risks (described as 1 in 20) to retrieve enemy wounded from the battlefield. The most notable spontaneous ceasefire of World War I was the Christmas truce.

It has been postulated that sport serves as an direct alternative to war, and may be regarded as having an equivalent social function. Sipes found war and sporting alternatives to be positively correlated.[58]

The psychological separation between combatants, and the destructive power of modern weaponry, may act to override this effect and facilitate participation by combatants in the mass slaughter of combatants or civilians, such as in the bombing of Dresden in World War II.[citation needed] The unusual circumstances of warfare can incite apparently normal individuals to commit atrocities.[59]

Types of warfare

Conventional warfare is an attempt to reduce an opponent's military capability through open battle. It is a declared war between existing states in which nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons are not used or only see limited deployment in support of conventional military goals and maneuvers.

The opposite of conventional warfare, unconventional warfare, is an attempt to achieve military victory through acquiescence, capitulation, or clandestine support for one side of an existing conflict.

Nuclear warfare is a war in which nuclear weapons are the primary method of coercing the capitulation of the other side, as opposed to a supporting tactical or strategic role in a conventional conflict.

Civil war is a war where the forces in conflict belong to the same nation or political entity and are vying for control of or independence from that nation or political entity.

Asymmetric warfare is a conflict between two populations of drastically different levels of military capability or size. Asymmetric conflicts often result in guerrilla tactics being used to overcome the sometimes vast gaps in technology and force size.

Intentional air pollution in combat is one of a collection of techniques collectively called chemical warfare. Poison gas as a chemical weapon was principally used during World War I, and resulted in an estimated 91,198 deaths and 1,205,655 injuries.[citation needed] Various treaties have sought to ban its further use. Non-lethal chemical weapons, such as tear gas and pepper spray, are widely used, sometimes with deadly effect.

Military posture

Historian Victor Davis Hanson has claimed there exists a unique "Western Way of War", in an attempt to explain the military successes of Western Europe.citation needed 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, the Battle of Plassey 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:

Conventional warfare

Unconventional warfare

Effects of war

Disability-adjusted life year for war per 100,000 inhabitants in 2004.[60]
     no data      less than 100      100-200      200-600      600-1000      1000-1400      1400-1800      1800-2200      2200-2600      2600-3000      3000-8000      8000-8800      more than 8800

It is estimated that 378 000 people died due to war each year between 1985 and 1994.[61]

The Apotheosis of War (1871) by Vasily Vereshchagin

On soldiers

They would have dedicated their lives to fighting battles, with little possibility of regaining the ability to live successfully as a civilian. 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.[15]

Based on 1860 census figures, 8% of all white American males aged 13 to 43 died in the American Civil War, including 6% in the North and 18% in the South.[62] Of the 60 million European soldiers who were mobilized in World War I, 8 million were killed, 7 million were permanently disabled, and 15 million were seriously injured.[63]

Why?, from The Disasters of War (Los desastres de la guerra), by Francisco Goya, 1812-15. A collection of depictions of the brutalities of the Napoleonic-Peninsular War.

During Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, more French soldiers died of typhus than were killed by the Russians.[64] Felix Markham thinks that 450,000 crossed the Neman on 25 June 1812, of whom less than 40,000 recrossed in anything like a recognizable military formation.[65] More soldiers were killed from 1500-1914 by typhus than from all military action during that time combined.[66] In addition, if it were not for the modern medical advances there would be thousands of more dead from disease and infection.

Les Grandes Misères de la guerre depict the destruction unleashed on civilians during the Thirty Years' War.

On civilians

Many wars have been accompanied by significant depopulations. During the Thirty Years' War in Europe, for example, the population of the German states was reduced by about 30%.[67][68] The Swedish armies alone may have destroyed up to 2,000 castles, 18,000 villages and 1,500 towns in Germany, one-third of all German towns.[69]

Estimates for the total casualties of World War II vary, but most suggest that some 60 million people died in the war, including about 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians.[70] The Soviet Union lost around 27 million people during the war, about half of all World War II casualties.[71] The largest number of civilian deaths in a single city was 1.2 million citizens dead during the 872-day Siege of Leningrad.

On the economy

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 speaking, war becomes very intertwined with the economy and many wars are partially or entirely based on economic reasons such as the American Civil War. In some cases war has stimulated a country's economy (World War II is often credited with bringing America out of the Great Depression) but in many cases, such as the wars of Louis XIV, the Franco-Prussian War, and World War I, warfare serves only to damage the economy of the countries involved. For example, Russia's involvement in World War I took such a toll on the Russian economy that it almost collapsed and greatly contributed to the start of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

World War II

One of the starkest illustrations of the effect of war upon economies is the Second World War. The Great Depression of the 1930s ended as nations increased their production of war materials to serve the war effort.[72] The financial cost of the World War II is estimated at about a $1944 billion U.S. dollars worldwide,[73][74] making it the most costly war in capital as well as lives.

Property damage in the Soviet Union inflicted by the Axis invasion was estimated to 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 miles of railroad, 4100 railroad stations, 40,000 hospitals, 84,000 schools, and 43,000 public libraries.[75]

Factors ending a war

Women and priests retrieve the dead bodies of Swabian soldiers just outside the city gates of Constance after the battle of Schwaderloh. (Luzerner Schilling)

The political and economic circumstances in the peace that follows war usually depends on the "facts on the ground". Where evenly matched adversaries decide that the conflict has resulted in a stalemate, they may cease hostilities to avoid further loss of life and property. They may decide to restore the antebellum territorial boundaries, redraw boundaries at the line of military control, or negotiate to keep or exchange captured territory. Negotiations between parties involved at the end of a war often result in a treaty, such as the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, which ended the First World War.

A warring party that surrenders or capitulates may have little negotiating power, with the victorious side either imposing a settlement or dictating most of the terms of any treaty. A common result is that conquered territory is brought under the dominion of the stronger military power. An unconditional surrender is made in the face of overwhelming military force as an attempt to prevent further harm to life and property. For example, the Empire of Japan gave an unconditional surrender to the Allies of World War II after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (see Surrender of Japan), the preceding massive strategic bombardment of Japan and declaration of war and the immediate invasion of Manchuria by the Soviet Union. A settlement or surrender may also be obtained through deception or bluffing.

Many other wars, however, have ended in complete destruction of the opposing territory, such as the Battle of Carthage of the Third Punic War between the Phoenician city of Carthage and Ancient Rome in 149 BC. In 146 BC the Romans burned the city, enslaved its citizens, and razed the buildings.

Some wars or aggressive actions end when the military objective of the victorious side has been achieved. Others do not, especially in cases where the state structures do not exist, or have collapsed prior to the victory of the conqueror. In such cases, disorganised guerilla warfare may continue for a considerable period. In cases of complete surrender conquered territories may be brought under the permanent dominion of the victorious side. A raid for the purposes of looting may be completed with the successful capture of goods. In other cases an aggressor may decide to end hostilities to avoid continued losses and cease hostilities without obtaining the original objective, such as happened in the Iran–Iraq War.

Some hostilities, such as insurgency or civil war, may persist for long periods of time with only a low level of military activity. In some cases there is no negotiation of any official treaty, but fighting may trail off and eventually stop after the political demands of the belligerent groups have been reconciled, a political settlement has been negotiated, or combatants are gradually killed or decide the conflict is futile.

List of wars by death toll

These figures include deaths of civilians from diseases, famine, atrocities etc. as well as deaths of soldiers in battle.

This is an incomplete list of wars.

See also

Possible causes-
General reference-
War related lists-



  • Angelo Codevilla and Paul Seabury, War: Ends and Means (Potomac Books, Revised second edition by Angelo Codevilla, 2006) ISBN-X
  • Angelo M. Codevilla, No Victory, No Peace (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005) ISBN
  • Barzilai Gad, Wars, Internal Conflicts and Political Order: A Jewish Democracy in the Middle East (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996).
  • Clausewitz, Carl Von (1976), On War (Princeton and New Jersey: Princeton University Press)
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  • Gat, Azar 2006 War in Human Civilization, Oxford University Press.
  • Gunnar Heinsohn, Söhne und Weltmacht: Terror im Aufstieg und Fall der Nationen ("Sons and Imperial Power: Terror and the Rise and Fall of Nations"), Orell Füssli (September 2003), ISBN, available online as free download (in German)
  • Fabio Maniscalco, (2007). World Heritage and War - monographic series "Mediterraneum", vol. VI. Massa, Naples. ISBN. 
  • Keegan, John, (1994) "A History Of Warfare", (Pimlico)
  • Kelly, Raymond C., 2000, Warless Societies and the Origin of War, University of Michigan Press.
  • Small, Melvin & Singer, David J. (1982). Resort to Arms: International and Civil Wars,. Sage Publications. ISBN. 
  • Otterbein, Keith, 2004, How War Began.
  • Turchin, P. 2005. War and Peace and War: Life Cycles of Imperial Nations. New York, NY: Pi Press. ISBN
  • Van Creveld, Martin The Art of War: War and Military Thought London: Cassell, Wellington House
  • Fornari, Franco (1974). The Psychoanalysis of War. Tr. Alenka Pfeifer. Garden City, New York: Doubleday Anchor Press. ISBN: . Reprinted (1975) Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN
  • Walzer, Michael (1977) Just and Unjust Wars (Basic Books)
  • Keeley, Lawrence. War Before Civilization, Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Zimmerman, L. The Crow Creek Site Massacre: A Preliminary Report, US Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, 1981.
  • Chagnon, N. The Yanomamo, Holt, Rinehart & Winston,1983.
  • Pauketat, Timothy. North American Archaeology 2005. Blackwell Publishing.
  • Wade, Nicholas. Before the Dawn, Penguin: New York 2006.
  • Rafael Karsten, Blood revenge, war, and victory feasts among the Jibaro Indians of eastern Ecuador (1923).
  • S. A. LeBlanc, Prehistoric Warfare in the American Southwest, University of Utah Press (1999).
  • Duane M. Capulla, War Wolf, University of Pili (2008)


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  22. ^ See interview with Jane Goodall, KTEH TV 1997, Dec 9, via youtube and see [ National Geographic Magazine, December 1995 Crusading for Chimps and Humans . . . Jane Goodall], By Peter Miller] (at
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  25. ^ Durbin, E.F.L. and John Bowlby .Personal Aggressiveness and War 1939.
  26. ^ (Fornari 1975)
  27. ^ Turnbull, Colin (1987), "The Forest People" (Touchstonbe Books)
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  30. ^ Walsh, Maurice N. War and the Human Race. 1971.
  31. ^ Bouthoul, Gaston: "L`infanticide différé" (deferred infanticide), Paris 1970
  32. ^ Goldstone, Jack A.: "Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World", Berkeley 1991; Goldstone, Jack A.: "Population and Security: How Demographic Change can Lead to Violent Conflict", [1]
  33. ^ Fuller, Gary: "The Demographic Backdrop to Ethnic Conflict: A Geographic Overwiew", in: CIA (Ed.): "The Challenge of Ethnic Conflict to National and International Order in the 1990s", Washington 1995, 151-154
  34. ^ Fuller, Gary (2004): "The Youth Crisis in Middle Eastern Society"
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  36. ^ Gunnar Heinsohn (2003): "Söhne und Weltmacht: Terror im Aufstieg und Fall der Nationen" ("Sons and Imperial Power: Terror and the Rise and Fall of Nations"), Zurich 2003), available online as free download (in German) [3]; see also the review of this book by Göran Therborn: "Nato´s Demographer", New Left Review 56, March/April 2009, 136-144 [4]
  37. ^ ‘So, are civilizations at war?’, Interview with Samuel P. Huntington by Michael Steinberger, The Observer, Sunday October 21, 2001.[5]
  38. ^ Helgerson, John L. (2002): "The National Security Implications of Global Demographic Trends"[6]
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  41. ^ G. Heinsohn: "Why Gaza is Fertile Ground for Angry Young Men." Financial Times Online, June 14, 2007 [8], retrieved on December 23, 2007; compare demographic data for Gaza Strip ([9],[10])and Lebanon ([11], [12]) provided by the U.S. Census Bureau; see also David Bau: "History is Demographics"[13], retrieved on December 23, 2007
  42. ^ Goldstone, Jack A.: "Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World", Berkeley 1991
  43. ^ Moller, Herbert (1968): ‘Youth as a Force in the Modern World’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 10: 238–260; 240–244
  44. ^ Diessenbacher, Hartmut (1994): Kriege der Zukunft. Die Bevölkerungsexplosion gefährdet den Frieden. Muenchen: Hanser 1998; see also (criticizing youth bulge theory) Marc Sommers (2006): "Fearing Africa´s Young Men: The Case of Rwanda." The World Bank: Social Development Papers - Conflict Prevention and Reconstruction, Paper No. 32, January 2006 [14]
  45. ^ National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200) - April 1974
  46. ^ Stephen D. Mumford: The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy
  47. ^ Urdal, Henrik (2004): "The Devil in the Demographics: The Effect of Youth Bulges on Domestic Armed Conflict," [15],
  48. ^ Population Action International: "The Security Demographic: Population and Civil Conflict after the Cold "[16]
  49. ^ Kröhnert, Steffen (2004): "Jugend und Kriegsgefahr: Welchen Einfluss haben demografische Veränderungen auf die Entstehung von Konflikten?" [17]
  50. ^ United States Census Bureau: International Database
  51. ^ Hendrixson, Anne: "Angry Young Men, Veiled Young Women: Constructing a New Population Threat" [18]
  52. ^ Fearon, James D. 1995. "Rationalist Explanations for War." International Organization 49, 3: 379-414. [19]
  53. ^ Powell, Robert. 2002. "Bargaining Theory and International Conflict." Annual Review of Political Science 5: 1-30.
  54. ^ "Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy (pg. 19)". 2001. Retrieved 2010-02-07.  Leaders may use war as instant popularity boost
  55. ^ Peters, Ralph. "New Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy", 2005. p. 30
  56. ^ Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (1996). On Killing – The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War & Society. Little, Brown & Co.,. 
  57. ^ Axelrod, Robert. 1984. The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic Books.
  58. ^ Sipes, Richard G. ((Feb., 1973)). American Anthropologist (, New Series, Vol. 75, No. 1): 64–86. 
  59. ^ Waller, James. Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing. 
  60. ^ "Mortality and Burden of Disease Estimates for WHO Member States in 2004". World Health Organization. 
  61. ^ Obermeyer Z, Murray CJ, Gakidou E (June 2008). "Fifty years of violent war deaths from Vietnam to Bosnia: analysis of data from the world health survey programme". BMJ 336 (7659): 1482–6. doi:10.1136/bmj.a137. PMID 18566045. 
  62. ^ Lambert, Craig (May-June 2001). "The Deadliest War". Harvard Magazine. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  63. ^ Kitchen, Martin (2000),The Treaty of Versailles and its Consequences, New York: Longman
  64. ^ The Historical Impact of Epidemic Typhus. Joseph M. Conlon.
  65. ^ See a large copy of the chart here:, but discussed at length in Edward Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (London: Graphics Press, 1992)
  66. ^ War and Pestilence. TIME.
  67. ^ The Thirty Years War (1618–48), Alan McFarlane, The Savage Wars of Peace: England, Japan and the Malthusian Trap (2003)
  68. ^ History of Europe – Demographics. Encyclopædia Britannica.
  69. ^ "Population". History Learningsite. Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  70. ^ "World War II Fatalities". Retrieved 2007-04-20. 
  71. ^ "Leaders mourn Soviet wartime dead". May 9, 2005. Retrieved January 6, 2010. 
  72. ^ Great Depression and World War II. The Library of Congress.
  73. ^ Mayer, E. (2000) "World War II" course lecture notes on (Victorville, California: Victor Valley College)
  74. ^ Coleman, P. (1999) "Cost of the War," World War II Resource Guide (Gardena, California: The American War Library)
  75. ^ The New York Times, 9 February 1946, Volume 95, Number 32158.
  76. ^ Wallinsky, David: David Wallechinsky's Twentieth Century : History With the Boring Parts Left Out, Little Brown & Co., 1996, ISBN 0316920568, ISBN 978-0316920568 - cited by White
  77. ^ Brzezinski, Zbigniew: Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the Twenty-first Century, Prentice Hall & IBD, 1994, ASIN B000O8PVJI - cited by White
  78. ^ Selected Death Tolls for Wars, Massacres and Atrocities Before the 20th Century
  79. ^ Ping-ti Ho, "An Estimate of the Total Population of Sung-Chin China", in Études Song, Series 1, No 1, (1970) pp. 33-53.
  80. ^ Mongol Conquests
  81. ^ The world's worst massacres Whole Earth Review
  82. ^ Battuta's Travels: Part Three - Persia and Iraq
  83. ^ McFarlane, Alan: The Savage Wars of Peace: England, Japan and the Malthusian Trap, Blackwell 2003, ISBN 0631181172, ISBN 978-0631181170 - cited by White
  84. ^ "Military Casualties of World War One"
  85. ^ Taiping Rebellion - Britannica Concise
  86. ^ Nuclear Power: The End of the War Against Japan
  87. ^ Timur Lenk (1369-1405)
  88. ^ Matthew's White's website (a compilation of scholarly estimates) -Miscellaneous Oriental Atrocities
  89. ^ Russian Civil War
  90. ^ Oromo Identity
  91. ^ Glories and Agonies of the Ethiopian past
  92. ^ Inside Congo, An Unspeakable Toll
  93. ^ Conflict in Congo has killed 4.7m, charity says
  94. ^ Come Back, Colonialism, All is Forgiven
  95. ^ The Thirty Years War (1618-48)
  96. ^ Cease-fire agreement marks the end of the Korean War on July 27, 1953.
  97. ^ Huguenot Religious Wars, Catholic vs. Huguenot (1562-1598)
  98. ^ Shaka: Zulu Chieftain
  99. ^ K. S. Lal: Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India, 1973
  100. ^ Matthew White's Death Tolls for the Major Wars and Atrocities of the Twentieth Century
  101. ^ Missing Millions: The human cost of the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1921
  102. ^ Timeline: Iraq
  103. ^ Jones, Geo H., Vol. 23 No. 5, pp. 254
  104. ^ The Deadliest War
  105. ^ Clodfelter, cited by White
  106. ^ Urlanis, cited by White
  107. ^ Northern War (1700-21)
  108. ^ The curse of Cromwell
  109. ^ John M. Gates, “War-Related Deaths in the Philippines”, Pacific Historical Review , v. 53, No. 3 (August, 1984), 367-378.
  110. ^ Albigensian Crusade (1208-49)
  111. ^ Massacre of the Pure, Time, April 28, 1961
  112. ^ Attacks raise spectre of civil war
  113. ^ Journalists in Algeria are caught in middle
  114. ^ Peasants' War, Germany (1524-25)
  115. ^ Confirmed deaths beyond dispute
  116. ^ Russian Federation: What justice for Chechnya's disappeared? - Amnesty International

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to warfare article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary





warfare (uncountable)

  1. The waging of war or armed conflict against an enemy
  2. Military operations of some particular kind e.g. guerrilla warfare

Derived terms

Related terms



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

Warfare: A study of battle from the dawn of time to today.


War Throughout History

From failure to success and somewhere in-between, this section views war from the perspective of reality rather than theory.

"History is written by the winners."

"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it." -Attributed to Winston Churchill

"Those who will not remember history, are condemned to repeat it." -Santayanna.

"Walk softly, but carry a big stick." -Theodore Roosevelt.

It is hoped by many that one day we will have peace and unity throughout the world. Until that day arrives, people who are free or wishing to be free must be prepared to fight to maintain or obtain their freedom. Freedom is a temporary result of successful Warfare (and lots of politicking... but that's another book). Successful Warfare begins in the mind. To that end, the following section attempts to establish a mental framework in which the necessity of Successful Warfare is understandable.

A people may choose to avoid offensive actions. If they care to survive, they cannot avoid preparation for defensive actions. In the past invasions aimed to wipe out the original inhabitants.

After an early history of militancy, the Roman peoples became addicted to the opulence (or at least the free bread and circuses) that their empire had gained for them. Wearying of fighting their own wars, they attempted to defend their borders with hired help. Where is the Roman Empire today?

Iceland was sparsely inhabited by Irish monks before and when the Norse arrived. Iceland today has one of the most homogeneous (Scandinavian) gene-pools of any nation on earth.

The Tibetans were one of China's scourges for centuries, descending from the Tibetan plateau to raid and pillage the Chinese. The Chinese solved the problem by sending in Buddhist monks espousing the peaceful philosophy of the Buddha. The Tibetans converted en masse. Who's laughing now?

Freedom is not free.

If you can read this, thank a Teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a Veteran. -[anonymous Americana]

Evolution of War

This section details the evolution of warfare and fighting throughout the history of man.

Display vs. Proof.

Fighting requires resources. Expenditure of these resources produces a weakened state, more susceptible to losing the next confrontation. Displays and Intimidation have always been and will always be preferable to actual fighting. This is seen from the lowest orders of animals to the May-Day Parades of the Soviets (and at all stations in between). This is an unalterable axiom of warfare.

Display rather than Proof, however, allows for bluffing and deception.

Safety in numbers: more is better (usually).

In the beginning, there was the Alpha-male. The Alpha-male is, by definition, capable of defeating each an every other individual in "the group" in one-on-one fighting.

Somewhat later, although still in the mists of time, it was discovered that two or more weaker individuals could combine their strengths to overcome an onerous alpha-male. It is also true, however, that allies usually fall to bickering among themselves once the obvious danger of the (former) Alpha-male has been removed. "There can be only one" is a truism of most primitive situations, and is the basis of the Executive branch of government in modern representative democracies (committees are a perfect way to prevent anything from actually being accomplished). Nonetheless, the concepts and utility of combined forces and collective security have been with us ever since. Bigger armies defeat smaller armies with alarming regularity. With a few hiccups (induced by the occasional downfall of society and subsequent dark ages), societal groupings (tribes/states) and their fighting branches (warrior-bands/armies) have tended to increase in size.

Speed vs. Armour

Basic fighting may be defined as delivering kinetic energy to ones adversary in ways least conducive to their continued functioning, while attempting to avoid their reciprocal offerings.

The two primary ways of avoiding the receipt of kinetic energy are Speed (being fast enough to get out of the way) and Armour (shielding, to absorb the blow via the law of Conservation of Momentum). The requirements for Speed vs. Armour are mutually conflicting. The more armour you carry, the slower you can move... the faster you move, the less armour you can carry.

In the evolution of warfare, the pendulum has swung back and forth many times between the requirements for speed vs. armour. Usually it is some tactical or technical innovation which provides the impetus for reversing the swing.

Greek Hoplites in phalanx formations were very heavily armoured for their day, yet they were undone by the administrative superiority of more lightly armoured Roman Legions.

The introduction of the stirrup to Europe in the 5th century AD allowed what had been lightly armoured cavalry lancers to develop into the Knights in Armour of the mediaeval era. The extra stability of stirrups and larger horses allowing, for a time, high speed and heavy armour; the entire ensemble of man, horse, armour and arms being the delivery device for the kinetic energy. The high infrastructure requirements for supporting this fighting style eventually helped to develop one of the highest levels of armouring seen: stone castles -- absolutely zero speed and manoeuvrability, combined with as much shielding as one could quarry, all in an attempt to defend the specific piece of land which allowed sustaining the fighting horses and men.

These circumstances, however, were wholly undone by the introduction of gun-powder and firearms beginning in the 14th century AD. Firearms induced a reversion to little or no armour. The available armouring technologies were incapable of stopping bullets; and with the slow rate of fire and high rate of misfires, once a soldier had fired his shot, speed was of the utmost importance to complete ones bayonet charge before the enemy could reload.

Automatic weapons and machine guns reversed the pendulum yet again. Speed for charging meant little before the heavy sustained fire of the 20th century. Helmets, so noticeably absent from 18th and 19th century battlefields made a great comeback. It was the extreme heavy armour of tanks that broke the trench-warfare stalemate of WWI.

War planes, and fighter planes, rockets, and missiles... speed, speed, and more speed.

Nuclear weapons, however brought the state of the art back to ever larger bunkers, perhaps culminating in artifacts such as Cheyenne Mountain.


  1. Teeth.............................
  2. Fists and feet.....................
  3. Wooden clubs and unshaped rocks....
  4. Deceit & Trickery..................
  5. Spies..............................
  6. Pointed sticks.....................
  7. Knapped least 1 million BCE
  8. Fire...............................
  9. Atl-atl............................
  10. Bow (& arrow)......................
  11. Psychological weapons.(drums, trumpets, war paint)
  12. Fortifications.....................
  13. Tunneling and Sapping..............
  14. Copper.............................3500 BCE
  15. Bronze (alloy of copper and tin)...3000 BCE
  16. Armour.............................
  17. Horse and Chariots.................2000 BCE
  18. Biological weapons (spreading disease intentionally)
  19. Iron...............................1500 BCE
  20. Steel (combination of iron and carbon)
  21. Bagpipes (psych. weapons)..........
  22. the West by 400 AD
  23. the West by 1350 AD
  24. Cannon & Mortars...................1350
  25. Firearms...........................1450
  26. Rifling of gun barrels.............
  27. Grenades...........................
  28. Submarines.........................1780
  29. Railroads (troop & materiel movt)..
  30. Modern machining...................1800
  31. Steamboats (as gunships)...........1820s
  32. Balloons (for observation).........
  33. Telegraph..........................
  34. Revolvers..........................
  35. Breech-loading rifles..............1850s
  36. Barbed wire........................
  37. Iron-clad ships....................1860s
  38. Repeating rifles...................
  39. Gatling guns.......................
  40. Telephone..........................
  41. Automatic rifles...................
  42. Radio..............................
  43. Smokeless gunpowder................
  44. Machine guns.......................1900s
  45. Zeppelins & Dirigibles.............
  46. Aeroplanes.........................
  47. Carriers (ships w/ aeroplanes).....
  48. Poison Gas.........................1910s
  49. Tanks..............................
  50. Flame throwers.....................
  51. Antibiotics........................1940s
  52. Radar..............................
  53. Sonar..............................
  54. Computers..........................
  55. Missiles & Rockets.................
  56. Nuclear bombs......................1945
  57. Helicopters........................
  58. Satellites.........................1957
  59. Nuclear Submarines and Ships.......
  60. Napalm and herbicides..............
 <the list goes on and on>

Guerilla Warfare

Guerrilla Warfare is a redundant misnomer, as "Guerilla" is Spanish for "little war". But we seem to be stuck with the term in English, at least.

Guerilla Warfare takes maximum advantage of speed, and seems to have little use for armour. Furthermore, it would seem to defy the rule of "Strength in Numbers", as most operations are conducted by small highly-mobile groups. During a guerilla attack, soldiers attack the enemy quickly, then "vanish" into the landscape.

To be maximally effective, however, an insurgency must be well entrenched, which is to say, they should have the support of the populous among which they operate. Thus, although they may have very few actual operatives, the collusion of the local non-combatants swells the effective number of real participants far beyond the number of soldiers their adversary may be able to field. Furthermore, the surrounding populous provides maximum opportunity for Cover and Concealment both before and after any particular strike.

Total War

Total War is the practice of considering all of an enemy's resources as valid targets; to include civilian population, and means of production (agricultural and industrial).

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, there were no industrial means of production, aside from perhaps mining, smelting, and the activities of smiths (armourers). Agricultural means of production (farms and farmers) were more often siezed to augment the invader's supplies than destroyed, or rather destroyed by their defender to deny them to the invader (Scorched Earth Policy). Civilian populations, however, have always suffered during war, whether because they were taken to be sold into slavery, because their food was taken or destroyed, because their homes were occupied or destroyed, or due to the pestilence which always accompanies warfare.

During the high middle-ages in Europe, the code of Chivalry supposedly forbade the mistreatment of non-combatants. It is not at all clear that the civilians would agree that this was actually the case.

And for an all too brief period around the 18th century, War was considered a Gentlemen's' Sport: supposedly not making more of a mess than could be cleaned up by tea-time. This is more likely a Victorian romanticisation, all the more plausible the further you were in time and space from the battle field.

WWI and to a greater degree WWII were text-book examples of Total War; with indiscriminate use of Chemical Weapons and bombing (conventional and nuclear) of industrial/population centres to destroy enemy resources and morale.

Law of War

In conjunction with the increased use of Total War, the Geneva Conventions have been an attempt by the larger players in geo-politics to provide a framework for minimizing the inherent suffering of war. In particular, guidelines have been laid down concerning the "fair" treatment of medical facilities and personnel, clergy/chaplains, the wounded, and prisoners of war.

The International Red Cross (and sister organizations such as the Red Crescent, et al.) are the bodies responsible for implementing many of the humanitarian assistances prescribed under the various Geneva Conventions.

The International Court at The Hague is the responsible body for trying and prosecuting parties suspected of breaching the guidelines laid out in the Geneva Conventions. [vide War Crimes and War Criminals]

Various treaties have been attempted to eliminate or reduce the threat from Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear weapons of mass destruction. None of these have been nearly as comprehensive as the Geneva Conventions. The United States, for instance, reserves the right of 1st strike with Nuclear Weapons, the right to retaliate with Chemical Weapons (2nd strike), and will not use Biological Weapons (no strike).

It is extremely important to note, that the Geneva Conventions and these other treaties are all agreements between the governments of states/nations. Supranational terrorist groups are NOT parties to these agreements, and indeed, their most basic tactics fly in the very face of these agreements. It is left as an exercise for the reader as to whether or not these individuals should be accorded the rights guaranteed under these agreements.

Religious and Ideological Wars

Aside from merely wishing to conquer another group, and take what is theirs, Religious and Ideological Wars have been an attempt by one party to violently control the way another group thinks, or to subjugate or at least harm them because of what they think.

A non-exhaustive list of examples of this behaviour include the spread of Islam (7th century onward -- the creation of the Caliphate), various civil wars of the Byzantine Empire, the Crusades (12th through 14th centuries), the Wars of the Reformation, the spread and containment of Communism (the Cold War)(20th century), and the more recent disagreement between Islamic fundamentalist terrorists and the Western Nations.

Levels of Military Thinking


If you're only thinking about military matters, you're not thinking about strategy. Strategy encompasses all the tools at a nation's disposal: military, diplomatic, economic and social. Military force is but one tool in a nation's toolbox.

Strategy is defining a nation's needs and objectives, and then devising a plan for meeting those needs and objectives. For example, in WWII Hitler knew he could not sustain Germany's military/industrial expansion without access to oil. Germany had no oil reserves and neither did any of its immediate neighbours. The closest oil reserves of any size were in the Caucasus mountains of Russia. So to meet Germany's need for oil, Hitler's strategy was to invade Russia and take theirs.

The actual invasion plan was not a strategic decision, but an operational one. At the military operational level, you are concerned primarily, if not solely, with military matters. So the decision to invade Russia was a strategic decision, but the decision of when and where to attack, and with what forces, were all operational decisions. Typically, strategic decisions are made by a country's political leaders while operational decisions are made by its senior military commanders.


If you can smell the smoke and hear the gunfire, you're in a tactical situation. Tactical engagements are often called "battles." The battles of The Alamo and Little Big Horn are famous examples of tactical battles. While strategic situations may take months, years or even decades to play out, tactical situations are usually resolved in a few minutes to a few days. In land combat, tactical decisions are made at the lower levels of the command structure, from junior officers down to individual soldiers. In naval combat, they are typically made by junior to senior level officers commanding anything from a single ship to a large carrier group. In air combat, tactical decisions are made by squadron leaders, who are typically mid-level officers, to individual pilots. Tactical decisions must typically be made quickly, under fire, and with immediate life-and-death consequences.

Decisions can however, be both a tactically good decision, but a strategically bad decision. This is how tactics and strategy are usually differentiated. For example, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor destroyed far more American military resources that Japanese military resources. This was a tactical victory by the Japanese, but the overall grand strategy was a failure because the events following Pearl Harbor resulted in Japan's defeat.


Between the political abstractions that characterize strategy and the minute-to-minute, life-and-death drama that characterizes tactics, lies the realm of operations. Operations tend to be strictly military affairs and are orchestrated by senior military commanders, generals and admirals. Operations tend to be unfold over days, weeks or even months and to involve large numbers of men and several battles. The Invasion of Normandy and the Tet Offensive are famous examples of recent military operations. The distinctions between these levels are fuzzy. For example, in the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War, there were actually a number of smaller tactical engagements, making the overall Battle of Gettysburg look more like an operational engagement than a tactical one.

Military Branches and What They Do

The Army

The primary job of the army is to take and control territory and to stop the enemy from doing the same. Modern armies are composed of basically 3 groups. First is the infantry, composed of individual soldiers fighting "up close and personal" with personal, hand-held weapons. This is the dirtiest, most dangerous, and most important job in the military. In the beginning was the infantry, and the infantry is still considered "The Queen of the Battlefield." You can bomb the enemy's capital into a smoking rubble, but until your guys are walking around in its streets and cleared out any survivors, you can't claim to have conquered it.

Then there is the artillery, composed of big guns, or more recently, rockets. The guys firing the big guns rarely see their targets. They rely on forward observers to tell them where to shoot. An observer can be a guy on a hilltop, a guy in an airplane or anywhere they can see the target. This is called "indirect fire." If the guys firing the guns can see their targets it is called "direct fire." Artillery guys hate direct fire because it means the enemy is way too close. Half of all combat casualties are caused by artillery, so locating and destroying the enemy's artillery is always a high priority.

Finally, there is armour or tanks. Tanks specialize in moving quickly across relatively open ground and delivering a lot of fire-power. While tanks look big and imposing, they do have their vulnerabilities. Their main one is that they can't see very well. So tanks depend on infantry to be their eyes. A tank without infantry cover is very vulnerable. The Marines like to say that "Hunting tanks is fun and easy." Tanks need room to move to be at their most effective, so they are of limited usefulness in heavy jungle or forest (like Vietnam), mountains (like Korea and much of Afghanistan), or in built-up cities (like Stalingrad). But in flat, open areas, like the deserts of Iraq and the steppes of Russia, they are fearsome indeed.

The Navy

Using ships to transport goods is by far the most efficient way to move large amounts of people and goods across oceans. The job of navies has traditionally been to ensure that your country maintains the ability to move your people and goods, while at the same time, interfering with your enemy's ability to move his people and goods. One of the most noteworthy recent examples of this was the North Atlantic campaign of WWII. The Americans were trying to move men and materials across the Atlantic Ocean to help Britain. At the same time, the German navy, using mainly U-boats, was trying to stop this traffic. Had the Allies failed, Germany probably would have been able to conquer Britain as it had the rest of Europe.

In addition to this basic role, modern navies have developed other capabilities as well. An example is putting nuclear missiles into a submarine to turn it into a mobile, almost undetectable missile base. Submarines have also distinguished themselves as superb platforms from which to spy on the enemy. The recent best-seller Blind Man's Bluff is a gripping account of how this was done during the Cold War. The American navy has invested a lot to develop the ability to conduct amphibious assaults, that is, to attack from the sea using land-based forces (think D-Day). This is the primary mission of the U.S. Marines. Aircraft carriers also provide the navy with a mobile airfield which can be used to conduct air operations virtually anywhere in the world.

The Air Force

The introduction of aircraft in the early 20th Century adds a new dimension to warfare. That dimension reflects itself not only in new ways to deploy fire but also in boosting the ability of the ground troops to deploy their fire, supplying knowlegde about quantity, quality and disposition of opposing forces. Air power has a negative effect on the enemy's morale as well.

Since the introduction of balloons to spy on the enemy and to direct artillery barrages the importance of the aircraft rose exponentially:

  1. balloons and reconaissance fixed-wing aircraft: spying, spotting
  2. air-superiority fighters: air-to-air fighting, gaining control of the air-space
  3. tactical bombers: targeting foes in the battlefield - JU-87 Stuka
  4. strategic bombers: destroying the enemy's ability to wage war - Allied campaign against the Axis
  5. rocket-proppeled unmanned one-use weapons - V1 and V2
  6. rotary-wing aircraft: both as gunships or transports
  7. multi-purpose unmanned aircraft: both as gunships or as reconnaissance

It's now impossible to disassociate ground and air power: the regular infantry or even small, commando-like units can call upon superior firepower in the form of airstrikes; small, highly mobile, unmanned aircraft can acquire information about enemy forces or infrastructure to direct ground operations. It's the exploration of all dimensions that deliver victory.


Logistics is essentially distribution and delivery of supplies to troops. Supplies include anything from food rations, to additional soldiers, to munitions, to fuel and anything in between. As armies of an invading force moves out of it's home territory, supply lines are formed to deliver such supplies to soldiers fighting towards the front. Without supplies, soldiers will go hungry, vehicles will run out of fuel, guns will run out of ammunition, and armies will be unable to replace men lost in combat.

The concept of logistics has become increasingly important throughout the history of warfare. The more advanced military technology is, the more supplies necessary to continue a war effectively. For example, soldiers fighting with swords required far fewer and complicated supplies than soldiers fighting with gunpowder muskets. Today modern soldiers fighting with assault rifles with tanks and armored personnel carriers require a large variety of complicated supplies including ammunition, fuel, repair kits, additional weapons, etc.

Logistics is also part of strategy. During World War II the Chinese forces used a strategy where they purposely let the Japanese forces take land, while buying the Chinese forces time. Eventually the Japanese advance was halted as Japan simply could not find the supplies to reach further into China, while trying to fight an insurgency in the territory Japan occupied at the same time.


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