From Academic Kids
War is a state of widespread conflict between states, organisations, or relatively large groups of people, which is characterised by the use of violent, physical force between combatants or upon civilians. Other terms for war, which often serve as euphemisms, include armed conflict, hostilities, and police action (see limitations on war below). War is contrasted with peace, which is usually defined as the absence of war.
History of war
War is as old as human societies. Certain hunter-gatherer societies engaged in skirmishes over territory and resources. The earliest city states and empire in Mesopotamia became the first to employ standing armies. Organization and structure has since been central to warfare, as illustrated by the success of highly disciplined troops of the Roman Empire.
As well as organizational change technology has played a central role in the evolution of warfare. Inventions created for warfare have also played an important role in others fields. The continued advance of technology has led to an increase in the destructiveness and cost of warfare throughout human history.
The study of warfare is known as military history.
Morality of war
Throughout history war has been the source of serious moral questions. Although many ancient nations and some more modern ones viewed war as noble, over the sweep of history concerns about the morality of war have gradually increased. Today war is almost unanimously seen as undesireable and morally problematic. Many now believe that wars should only be fought as a last resort. Some, known as pacifists, believe that war is inherently immoral and no war should ever be fought. This position was forcefully defended by the Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi (called "Mahatma" or "Great One").
The negative view of war has not always been held as widely as it is today. Many thinkers, such as Heinrich von Treitschke saw war as humanity's highest activity where courage, honour, and ability were more necessary than in any other endeavour. At the outbreak of World War I the writer Thomas Mann wrote, "Is not peace an element of civil corruption and war a purification, a liberation, an enormous hope?" This attitude was embraced by many societies from Sparta in Ancient Greece and the Ancient Romans to the fascist states of the 1930s. The defeat and repudiation of the fascist states and their militarism in the Second World War, combined with the unquestioned horror of nuclear war have contributed to the current negative view of war.
Today, some see only just wars (which also cause suffering, but are started to counter what is deemed even worse suffering) as legitimate, and it is the goal of organizations such as the United Nations to unite the world against wars of unjust aggression.
Limitations on war
At times throughout history, societies have attempted to limit the cost of war by formalizing it in some way. Limitations on the targeting of civilians, what type of weapons can be used, and when combat is allowed have all fallen under these rules in different conflicts. Total war is the modern term for the targeting of civilians and the mobilization of an entire society.
While culture, law, and religion have all been factors in causing wars, they have also acted as restraints at times. In some cultures, for example, conflicts have been highly ritualized to limit actual loss of life. In modern times, increasing international attention has been paid to peacefully resolving conflicts which lead to war. The United Nations is the latest and most comprehensive attempt to, as stated in the preamble of the U.N. Charter (http://www.un.org/aboutun/charter), "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war."
Sometimes the term "war" is restricted by legal definition to those conflicts where one or both belligerents have made a formal declaration of war. This has resulted in wars (in the informal sense, as defined in the introduction to this article) without formal declaration and combatants who officially choose terms other than "war," such as:
- "armed conflict";
- "state aggression by armed force";
- "police action";
- "crime against international peace".
For example, the British Government was very careful to use the term "armed conflict" instead of "war" during the Falklands War in 1982 to comply with international law.
A number of treaties regulate warfare, collectively referred to as the laws of war. The most pervasive of those are the Geneva conventions, the earliest of which began to take effect in the mid 1800s.
Treaty signing has since been a part of international diplomacy, and too many treaties to mention in this scant article have been signed. A couple of examples are: Resolutions of the Geneva International Conference, Geneva, 26 October-29 October 1863 and Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, 75 U.N.T.S. 135, entered into force 21 October 1950.
Types of war and warfare
When one country sends armed forces to another, allegedly to restore order or prevent genocide or other crimes against humanity, or to support a legally recognized government against insurgency, that country sometimes refers to it as a police action. This usage is not always recognized as valid, however, particularly by those who do not accept the connotations of the term.
A war where the forces in conflict belong to the same country or empire or other political entity is known as a civil war. Asymmetrical warfare is a conflict between two populations of drastically different levels of military mechanization. This type of war often results in guerilla tactics. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a common example of asymmmetrical warfare.
The terrain over which a war is fought has a big impact on the type of combat which takes place. This in turn means that soldiers have to be trained to fight in a specific type of terrain.
- Civil war
- List of wars
- List of battles
- List of orders of battle
- List of invasions
- List of military commanders
- List of current wars
- Military science
- Military technology and equipment
- Military strategy
- Military tactics
- Military-industrial complex
- Private military contractors