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History of war

The analysis of war

The significance of war

The control of war



The articles under this heading deal with general aspects of modern and primitive warfare. Specific types of warfare are discussed under Economic Warfare; Feud; Internal Warfare, articles On Civil warand Guerrilla warfare; limited war; nuclear war; and Psychological warfare. Legal problems relating to war are discussed in Aggression, article on International aspects; international crimes; military law; and Sanctions, International. For related topics of more general interest see Conflict; disarmament; foreign policy; military; peace; strategy; and the detailed guide under International relations.

I. The Study of WarQuincy Wright

II. Primitive WarAndrew P. Vayda


War in the ordinary sense is a conflict among political groups, especially sovereign states, carried on by armed forces of considerable magnitude for a considerable period of time. In this sense, war is not sharply distinguished from peace. Conflicts between states may be carried on by diplomacy, economic pressures, propaganda, subversion, or other forms of intervention without the use or even the threat of armed force. Even if armed force is used, its use may be on such a small scale or of such short duration—as in suppressions of mob violence or insurrection, colonial expeditions, and reprisals by large against small states—that it is not called war. The progress of war and peace between a pair of states may be represented by a curve: the curve descends toward war as tensions, military preparations, exchange of threats, mobilizations, border hostilities, and limited hostilities culminate in total conflict; and it rises toward peace as tensions relax, arms budgets decline, disputes are settled, trade increases, and cooperative activities develop.

Sociologists and lawyers seeking a clear concept of war have sought criteria sharply separating it from peace. They have followed Hugo Grotius, who, criticizing Cicero’s definition of war as “a contending by force,” said that war is not a “contest but the condition of those contending by force,” a condition marked by precise points in time separating a “state of war” from a “state of peace.” According to this definition, war is an institution permitting types of behavior and action that are defined by law as inappropriate to a state of peace. This concept implies clear criteria for determining the beginning and the end of war and for distinguishing belligerents and neutrals during that period. As defined by jurists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the main characteristic of a state of war is the juristic equality of the belligerents, their freedom to use armed force against one another, and the impartiality and abstention of neutrals. War in this sense has been defined as “a legal condition which equally permits two or more hostile groups to carry on a conflict by armed force” (Wright [1942] 1965, pp. 8, 698). Accordingly, it is clear that a state of war may exist with no actual hostilities, and, conversely, hostilities of considerable magnitude may exist without a state of war. War can be initiated by a formal declaration, by an ultimatum with a time limit, or by an act clearly manifesting an intention to create such a state. It is normally ended by a treaty of peace, although a long suspension of hostilities or an armistice providing for an indefinite suspension can also be regarded as manifesting an intention to end the war.

The outlawry of war. While war in this institutional sense was recognized throughout most modern history and was to some extent codified in the Hague conventions of 1899 and 1907, it has been “outlawed” by recent generally ratified conventions. The League of Nations Covenant of 1920 obliged members not to resort to war until the League had had nine months to attempt a settlement of the dispute, not to engage in aggression against the territorial integrity or political independence of other states, and to establish economic sanctions against the state that violated these obligations. The Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 obliged its 63 parties to “renounce it [war] as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another” and never to seek “the settlement or solution of …disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them—except by pacific means.” The pact also asserted in its preamble that a state that violated its prescriptions would not be protected from defensive or policing action by other states; thus the aggressor and the defender would not be legally equal. These principles were reasserted by the League of Nations when it brought about a ceasefire in hostilities between Albania and its neighbors in 1921, between Iraq and Turkey in 1924, between Greece and Bulgaria in 1925, and between Colombia and Peru in 1932; and when it recommended discrimination between the aggressor and the defender after its cease-fire order had failed to end hostilities in the Chaco in 1928, in Manchuria in 1931, and in Ethiopia in 1935. The League did not act successfully in the Vilna dispute in 1920, in Corfu in 1923, in Spain in 1936, or in the Sine— Japanese hostilities in 1937, nor did it stop the Axis aggressions that led to World War n. The United States and other states, however, while still nonparticipants in World War n, discriminated between the Axis aggressors and the defenders, and the Nuremberg and other war-crimes tribunals imposed penalties upon individuals found to have been responsible for these aggressions.

The United Nations Charter clarified this law by obliging its members to “settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered” to “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations” to “give the United Nations every assistance in any act it takes in accordance with the present Charter” and to “refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.” These provisions make it clear that if the United Nations organs fulfill their responsibility of determining the aggressor (arts. 24, 39) and if provisional measures do not stop the hostilities (art. 40), then the participants cannot be equally entitled to settle their conflict by force. These provisions were put into effect in 1950 when the United Nations found that North Korea and Communist China were aggressors in the Korean hostilities and initiated sanctions against them. The United Nations also found the Soviet Union guilty of aggression in its invasion of Hungary in 1956 but did not recommend sanctions. It ordered a cease-fire with relative success in the cases of Indonesia in 1946, Greece in 1946, Kashmir in 1948, Palestine in 1948, Suez in 1956, and West Irian in 1957; but cease-fire orders were less successful in the cases of Korea in 1950, Hungary in 1956, Yemen in 1959, the Congo in 1960, Cyprus in 1962, and Malaysia in 1964.

In spite of these legal prescriptions and their implementation, history has made it clear that outlawry of war has not eliminated the possibility, or even the probability, of hostilities or of war: Hostilities in Manchuria in 1931-1933, in Ethiopia in 1935-1936, in Spain in 1936-1939, during World War Ii, 1939-1945, in Korea in 1950-1953, in Indochina in 1947-1954, and in Algeria in 1953-1960 were of a magnitude sufficiently large to be called war; since 1920 a total of 40 instances of hostility have been counted in each of which more than five hundred participants were killed (Wright [1942] 1965, appendix C). The cold war between the communist and Western states started shortly after World War ii; propaganda, subversion, guerrilla activities, border hostilities, and, especially, threats of nuclear war created anxieties on both sides of the “iron curtain” that a third world war could occur.

The problem of war, therefore, continues and has indeed become a greater problem than ever before. The shrinking of the world, through improved communication and transportation, has increased the probability that hostilities anywhere will affect people everywhere; the acceleration of history through the development of modern science and technology has diminished the prospect of a stable balance of military power; the invention of weapons of extraordinary destructiveness and delivery means of extraordinary speed has made direct defense impossible; and the rise of popular awareness of world conditions has increased general anxiety about the possibility of war and its danger to mankind.

Metaphorical meanings. In addition to the popular and the legal conceptions of war, the term has been applied metaphorically to numerous types of opposition—both conflict and competition—that have been distinguished from relations of peaceful coexistence and cooperation. People refer to the war of words, of economic classes, of competing forms, and of organic species in the “struggle for existence” wars between the sexes, the generations, and the races; wars against poverty, disease, crime, and, indeed, against war itself. In all these cases, discrimination has not been made between “conflicts,” where the entities involved are conscious of and hostile to one another, and “competition,” where such awareness and hostility does not necessarily exist. The inclusion of the competitive relationship is an extreme extension of the idea of war, hardly justifiable even as metaphor, particularly as it has been used to justify war in the usual sense as necessary for progress. Thus, according to Ernest Renan: “War is in a way one of the conditions of progress, the cut of the whip which prevents a country from going to sleep, forcing satisfied mediocrity itself to leave its apathy” (1871, p. 111). Social and political Darwinists like Gum-plowicz, Ratzenhofer, Treitschke, and Steinmetz considered the social need for war eternal. According to Steinmetz: “War is an ordeal instituted by God, who weighs the nations in its balance. … Its dread hammer is the welder of men into cohesive states, and nowhere but in such states can human nature adequately develop its capacity. The only alternative is ’degeneration’” (James [1910] 1911, pp. 280, 281). However, sociologists like Herbert Spencer, Walter Bagehot, and Yakov Novikov, while recognizing the constructive influence of war under certain technological and social conditions, believed that civilization creates conditions under which war’s influence is negative (Wright [1942] 1965, pp. 1037, 1146). “War created and expanded states and then destroyed them. It unified civilizations and then disintegrated them” (ibid., p. 165). “Thus war has stood out more and more as a recurrent catastrophe in civilized human existence” (pp. 378-379).

History of war

The history of war can be conveniently divided into five great periods: animal, primitive, civilized, modern, and recent war, distinguished by the technologies utilized in lethal conflicts.

Animal war. Animals generally utilize only bodily equipment, provided by heredity, although monkeys occasionally throw stones and higher apes sometimes use clubs. Animals differ greatly in their equipment for aggression and defense. Although an animal cannot change this equipment, the manner of using it may be developed by experience. Lethal hostilities between animals of the same species are usually disadvantageous to the survival of the species and are rare. Nonlethal hostilities occur but are largely confined to hostilities between males for possession of females, hostilities to defend the nesting site against intrusion, and hostilities to maintain leadership of the group. Aggressive behavior among young monkeys, as among children, usually arises from rivalry for possession of an object, from intrusion of a stranger into the group, or from frustration of activity. Among animals of different species the predators attack other species for food, and the attacked defend themselves more often by flight than by counterattack. Such activities, however, resemble the activities of man in the hunt rather than in war.

The study of hostilities among animals can throw light on the drives leading to aggression in man, on the influence of specialized techniques of aggression and defense on the frequency and intensity of hostilities, and on the survival of the individual, the group, or the species. Such specializations as the lion’s striking power, the antelope’s fleetness, the buffalo herd’s mass charge, the elephant’s size and relative invulnerability, and the cooperative activity of social insects have analogues to human military instruments and tactics. The relationship of conflict, competition, cooperation, coexistence, territorial control, and hierarchic dominance to the nature of hostilities and the course of evolution can also be studied in animal species. From the study of animal relationships, behavior patterns, and instruments, ecologists have gained insight into the behavior of human groups in a state of nature in relation to one another— that is, under conditions in which each guides its behavior only by consideration of its own interest.

Primitive war. Primitive man, prior to any contact with civilization, was equipped with speech but not with writing and was organized politically in clans, villages, or tribes on principles of blood relationship; both in the hunt and in war he utilized stones, clubs, spears, and the bow and arrow for attack, and animal skins and the shield for defense. It has been contended by some anthropologists that the most primitive peoples were peaceful and that the institution of war was unknown until learned from advanced civilizations. Yet, customs of warmaking have existed among most primitive peoples that have been observed (the Greenland and Labrador Eskimos and the peaceful Andamans have been cited as exceptions), and the cave pictures drawn by ancient man seem to indicate that wars occurred. Among primitive people, men generally did the fighting, although they were seldom specialized except by age for this purpose, and their hostilities, although often initiated by elaborate ceremonials, were usually conducted by sudden and brief raids, their legs being the only means of mobility. War was usually a highly formalized institution with the object of vindicating the group mores that were thought to have been offended by a member of another tribe, usually through wife stealing or witch doctoring. Economic gain or political conquest was not a motive among hunting and collecting peoples but played an increasing role with the advent of herding and agriculture. Whatever its ostensible purpose, primitive war served to manifest the unity of the fighting group, its distinctiveness from its neighbors, and the reality of its customs and institutions. It contributed to social solidarity by distinguishing the cooperating “in-group” from all opposing “out-groups.” The clan was the ultimate in-group, but peaceful relations among neighbors might develop, creating a tribe as a larger in-group. As primitive peoples advanced to agriculture and herding, the in-group became even larger through the integration of tribes into kingdoms or federations, the warriors became specialized, weapons and tactics became more efficient, economic and political motives for war began to develop, and casualties increased in magnitude.

Civilized war. Primitive peoples usually achieved the distinction of “civilization” by developing a written language, systematic agriculture or herding, and a hierarchic political organization controlling a defined territory. Economic and political classes developed, commercial centers arose, and population increased. War became an institution conducted by a specialized class for purposes of plunder, territorial acquisition, trade, or the expansion of religion or ideology. Mobility in war was assisted by use of the horse or chariot, armies were disciplined, cities were fortified, and siege engines were developed. The characteristics of war differed among different civilizations and at different stages in the same civilization. The ancient civilizations of Babylonia, Greece, Rome, and Japan appear to have been more warlike than those of ancient Egypt, China, and India (ibid., p. 572).

A civilization usually began with many city-states, each with a ruler conscious of the religion, political organization, economic needs, and ambitions of his state. Each state struggled to maintain and forward its interests against the pressure of others and, for that purpose, attempted to increase its power and resources, often under the pressure of an increasing population. The interest of the state was usually identified with the interest of the ruling group or individual in maintaining or augmenting position, wealth, and glory.

In each civilization war increased in efficiency and destructiveness with the invention of new weapons and tactics. The “heroic age” merged into a “time of troubles” as small states were conquered by the large, as public administration became more efficient, and as the tactics of dash-and-maneuver were succeeded by tactics of mass charge of trained phalanxes or legions, and by the use of siege engines against walled cities. Alliances and power balancing came to be recognized, tending toward a bipolarization of power and frequently resulting in universal conquest of a civilization, as happened under Ahmose i and Thutmose i in Egypt, Hammurabi, and, more than a millennium later, Tiglath-pileser in Mesopotamia, Alexander in the Middle East, Asoka in India, Ch’in in China, and Julius Caesar in the Mediterranean and Gaul. Such a “universal state” was eventually weakened by overcentralization, corruption, and decay, permitting the external barbarians and the internal proletariat to destroy it and to begin a new civilization centering on a new ideology or religion.

The great wars that usually preceded universal conquest were frequently accompanied by unsuccessful efforts at confederation and disarmament. This course of change, in which war contributed first to the integration of a civilization and later to its destruction, can be studied in the histories of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, China, and India, and there is some evidence of similar changes in the pre-Columbian civilizations of Mexico and Peru. The historic record is, however, best known in the classic civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome, the Christian civilization of medieval Europe, and the Muslim civilization of the Middle East and north Africa.

Eight great wars in the two millenniums of Western civilization originated in efforts at large-scale conquest.

Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C., utilizing the Macedonian phalanx and siege engines, conquered and to some extent Hellenized a short-lived empire extending from the Indus to Egypt and from Iran to Greece.

Rome, utilizing the legions of disciplined infantry and cavalry in Greece, the Middle East, Carthage, Spain, and Gaul, established in three centuries of warfare an empire that maintained the Pax Romana among 150 million people during the century of the Antonine Caesars.

Attila, with an army of Huns and Germans on horseback, overran much of the Roman Empire but was defeated at the Battle of Chalons in 451 A.0. Subsequent invasions by Germanic tribes, as well as the influence of Christianity, the deterioration of agriculture, and the increasing dependence for frontier defense upon barbarian mercenaries, seriously weakened the Western empire until it was taken over by barbarian rulers in 476.

Muhammad and his successors after 622, using horsemen and religious enthusiasm, extended the empire of Islam into Arabia, Iran, India, eastern Anatolia, Egypt, north Africa, and Spain, but this expansion was checked in France by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732.

Charlemagne’s feudal army of knights on horseback and militia established in the eighth century a short-lived empire in France, Germany, and Italy, followed by the decentralized Holy Roman Empire.

Norsemen in Viking ships invaded northern Europe, Italy, Iceland, Greenland, and America from the ninth to the eleventh centuries and established permanent governments in Normandy, England, and Iceland.

With papal inspiration, western European princes crusaded against Islam, and incidentally against the Byzantine Empire, in the Middle East and Spain from 1095 to 1270. They established a short-lived kingdom in Palestine and strengthened the internal solidarity of Christendom, contributing to the Pax Ecclesiae of the thirteenth century.

England attempted to conquer France in the Hundred Years’ War from 1337 to 1453 with feudal armies, longbowmen, and naval transport, contributing to the development of national consciousness in both of these countries, particularly in France, which had rallied behind the standard of Joan of Arc and eventually drove out the English, who then turned to civil war (the War of the Roses).

These eight major wars generally had ideological, economic, psychological, political, and juridical causes. The ideological element was most prominent in the expansion of Islam, the conquests of Charlemagne, and the Crusades, but it also figured in Alexander’s devotion to Hellenism and in the rising nationalistic ideologies of England and France during the Hundred Years’ War.

Economic factors, too, were present, especially in the plundering raids of the Huns and the Vikings. But such considerations also influenced the Roman conquerors, who were in search of new sources of food as population increased and agriculture deteriorated in Italy, and the Islamic warriors and Christian crusaders, who hoped for economic gains through distant conquests.

The political urge to expand empire and to win glory, security, and peace was undoubtedly a motivation in the conquests by Alexander, Caesar, the Huns, the caliphs, Charlemagne, the Normans, the crusaders, and the English Plantagenets and Lancastrians.

Juridical grounds were found to justify most of these wars. Alexander claimed to be acting on the authority of the Greek cities that had conferred hegemony upon him to defend them against Persia; Roman generals acted under the authority of the Fetial College, an ancient Roman institution purporting to apply international law; Islam operated under the legal as well as spiritual authority of the Koran; while Charlemagne and the crusaders acted under the authority of the pope and the medieval theory of a “just war.” England tried to make a legal case for its invasion of France under feudal law and hereditary claims. The Huns and the Norsemen had little concern for legal justifications, although William the Conqueror made claims to England on the basis of feudal law.

Modern war. Modern history was ushered in by the use of gunpowder in war, the use of the printing press in nationalist propaganda, and the discoveries by Europeans of the orbits of the planets and the civilizations of America, Asia, and Africa, which destroyed the medieval conception of the universe and of the world. Modern history continued with the exploration and exploitation of the discovered territories, establishing permanent contacts among all the civilizations. The Renaissance acquainted Europe with the ideas of the ancients and developed ideas of humanism; the Reformation destroyed the unity of Christendom; and there was general acceptance of the concept of the sovereign territorial state, as set forth by Machiavelli, Bodin, and Hobbes, emphasizing military power as the basis of political authority.

This period began with the wars of Turkish expansion against the Byzantine Empire, which ended in 1453 with the Turkish conquest of Constantinople, marking the first use of gunpowder in siege artillery. Further wars of Turkish expansion in Europe followed, culminating in the failure of the Turks to take Vienna in 1683 and the signing of the treaty of Karlowitz in 1699.

After the Spanish conquest of the Moors and the unification of the peninsula under Ferdinand and Isabella, wars of Spanish expansion continued under Charles v and Phillip n from 1521 to the destruction of the armada in 1588.

The wars of religion that began in most of the western European countries after the Reformation of 1520 culminated in the Thirty Years’ War, terminated in 1648 by the Peace of Westphalia, which recognized the dominance of the secular state over the church.

The wars against Louis xiv, who was seeking to dominate Europe, ended with the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, which recognized the principle of the balance of power utilized during these wars by William in of England.

The Seven Years’ War, fought in Europe, North America, India, and on the high seas, was the first genuinely world-wide war. It was ended in Europe by the Peace of Hubertusburg of 1763, augmenting the power of Prussia under Frederick the Great; outside Europe it was ended by the Peace of Paris, establishing British dominance in North America and India through the diplomacy of Lord Chatham, the elder Pitt.

The American Revolution, which eventually involved France, Spain, and the Netherlands, as well as the American colonies, against Britain, was ended by the Peace of Paris in 1783, establishing the independence of the United States as the first non-European member of the community of nations.

The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars began with the expansive tendencies of the French revolutionary ideas (liberty, equality, and fraternity). In 1815 the Treaty of Vienna restored the ancien regime in France and in the states it had conquered—but only after the ideas of the revolution had been widely spread throughout Europe.

The Crimean War, begun in 1854, involved most of the great powers and was ended by the Peace of Paris in 1856, checking Russian expansion in Turkey and the Balkans.

The wars of Italian and German unification, organized by Cavour and Bismarck, were ended by the Peace of Frankfurt between France and Germany and by the Italian occupation of Rome in 1871, which contributed to the acceptance of the principle of nationalities that had been expounded by Giuseppe Mazzini.

The American Civil War, bloodier than any European war between the battles of Waterloo and the Marne, ended by the suppression of the Southern rebellion in 1865.

The Taiping Rebellion in China was the bloodiest war of the nineteenth century. It lasted from 1850 to 1864, caused 20 million deaths, and ended with the restoration of the Manchu emperor after United States and British generals had given him assistance.

The López War of Paraguay was the second bloodiest war of the nineteenth century. It lasted from 1865 to 1870 and was ended by the defeat of the Paraguayan dictator López by the combined armies of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, after destruction of a large majority of the Paraguayan population.

The Russo-Turkish War began in 1878 and appeared to be terminated by the Treaty of San Stefano, but this was modified by the Treaty of Berlin under which the great powers deprived Russia of the fruits of its victory.

The Spanish-American War “liberated” Cuba and led to the conquest of the Philippines, terminated Spanish colonialism (except in Africa), extended the American domain to the eastern hemisphere, thus weakening the basis for the Monroe Doctrine, and achieved great power status for the United States. Suppression of the Philippine insurrection cost more lives than the war against Spain, which was rapidly terminated by the overwhelming superiority of the U.S. Navy.

The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 was ended by the Treaty of Portsmouth, which checked Russian advance in Manchuria and gained for Japan the status of a great power.

The civil wars in Mexico, 1910 to 1920; Russia, 1917 to 1920; China, 1927 to 1936; and Spain, 1936 to 1939, arose from ideological differences, induced foreign interventions, and caused many casualties, reminiscent of the ideological hostilities following the Reformation of 1520 and the American and French revolutions of the late eighteenth century. The policy of considering ideological conflicts as falling within the domestic jurisdiction of territorial states was recognized in the treaties of Westphalia and Vienna, was assumed by modern international law, and has been reasserted since the 1950s in policies of nonintervention in civil strife and peaceful coexistence of states with differing ideologies, as well as in the United Nations Charter.

World War I, 1914-1918, cost nine million military and thirty million civilian lives. Russia was defeated by Germany, and soon after the Soviet government was established; but the war was finally ended by the defeat of Germany and its allies, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey. The Treaty of Versailles and treaties with each of Germany’s allies established the League of Nations, modified European boundaries in accord with the principle of self-determination of peoples, and placed German and Turkish colonies under the mandate system supervised by the League of Nations. The obligations imposed on Germany were considered so severe that after the refusal of the United States to participate in the League and to maintain the treaty, they facilitated the rise of Hitler in Germany and contributed to World War II.

World War n, 1939 to 1945, cost seventeen million military and 34 million civilian lives. It was initiated by the Axis powers—Germany, Italy, and Japan—and was ended by their “unconditional surrender” after the deaths of Hitler and Mussolini and after the destruction of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs. The Allied powers occupied the defeated states until peace was made by treaty with the lesser Axis powers—Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Rumania, and Finland—in 1946, with Japan in 1952, and de facto with Germany by agreements of the Western states with West Germany in 1952 and by the Soviet Union with East Germany in 1954.

The two Germanys were respectively admitted to the NATO and Warsaw alliances in 1955.

Each of the wars mentioned above cost over 100, 000 lives. They were the largest in a list of 278 during the period from 1484 to 1945 (Wright [1942] 1965, 636 ff.). Richardson, in his Statistics of Deadly Quarrels (1960a), also lists as of this magnitude the Russo-Turkish War, 1828-1829, the Muslim rebellions in China, 1861-1878 and 1928, the Cuban Ten Years’ War, 1868-1878, the Colombian Civil War, 1899-1902, the Maji-Maji rebellion against Germany in east Africa, 1905, the Dutch war against the Achin in Sumatra, 1873-1908, and the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay, 1930-1935, but the evidence of casualties in these wars seems to be even less certain than in the major wars listed.

Of the 278 wars listed by Wright, 187 were fought mainly in Europe, and 91 were fought outside Europe; 135 were balance-of-power wars to maintain national sovereignty against imperial encroachments; 78 were civil wars for a revolutionary ideology, for national self-determination, or for national unity; and 65 were wars between peoples of different civilizations, either for the defense of European civilization against the Turks or the Barbary states or for colonial expansion of European states in America, Asia, and Africa.

The same factors can be found in the causation of the wars of modern history as can be found in those of the earlier period; however, from the mid-seventeenth to the twentieth century, ideology was less important while political imperialism and nationalism were more important. Religion as well as power balancing figured in the Turkish and Spanish wars of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Thirty Years’ War began as a war of religion but ended as a political war. Ideological factors were significant in the American and French revolutionary wars of the eighteenth century and in the two world wars of the twentieth century but were overshadowed by interest in nationalism and the balance of power. The imperial ambitions of Spain and, a century later, of Louis xiv were combated by British leadership in organizing alliances in the interest of national sovereignty; and in the same way, British intervention checked the imperial expansion of France in the French revolutionary and Napoleonic period and of Russia at the time of the Crimean War. The European powers intervened to check Russian expansion after its victory over Turkey in 1878. Japan similarly checked Russian expansion in its war of 1904. The Western powers sought to check the imperial expansion of Germany in World War i and of Germany, Italy, and Japan in World War n. The balance-of-power principle was, therefore, a major factor in these wars.

The Seven Years’ War satisfied Prussian nationalism in Europe. It also ended the rivalry of Great Britain and France for overseas empire with the victory of the former, with its superior sea power; but the balance of power was restored by the American Revolution. The wars of Italian and German unification and the American Civil War were fought primarily for nationalism, self-determination, and unity as were, in some degree, the Taiping Rebellion and the Lopez War, where the factors of ideology and imperialism also played a part. Ideology and nationalism figured prominently in the Mexican, Russian, Chinese, and Spanish revolutions of the twentieth century.

Legal claims or justifications were less important in the modern period than in the medieval period, when the idea of “just war” was prominent. In the modern period war was generally regarded as a prerogative of sovereignty, and “reason of state” was considered sufficient justification. However, in war propaganda it was generally considered desirable to cite justifications such as necessary defense; maintenance of the balance of power; correction of historic, strategic, national, or economic boundaries; independence from colonial oppression; nationality; a “civilizing mission,” or the “white man’s burden.” After World War i the Covenant principles that distinguished the aggressor from the victim were usually applied by the League of Nations if efforts to nip hostilities in the bud by a cease-fire order failed. Such efforts were not successful in stopping Japanese aggression in Manchuria, China, and the Pacific; Italian aggression in Ethiopia, Spain, and Yugoslavia; German aggression in Spain, the Rhineland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Scandinavia; or Russian aggression in Finland.

Recent war. Recent military history began with the use of atomic weapons at the end of World War Ii and continued with the development of jet planes, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and space satellites. These inventions have had a more revolutionary influence on war than did the invention of the phalanx and the legion in ancient history or of gunpowder, artillery, and small arms in modern history.

Thirty hostile incidents resulting in more than five hundred deaths each occurred from 1946 to 1965, but none involved the use of atomic weapons. The most serious were the India-Pakistan hostilities over partition, 1947-1948, and the Korean hostilities in which UN forces tried to suppress North Korean aggression, 1950-1953, each of which resulted in more than half a million deaths. Hostilities in Indochina, 1947-1954, Colombia, 1948-1964, China, 1949, Algeria, 1954-1960, and the Congo, 1960-1962, resulted in more than 100, 000 deaths each. The nuclear powers have shown a strong desire to prevent the escalation of hostilities to nuclear war. Half of these hostilities were domestic, and in most of those that were international or threatened to become so intervention by the United Nations or other international bodies brought about a cease-fire.

Communist activity was involved in twelve of these incidents, other revolutionary activity in four, colonial self-determination in twelve, and legal or political claims concerning territory or jurisdiction were advanced by the initiator of the hostilities in nine cases. Only three of the incidents were in Europe (Greece, Hungary, Cyprus), four were in Latin America (Bolivia, Paraguay, Colombia, Cuba), six were in Africa (Madagascar, Algeria, Egypt, Congo, Angola, Burundi), and of seventeen that were in Asia, three were in west Asia (Syria, Palestine, Yemen), five in south and central Asia (India and Pakistan, Hyderabad, Kashmir, Tibet, India-China frontier), five in southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaya, Indochina, Vietnam, Laos), and four in east Asia (Taiwan, China, Korea, Quemoy and Matsu).

Fifty-eight states or political groups were primary participants in one or more of these incidents and 14 other states contributed contingents to the UN forces.

The cold war between the Soviet Union and a dozen allies, on the one hand, and the United States and a score of allies, on the other, began in 1946 and continued for over a decade through propaganda, subversion, infiltration, guerrilla activities, and border hostilities. Of the resulting conflicts, the Greek, Korean, Hungarian, and Vietnamese hostilities were the most serious. The cold war, however, showed signs of abatement with the death of Stalin in 1953, followed by the break between Communist China and the Soviet Union and by the independent policy of France. Some regarded the cold war as ended after the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which apparently manifested the determination of the principal nuclear powers to cooperate in preventing nuclear war and preserving peaceful coexistence. At the same time, the United States and the Soviet Union struggled to make converts and win allies by example, persuasion, economic aid, and other non-military forms of intervention. The resignation of Khrushchev, the Chinese explosion of an atomic device in October 1964, and the large-scale hostilities in Vietnam since 1965 will doubtless have further effects on the cold war. In the most recent period of the history of war, and indeed since the beginning of the twentieth century, both governments and people have increasingly believed that war is an evil that is susceptible of effective control by human efforts and have made such efforts with increasing vigor as the dangers of total war have increased.

The analysis of war

War has been written about since man learned to write, and the variety of attitudes toward it have been reflected in the varied points of view of writers. Political, economic, technological, legal, psychological, and sociological points of view may be distinguished.

Politics and war. The political value of war in building empires is extolled in the rock inscriptions of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Rome; more objective histories of the achievements and failures attributable to war can be found in the Homeric and Indian epics, the Bible, and the works of historians from Herodotus through Thucydides and Polybius, to such modern writers as Oman (1885), Delbruck (1900-1936), Nickerson (1933), Mon-tross (1944), Nef (1950), and Fuller (1961). Analytic appraisals of the political value of war can be studied in recent writings by Dulles (1950), Kissinger (1957), Aron (1958), Huntington (1962), and King-Hall (1962).

The analysts noted in the section on technology and war (below) have often based their technological analyses on controlling political assumptions and have reached diverse conclusions. Some urge strict observance of the United Nations Charter prohibitions on force or threats, primary attention in policy making to the stability of the world as a whole as the only road to the security of any nation, and policies of tolerance, accommodation, and peaceful coexistence, which are expected to create conditions favorable to general and complete disarmament and the obsolescence of war. Members of this school of thought believe, as did the architects of the League of Nations Covenant and the United Nations Charter, that war has become obsolete as an instrument of policy or as a support for diplomacy.

Others believe that the coexistence of countries governed by communism and those governed by free democracy is impossible; these writers advocate elimination of governments that support the doctrines that they oppose by the use of propaganda, infiltration, subversion, intervention, the organization of alliances, threats of violence, the building of superior military force, or even war. They believe that war continues to be the major instrument of national policy, that superior capability in threatening or using it is necessary for the national interest, and that victory is possible and losses can be made tolerable.

A third group of analysts appears to accept both of these positions. They insist that nuclear war would be intolerable; that legal, moral, or rational deterrence cannot be reliable; that such war can be prevented only by mutual nuclear deterrence; that, to this end, nuclear capability must be confined to the present nuclear powers; and that these powers must possess such a supply of nuclear-headed missiles in hardened, mobile, or submarine bases that they will have an invulnerable second-strike capability, thus making a first strike suicidal and therefore incredible. Most members of this group agree, however, that threats of force, even of nuclear force, are necessary instruments of policy to be used in crises such as that over Berlin or Cuba and that in the national interest states must not only possess such weapons but must make potential enemies believe that they might be used in such crises. For this purpose they advocate a counterforce strategy designed to eliminate the enemy’s retaliatory capacity. They hope to achieve this by such a superior capability in nuclear weapons, such a pinpointing of the nuclear launching sites of the potential enemy by espionage or observation in the air or in outer space, and such a program of civilian fall-out shelters that a first strike would convince the enemy that retaliation on cities with his reduced capacity would not be effective and that he would have to surrender. This opinion, it has been suggested by the first group, is based on the assumption that threats of nuclear attack can be made incredible and credible at the same time and overlooks the danger that a counter-force strategy may so alarm the potential enemy that, in spite of its probable suicidal effect, he will launch a pre-emptive attack to gain the advantage of a first strike.

A fourth group agrees with the first about the need to avoid nuclear war but also agrees with the second about the necessity of armed force as a support for diplomacy and seeks to avoid the dilemma of the third group by making a distinction between nuclear war and conventional war. This fourth school hopes to assure nuclear deterrence not only by limiting the nuclear club by the test-ban treaty and a treaty preventing nuclear proliferation and by developing an invulnerable second-strike capability in all the nuclear powers but also by making a no-nuclear-first-strike agreement and refraining from civilian defense policies likely to suggest a counterforce first-strike strategy. With this policy they anticipate that the cities of each nuclear power will be a hostage against a first nuclear strike and a guarantee of the no-first-strike agreement. At the same time this school would increase conventional armed forces and means for their transport, maintain alliances, and develop policies of flexible or graduated deterrence, so that vulnerable frontiers can be defended from conventional attack and governments vulnerable to infiltration or subversion can be protected against guerrillas and infiltrators. This school of thought, however, often approaches the position of the third group by advocating the use of tactical nuclear weapons as a possible step in graduated deterrence, thus breaking down the distinction that in principle they insist upon between nuclear and conventional war.

Economics and war. A majority of capitalistic economists have considered competitive free trade a guarantee of peace, while Marxians have regarded the capitalistic economic system as the major cause of war in modern times. Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Richard Cobden, Cordell Hull, and others have argued that free economic competition in the domestic field stimulates production and distributes the product to all, whether capitalists, workers, managers, or entrepreneurs, in proportion to their contribution to the productive process, thus assuring economic justice and domestic tranquillity. In the international field, such writers have argued that free trade would assure a geographic division of labor, maximizing the production of all states and creating a world economy in which each state is dependent on international trade, thus constituting a hostage against war because war is certain to disrupt the natural and economically advantageous movements of commodities, investments, labor, and management.

Free-enterprise economists have also argued that the rising prosperity of all under their system and the increased influence of the economic mind over the military mind would divert opinion and policy from military preparation and political expansion and would assure both the motives and the means for family planning, thus keeping economic production ahead of population growth. On the other hand, they have argued that governmental intervention in the economy by protective tariffs, quotas, or other measures to promote national industries for which, the country is not well adapted or to develop industries augmenting military capability, retard the rate of economic progress. Actual governmental operation of the economy, as urged by the socialists, would, they insist, subordinate the economic motive of supplying consumer demands to the political motive of increasing the power of the state. It would tend to create self-contained economies in which political boundaries constituted economic barriers perpetuating or augmenting differential levels of living among the different countries, particularly as the poorer countries, without the knowledge or means of population control, would develop according to the Malthusian law and get continually poorer. From such arguments Herbert Spencer divided countries into the “industrial,” with free economies favoring peace, and the “military,” with government-controlled economies preparing for war.

Marx’s successors in the international field elaborated his views, using the argument that as the exploitation of labor proceeded, the domestic market would decline and the capitalists would of necessity embark upon imperial expansion to find new markets, new sources of raw material, and new labor to exploit. Lenin, in his book Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, expressed the opinion that such expansionist policies arose more from the greed than from the necessities of the capitalistic entrepreneurs; but whatever the motive, communists argued that capitalistic expansionism led first to imperial war to conquer underdeveloped peoples and then to wars among the capitalist nations themselves arising from rivalry over colonies or commercial privileges.

Turning from these theoretical arguments, scholars like Lewis Richardson have examined the actual causes of war and have found that economic factors have been of relatively little importance. From a statistical analysis of wars between 1820 and 1949, Richardson found that economic causes figured directly in less than 29 per cent and have been more important in small than in large wars. He listed the economic factors that have influenced the outbreak of hostilities in this order: taxation of colonial and minority peoples; economic assistance to an enemy; restriction on movements of capital, trade, and migration; and dissatisfaction of soldiers. On the other hand, claims of investors from capitalist countries in undeveloped countries have usually been settled by diplomacy or arbitration and have not led to hostilities unless linked with existing political or ideological conflicts; and differentials in wealth of nations or classes have been of very little influence (Richardson 1960a, pp. xi, 207-210).

Economic factors have had some indirect influence; they have sometimes been significant in hostilities immediately induced by ideological enthusiasm or political ambition.

Population pressure, which produces progressive impoverishment, has had little influence in producing war unless accompanied by increased knowledge of economic differentials and by inciting propaganda. In recent times, such propaganda has induced the “revolution of rising expectations” and the “north-south problem,” thus dividing the world between the economically developed and largely industrialized areas of Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand and the economically underdeveloped and mostly agricultural countries of Latin America, Asia, and Africa. It appears, however, that the revolutionary urge in the latter countries has been primarily for political independence, racial equality, and the elimination of all forms of colonialism. The demand for economic progress has not often induced hostilities unless linked with a revolutionary ideology.

States have used force to acquire economic resources not primarily to elevate the level of living of their populations but to acquire raw materials for war manufactures, or to obtain a population from which soldiers may be recruited, or to annex productive areas, thereby rendering the state less dependent on international trade and less vulnerable to blockade. Similarly, states have in the past more often sought international influence than increased economic prosperity and have directed the development of their domestic economies purely to increase their power positions. The priority of political over economic motives is indicated by the contradictory propaganda of Mussolini before World War n—demanding colonies as an outlet to overpopulation but at the same time stimulating population growth in Italy by giving bounties to large families.

Wars—civil, imperial, and international—have been fought by states with tribal, agrarian, feudal, capitalistic, and communistic economies, but there is both historical and statistical evidence that states with a capitalistic economy have been the least belligerent, although because of their superior technology, their wars have been the most destructive (Wright [1942] 1965, p. 1165). Recognizing the value of competitive free-enterprise economies for increasing production, for stimulating invention, and for preserving individual freedom, and recognizing the value of state action for initiating large-scale enterprises of social but not business value and for preventing depressions and exploitations, especially of the underprivileged, most states, both developed and developing, have in recent times tended to maintain “mixed economies” with complementary public and private sectors. A convergence of communist and capitalist economies has also been observed.

Civil strife has sometimes induced international war (as did the Protestant Reformation and the American, French, and Russian revolutions) and military interventions (as by the United States in Vietnam); but ideological and political factors were more important than conflict of economic classes in the causation of such civil strife. On the other hand, international war has often led to revolution and civil strife among participants suffering from its economic ravages, especially if influenced by its political propaganda. This was true of the Napoleonic Wars in Spain and central Europe, of World War i in Russia, and of World War n in eastern Europe and China.

In sum, studies of both the direct and indirect influence of economic factors on the causation of war indicate that they have been much less important than political ambitions, ideological convictions, technological change, legal claims, irrational psychological complexes, ignorance, and unwillingness to maintain conditions of peace in a changing world.

Economists who are not committed to dogmatic theory have usually looked upon war as the most uneconomic enterprise in which man can engage. They have found that the economic gains from victory seldom compensate for the costs of war and the losses of trade (ibid., p. 1367, in reference to the work of Norman Angell, Lionel Robbins, et al.) and that the continuing costs of colonial administration and defense usually exceed the economic value of colonies, if the nation as a whole is considered. Adam Smith, writing in 1776, thought it would be to the economic advantage of the British people to get rid of their colonies, and more recent economists have generalized this opinion, although recognizing that arms makers, investors, and colonial administrators have sometimes profited from war and imperialism (ibid., pp. 1134, 1173 ff., citing Grover Clark, M. M. Knight, et al.). War, they suggest, springs from irrational illusions or unreasonable fears rather than from economic calculations, and they point out that the economically minded have increasingly opposed wars and imperialistic adventures as military technology has increased the destructiveness of war (ibid., p. 1179, citing Eugene Staley, Jacob Viner, Lionel Robbins, et al.). Few, if any, see any possible economic advantage in a nuclear war. Non-Marxian economists, therefore, regarding their discipline as a guide to rational action to achieve economic ends, usually consider war outside their field.

Wars have not arisen, as is sometimes said, from the struggle among peoples for the limited resources provided by nature. Even animals of the same species maintain their existence more by cooperation than by lethal struggle. Among men, with their greater capacity to relate means to ends, competition for economic resources, if not influenced by political loyalties and ambitions, ideological commitments, or psychological illusions, has led to cooperation in larger groups and larger areas.

Technology and war. The technology, tactics, and strategy of war have been discussed by both soldiers and historians interested in how to win a war, as for example in the Roman classics of Caesar and Vegetius, the Renaissance and eighteenth-century works of Machiavelli and Vauban, the post-Napoleonic treatises by Clausewitz (1832-1834) and Jomini, the nineteenth-century works of Admiral Mahan, and the more recent writings of Marshal Foch (1903), General Bernhardi, and General Taylor (1960). Recent contributors to the technological approach have been less concerned with how to win a war than with how to eliminate stalemate or limit war. Some, like Russell (1959), Speier (1929-1951), and Millis (Millis & Real 1963), have written in the tradition of Erasmus, who found war contrary to human nature, and in the tradition of Bloch (1898), who thought the military technology of the late nineteenth century made war intolerable and who influenced Tsar Nicholas n to call the first Hague Peace Conference. Among writers impressed by the dangers of modern military technology but favoring control rather than elimination of war are Brodie (1959), Bull (1961), Kahn (1960), Kissinger (1957), Lid-dell-Hart (1946), Morgenstern (1959), Osgood (1957), and Schelling (Schelling & Halperin 1961). These writers believe that deterrence or limitation is technologically possible by the establishment of a stable balance of military power in the nuclear age, but, as suggested in the previous section, their proposals vary according to their appraisals of the political value of war. A balance of military power has in the past always depended on moderate stability in military technology and on occasional wars to make the threat of war (which is the essence of its functioning) credible, but since modern weapons systems change rapidly and since one nuclear war might end civilization, these conditions are hardly applicable to the nuclear age and have resulted in the great confusion already noted about the relation between war and international politics, between nuclear and conventional weapons, and between the credibility and incredibility of threats.

Mathematicians have analyzed the variables that make arms races, a characteristic of balance-of-power politics, tend to war or to stability. Richardson (1960a, pp. 12 ff., 282; Wright [1942] 1965, p. 1482) concluded that the factors of increasing costs and continuing grievances in the process of reciprocal arms-building were not usually sufficient to prevent the arms race from heading toward war, thus making the participants less and less secure the more they arm. He recognized that his equations would not predict the actual course of an arms race if statesmen paused to think instead of pursuing customary action and reaction patterns. Others, such as Joynt (1964, pp. 23 ff.), operating on the same assumptions concerning patterns of government decision making, have pointed out that if consideration is given to such factors as disparity in industrial capacity and in resources available, the possibility of alternative weapons systems, and the relation between the cost and destructiveness of weapons systems, an arms race may move toward a high degree of stability.

All such studies, seeking prediction from the technological point of view, are criticized by students who believe the problem is not technological but psychological. The assumption that statesmen do not pause to think eliminates the complex of motives, rational and irrational, and the images of the total situation, accurate and distorted, that actually control the decisions of men and governments. To reduce all this to physical entities neglects the essence of the problem.

Law and war. At the opposite extreme from the technologists are the writers who seek to appraise and control war by standards of law, ethics, and religion. Such efforts were made by Hebrew, Greek, and Roman writers, and particularly by medieval theologians and jurists who elaborated a complicated theory of “just war” for the guidance of statesmen.

St. Augustine, Isidore of Seville, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Johannes Legnano insisted that a war to be just must have just causes (defense against attack, punishment of crime, or reparation for injury), that its motive must be to establish justice, that its consequences must be such as to contribute more to vindicating justice than to committing injustices, and that, in any case, it must be initiated only by proper authority and conducted only by proper means. Among the classical international lawyers the “naturalists” (Victoria, Suarez, Pufen-dorf) accepted this theory, but the “positivists" (Ayala, Gentili) and the “eclectics” (Grotius, Vattel) did so with the qualification that in practice war was considered a prerogative of sovereign states and that positive law was not concerned with its initiation but only with its conduct. Nineteenth-century international jurists also generally took this position as have some recent writers (Stone 1954), although many recognize that international war has been outlawed and that hostilities are permissible only in individual or collective self-defense against armed attack or under authorization or permission of the United Nations or other proper international authority (Jessup 1956; Wright 1961; Brownlie 1963). Thus, like the medieval jurists, modern scholars have considered both the conditions justifying resort to war (jus ad bellum) and the methods by which it may properly be waged (jus in bello), but with different conclusions. This voluminous literature has been examined in histories of international law by such writers as T. E. Holland, Luigi Sturzo, Alfred Vanderpol, Robert Regout, John Eppstein, Angelo Sereni, Thomas A. Walker, William Ballis, and Arthur Nussbaum.

Studies from the legal point of view are based on the assumption that man is a rational animal, an assumption that has been denied not only by the mechanists like Machiavelli, Hobbes, and the modern advocates of deterrence, who believe that men and governments will blindly pursue greed, ambition, and custom unless faced by superior force, but also by psychologists who emphasize the influence of subconscious, unconscious, and other irrational factors in human behavior.

Psychology and war. An increasing number of writers have considered war as a psychological rather than a technological problem, and contributions have been made to the field by students of opinion (Gabriel Almond, Karl Deutsch, Bernard Berelson), of conflict and tension (Georg Simmel, Hadley Cantril, Otto Klineberg, Frederick Dunn, Kenneth Boulding), of political psychology (Harold Lasswell, David Riesman, Charles Osgood, Anatol Rapoport, Ranyard West), and by psychoanalysts (Franz Alexander, Erich Fromm, Robert Waelder).

These writers have emphasized the influence of psychological complexes, such as ambivalence, displacement, scapegoating, frustration, identification, and projection, in creating aggressiveness and the role of false images and stereotypes in developing fears and anxieties. These psychic syndromes, observed in individual behavior, may figure in the decision-making process of states. Although seeming to emerge from objective, rational consideration of detailed intelligence reports and analytical studies, decisions are greatly influenced by the decision makers’ unconscious and irrational patterns. Indeed, such patterns may be even more influential in public opinion, which greatly influences decision makers, especially in times of high tension, than they are in the behavior of an individual. The growth of aggressive tendencies in governments, the development of international feuds, the emergence of crisis periods, and the conviction of the inevitability of war leading to self-fulfilling prophecies, as well as miscalculation in the adaptation of means to ends, may be attributable to such psychic complexes among leaders and peoples.

Writers aware of the psychological roots of behavior emphasize the role of research and education in promoting understanding of the problem of war and in creating conditions in which peaceful solutions may be possible. Just as psychoanalysts believe that awareness of conditions leading to neurotic behavior may effect a cure, so these scholars suggest that states operating on the basis of a schizophrenic culture, false images of the world and of other states, excessive identification with rigid ideologies, or an aggressive disposition derived from a history of frustration and humiliation may be cured by becoming aware of their illusions.

Sociology and war. Proposals to eliminate, control, or limit war through organization of the entire community, including all potential belligerents, were put forward in the Middle Ages by Dante, who urged universal empire, by Pope Boniface vm, who urged universal acceptance of Christianity under authority of the church, and by Pierre Du-bois, who urged the establishment of a continuing conference of princes to maintain peace among themselves and to recover the Holy Land. In later times such organization to end war has been developed by King George of Podebrad, Emeric Cruce, William Penn, Jeremy Bentham, and Immanuel Kant; by practical statesmen during the Napoleonic period; in the debates at the Hague conferences; and in the formation and operation of the League of Nations and the United Nations.

Such proposals and organizations are based upon a sociological analysis of the causes of war and the conditions of peace. In recent times social and political scientists have made numerous studies of international relations, international organization, international conflict, international arbitration, disarmament, the causes of war, and the conditions of peace from the sociological point of view. The works of Inis Claude, Amitai Etzioni, Seymour Melman, Leland Goodrich, Arthur Holcombe, Frederick Schuman, Grenville Clark, Louis Sohn, John Strachey, Coral Bell, and Lincoln Bloomfield are representative. These writers, differing from the Neo-Darwinian sociologists, do not believe war inevitable; they believe that governments, like men, are influenced by a great variety of factors including conscience, custom, and reason as well as compulsion. Decision in a particular situation is arrived at through processes of information gathering, analysis, evaluation, and consultation—all influenced by the decision maker’s images, assumptions, and prejudices. Sociological studies attempt to merge the analysis of the causes and conditions productive of war with the proposal of measures by which these conditions may be modified and conditions of peace established. They usually realize that the deterministic assumptions underlying predictive formulations are inconsistent with the voluntaristic assumptions underlying constructive decision making. The two may be merged, however, by comparison of the probable consequences of various alternative proposals permitting evaluation and rational choice.

The significance of war

Consideration of the changing popular and legal conceptions of war, of the history of its technology, causes, and functions from primitive times to the present, and of appraisals by ancient and modern writers of its political rationality and possible control indicate that war has been a phenomenon of very varied significance in human experience. It has varied in frequency, destructiveness, function, and interpretation.

Europe was in comparative peace during the Pax Romana of the Antonine Caesars, the Pax Ecclesiae of the Middle Ages, and the Pax Britan-nica of the nineteenth century, but before each of these periods there was almost continuous war: before the first period, the imperial expansions of Macedonia and Rome; before the second, the barbarian, Muslim, and Viking attacks on the decaying Roman Empire; and before the third, the religious, dynastic, and nationalistic wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In modern European history the seventeenth and twentieth centuries have been the most bloody—the nineteenth, the least bloody. However, this was not true in the Americas, Asia, and Africa.

There has been a similar variability among states. Sweden has been at peace ior a century and a half but was among the most warlike of states in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The great powers have been at war much more frequently than the smaller powers. In the first third of the twentieth century the great powers averaged more than one military campaign a year while the Scandinavian countries participated in only one campaign in the entire period, and other lesser powers engaged in not more than one campaign every three years (Wright [1942] 1965, pp. 220 ff., 628).

The destructiveness of war has varied tremendously with changes in technology from the spear and the arrow to the airborne or missile-borne nuclear bomb. The proportion of population directly engaged in war has varied from less than 5 per cent in the armies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to almost the entire adult population engaged either at the front or in transportation and productive services for war during World War Ii. The efficiency of medical services has greatly decreased the ravages of disease in armies and of war-borne disease in civilian populations. Through much of history flea-borne typhus was more dangerous to armies than the enemy. Tactics have varied tremendously from the sudden brief raids of primitive people to the infrequent battles and sieges of disciplined armies in historic war and the continuous wars of attrition in recent times.

All these changes have greatly affected the impact of war on population. Among the more warlike primitive people direct losses from war have been estimated at from 6 to 11 per cent of all deaths, and in modern Europe such losses appear to have accounted for 2 to 3 per cent of all deaths. However, if deaths from war-borne diseases and civilian attacks were included, the figure would be much larger, probably some 10 per cent of all deaths in the first half of the twentieth century (ibid., pp. 212, 242, 569).

War has at times functioned politically to integrate tribes into feudal principalities and to integrate kingdoms into empires, but it has also served to disintegrate kingdoms and states into feuding cities, and empires into hostile nations. It has at times stimulated science, invention, and the arts, and at other times it has destroyed civilizations and initiated dark ages in which science and values deteriorated. In general, however, the advance of a civilization in science, technology, social services, democratic values, and the administration of justice has created conditions in which war is more likely to deteriorate the quality of life than to improve it.

As a result of these varied impacts of war, its appraisal has varied greatly among different peoples and at different periods of history. The founders of the great religions, particularly of Christianity, appraised war negatively. Pacifism has been common among adherents of Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, and Christianity. Negative appraisals and pacifistic movements have been common after great and destructive wars, as illustrated by the plays of Euripides and Aristophanes, by the philosophies of the Stoics, the medieval scholastics, and the humanists of the Renaissance, and by the peace societies organized after the Napoleonic Wars and the two world wars. There have, however, been militarists, imperialists, extreme nationalists, and Neo-Darwinians who have appraised war as the dynamic force of progress. International lawyers appraised war as a possible instrument of justice in the Middle Ages, as a prerogative of sovereignty in the Renaissance, as a fact that the law could not appraise but might ameliorate in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and increasingly, in the twentieth century, as a crime. At most times most people have regarded war as a human problem like famine, pestilence, and crime with varying degrees of skepticism or optimism as to its control, thus differing from primitive peoples, who have regarded all of these phenomena as visitations of supernatural power beyond human control.

The control of war

A review of the various studies of war suggests that the problem of war cannot be solved by developing the art of war but only by developing the art of peace. War has been “natural” in the sense that it has been the probable consequence of the proximity of self-determining systems of action, each of which guides its behavior by internally generated interests and motivations, with little understanding or concern for the probable reactions of others. Peace on the other hand is “artificial” because its maintenance depends on a general desire to maintain it, on a correct image of the world as one whole, and on the guidance of political decisions and actions by sound psychological, sociological, political, economic, and technological knowledge of the probable reaction of each of the systems of action able to precipitate hostilities.

Only by the application of such knowledge in continually changing conditions can the natural hubris of the sovereign state be enlightened by the themis of reason, reconciling liberty and independence with stability and peace through continuous concern by all for international justice. No gadget of organization or ideology will solve the problem. Continuous research is necessary to increase understanding of international relations in the rapidly changing, interdependent, and universally vulnerable world of nations with different values, traditions, institutions, and political and economic structures. No less important is continuous education, in order to spread this understanding among peoples and statesmen, inducing them to accept the image of the world inherent in such understanding. Furthermore, there must be continuous activity in order to develop international law, the structure and operation of international organizations, and the foreign-policy-making processes of states, so that a world of peacefully coexisting states may gradually emerge. Continuous activity on the scientific, legal, educational, and political fronts, stimulated by widespread understanding that nuclear war would be intolerable, may create a stable, progressive, and reasonably satisfactory world in which, while conflict may be expected, war in the ordinary, as well as the legal, sense will have become obsolete.

Quincy Wright


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Wright, Quincy 1961 The Role of International Law in the Elimination of War. New York: Oceana.

Wright, Quincy; evan, William M.; and Deutsch, Morton (editors) 1962 Preventing World War III: Some Proposals. New York: Simon & Schuster.


War among nonliterate peoples ranges from the hit-and-run raids and ambuscades of warriors from autonomous local communities of primitive horti-culturalists or hunters and gatherers to the military campaigns carried out by the armies of such state-organized societies as the old African kingdoms and the Inca empire of the New World. The different modes of organized armed conflict encountered among nonliterate peoples have been studied by social scientists engaged in a variety of enterprises, but the present article is confined for the most part to a discussion of the functioning of war among nonliterate peoples.

In the study of war, functional analysis, understood as the analysis of the regulation of some particular variable by other variables (Brown 1963, pp. 110-112; Leeds 1963), is applicable if war can be viewed as either a regulated or a regulating variable. It has been viewed as a regulated variable in a number of anthropological studies. Military deterrence resulting from the achievement of a balance of power among territorial segments of nonstate-organized African societies has been emphasized by Fortes and Evans-Pritchard (1940). Other scholars have seen war between potentially hostile primitive communities as being limited by the formation of intercommunity ties of one kind or another, for example, the ties resulting from intermarriage, commerce, conquest, or fictions of common descent. Colson (1953) and Gluckman (1963), in their studies of African societies, have called particular attention to the pacifying effect of a division of the loyalties of individuals between territorial and kinship groups; that is, rather than joining coresidents in fighting against kinsmen or joining kinsmen in fighting against coresidents, individuals with divided loyalties tend to work for peaceful settlements of conflicts. Summary discussions of the role of intercommunity ties in regulating warfare may be found in works by Davie (1929, chapter 15), LeVine (1961), and Poirier (1961).

However, that there can easily be a severing of intercommunity ties and a renewal of hostilities in at least some primitive societies is indicated in some detailed studies of war among particular nonliterate peoples, including the Maori of New Zealand (Vayda 1960) and the Huli of New Guinea (Glasse 1959). There is a need for further investigation of the conditions under which particular kinds of intercommunity ties either are or are not effective in limiting warfare.

When war is considered not as a regulated but rather as a regulating variable, we may examine a number of possible functions of war, that is, its regulation of a number of different variables or kinds of variables.

Regulation of psychological variables. The role of warfare in keeping such psychological variables as anxiety, tension, and aggressiveness under control has been emphasized by a number of writers who have viewed primitive wars as being “flight-from-grief” devices (Turney-High 1949), as “enabling a people to give expression to anger caused by a disturbance of the internal harmony” (Wedgwood 1930, p. 33), and as serving to divert intra-societal hostility onto substitute objects (Coser 1956, cited in Murphy 1957, p. 1032). Related to the emphasis on the regulation of psychological variables is the view of some anthropologists that games and other ritualized rivalrous contests may be functional alternatives to war, since they may also provide release from emotions and tensions (Berndt 1957, p. 50; Murdock 1956; Scotch 1961; Stern 1950, pp. 96 ff.).

Writers concerned with relating primitive war to psychological variables usually support their generalizations with some reference to data on particular nonliterate peoples and their fighting. For example, Whiting (1944, p. 142) noted the case of a New Guinea tribesman who organized a raid because his wife had made his “belly hot with anger” by taunting him. This is presented by Whiting as an illustration of how aggression generated within the tribe may be displaced to an out-group. On the whole, however, it may be said that there has been no notable success thus far in correlating any reliable measures or indexes of tensions and other emotional states with the occurrence or non-occurrence of war at particular times among particular nonliterate peoples. It may be concluded, therefore, that the psychological functions of primitive war (that is, its regulation of psychological variables)—and, for that matter, its functional equivalence to games—have not been proved. Some anthropologists, committed to the school of interpretation called “culturology,” have argued that these functions do not need to be considered, because, in their view, the fact that war is a struggle between societies and not between individuals makes the psychological states of individuals irrelevant to the question of whether or not war will take place (Newcomb 1950; I960; White 1949, pp. 129-134). Other anthropologists (for example, Vayda 1961; Leeds 1963), while not denying that war may have psychological functions, have argued against regarding these as the only, or necessarily the primary, functions of primitive hostilities. Certain functions that may be more sociopolitical than psychological in character may, for example, be important.

Regulation of the exercise of authority. In their studies of African kingdoms, a number of British social anthropologists have emphasized the functions of civil or intrasocietal war in checking abuses of political power and have viewed rebellions as “defenses of the kingship against the king” (Beattie 1959; Gluckman 1963; Worsley 1961). Rebellions have been found to have similar functions in nonliterate societies in other parts of the world, including some Polynesian societies that were organized into chiefdoms rather than into states or kingdoms. Here the chiefs had duties in allocating goods, resources, and labor; rebellions apparently could arise when the chiefs made the allocations according to whim or for their own benefit rather than for that of their people. A number of instances of such rebellions are cited by Sahlins (1963).

Regulation of relations with other groups. The regulatory functions that primitive war may have in the relations between politically independent groups are discernible in much of what has been called “fighting for revenge,” for example, such as has been reported from numerous primitive societies of swidden or shifting (slash-and-burn) agriculturalists in various parts of the world (see the references in Vayda 1960, p. 2) and even from some of the simplest societies of hunters and gatherers (Hobhouse 1956). These societies lack a central government with penal jurisdiction over the separate local groups. In such circumstances, the punishment for offenses by members of one group against members of another—and, presumably, the deterrence of more such offenses—may be effected by fighting and killing undertaken by the offended group to avenge the insult, theft, nonpayment of bride price, abduction, rape, poaching, trespass, wounding, killing, or other offense committed. Certainly such retaliatory fighting may satisfy an aggrieved people’s need for revenge, but it would be a mistake to emphasize this function to the exclusion of the role that the fighting may play in maintaining the integrity of groups and their possessions.

Regulation of the distribution of goods and resources. In cases where territorial expansion and the subjugation and economic exploitation of conquered people were the results of warfare waged by such state-organized societies as those of ancient Peru and Mexico (Bram 1941; Wolf 1959), the effects of warfare on the distribution of goods and resources are not difficult to specify. In the warfare of societies that lack state organization, such effects are often less apparent and have in fact been declared, by such scholars as Wright (1942, pp. 73-74) and Steward and Shimkin ([1961] 1962, p. 79), to be either uncharacteristic or of little importance. These generalizations can hardly be applied, however, to African and Asian pastoralists whose warfare includes stock-raiding activities, which apparently serve to keep within a viable range the number of animals held by each local group (Leeds & Vayda 1965). Even among primitive agricultural people less dependent on so mobile a form of wealth as cattle, camels, or other animals, warriors sometimes take booty (Davie 1929; Vayda 1960), but just how important this is in getting such goods as tools and food distributed between groups is hard to say in the absence of quantitative data on the booty taken.

With respect to the regulation of the territorial holdings of groups by means of warfare, it may be noted that there are some regions of primitive culture and stateless societies where the displacement of defeated groups from their land and the occupation of their former territories by their enemies are frequent aftermaths of fighting. A case in point is highland New Guinea (Berndt 1964). At the same time, it is true that the war expeditions or campaigns of many primitive people without state organization often end with no transfers of land. It is this fact that may have led some students to neglect the role of primitive war in the regulation of territorial holdings. However, it is important to note that even in those places where fighting often ends with territories and boundaries remaining intact, it does not always end that way. In such places, the strength of a group successful in defending itself year after year against its enemies may eventually, as a result of economic reverses, disease, or the attrition of recurrent warfare, decline to a point where its capacity for further defense is seriously impaired and where it then must yield territories to a group better able to defend and exploit them. A process very much like this operated among Maori tribes and sub-tribes (Vayda 1960, p. 110), and there are suggestions of it also from various other primitive swiddening groups (including some who have become famous for their head-hunting) in Oceania and the South American tropical forest (Fernandes 1952, pp. 60-63; Freeman 1955, pp. 25-26; Selig-man 1910, p. 196).

Regulation of demographic variables. In some societies the functions discussed so far are performed by warfare without much bloodshed or loss of life. A terrifying war dance or the taking of one or two heads can decide a contest and drive an enemy away or deter him, at least temporarily, from aggression. This kind of ritualism makes some of the warfare of primitive human societies comparable not only to such ceremonialized aspects of the threat behavior of modern states as war games and May Day parades but also to the threat behavior of infrahuman animals, which, at times, fulfills the same functions as actual fighting but does so without a maladaptive loss of life (see Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1963; Suttles 1961; Tinbergen 1953; Wynne-Edwards 1962, pp. 129-131).

On the other hand, it seems that the warriors of some primitive societies try in their battles to kill as many of the enemy as they can. From New Guinea, for example, there are reports of the extermination of entire groups in warfare. It has been suggested that these more sanguinary modes of primitive war result in some cases from population increase, which exacerbates competition for resources, and that heavy battle mortality under these circumstances prevents population increase from proceeding so far as to lead to an overex-ploitation and more or less permanent deterioration of resources (see Allan 1949, pp. 25-26; Carneiro 1961, pp. 60-61). In other words, under these circumstances heavy battle mortality can be advantageous in the long run for the populations concerned. In order to define these relationships more precisely, more detailed studies of the demography and ecology of primitive societies must be made. Moreover, the role of psychological variables in mediating the relationships also must be studied. Is it the case, for example, that a diminishing per capita food supply and an increasing intragroup competition for resources generate intense domestic frustrations and other in-group tensions, which must then be released in bloody battle with an enemy group? It may be noted incidentally that the very fact that such questions can be posed points to the necessity for studying the psychological functions of war in conjunction with other possible functions, such as the demographic ones being considered here.

Population pressure may be reduced as much through land conquests as through battle mortality in cases where a population whose own land is being filled to its carrying capacity has neighbors with unexploited or underexploited land. Although land transfers as a result of primitive warfare have already been discussed, it is pertinent here to note that for some warlike tribes of primitive agriculturalists in Africa, Oceania, and South America there is evidence of population increase as well as of territorial expansion (Bohannan 1954; Vayda 1961). Sometimes when such increase is a long-term trend, warfare contributes not only to relieving local population pressure but also to maintaining an over-all rate of increase by providing conquered territories into which the population can expand.

In much of the primitive world, demographic problems may arise because autonomous local groups are small enough to be subject to considerable fluctuations in size, sex ratio, and age distribution that are a result of chance variations in natality and mortality. In some cases, the taking of war captives is a means of compensating for the effect of such chance variations; the capture of women, in particular, and of children and men, to a somewhat lesser degree, is described in the war narratives of numerous tribes (Davie 1929, pp. 89-102). There is variation from society to society in the treatment of captives and the degree of their incorporation into the captors’ social groups, but it should be noted that slavery involving the systematic exploitation of captured or conquered people is rare in the primitive world, where neither food production nor political mechanisms are sufficiently developed for the support and control of an economically productive slave class (Hobhouse et al. [1915] 1930, chapter 4; Nieboer 1900). Prior to the advent of “civilized” slave traders, the warriors of primitive societies without state organization appear to have taken only small numbers of captives. While these could be used for correcting local demographic imbalances, they did not tax locally available food supplies.

Multiple functions. The foregoing has not been an exhaustive listing of the possible functions of primitive war, and it must be emphasized that rigorous empirical validation of the listed functions has thus far been deficient. It does seem to be indicated, however, that primitive war, much as any war, has numerous functions. This must be borne in mind in assessing recommendations for limiting or eradicating warfare with respect to only certain functions, for example, trade as a substitute with respect to economic functions or games as a substitute with respect to tension release. Greater success in achieving peace can be expected when substitutes are provided for fulfilling not just one or the other function but rather the gamut of functions that war apparently has.

Andrew P. Vayda

[See alsoFeud; PoliticalAnthropology.]


Allan, William 1949 Studies in African Land Usage in Northern Rhodesia. Rhodes-Livingston Papers, No. 15. Oxford Univ. Press.

Beattie, J. H. M. 1959 Checks on the Abuse of Political Power in Some African States: A Preliminary Framework for Analysis. Sociologus New Series 9:97-115.

Berndt, Catherine H. 1957 Social and Cultural Change in New Guinea: Communication and Views About “Other People.” Sociologus New Series 7:38-57.

Berndt, Ronald M. 1964 Warfare in the New Guinea Highlands. American Anthropologist New Series 66 (Special Publication) no. 4, part 2:183-203.

Bohannan, Paul 1954 ’The Migration and Expansion of the Tiv. Africa 24:2-16.

Bram, Joseph 1941 An Analysis of Inca Militarism. Monographs of the American Ethnological Society, No. 4. New York: Augustin.

Brown, Robert R. 1963 Explanation in Social Science. Chicago: Aldine.

Carneiro, Robert L. 1961 Slash-and-burn Cultivation Among the Kuikuru and Its Implications for Cultural Development in the Amazon Basin. Pages 47-67 in Johannes Wilbert (editor), The Evolution of Horticultural Systems in Native South America; Causes and Consequences: A Symposium. Anthropologica Supplement Publication No. 2. Caracas: Sociedad de Ciencias Naturales La Salle.

Colson, Elizabeth 1953 Social Control and Vengeance in Plateau Tonga Society. Africa 23:199-211.

Coser, Lewis A. 1956 The Functions of Social Conflict. Glencoe, 111.: Free Press.

Davie, Maurice R. 1929 The Evolution of War: A Study of Its Role in Early Societies. Yale Publications in Economics, Social Science and Government, No. 1. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press.

Eibl-eibesfeldt, Irenaus 1963 Aggressive Behavior and Ritualized Fighting in Animals. Pages 8-17 in Jules H. Masserman (editor), Violence and War: With Clinical Studies. Academy of Psychoanalysis, Science and Psychoanalysis, Vol. 6. New York: Grune & Stratton.

Fernandes, Florestan 1952 A funcao social de guerra na sociedade Tupinamba. Sao Paulo, Brazil, Museu Paulista, Revista New Series 6:7-426.

Fortes, Meyer; and Evans-pritchard, E. E. (1940) 1961 Introduction. Pages 1-23 in Meyer Fortes and E. E. Evans-Pritchard (editors), African Political Systems. Oxford Univ. Press.

Freeman, J. D. 1955 Iban Agriculture: A Report on the Shifting Cultivation of Hill Rice by the Iban of Sarawak. Great Britain, Colonial Office, Colonial Research Studies, No. 18. London: H.M. Stationery Office.

Glasse, Robert M. 1959 Revenge and Redress Among the Huli: A Preliminary Account. Mankind 5:273-289.

Gluckman, Max 1963 Order and Rebellion in Tribal Africa. New York: Free Press.

Hobhouse, L. T. 1956 The Simplest Peoples. 2 parts. British Journal of Sociology 7:77-119. → Part 1: A Comparative Study. Part 2: Peace and Order Among the Simplest Peoples.

Hobhouse, L. T.; Wheeler, Gerald C; and Ginsberg, Morris (1915)1930 The Material Culture and Social Institutions of the Simpler Peoples: An Essay in Correlation. London School of Economics and Political Science Monographs on Sociology, No. 3. London: Chapman.

Leeds, Anthony 1963 The Functions of War. Pages 69-82 in Jules H. Masserman (editor), Violence and War: With Clinical Studies. Academy of Psychoanalysis, Science and Psychoanalysis, Vol. 6. New York: Grune & Stratton.

Leeds, Anthony; and Vayda, Andrew P. (editors) 1965 Man, Culture, and Animals: The Role of Animals in Human Ecological Adjustments. Washington: American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Levine, Robert A. 1961 Anthropology and the Study of Conflict: An Introduction. Journal of Conflict Resolution 5:3-15.

Middleton, John; and Tait, David (editors) 1958 Tribes Without Rulers: Studies in African Segmentary Systems. London: Routledge.

Murdoch, George P. 1956 Political Moieties. Pages 133-147 in Leonard D. White (editor), The State of the Social Sciences. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Murphy, Robert F. 1957 Intergroup Hostility and Social Cohesion. American Anthropologist New Series 59:1018-1035.

Newcomb, W. W. Jr. 1950 A Re-examination of the Causes of Plains Warfare. American Anthropologist New Series 52:317-330.

Newcomb, W. W. Jr. 1960 Toward an Understanding of War. Pages 317-336 in Gertrude E. Dole and Robert L. Carneiro (editors), Essays in the Science of Culture: In Honor of Leslie A. White. New York: Crowell.

Nieboer, Herman J. (1900) 1910 Slavery as an Industrial System: Ethnological Researches. The Hague: Nijhoff.

Poirier, Jean 1961 Esquisse d’une ethno-sociologie de la guerre et de la paix dans les societes archaiques. Part 1, chapter 2, in Societe Jean Bodin pour l’Histoire Comparative des Institutions, Recueils. Volume 14: La paix. Brussels: Editions de la Librairie Encyclo-pedique.

Sahlins, Marshall D. 1963 Poor Man, Rich Man, Big Man, Chief: Political Types in Melanesia and Polynesia. Comparative Studies in Society and History 5:285-303.

Scotch, N. A. 1961 Magic, Sorcery, and Football Among Urban Zulu: A Case of Reinterpretation Under Acculturation. Journal of Conflict Resolution 5:70-74.

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Steward, Julian H.; and Shimkin, Demitri B. (1961) 1962 Some Mechanisms of Sociocultural Evolution. Pages 67-87 in Hudson Hoagland and Ralph W. Burhoe (editors), Evolution and Man’s Progress. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Suttles, Wayne 1961 Subhuman and Human Fighting. Anthropologica New Series 3:148-163.

Tinbergen, Nikolaas 1953 Fighting and Threat in Animals. New Biology 14:9-24.

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views updated May 18 2018


Rock band

For the Record

Began With Eric Burdon

Multiple Top 40 Hits

War and Peace

South Central Environs

Selected discography


War, a nine-member, Los Angeles-based group noted throughout the 1970s for their fusion of rock, Latin jazz, funk, and rhythm and blues, released their first major label album, Peace Sign, in June of 1994 after a 13-year recording hiatus. Hip-hop music and rap samples of Wars material from the 1970s revived an interest in the group in the 1990s, as did brief snippets of Wars music heard briefly on film soundtracks and on television commercials. Wars most sampled hit songs are Why Cant We Be Friends?, The World Is a Ghetto, Low Rider, and Cisco Kid.

Although War occasionally toured clubs and festivals during the 1980s and early 1990s, recording an album proved difficult because the band struggled with the loss of many of its original members. War is comprised of Kerry Campbell (saxophone), Sal Rodriguez (percussion), Tetsuya Tex Nakamura (harmonica), Charles Green (saxophone), Rae Valentine (keyboards), Lonnie Jordan (keyboards, bass, vocals), Howard Scott (guitar, vocals), Ron Hammon (drums, vocals), and Harold Brown (drums, vocals). Founding member Lee Oskar

For the Record

Original members include Papa Dee Allen (born July 19, 1931; died of a brain aneurysm, 1989), vocals and percussion; Harold Brown, (born March 17, 1946; left band, 1983; rejoined, 1993) vocals and percussion; B. B. Dickerson (born August 3, 1949; left band, 1979); Jerry Goldstein, cowriter and producer; Lonnie Jordan (born November 21, 1948), vocals and keyboards; Charles Miller (born June 21, 1939; died, 1980; left band, 1979), flute and saxophone; Lee Oskar (born March 24, 1948, in Copenhagen, Denmark; left group, 1993), harmonica; Peter Rosen (died of a drug overdose, early 1960s); Howard Scott (born March 15, 1946), vocals and guitar.

Later members include Kerry Campbell (joined band, 1994), saxophone; Charles Green (joined band, 1994), saxophone; Ron Hammon (joined band, 1978), drums; Tetsuya Tex Nakamura (joined band, 1994), harp and harmonica; Sal Rodriguez (joined band, 1994), percussion; Tweed Smith (bandmember 1982-83), vocals; Rae Valentine (born Harold Rae Brown, Jr.; son of bandmember Harold Brown; joined band, 1994), keyboards.

Group formed as the Creators, Los Angeles, 1960; reformed as the Night Shift, 1968; re-formed again as War with Eric Burdon, 1969; released first albums with Burdon on MGM, 1970; released first solo album, War, on United Artists, 1971; released 12 albums, including one more with Burdon, 1970s; released three more albums, early 1980s; returned with Rap Declares War, Avenue, 1992.

Addresses: Publicist Sandy Friedman, Rogers & Cowan, 10000 Santa Monica Blvd., #400, Los Angeles, CA 90069. Record company Avenue Records, 11100 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 2000, Los Angeles, CA 90025.

left the band in December of 1993after 24 years with the groupand was replaced by harmonica player Tetsuya Tex Nakamura, a blues harpist from Japan. Original band member Papa Dee Allen collapsed on stage while playing Gypsy Man during a concert in 1989 and died shortly thereafter of a brain aneurysm; founding band member Charles Miller left the band in 1979.

Remaining original War bandmembers include guitarist Howard Scott, drummer Harold Brown, drummer Ron Hammon (who joined in 1978), and keyboard player Lonnie Jordan. Percussionist Sal Rodriguez played in the bands Tierra and El Chicano before joining. War keyboardist Rae Valentine is Harold Browns son, a legacy Brown passed on to the next generation of War enthusiasts. Brown left the band from 1983 to 1993.

Began With Eric Burdon

In 1962 original War members Scott and Brown formed a rhythm and blues cover band called the Creators and eventually added Jordan, Dickerson, and Miller. The Creators often opened for Ike and Tina Turner when they played in Los Angeles. The Creators were forced to dissolve when guitarist Scott was drafted; he was called for military duty in the mid-1960s for two years. When Scott returned to Los Angeles after his tour of duty, the Creators reunited briefly.

In 1968 Scott, Brown, Miller, and Jordan formed a new band called the Night Shift. Producer and songwriter Jerry Goldstein heard the band play during one of their rehearsals and decided the band would complement the vocal style of Eric Burdon, formerly of the Animals. The Night Shift became War in early 1969. The name War was chosen for the band to offset the fact that the word peace was bandied about constantly in pop culture.

Burdon liked the band and decided to tour with them in 1969. Their first concert was at the Devonshire Pop Festival, a three-day event in the Los Angeles area that attracted 100,000 people. Eric Burdon and War followed Credence Clearwater at the festival. Burdon and War released an album in 1970 titled Eric Burdon Declares War. The gold-selling album reached Number 18 on the music charts and its single Spill the Wine reached Number Three. War played Ronnie Scotts London jazz club in 1970 with Jimi HendrixHendrixs last concert before his death. Hendrix and War played the Memphis Slim song Mother Earth together. War recorded three albums with Eric Burdon in 1970 and 1971, one of which was not released for five years. Love Is All Around was recorded in 1971 and released in 1976.

Multiple Top 40 Hits

In 1971 War and Eric Burdon divided to become solo acts. The move was prompted by an experience War band members had with Burdon. In 1970 Burdon vanished in the middle of a European tour, and War was forced to appear without him, hoping audience members at concerts wouldnt demand refunds. Wars solo shows sold out, much to their delight, and the band knew they would be well received on their own.

Wars breakthrough album, All Day Music, which sold almost two million copies and reached Number 16 on the Billboard pop music chart, was released in 1971. Two of the albums singles became Top 40 hits: All Day Music and Slippin Into Darkness. In 1972 War released The World Is a Ghetto. This album became the best-selling album of 1973. The singles Cisco Kid and The World Is a Ghetto both went gold, and War was established as a major musical force. The double album War Live was released in 1974, featuring the Top 40 single Ballero. From 1975 to 1981 War released seven more albums, including Why Cant We Be Friends?, each meeting with acclaim and enthusiastic response.

War and Peace

Avenue Records CEO Jerry Goldstein is credited with having urged War back into the recording realm. Wars cowriter since the bands inception, Goldstein produced all of the bands major hits in the 1970s and then gained possession of the bands copyrights and masters in the mid-1980s. Avenue Records reissued much of Wars back catalog on CD in the 1990s, which fueled a renewed interest in the band. The fact that War was sampled so liberally by the rap and hip-hop community in the 1990s create mixed feelings for Wars bandmem-bers, who alternately felt flattered and robbed. War bandmember Howard Scott told Billboards Jon Cum-mings, Instead of suing, we decided to do that record and make peace with the rap community.

Avenue Records released a compilation record in 1992 titled Rap Declares War, which featured War bandmem-bers with the rap musicians who had sampled their music. Some of the War-struck rappers on the album included De La Soul, Poor Righteous Teachers, Brand Nubian, Nice N Smooth, Beastie Boys, Ice-T, Wreckx-N-Effect, Kid Frost, and 2Pac. This album cemented Wars tie-in with the hip-hop and rap community and highlighted how much the band had in common with the musicians who had sampled Wars music.

South Central Environs

In its early days, War drew its flavor from South Central Los Angeles. South Central also inspired a lions share of later rappers, such as N.W.A. and Ice-T. Wars message, however, is decidedly different than that of the gangsta rappers from the same environment. Anger, urban violence, and despair are replaced with optimism, understanding, peace, and hope in Wars music. The band provides positive messages, as evidenced in the singles Peace Sign, What If, and Let Me Tell Ya. Instead of throwing up gang signs, were throwing up peace signs, Scott told Cummings.

War aims to be multifaceted and to provide varying formats for its music. The band is equal parts Latino, black, and white, so War hopes to be able to appeal to a wide range of listeners. Vibe magazines Richard Torres described War and its music as user-friendly funk for the90slight on the feet and easy on the hips, and a laid-back groove factory with a conscience. Jazz, rhythm and blues, rock, and Latin melodies are frequently combined in Wars songs to create a distinctive multilayered sound, slightly reminiscent of each style.

After a 13-year absense from the recording studio, War released Peace Sign in 1994the bands eighteenth major label albumproduced by Jerry Goldstein and War band member Lonnie Jordan. The single East L.A. is a West Coast version of Ben E. Kings Spanish Harlem with Jose Feliciano contributing vocals. Some of the albums singles are beautiful ballads, others are reminiscent of Wars previous hits in the 1970s, and others reveal experimentation and an unbridled, fresh approach to their music.

War released Peace Sign in 1994 because the band still has much to say about American society. In Homeless Hero on Peace Sign, War sings about a Vietnam War veteran who grapples with drugs, alcohol, and a society that no longer finds him useful. Wars Harold Brown told Goldmines Steve Roeser Were more street. Were more ground-zero, more ground level. Were the kind of guys who can go into south Los Angeles or go to the projects or the barrio and every day that we live its because of music.

Selected discography

As the Creators

Little Johnny Hamilton and the Creators, Dore Records, 1965.

With Eric Burdon

Eric Burdon Declares War (includes Spill The Wine), MGM, 1970.

The Black Mans Burdon, MGM, 1970.

Love Is All Around, ABC, 1976.

Without Eric Burdon

War, United Artists, 1971.

All Day Music, Far Out/UA, 1971.

The World Is a Ghetto, Far Out/UA, 1972.

Deliver the Word, UA, 1973.

Radio Free War, UA, 1973.

War Live, Far Out/UA, 1974.

Why Cant We Be Friends?, Far Out/UA, 1975.

Wars Greatest Hits, Far Out/UA, 1977.

Platinum Jazz, Blue Note, 1977.

Galaxy, MCA, 1977.

Youngblood (soundtrack), UA, 1978.

The Music Band, MCA, 1978.

The Music Band, Part 2, MCA, 1979.

Best of the Music Band, MCA, 1981.

Outlaw, RCA, 1982.

Life Is So Strange, RCA, 1983.

The Best of War... And More, Avenue, 1987.

Rap Declares War, Avenue, 1992.

War, Avenue, 1992.

Peace Sign, Avenue/Rhino, 1994.

Anthology 1970-1994, Avenue, 1994.


Billboard, June 14, 1994.

Goldmine, September 2, 1994.

Vibe, August 1994.

Additional information for this profile was provided by Avenue Records publicity materials.

B. Kimberly Taylor


views updated May 18 2018

War. This essay consists of five articles, which deal broadly with different large aspects of war. The first provides an interpretation of the changing Nature of War from ancient times to the present. The second examines Levels of War—tactical, operational, strategic—comparing recent historical examples with modern American military thought. The third explores the degree to which there has been an American Way of War. The fourth, which shows American perspectives on the Causes of War, assesses historic interpretations of the causes of war by American policymakers, scholars, and activists. The fifth, examining the American experience, probes the debate over the Effects of War on the Economy.
War: Nature of War Definitions of war have varied, but any attempt to understand it must include the following critical elements. First, war is an organized violent activity, waged not by individuals but by men (sometimes joined by women) in groups. Second, war is a mutual activity; whatever takes place in it relates, or should relate, primarily to the enemy's movements with the aim of defeating him and avoid being defeated oneself. Third, the conduct of war is conditioned on the hope for victory, or at the very least self‐preservation. Where that hope does not exist there can be no war, only suicide.

War being an organized activity, the best way to classify it is neither by tactics nor by weaponry but by the nature of the human communities that wage it. Thus we find that some very small and very loosely organized communities, such as the South African Bushmen or Arctic Eskimo, did not have war but merely more or less violent duels among individuals. More complex “tribes without rulers,” such as the Indians of the North American Plains, did engage in war; yet there was still no specialized organization for waging it, since every healthy adult male was a warrior by definition. Probably the first individuals who were in any sense specialized warriors were the retainers of tribal chiefs such as still existed in areas of Africa until recently. The classical Mediterranean city‐states were, in this respect, less advanced: they did not have armies but only militias that were mustered as war broke out and went home as it ended. The task of building standing forces was left to empires, like those of ancient Egypt or Assyria or China or Rome. For a long time these remained the strongest military‐political organizations.

The characteristic modern way of organizing war, which grew out of the transformation of feudal into modern society, is to entrust it to be directed by the state. For 300 years, since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 ended the Thirty Years War, states alone have been authorized to wage war; conversely, whenever aggression and violence were used by individuals, or by other groups and organizations, it was known as crime, uprising, rebellion, or civil war. Inside each state a distinction was drawn between the government, which alone could conduct the war at the highest level; the armed forces, whose task was to fight; and the civilian population, whose assigned role was to pay and sustain the effort. By setting up an organization whose members, even at the higher levels, were selected for their professionalism rather than their loyalty (which had been the case in empires and feudal societies) and who were dedicated solely to war, the state and its resources led the way to unprecedented technological development in the military field. So great were the modern state's military and warmaking capabilities that by 1914, some half‐dozen industrialized states had come virtually to dominate the world.

Not only did the modern state wage war more effectively than any other organization, but war itself played a great role in the construction of the modern state. First came the establishment of civilian bureaucracies, whose primary function was to obtain resources for war and extract the taxes that would be used to pay the troops. Next came such institutions as the national debt and paper money, both of which had their origin in the need to finance war. During the nineteenth century, the advent of railways and telegraphs for the first time enabled large states to begin to harness virtually their entire resources for military purposes; this culminated in the era of “total war” (1914–45) when such governments took over control of almost every aspect of their citizens' lives from the wages that they were paid to the temperature of the water in which they could bathe. These trends affected the United States, which was relatively isolated and safe, much later than they did the main European powers, which confronted each other directly. Still, even in the United States the task of building a strong centralized state was linked to war, initially in the Civil War, but more dramatically in World War I and World War II. In the long run, the United States built a military‐industrial complex larger than any other in the world.

As the warmaking communities developed and became more sophisticated, so did the scale on which they fought and the methods they used. Early tribal societies counted their warriors in the dozens and knew only the raid, the ambush, the skirmish, and sometimes the setpiece encounter (agreed upon in advance) that can be seen as part war, part sport. With the establishment of chiefdoms, there appeared forces numbering in the hundreds or at most thousands, as well as battle and siege operations, whereas empires could count their troops in the hundreds of thousands and were capable of conducting sophisticated operations that lasted for years on end. However, all premodern political entities were hampered in their conduct of war by problems of both logistics and communications. The former meant that armed forces spent more time looking after their supplies than actively campaigning, and indeed that war itself was usually a seasonal activity—in the summer. The latter not only prevented the coordination of operations from the capital but made it virtually impossible for the armed forces of any one state to cooperate with each other on anything larger than a tactical scale once they had been united on the battlefield.

Modern technology during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century put an end to these limitations. Instead of coming about by tacit agreement between the commanders on both sides, battles could be developed into coherent campaigns; campaigns waged in different theaters could be integrated with the conduct of war as a whole, and the latter coordinated from the national capital, which also controlled the mobilization of demographic and economic resources. The different levels of war—from minor tactics through tactics and the operational art and strategy all the way to grand strategy—made their appearance. More and more, war came to be waged by vast powers or coalitions of powers, each counting their subjects in the dozens if not hundreds of millions. Once unleashed by the Industrial Revolution, military technology mushroomed. Between 1815 and 1945, it took war from flintlocks to tanks and from foot‐slogging soldiers to long‐range bomber aircraft and the first ballistic missiles.

Throughout these millennia of organizational and technological growth, the character of war as a mutual activity remained unchanged. War involves the use of organized violence to achieve one's end, often to the maximum extent possible; but that violence is directed against a living, reacting enemy, who in turn uses violence to achieve his ends. Hence, the real essence of war, in whatever form and at whatever level, is the interplay between the two sides' moves and countermoves.

Assuming that the force on one side is not overwhelming—in which case little or no military art will be required—to achieve victory it is necessary to strike at a point that is both vital and vulnerable. To force the enemy to expose his vulnerable point, it is necessary to deceive him as to one's intentions. To deceive him, it is usually necessary to pretend to strike at some other point or points; but this in turn means diverting force for the purpose, which will weaken one's ability to launch the decisive stroke as well as to defend oneself.

In this way, war is subject to a peculiar logic of its own, which has been aptly called “paradoxical.” It differs from engineering activities, whose object is to mold inorganic matter, but in some ways resembles games such as football or chess; like them, it consists of action, counteraction, and counter‐counteraction, all of which are accompanied by a bodyguard of secrecy, lies, feints, and sometimes even espionage. The resulting uncertainty, the friction that is inherent in the activity of large bodies of people, and the sheer risk to life and limb that is involved, combine to make the conduct of war extraordinarily difficult. As Napoleon once said, intellectually it poses problems worthy of a Newton or an Euler; however, the character attributes that it demands—such as courage, endurance, determination, the ability to keep one's mind clear in a crisis—are, if anything, even greater.

Still, assuming a rough balance between opposing sides, in theory, victory goes to the side that, reading the enemy's intentions while concealing its own, is able to strike hardest at the decisive point without exposing itself. In practice, the necessary calculations are often much too complicated for any one brain or combination of brains, with the result that, as in the case of many games, the outcome depends on making the fewest mistakes, as well as pure chance.

With the advent of nuclear weapons—themselves made possible by the tremendous scientific and industrial resources at the disposal of the modern state—warfare seems to have undergone a decisive change. Hitherto, it had often been possible for one side to use some combination of force and guile in order to achieve victory at a cost acceptable to itself. Now, the prospect had to be faced that victory, instead of guaranteeing one's existence, would lead to annihilation as the defeated side fell on the nuclear button. Indeed, the more resounding the victory, the more acute the danger that this would happen. Under such circumstances, it is scant wonder that those states that possessed nuclear weapons—meaning, by and large, the most powerful ones—generally began taking very good care not to commit suicide and to avoid escalating conflicts between each other. The more nuclear weapons proliferated, the less important and less powerful the states against which large‐scale, conventional warfare (as in the period 1648–1945) could still be fought.

Reflecting these developments, military organization and military technology reversed direction. Throughout the years since A.D. 1000, armies and navies had been getting larger and larger, culminating in the tens of millions of uniformed personnel who served during World Wars I and II; now, all of a sudden, they began to shrink as the most important states abandoned the system of mass mobilization of the kind that initially appeared after 1789. For the first time in history, some weapons—specifically, the most important ones by far—were deliberately made less, rather than more, powerful. Neither the most powerful missiles, such as the American Titan, nor the monster hydrogen bomb of 58 megatons (58 million tons of TNT) that the Soviets exploded in 1961 had successors. Research and development were redirected in an effort to develop more accurate delivery systems such as multiple independent reentry vehicles (MIRVs) and cruise missiles carrying more limited warheads: Both reflected the feeling that their city‐destroying predecessors had grown too indiscriminate and too dangerous to serve any useful purpose.

As nuclear weapons put a ceiling on the size and violence of wars between nations, such wars became rarer at the end of the twentieth century. Beginning in the so‐called Third World and spreading to the Second, their place as an agent of political change was increasingly taken by another form of war. This new form of war was not based on the customary division of labor among government, armed forces, and people. Since it did not require a large, continuous, statelike territorial basis, it was immune to those weapons and could be waged even in their presence. Guerrilla warfare and terrorism and counterterrorism were, in fact, anything but new phenomena; however, the fact that they were directed against the occupying Axis powers during World War II had given them a new respectability as well as legitimacy in international law. As Europe's overseas expansionism shows, until 1914 its armies had usually been able to confront with overwhelming force peoples who did not have states, governments, or regular armed forces. But from the moment Adolf Hitler invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, this clearly ceased to be the case, as the Yugoslav partisans prevented even the German Wehrmacht from conquering all of their country.

Though the forces at their disposal were usually small and their weapons primitive, guerrillas and terrorists in dozens upon dozens of cases since 1945 have defeated the most modern armies and the most powerful modern states that ever existed. In the 1990s, they continued to resist successfully the armed forces of many states around the world, nor, to judge by cases from Algeria to Bosnia to Somalia, does it appear modern states know how to deal with them. For those states and their armed forces, the writing is on the wall. Under the shadow of the mushroom cloud, a new form of war that is simultaneously very old is reemerging and asserting itself. Either modern states learn to cope with it, or they themselves will soon disappear into the dustbin of history.


Sun Tzu , The Art of War, 1963.
Carl von Clausewitz , On War, 1976.
Edward Luttwak , Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace, 1987.
Martin van Creveld , The Transformation of War, 1991.

Martin Van Creveld

War: Levels of War Modern military analysts view warfare as an undertaking that can be broadly examined on three complementary and somewhat overlapping levels: tactics, operational art, and strategy. Recent American military thinking, influenced by the Vietnam War and then accelerated by the Goldwater‐Nichols Act of 1986, has matured and become much more sophisticated in its analysis and understanding of the nature and conduct of war. With the notable exceptions of Alfred T. Mahan and Billy Mitchell, until recently civilian defense analysts have done the majority of innovative theoretical thinking in the United States about warfare. There is now, however, an intellectual renaissance within the ranks of the government defense community. Still prodded by civilian thinkers and critics, the American military establishment has recently developed a paradigm that views warfare as an activity to be conducted and understood on the three levels: tactical, operational, and strategic. The latest and least‐developed concept concerns the nature and conduct of war at the strategic level.

The United States's military education system, particularly its Senior Service Colleges (War Colleges), provides a thorough grounding in the classics of military thinking. Sun Tzu, Antoine Henri Jomini, Carl von Clausewitz, and others are studied in depth for applicable lessons for current military practitioners. Learning from the past, from recent military experiences, and from a study of foreign armies, particularly in the former Soviet Union, American military thinkers have begun to view war in somewhat overlapping constructs. These levels of war are useful in framing activities by military echelons within a theater of operations and in establishing a structure for ordering activities in time and space. They provide civilian decision‐makers and military commanders with a method to visualize an orderly sequence of operations, the resources necessary, and the specific tasks to be accomplished. Each level of warfare is defined by the intended outcome and not by the size of the specific unit tasked to accomplish it.

The most basic and thoroughly understood is the tactical level of warfare. It is concerned with the planning and executing of battles and engagements to accomplish military objectives that are assigned to tactical units or to task forces. With army and Marine forces, these are normally division‐size units or smaller; in the air force and navy, the force size is roughly the squadron and battle group level, respectively. At the tactical level, the focus of activities is the ordered arrangement and maneuver of combat elements to achieve combat objectives. Actions here are focused on specific missions, and victory in battle and engagements is attained by achieving superiority over an enemy by exercising adroitly the principles of war: objective, initiative, maneuver, mass, surprise, security, simplicity, economy of force, and unity of command. Success or failure at this level may determine victory or defeat at the operational and ultimately strategic levels. Tactics employ both the art and science of warfare to use all available means to defeat the enemy; normally, there is more emphasis on the science and less on the art of warfare. In essence, the tactical level of warfare involves battlefield problem solving.

The operational level of warfare is the level at which campaigns and major operations are planned and conducted. It provides the linkage between the tactical level, where individual battles and engagements are fought, and strategic‐level objectives. The operational level focuses on conducting joint (multiservice) operations through the design, structure, and execution of subordinate campaign plans and major operations. Emphasis here is on operational art, which the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) define as “the skillful employment of military forces to attain strategic and/or operational objectives within a theater through the design, organization, integration, and conduct of theater strategies, campaigns, major operations and battles.” The essence of operational art is to determine when, where, and for what end forces will fight. At this level, warfare is more an art than a science as senior commanders seek to balance the ends sought with the ways to accomplish those ends in light of the resources available.

The study of the strategic level of war is the most recent area of development in American military thinking. At this level, there is the closest linkage between military and civilian leaders in defining and articulating national objectives. Military leaders must then translate national objectives into national security objectives attainable by military means. The pursuit of these military objectives is often done as a member of a coalition of nations. The strategic level then determines national or multinational security objectives and guidance, and uses national resources to achieve these aims. According to the JCS, the strategic level of warfare includes activities to “sequence initiatives; define limits and assess risks for the use of military and other instruments of national power; develop global plans or theater war plans to achieve these objectives; and provide military forces and other capabilities in accordance with strategic plans.”

At the strategic level, again, warfare is much more an art than a science. Contemporary analysts are still debating and refining the concept of strategic art. In 1995, the JCS had yet to publish an accepted definition of what constitutes “strategic art.” Because of the level at which it is applied, practitioners of the strategic level of warfare must have an appreciation for all the realms of national power—economic, diplomatic, and informational, as well as the purely military dimension. Those who would master the strategic art must embody three complementary roles: leader, practitioner, and theorist.

The strategic leader is one who exercises strategic art, or in military parlance, “makes it happen.” A strategic leader provides vision and focus of effort; applies leadership and consensus‐building skills in ambiguous, often multicultural associations; coordinates ends, ways, and means; and inspires others to think and to act. Recent historic examples include the American generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and George C. Marshall, and the British leaders Gen. William J. Slim and Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill.

The practitioner of strategic art can be defined as one who translates political and military guidance into broad, attainable military objectives. A strategic practitioner both develops and executes strategic plans. Such an individual must have a thorough mastery of all the levels of war and must be able to employ force and the other dimensions of military power. A list of recent strategic practitioners might include Erwin Rommel, Matthew B. Ridgway, and H. Norman Schwarzkopf. All were adept at the art of applying ends, ways, and means to solve military problems in a variety of strategic environments.

The strategic theorist, as the name implies, is one who develops strategic concepts and theories. Such an individual would be a student of the history of warfare who also might have practical experience in war, although this would not be a sine qua non. The theorist's understanding of warfare would permit him to analyze and synthesize concepts of war to develop even finer understanding and distinctions. Examples of strategic theorists would include Thucydides, Sun Tzu, and Carl von Clausewitz.

Contemporary American military thinking views military operations as a continuum. This spectrum extends from general war to large‐scale combat operations, possibly including weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological, and chemical), down through military operations other than war. Under this last rubric are a number of operations that have become the most prevalent types of warfare conducted in the last decade of the twentieth century. They include noncombatant evacuation operations, strikes and raids, support to insurgency, counterdrug operations, antiterrorism, disaster relief, civil support, peace operations (peace enforcement, peacekeeping, and peace building), and nation assistance. Each of these operations can be viewed through the prism of the three levels of war: tactical, operational, and strategic. Some involve the destruction of enemy forces; many do not. All represent the use of the military element of power in pursuit of national objectives.

This paradigm of warfare as a tiered and interlocking system will be particularly useful as our understanding of warfare continues to evolve. Military operations other than war have already begun to blur the traditional understanding of the uses of military power. Military observers in the future will have to analyze such disparate acts as electronically crippling a nation's banking system, or the insertion of a virus into the computer‐controlled mass transit system of a city, and then decide whether these are acts of war. Their level of analysis—tactical, operational, strategic—will be important for the conclusions they draw about the ever‐changing nature of war.


Michael Howard , The Theory and Practice of War, 1965.
Russell F. Weigley , The American Way of War, 1973.
Peter Paret, Gordon Craig, and Felix Gilbert, eds., Makers of Modern Strategy, 1986.
Michael I. Handel , Masters of War: Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and Jomini, 1992.
Joint Chiefs of Staff , Joint Pub 1‐02: Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, 1994.
Richard Chilcoat , Strategic Art: The New Discipline for 21st Century Leaders, 1995.

John D. Auger

War: American Way of War Like shadows on a parade field, military institutions and war reflect in part the society that creates them. Although many Americans view themselves as a peace‐loving people and war as an aberration, war has been a regular part of American history, integral to the way the nation developed.

Despite divisions among Americans, the United States has justified its wars as in defense of American lives, property, or ideals. Policymakers have also taken the nation into war for various strategic, economic, and political reasons. But since the idea of Old World balance‐of‐power wars or wars of subjugation over other nations has been anathema to Americans' self‐image, the United States has usually mobilized for war in highly idealistic crusades—for liberty or democracy.

America views itself as antimilitaristic because for most of its history, the nation relied in wartime on ad hoc citizen armies rather than large standing forces, and because civilian control of the military is seen as a fundamental principle. This antimilitarism was reinforced by isolationism. Secure behind vast oceans, the United States did not develop large peacetime standing forces until the Cold War.

Another paradox is that although Americans generally view themselves as peaceloving, they have been capable of engaging in the most devastating kind of warfare—war aimed at total victory and complete elimination of the enemy threat, sometimes of the enemy themselves. This view of warfare emerged from European Americans' wars with Native Americans.

Eastern woodland Indians' warfare was originally much less bloody than that of Europeans, who were accustomed to vicious religious crusades and to the savage subjugation of peoples from Ireland to the Indies. Even as the horrors of religious wars were replaced in the Old World by limited warfare using newly organized professional armies, they were repeated in the New World by amateur soldiers of the militia.

Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, colonial militiamen were mobilized in terms of crusades against the “heathen savages.” Unable to entice Indian warriors, who preferred raiding, sniping, and ambushing, into open‐field European‐style combat, frustrated militiamen turned to complete destruction of Native Americans' crops and villages, killing men, women, and children, or selling them into slavery. Although the Indians responded with escalating violence, the superior numbers and resources of the colonists ultimately led to the destruction or removal of entire Indian nations. An American view emerged that military threats to society could indeed be eliminated by the extirpation of the enemy—a result that was impossible among European nations.

This American view of war was reinforced in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the French and Indian War (1756–1763), the Americans claimed credit for aiding the British army and navy drive the French out of Canada and the trans‐Appalachian West. Later, in the Revolutionary War, Americans won complete independence from Great Britain. The apparent British threat to American interests and liberties was again defeated in the War of 1812.

Throughout the nineteenth century, the United States remained free from any external threat (the Civil War was internal and viewed as an aberration). The country was protected by its geographical isolation, the balance of power in Europe, and relatively weak and nonaggressive neighbors. Its formative experiences with war had produced a dichotomy in which the nation was perceived as either wholly secure or wholly insecure. In the latter case, a crusade could be waged that would eliminate the threat and thus restore Americans to total security.

A pattern had emerged in America's wars. War usually began with setbacks, largely because the nation, although willing to go to war, was militarily unprepared. Early defeats were followed by preparation and retaliation, and ultimately decisive redeeming victories—at Quebec, at Saratoga and Yorktown, at New Orleans, and at Gettysburg (at least for the Union). The belief in the inherent righteousness of the cause, in the natural fighting ability of the American citizen‐soldier, and in the nation's ability to mobilize its resources gave Americans an extraordinary optimism about what they could achieve militarily. Wars against Indians, Mexicans, and Spaniards in the nineteenth century reinforced these views, as with relatively small loss of life suffered by U.S. citizens the United States gained enough territory to claim overwhelming, if not always total, victory. In World War I, President Woodrow Wilson called for a crusade to “end all wars” and to make the world “safe for democracy.” The American war effort helped defeat the German empire, create a German republic, and make the United States the financial capital of the world.

The Civil War had led the United States to adopt the warfighting doctrine of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, which emphasized overwhelming and continual military force applied directly against the enemy army and indirectly through deprivation of the enemy's civilian population and resources. In the twentieth century, during two world wars, and limited wars in Korea and Vietnam, the U.S. Army would pursue this strategy against the enemy forces, while the air force and navy pursued the indirect campaign, through bombing and blockade, against the enemy's material resources and political will.

As the United States industrialized, optimism about America's fighting ability focused on superior weaponry. At the turn of the century, Adm. Alfred T. Mahan's doctrine of Sea Power emphasizing the use of a modern fleet promised swift and total victory. In the 1920s and 1930s, Gen. Billy Mitchell of the Army Air Service helped develop the doctrine of Strategic Airpower as a technological means to achieve quick and total victory. In World War II, in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and in a crusade against fascism, Americans waged war on land, sea, and air, including conventional and ultimately nuclear bombing of urban areas to achieve decisive victory and unconditional surrender of the enemy.

The Cold War posed a major challenge to American views of war and the military. Containment of the Soviet Union led to large standing military forces, but even these did not produce a sense of military security, for the USSR also developed intercontinental ballistic missiles and thermonuclear weapons. Before it ended in 1991, with the total collapse of the Soviet empire, the forty‐year Cold War represented an unprecedented period of U.S. uncertainty over national security.

During the Cold War, the U.S. government refrained from the use of total military force in Korea and Vietnam. But the policy of limited war clashed with the traditional goal of total victory. The Korean War ended in a frustrating stalemate, the Vietnam War ultimately in defeat. After the United States had fought for more than seven years to prevent it, the Communist victory in Vietnam was a severe blow to Americans' optimism, sense of righteousness, and sense of military prowess, which did not return until the collapse of the USSR and the American victory in the Persian Gulf War of 1991.

The U.S.‐led coalition assault in Operation Desert Storm seemed quite justified and resulted in a quick, decisive victory that drove the forces of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Although the Baghdad regime continued in power, its threat to the region was dramatically curtailed. More than any other U.S. military engagement since World War II, the Gulf War to liberate Kuwait conformed to the traditional American way of war.
[See also Civil‐Military Relations; Internationalism; Isolationism; Strategy; War: Causes of War; War: Levels of War; War: Nature of War.]


Russell F. Weigley , The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy, 1973.
John Shy , A People Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence, 1976.
Michael Howard , War and the Liberal Conscience, 1978.
Lloyd C. Gardner , A Covenant with Power: America and World Order from Wilson to Reagan, 1984.
Stephen Watts , The Republic Reborn: War and the Making of Liberal America, 1790–1820, 1987.
Geoffrey Perret , A Country Made by War: From the Revolution to Vietnam—The Story of America's Rise to Power, 1989.
John E. Frehling , Struggle for a Continent: The Wars of Early America, 1993.
Michael Sherry , In the Shadow of War: The United States since the 1930s, 1995.
John Whiteclay Chambers II and G. Kurt Piehler, eds., Major Problems in American Military History, 1999.

John Whiteclay Chambers II

War: Causes of War Americans' assumptions about the causes of war have shaped important U.S. foreign and security policies. However, these assumptions were often poorly grounded and sometimes simply wrong.

Ideas on the causes of war held by various American peace and antiwar movements, for example, often had little basis in reality. Since the early nineteenth century, these movements have, at various times, offered eight main prescriptions that embody their central ideas: (1) arbitration treaties and an international court to arbitrate disputes (popular ideas from the 1840s until 1914); (2) treaties forbidding resort to force (such as the 1920s movement for the “outlawry of war”); (3) disarmament or quantitative arms reductions; (4) collective security (popular during and after World War I); (5) some form of world government; (6) U.S. isolationism or strict neutrality (popular in the late 1930s); (7) pacifist noncooperation with national military programs; (8) dovish U.S. policies toward U.S. adversaries (e.g., Vietnamese Communists or Nica raguan Sandinistas). Some peace groups have also emphasized the need to cultivate pacific values through public moral education and by emphasizing the horrors of war.

When tried, these prescriptions usually proved infeasible or ineffective. Many arbitration treaties were signed before 1914, but they proved useless: governments freely ignored arbitration rulings that went against them. The Kellogg‐Briand Treaty supposedly “outlawed” war in 1928, yet it proved to be an empty stunt that had no political effects. Quantitative disarmament rests on a proposition—that the incidence or intensity of warfare increases with the quantity of modern weapons available—that remains unproven and seems wrong. (Ancient history offers evidence against it, recording many immensely destructive wars fought wholly without modern weapons.) The collective security idea, embodied in the League of Nations, proved ineffective in the 1930s while distracting Americans from more feasible ways to prevent World War II, such as early U.S. moves to deter or contain Germany and Japan. World government is now among those ideas so discredited they are no longer seriously discussed. U.S. neutrality, codified in the U.S. Neutrality Acts of 1935–39, helped embolden Adolf Hitler to start World War II while failing to keep the United States out of that war, and thus must be reckoned as more a cause of war than peace. Pacifism also helped embolden Hitler, who saw British and American pacifism as easing his road to European hegemony. Pressure for dovish policies did end one or two wars (e.g., the Indochina and Nicaraguan Contra wars), but only after these wars had burned for years. Overall, peace movements' main prescriptions seem generally unsound in retrospect.

Another misdirected approach to the causes of war has come in the twentieth century from anti‐Communist conservatives. Their analysis rested on two main hypotheses: (1) communism causes war because Communist states will seek to expand by force against capitalist states; and (2) appeasement of communism causes war by emboldening Communist states in their expansionism. Their second hypothesis was arguably valid, at least in some situations, but their first was not. Communist states proved to be only modestly aggressive. The USSR was an opportunistic but cautious aggressor, not a Hitlerian juggernaut. Soviet leaders committed vast crimes against their own people but only modest international aggressions.

After three great victories—in the wake of World War I and World War II, and after the Cold War, which ended in 1991—the United States has sought to shape a durable peace based on its assumptions about the causes of war. Twice the United States failed, but its third attempt has had some success.

Woodrow Wilson's post–World War I policies rested on poor theories of war's causes. Wilson offered six main prescriptions, framed in his famous Fourteen Points: (1) Replace balance‐of‐power politics and competitive alliance making (which Wilson believed caused war) with a collective security system. But collective security was infeasible, as the League's later failure showed. (2) Reduce armaments to “the lowest level consistent with national safety.” Here Wilson was misled by the myth that quantitative disarmament could reduce violence between states. (3) End secret diplomacy in favor of “open covenants … openly arrived at,” a change Wilson believed would bolster popular control of foreign policy, promoting peace. This soon‐forgotten notion was a false corollary to the stronger hypothesis that democracy promotes peace. (4) Grant self‐determination to freedom‐seeking peoples. But this was infeasible in a post‐1919 Europe of much intermingled ethnicities. (5) Remove trade barriers. This was a sound economic idea but a poor peace program, because free trade can cause war as well as peace, as illustrated by the way U.S. trade with the Allies helped draw the United States into World War I. (6) End colonialism. This was a humane idea that addressed a non‐cause of the world war (European colonial rivalries had largely ended by 1914).

In World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's ideas about the causes of war and peace echoed Wilson's in part and differed in part. Like Wilson, Roosevelt believed that arms reductions, free trade, and national self‐determination would promote peace. Unlike Wilson, Roosevelt also believed that aggressor states could best be tamed by completely defeating, disarming, and occupying them. His core belief, however, was that the best cornerstone of peace would be a concert system resembling the 1815 Concert of Europe, run through the cooperation of the “four policemen” (the United States, Britain, Nationalist China, and the Soviet Union). Roosevelt's concert scheme failed because a concert requires an underlying consensus among the great powers—something rare in history and absent after 1945.

In the 1990s, the administrations of George Bush and Bill Clinton built their post–Cold War peace on better ideas and got better results. They continued U.S. security guarantees to primary U.S. allies in Europe and Asia, backed by a continued overseas U.S. military presence. They pressed Europe's newly freed states to respect the rights of ethnic minorities. Echoing Wilson, they pressed Europe's dictatorships to democratize, believing that democracies seldom fight each other. Finally, they pushed former Communist states to “marketize” their economies, believing that marketization would promote prosperity, which would bolster democracy and peace. These post–Cold War policies, produced a softer landing than the policies of 1919 and 1945.

Social scientists have developed a large body of theories on the causes of war since World War II, some of them useful and influential. Two major theories have identified military factors as key causes of war and implied military‐ related prescriptions. What became known as “stability theory” warned that the risk of war increased with the size of the military advantage accruing to the side that struck first. With a large first‐strike advantage, a “reciprocal fear of surprise attack” could set in, with each side thinking that “they fear we fear they will attack; so they might attack; so we must.” Developed by nuclear strategists of Albert Wohlstetter and Thomas Schelling in the 1950s and 1960s, the theory led some strategists to advise against deploying strategic nuclear forces that were designed for surprise attack on the adversary's nuclear forces. However, the theory had only modest influence on policy, largely because the U.S. Air Force rejected it.

What became known as “offense‐defense theory” warned that the risk of war increased as offensive forces grew stronger and conquest grew easier. When conquest is easy, this theory holds, aggressors are tempted to attack by prospects of easy gain, and status quo powers grow more aggressive because they desire more defensible borders. The theory drew mention before the 1970s but was first developed by the political scientist Robert Jervis in 1978, and then elaborated by others. It is now widely accepted in academe and in many policy circles, although the U.S. military remains skeptical. Its proponents have used it to explain historical events, such as the outbreak of World War I, and as a guide for policy, warning against unduly offensive military doctrines and force postures, and recommending giving security guarantees to others as a way to preserve peace in other regions. It influenced the European peace movement to call for a more defensive NATO conventional military posture during the mid‐1980s; it helped persuade the Soviet reform government of Mikhail Gorbachev to adopt a more defensive military posture in the late 1980s; and it encouraged the decisions of the Bush and Clinton administrations to extend defensive security guarantees in Europe and Asia.

What could be called “misperception theory” has warned that governments are subject to a wide range of war‐causing misperceptions. Its dominant version, also developed in the 1970s by Robert Jervis and others, argues that national misperceptions stem from the cognitive errors of policymakers. These psychological errors lead governments to underestimate their own role in provoking others' hostility, to learn slowly, to exaggerate the order and coherence of others' actions, and to fall into spirals of self‐reinforcing mutual hostility. Another variant of the theory, elaborated by Geoffrey Blainey in the 1970s, warned that wars of false optimism erupt when states underestimate others' capacity or will to fight.

During the 1970s and 1980s, scholars also explored the hypothesis, asserted in the eighteenth century by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant but never tested, that democracies are more peaceful than other types of government. This led to the growth of “democratic peace theory,” and the discovery that while democracies are as war‐prone as other states, they almost never fight each other. Democratic peace theory informed official policy in the 1980s and 1990s, fueling a return to Woodrow Wilson's goal of fostering democracy overseas. Most notably, Congress created the National Endowment for Democracy to support democracy abroad, and the Bush and Clinton administrations put priority on supporting democracy in the former Soviet empire.

Other recent scholarly theories of war have had less policy impact. A “structural realist” school argued that a bipolar world of two superpowers is more peaceful than a multipolar world of three or more great powers. A “liberal institutional” school argued that international institutions and regimes ease international cooperation, and, its proponents implied, promote peace. Others offered a “power transition” theory, positing that wars break out during transitions from the leadership of one great power to another. However, these theories are controversial within academe and have had little impact outside it.

Theories of war that drove U.S. policy for much of American history have often proved erroneous. Both the left and the right have frequently treated war's causes as a question to be settled by reference to movement dogma rather than by study. Americans have paid in blood for mistaken policies that stemmed from these errors. On the other hand, social science has made progress on the problem of war in recent years, and this progress may promise better policies in the future.
[See also Disciplinary Views of War: Political Science and International Relations.]


Robert Jervis , Perception and Misperception in International Politics, 1976.
Robert Jervis , Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma, World Politics, 30 (January 1978), pp. 167–214.
Geoffrey Blainey , The Causes of War, 3rd ed. 1988.
Alexander L. George , Domestic Constraints on Regime Change in U.S. Foreign Policy, in G. John Ikenberry, ed., American Foreign Policy, 1989, pp. 583–608.
Jack Levy , The Causes of War: A Review of Theories, in Philip E. Tetlock, et al., eds., Behavior, Society, and Nuclear War, 1 (1989), pp. 209–333.
Nils Petter Gleditsch , Democracy and Peace, Journal of Peace Research, 29 (1992), pp. 369–76.
Greg Cashman , What Causes War? An Introduction to Theories of International Conflict, 1993.

David Mendeloff and and Stephen Van Evera

War: Effects of War on the Economy The most persistent and perhaps most important question relating to the effects of America's wars and their related costs on the U.S. economy is whether military expenditures have been a prop or a burden for economic growth. This question has continued relevance because the United States in the 1990s spent a larger part of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense (3.8% in 1995) than any other G7 industrial nation, almost four times Japan's expenditure and nearly twice as much as Germany's—America's two most important economic competitors. The fact that Russia in the 1990s spent almost three times more of its GDP on defense—and was in economic chaos—only strengthened this concern.

Historians and economists have waxed and waned with regard to the effect of military expenditures on the U.S. economy. Charles and Mary Beard in The Rise of American Civilization (1927) and Louis Hacker in The Triumph of American Capitalism (1940) argued that the Civil War destroyed not only slavery but also the Southern slaveocracy, thus allowing the balance of political power to shift to Northern industrialists and hence spurring American economic growth. Prior to these accounts, the classical economists ( Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Thomas Malthus) were concerned with the effects of war on aggregate demand. The eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw very high levels of military expenditures in Britain, for example, which these economists believed had a negative impact on industrial growth. The national debts resulting from war, Smith believed, “enfeebled every state … enriching in most cases the idle and profuse debtor at the expense of the industrious and frugal creditor.”

Critics of the capitalist system in more recent years have argued that capitalist societies are prone to periodic stagnation, and that only wars of the magnitude of World War II are capable of curing massive unemployment. Alternatively, liberal economists argue that war, and particularly World War II, was the strongest influence establishing Keynesian economics as a guideline and a justification for U.S. government fiscal policies for the postwar era—policies that led to widespread employment, high earnings, and a modest measure of income redistribution. Even some strong opponents of the Vietnam War began to argue in the mid‐1990s that full employment was only possible in the late 1960s because of that war.

Paul Kennedy, in his widely read Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987), is perhaps the best known historian for the view that persistent and high military expenditures have played an important role in the relative economic decline of major nations since 1500. In this and subsequent works, he argues that the United States now runs the risk of “imperial overstretch”; that America's global commitments are greater than its capacity to fund them. For him, war is not only a burden, but continuous high levels of defense spending can and generally have turned major nations into minor ones. Although his is a popular view, he had yet to persuade the experts that the United States was well down the road to relative economic decline.

The most sophisticated studies on the prop v. burden issue—whether defense spending contributes to economic growth and well‐being by stimulating the economy, or whether defense spending uses up scarce resources or diverts resources into less productive channels—tend to emphasize that growth in the GDP has been rather constant, with little lasting impact from the nine major wars America has fought since independence. Wars temporarily reduce long‐run productive capacity by reducing the growth of population and the inflow of immigrants; but the general burden of any given war falls largely on the current generation, according to Chester Wright in a seminal study on the more enduring economic consequences of American wars to 1940. More recently, Todd Sandler and Keith Hartley demonstrated that defense spending generally inhibits economic growth in developed countries by crowding out public and private investment, and siphoning off of R & D resources. Indeed, since the late 1980s, world military expenditures as a percentage of GDP have decreased dramatically without any evidence of harmful effects on the world economy. In truth, the overall economic burden of America's wars is less significant than the inequitable manner in which so much of that burden has been placed upon the working class and those with modest education, while others largely escape or even profit from such wars.

If the effect of military spending during the war years is the most obvious point of impact on the economy, the most lasting one has to do with veterans' benefits paid after the war to veterans and their dependents. Veterans' benefits have been paid for every war since the American Revolution. They amounted to about two‐thirds of the total dollar cost of the Revolutionary War; more than half the cost of the War of 1812; and 3.7 times the cost of mobilizing the Union forces in the Civil War. Surprisingly, these benefits continued to rise for about forty to sixty years after the end of each of these wars and did not cease until well over a century later. Benefits for Civil War veterans and spouses ceased only in the 1980s; World War II benefits will be paid until sometime after 2070. To date, World War II veteran's benefits have amounted to more than $300 billion, only somewhat less than the original cost of that war in current dollars. Clearly, veterans' benefits have been a major infusion of funds into the economy, and were the major direct federal subsidy to families prior to the welfare state. Compared to other countries, American soldiers and their dependents received benefits much earlier (since 1783) and in more generous amounts than elsewhere. The average payment to a still‐living World War I veteran, for example, was $6,500 in 1992. Confederate soldiers, of course, received no federal veterans benefits, although some southern states sought to add them.

The most troubling problem concerning the impact of war on the economy has to do with rapidly rising public debt. Large but temporary public debts have occurred in all of America's wars; all were paid off in time until the 1970s, when U.S. public debt rose dramatically owing to large defense increases and major tax cuts under President Ronald Reagan. In the 1990s, U.S. net public debt (most of which is war‐related) was at an unprecedented peacetime level. High public debt levels—a problem in all G7 nations—boost real interest rates, retard the accumulation of private capital, and limit gains in living standards, according to the International Monetary Fund. Reducing this unsustainable public debt, the most significant legacy of recent American wars, will be one of the United States's greatest challenges in the twenty‐first century.
[See also Disciplinary Views of War: Economics; Economy and War; Industry and War; Military‐Industrial Complex; Public Financing and Budgeting for War].


Charles and and Mary Beard , The Rise of American Civilization, 1927.
Louis Hacker , The Triumph of American Capitalism, 1940.
Chester W. Wright , The More Enduring Economic Consequences of America's Wars, in the Journal of Economic History (1943).
James L. Clayton, ed., The Economic Impact of the Cold War, 1970.
Steven Rosen, ed., Testing the Theory of the Military‐Industrial Complex, 1973.
Paul Kennedy , The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, 1987.
Paul Kennedy , Preparing for the Twenty‐First Century, 1993, esp. chaps. 13 and 14.
Todd Sandler and and Keith Hartley , The Economics of Defense, 1995.
International Monetary Fund , World Economic Outlook May 1996, “Focus on Fiscal Policy,” 1996.

James L. Clayton


views updated May 18 2018


How does one define a war? How can one distinguish between the war on drugs, the war on terrorism, jihad, anarchy, and wars between states? Definitions are relevant as they provide the rationale for considering a war legitimate and just and contribute to decisions about international interventions, aid, and protocol. This has become particularly important in contemporary international affairs, when the most prevalent conflicts have been nationalist and or ethnic in character and international terrorism has escalated. War has been defined in a number of ways: as "organized violence carried out by political units against each other" (Bull, p. 184); as "the legal condition which equally permits two or more hostile groups to carry on a conflict by armed force" (Wright, p. 698); and as "an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will" (Clausewitz, p. 75). These definitions encapsulate the notion of war as political, as organized violence carried out by a collective, and as ordered in that it has rules and customs of behavior. An underlying assumption is that war is a regular occurrence in the international arena and is an inevitable outcome of organized human societies.

This latter idea has been critiqued by Margaret Mead, who sees warfare as one of many inventions constructed to order our lives, in the same realm as "writing, marriage, cooking" and so on. War, like culture, takes on the veneer of an ancient tradition, something having historical depth, and has prevailed since early organized human societies. Mead suggests that war is an invented and learned activity and is not inherent to human behavior. The contending opinion emphasizes the "innateness" of human aggression, the consequences of which are sometimes violence and war. Without denying the complex interplay between genetic and environmental variables, these theories see human aggression as biologically driven. Humans fight over land, resources, and personal relationships in much the same way as other primates do, hence war in this perspective is not a social or cultural invention.

John Vasquez sees war as learned but also includes the notion that war comes out of a long-term process, is a product of interaction, is a way of making decisions, and is multicausal, and he recognizes that there are many different types of wars. Although this is a more comprehensive list of defining characteristics of war, the emphasis is on "interstate" wars and international peace and security.

Defining States as Warring Units

Should we assume states to be the main contending parties in war? Many influential definitions of war place states as a key variable. They assume that states are rational actors made up of coherent territorial units with recognized leaders, governmental institutions, and discernable civil societies. However, in many of the major conflicts in the 1980s and 1990s, transnational activity reduced the significance of states as key actors. PostCold War central Africa and eastern Europe exemplify instances where intra-and interethnic conflicts within states sparked violent confrontations between states. Should these conflicts be classified as wars even though individual states did not declare war against other states? In some instances, belligerent ethnic groups within one state declared war on ethnic groups in another state, as in the Serbian Serb-Bosnian Muslim conflict in the former Yugoslavia from 1992 to 1995. In an attempt to answer the question of the types of nationalism that are most likely to cause war, Stephen Van Evera isolates four attributes: the movement's political status with respect to statehood, its relationships with its national diaspora, its stance toward other nations, and its treatment of its own minorities. Using this scheme, it might be possible to evaluate the potential of a nationalist (or ethnic) conflict to escalate into a war. Theorists such as Van Evera have attempted to shift attention from states to nationalist movements as indicators showing the potential for war.

In other cases, there was no legitimate and overarching ruling authority within the state, as in Somalia from 1992 to 1994, when political anarchy prevailed and rival clan leaders battled each other. There refugees, guerrilla groups, and targeted factions fled across borders, initiating conflicts and instability in these regions. How should these conflicts be classified? If such conflicts are considered "domestic," falling under the purview of sovereign states, then international interventions become extremely difficult. Given the regional instability that such conflicts produce, the devastation that follows, and the gross human rights violations that are committed, defining this as a national issue has many negative repercussions.

The havoc wrought by terrorists also challenges definitions of war. Highly skilled, trained, motivated, and ordered like soldiers in conventional armies, international terrorists have instigated some of our most intense wars. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq in 2003 are good examples of the repercussions terrorists can invoke, in this case, the 9/11/2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In pursuit of the masterminds behind the attacks, the United States believed that Osama Bin Laden (thought to be residing in Afghanistan) and Saddam Hussein (of Iraq) were key players, hence prompting the invasions. Should the citizenship of terrorists determine the belligerent state? Must we assume that all states are able to control all their citizens and must take responsibility for their actions? How do we determine the target state when some terrorists have multiple citizenships and divided loyalties? Can we isolate a particular state as belligerent when some terrorists fight for political ideals and religious doctrines that transcend national state borders? Can we classify an attack by terrorists as an act of war? These questions challenge the assumption that states are the key units in war and challenge ideas of the causes and rules of war.

Jus ad bellum

Can war be morally justified? Most war doctrines include two considerations: first, the conditions under which one may have recourse to war (jus ad bellum ); second, the rules and codes by which war may be conducted (jus in bello. ) The act of war, a license to kill, tests our adherence to morality, our acceptance of what we assume are human and civilized codes of behavior, our notion of the distinctions between the divine and the profane, our understanding of authority and legitimacy, and our sense of self-and moral consciousness. There are two main discourses dealing with jus ad bellum. The first makes a distinction between just and unjust wars, and the second makes distinctions between offensive and defensive wars.

St. Augustine of Hippo (354430 c.e.) first grappled with the Christian ideal of love that prohibited killing and wounding in one's own defense but also obliged Christians to aid others, thus justifying the use of force on the aggressors. Yet Augustine did not provide a theory that isolated causes for a just war, nor did he suggest that a Christian cause was most just. Instead, he proposed that Christian ethics gave people and their leaders a capacity to know the moral limits of armed action but did not provide them with the attributes to "compare unerringly the over-all justice of regimes and nations" (Ramsey, p. 32). For Augustine, as all parties in war are engaging in wrongdoing, the warring parties cannot be divided into good versus bad, but rather Christian ethics provide guidance and the parameters for conduct in war of all parties involved.

St. Thomas Aquinas (12251274) expanded the idea of a just war and also initiated a shift from "voluntarism" to "rationalism" in understanding the nature of the political community, emphasizing a natural-law notion of justice (Ramsey, p. 32). According to Aquinas, a just war had three necessary requirements: declaration by a legitimate constitutional authority, a just cause, and the right intention. Francisco de Vitoria(1486?1546) and Francisco Suárez (15481617) added further conditions: the means of war should be proportional to the injustices being prevented or remedied by war, all peaceful means to remedy injustices should be exhausted, and the war should have a reasonable hope of success.

The recognized rules of jus ad bellum, as outlined by Aquinas and others, are often used to determine whether or not a war is justifiable. Some of the objections to these criteria are that they are overly subjective, leaving ample space for self-interested rationalization; that they rest on normative criteria about the nature of good and evil; that these categories were designed for evaluating the causes of war in the Middle Ages; and that in the nuclear age, with its emphasis on deterrence, they provide little guidance as to how to evaluate the "moral significance of different levels of threat and of risk" (Adeney, p. 97).

There are also those who question the very notion of war as having moral legitimation. Reinhold Niebuhr, for example, argues that "Christianity should recognize that all historic struggles are struggles between sinful men." Given this, he adds that "it is just as important to save what relative decency and justice the western world still has, against the most demonic tyranny of history" (Niebuhr, p. 35). Niebuhr recognizes that while war can never be morally justified, it might be the only way to safeguard liberal democratic values.

In reflecting on the morality of the Gulf War, several authors came up with different conclusions. George Weigel argues that opposing the aggression of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait was justified in both intention and execution according to the criteria set out by just-war theory. Jean Bethke Elshtain, on the other hand, argues that war cannot be justified merely by checking off the list of criteria associated with the just-war theory. Instead, she suggests that the theory begs us to pause, to think about the ramifications of war, and to show some skepticism and queasiness about war. Above all, she asks that in drawing the balance sheet for the Gulf War, we evaluate technological accuracy and military might alongside the devastation and long-term effects of war on Iraqi children and society.

The just-war mode of reasoning attempts to reconcile the requirements of national defense with the moral obligations of protecting the innocent. In the age of modern warfare, where nuclear deterrence is the most significant element in preventing wars, the ideas behind just-war theory require a lot of tweaking before it begins to make any sense at all. In evaluating the justifiability of a contemporary war, some of the rules pertaining to jus ad bellum, particularly the rules of proportionality and reasonable hope of success, are seriously challenged. With the capacity and probability of killing large numbers of innocent people in warfare, the tensions inherent between jus ad bellum and jus in bello become sharper.

When looking specifically at modern warfare, Bernard T. Adeney sees deterrence as an "embarrassment and a puzzle" with respect to just-war theory. In terms of the criteria laid out under jus ad bellum, deterrence appears to be the "only possible means of resisting unjust aggression" (Adeney, p. 112). Yet deterrence has the inherent ability to violate the basis of jus in bello. The Catholic Church responded to the Gulf War in a statement that put the very idea of just war in peril. The theory of just war, they said, was "indefensible and has been abandoned. In realitywith the sole exception of a purely defensive war against acts of aggressionwe can say that there are no 'just wars,' and there is no 'right' to wage war" (La civiltà cattolica, p. 118). For many pacifists, who recognize the existence of political conflict, war is an unjustifiable means of resolution.

Jus in bello

Can war be controlled? Carl von Clausewitz says war is an act of force, and "there is no logical limit to the application" of force (Clausewitz, p. 77). However, others see war as a social activity that demands social organization and control, requiring a military that uses violence with deliberation for political objectives. As instruments of the state, the military employs violence (or uses force) in a purposeful, deliberate, and legitimate manner. Two criteria that maintain order and military discipline in war are the general value system of culture and the presupposition that the cost of war should not outweigh its benefits.

Jus ad bellum: United Nations Charter of 1945

Chapter 1, Article 2(4)

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Chapter 7, Article 51

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs.

Chapter 7, Article 42

Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operation by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.

Focusing on the notion that language reflects "the moral world and gives us access to it" and that "our understanding of moral vocabulary is sufficiently common and stable so that shared judgments are possible," Michael Walzer makes an argument for moments when the rules of jus in bello can be overridden (Walzer, p. 52). In a "supreme emergency," determined by the "imminence of danger" and the "nature" of the threat, one might be "required to override the rights of innocent people and shatter the war convention" (Walzer, p. 259). Nazism, which represented the "ultimate threat to everything decent in our lives," constituted a supreme emergency, and Walzer sees the decision by Winston Churchill to bomb German cities in 1940 as a legitimate and justifiable decision. Although the initial decision qualified as a supreme emergency, according to Walzer, the decision to continue bombing cities after 1942, when the Russians and Americans had entered the war, was not justified, and Churchill ought to have asked his army to resort to attacking legitimate military targets.

A justified war is not necessarily a just war, as we also need to be concerned about justifiable moral means of behaving in war. Most theorists argue that the ends justify or structure the means, in that if the cause is justified, the use of all necessary and appropriate means is also justified. But some see an independent standard for judging jus in bello, especially in prohibiting all intentional killing of innocent people. However, it is difficult to know exactly what the appropriate means are until the war ends. For example, because the U.S. military has not found the weapons of mass destruction purportedly manufactured in Iraq for use by terrorists and the Hussein regime, it is difficult to evaluate whether the destruction of property and deaths of civilians and soldiers was indeed justified in the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Justice in the waging of war (that is, the justifiability of the violence and killing that is intrinsic to warfare) is a necessary condition for jus ad bellum and jus in bello.

Contention over the parameters of jus in bello during the nuclear arms race invigorated the debate between realists and idealists in international relations. The characteristics of human nature lay at the basis of contention. Drawing on Thucydides (d. c. 401 b.c.e.), Niccolò Machiavelli (14691527), and Thomas Hobbes (15881679), realists start with the premise that human nature is inherently bad, self-serving, evil, and desirous of power. States in the international system also reflect these characteristics and exist in a state of anarchy where war is constant and insecurity is the norm. In this perspective deterrence is one of the ways in which states can prevent wars, in that their military capabilities act as a deterrent against possible attack. For idealists, human nature is essentially good, and bad behavior is due mainly to evil institutions that encourage people to act selfishly. For example, Mahatma Gandhi (18691948) maintained that the means justified the ends, and in this perspective nonviolence and Satyagraha (soulforce) were the appropriate ways in which to achieve equality and a just system. Idealists believe that war is an international problem that requires collective, multilateral cooperation and diplomacy.

The notion of the appropriate means necessary to fulfill desired ends became particularly pertinent in the nuclear age. Some argued that if nuclear weapons were used in an all-out war scenario, it would be a "monstrously disproportionate response to aggression on the part of any nation" (U.S. Catholic Bishops, p. 103). The bishops argued that good ends could not justify "immoral means" and urged the superpowers to invest in diplomacy, peacemaking, and disarmament.

Jus in bello

Hague Convention IV of 1907

Governs methods and means of warfare, such as weapons that are restricted and tactical battlefield restraints.

Geneva Conventions of 1949

Concerned with the protection of victims of armed conflictdefined as the wounded, sick and/or shipwrecked, prisoners of war and civilians.

1977 Protocol I Additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions (Article 1[4])

Armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their rights of national self-determination, as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.

1977 Protocol II Additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions (Article 1[1])

Covers conflicts that take place in the territory of a High Contracting Party between its armed forces and dissident armed forces or other organized armed groups which, under responsible command, exercise such control over part of its territory as to enable them to carry out sustained and concerted military operations and to implement this Protocol.

Other theorists have argued that nuclear deterrence is necessary if we are to defend our freedom and fundamental rights, that deterrence in fact works to prevent war and destruction. Nuclear deterrence in this perspective is necessary to prevent war and to enable peace and security. John J. Mearsheimer adds that the Cold War period was largely peaceful because of the bipolar distribution of power, the "rough equality of military power between the two polar states," and the presence of nuclear weapons that made deterrence "far more robust" (Mearsheimer, p. 9). Proponents of this view add that while we have to be judicious in the decisions to engage in war to preserve our values, we also have to develop military capabilities suited to our moral commitments. Although increasing military capacity might increase tensions, they act as a deterrent to possible attacks, but most importantly, they will be adequate means to defend our values if we are forced to do so.

International organizations that attempt to create a forum for international diplomacy and peacemaking have less significance in the realist perspective. John Gerard Ruggie argues that realism has failed to grasp the integral role of international institutions like the United Nations in promoting cooperative and multilateral ways of maintaining peace and preventing wars. Criticisms against the notion that nuclear deterrence is one of the strongest means of preventing wars are prolific. Although quite varied, many of them see world politics as socially constructed, that is, that international politics are social rather than material and that structures shape identities interests and behavior. Structures are considered "discourses" made up of shared knowledge, material resources, and practices. Here the emphasis is not on human nature but rather on the social relationships that are forged and the complex interplay between leaders, state structures, and civil society. Feminists critique the realist paradigm by questioning the "denial of female images and female-linked imperatives" in the foundational assumptions about human nature, the character of states, and the international system (Elshtain, "Just War as Politics," p. 261). Even in just-war theory, men are considered the soldiers or just Christian warriors, while women are relegated to the private sphere, the "beautiful soul" who is peaceful, frugal, and self-sacrificing. A reevaluation of war and peace from a feminist perspective energizes the debate on the causes of war and appropriate and acceptable behavior during war. The use of rape as a weapon of war, used in Italy in 1943 and in Bosnia in the early 1990s, has become part of the international human rights agenda but is also crucial to determining the parameters of jus in bello and to the idea that with constantly changing "means" of war, the war conventions must be open to change as well.

See also Christianity ; Machiavellism ; Peace ; Terror .


Adeney, Bernard T. Just War, Political Realism, and Faith. Philadelphia: American Theological Library Association; Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1988.

Bull, Hedley. The Anarchical Society. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.

Clausewitz, Carl von. On War. Edited and Translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984.

Elshtain, Jean Bethke. "Just War as Politics: What the Gulf War Told Us about Contemporary American Life." In But Was It Just? Reflections on the Morality of the Persian Gulf War, edited by David E. Decosse. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

, ed. Just War Theory. New York: New York University Press, 1992.

Johnson, James Turner. Can Modern War Be Just? New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984.

. Just War Tradition and the Restraint of War: A Moral and Historical Inquiry. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981.

La civiltà cattolica. "Modern War and the Christian Conscience." Translated by Peter Heinegg. In But Was It Just? Reflections on the Morality of the Persian Gulf War, edited by David E. Decosse. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Mead, Margaret. "Warfare Is Only an InventionNot a Biological Necessity." Asia 40 (1940): 402405.

Mearsheimer, John J. "Back to the Future: Instability in Europe after the Cold War." In Theories of War and Peace: An international Security Reader, edited by Michael E. Brown et al. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1998.

Niebuhr, Reinhold. Christianity and Power Politics. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940.

Ramsey, Paul. War and the Christian Conscience: How Shall Modern War Be Conducted Justly? Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1961.

Ruggie, John Gerard. "The False Premise of Realism." International Security 20, no. 1 (Summer 1995): 6270.

U.S. Catholic Bishops. "The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response: The Pastoral Letter on War and Peace." Reprinted in Just War Theory, edited by Jean Bethke Elshtain. New York: New York University Press, 1992.

Van Evera, Stephen. "Hypotheses on Nationalism and War." In Theories of War and Peace: An International Security Reader, edited by Michael E. Brown et al. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1998.

Vasquez, John A. The War Puzzle. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Walzer, Michael. Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. New York: Basic Books, 1977.

Weigel, George. "From Last Resort to Endgame: Morality, the Gulf War, and the Peace Process." In But Was It Just? Reflections on the Morality of the Persian Gulf War, edited by David E. Decosse. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Wright, Quincy. A Study of War. Vol. 2. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1942.

Movindri Reddy

Culture, War, and the Military

views updated May 17 2018

Culture, War, and the Military. Critiquing Clausewitz's aphorism that war is the continuation of politics by other means, John Keegan argues to the contrary in A History of Warfare (1993) that “war embraces much more than politics … it is always an expression of culture, often a determinant of cultural forms, in some societies the culture itself.” This applies to the American experience no less than it does to Keegan's examples in the Cossack steppes or the Himalayan foothills.

Exactly how has American culture shaped and defined American military institutions and the ways that Americans have waged war? Was there significant “feedback”—moments when the nature of those institutions or that warfare affected or altered the culture in significant ways? Defining the “culture” of a place as vast and differentiated as the United States at any period, let alone for over three centuries, is a daunting task; but some generalizations are clearly more warranted than others.

By the mid‐nineteenth century, both Americans themselves and a number of insightful European visitors appeared to agree that American culture could be described by the use of such terms as individualism, egalitarianism, “get‐aheadism,” a respect for “rights” and “liberties,” a diverse religiosity, much local boosterism, and a tendency to join private associations of one sort or another. With the exception of the last two, these characteristics were not consistent with military service. Hence it is not surprising that President Andrew Jackson's secretary of war, John Eaton, complained in his annual report for 1830 of his department's inability to recruit even the modest number of soldiers the Congress had authorized. “A country possessing 12 millions of people ought surely to be able at all times” to find and enlist 6,000 acceptable recruits “obtained upon principles of fair contract,” he wrote. “If this can not be effected then will it be better to rely on some other mode of defense, rather than resort to the expedient of obtaining a discontented and besotted soldiery.”

Secretary Eaton did not have compulsory military service in mind. American culture has been averse to the drafting of young men (let alone young women) for most of our past. “Draughts stretch the strings of government too violently to be adopted,” Edmund Randolph told his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, May 1787, a view echoed by Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, in 1863 when he wrote to War Secretary Edwin Stanton: “Drafting is an anomaly in a free State; it oppresses the masses.” Like imprisonment for debt, it had no place in “our system of political economy.” A limited draft was imposed by Congress in that year, to be sure, but it was designed to force individuals and communities to protect themselves against compulsory service with self‐insurance schemes to purchase substitutes or pay commutation fees, like those that had come into being in the British Isles in 1757 and the 1790s when draft laws were passed by Parliament.

Opposition to the draft was pronounced in areas where “the party of personal liberty” (the Democratic Party) was strong. “If citizens do not choose to preserve the government, what right has the government to compel them to do so against their will?” asked D. A. Mahony, an Indiana Democrat and journalist. In Pennsylvania, the three Democrats who constituted the majority of the Supreme Court of that state simply declared the federal draft law unconstitutional, though after the by‐election in November 1863, one Democratic member was replaced by a Republican, and the new Republican majority reconsidered the case and declared the act to be within constitutional bounds.

John Chambers's To Raise an Army: The Draft Comes to Modern America (1987) provides an account of the draft and resistance of Americans to drafts throughout the years before 1917 and the difficulties that advocates of Selective Service faced in 1917, 1940, and in the Vietnam War. By 1973, this relatively brief venture in compulsion had ended.

Secretary Eaton's problem was somewhat different: He was not in charge of a draft; he was simply in charge of a regular army, and that was bad enough. American culture in the nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries celebrated wartime volunteers, not regulars. Most self‐respecting young men would not stoop to the low pay, regimented life, isolation, and boredom of the regulars unless they found themselves in the direst of straits. Moreover, the regulars were the “standing army” that the majority culture had feared and reviled since at least the mid‐eighteenth century—a force that flourished at society's expense in a land where yeomen, tradesmen, and artisan volunteers were expected to defend their own freedoms with their own lives and honor.

But to say that compulsory service was anathema and that the regular army was not a popular occupational choice or a revered institution for much of our history is not to say that American culture rejected military service. There has always been a small pacifist subculture in America, and many other, nonpacifist youth have been indifferent to the call of fife and drum. But a substantial fraction of young American men have responded to the allure of what the editor of Youth's Companion called “the war‐spirit.” A. A. Livermore referred in 1850 to “the wooden sword, and the tin drum of boyhood,” to “the training and the annual muster” of the militia and the volunteer companies, to “the red uniform and the white plume, and the prancing steed,” to “the ballads of Robin Hood, and the stories of Napoleon, and the ‘Tales of the Crusaders,’” to “the example of the father and the consent of the mother,” to “the blood of youth, and the pride of manhood, and stories of revolutionary sires,” the “love of excitement” and “the bubble of glory.” “By one and all,” he wrote, “the heart of the community is educated for war, from the cradle to the coffin.”

What made these youth inaccessible to Secretary Eaton or many other secretaries of war was that they preferred to do their soldiering in local, volunteer companies. Whether we look to the “covenanted” militia units of seventeenth‐century New England, the volunteers of the French and Indian War or the War, for Independence, the antebellum drill companies in both North and South, the volunteers of the Civil War and Spanish‐American War, or the National Guard and reserve units that dotted the twentieth‐century urban and suburban landscape, the process was essentially the same: Surprisingly large percentages of young men have been prepared to don uniforms and shoulder arms, often for little or no pay, under commanders and in settings of their choosing throughout the course of American history. Before the advent of public high schools and colleges, before football cheers and fraternities, there were volunteer military companies with fancy drill teams and cadence chants that served a similar social purpose for those in their late teens and early twenties, as Marcus Cunliffe's Soldiers and Civilians (1969) has shown.

When units like these joined the colors upon the outbreak of war, their contractarian and egalitarian nature puzzled and annoyed many regular army officers, whether the town militias during King Philip's War in 1675–76, the volunteer companies of the French and Indian War and War for Independence, or the volunteer units from midwestern towns during the Spanish‐American War. The story of the captain of one such group during the American Revolution who appeared before a quartermaster seeking pay and provisions may be apocryphal, but it rings true: “How many men do you command?” the quartermaster asked. “I command no one,” the captain replied. “I am commanded by eighty.”

When the regular army secured its own local volunteers (the Army Reserves) in the twentieth century and gained greater supervisory and regulatory control from the Congress over the nonregular local volunteers (the National Guard units), sparks sometimes flew. Later, in 1961, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara mobilized some 148,000 reservists during a Cold War crisis concerning Berlin. After several weeks of garrison service, many of these reservists became restless, organized mass rallies calling for their own demobilization, and generally behaved in ways the regulars regarded as mutinous. Reservists had formed important parts of American mobilizations for the Korean War in 1950, but after these incidents in 1961, there would be fewer reservists in the next major mobilization, for Vietnam.

The modern, regular‐led military responded relatively effectively to several mandates designed to address problems of racism, sexism, and drug use imported by recruits, draftees, and officers alike. The racial integration of the services beginning in the early 1950s successfully confounded critics of that measure who incorrectly predicted that white soldiers would never accept black soldiers as equals; later, in the 1960s, the McNamara Pentagon effectively saw to the integration of housing in southern communities where military bases were located as the price of obtaining military customers for rental units and realty. Simultaneously, the services, responding to changes taking place in the greater business culture, shifted their leadership style from coercion to “persuasion”—a process that accelerated after the Selective Service System was made moribund in 1973 and the All‐Volunteer Force became the order of the day. It was one thing to require young men to shave their heads and “do as I say” in the days of the draft; it was quite another to expect that of badly needed electronics technicians in an all‐volunteer army, navy, or air force.

In The American Way of War (1973), Russell Weigley argues that since the Civil War, American strategic planners have consistently promoted an “American way of war,” one that relied on firepower and massive use of force. This emphasis on the “annihilation” of enemy strength is to be distinguished from the hit‐and‐run “attrition” strategy practiced by American forces during the American Revolution, when the nation's new leaders lacked the financial and bureaucratic resources to fight in any other fashion, and when its military leaders were comfortable with a Cincinnatus‐like “maneuver” strategy. The leaders who rose to the fore while America industrialized in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were committed to the use of men and machines in massive direct attack to achieve “victory,” and they grew increasingly impatient with wars of maneuver and negotiation designed to achieve acceptable political outcomes short of the complete destruction of the enemy's will. The strategic bombing raids during World War II on cities in Germany and Japan produced what W. Darrell Gertch calls a “mutation in American values” as attacks upon population centers became less and less remarkable.

But no sooner had the day of “total” war arrived than it began to lose its appeal for American policymakers. Once intercontinental bombers became operational in the late 1940s, to be followed in short order by intercontinental ballistic missiles, and once the Soviet Union acquired nuclear weapons and the capacity to deliver them on American targets, a century and a half of “free security” (provided by the combined British and American fleets and some 3,000 miles of Atlantic Ocean) came to an end, and America entered a forty‐year era of Cold War apprehension. Some would insist on the “rollback” of Soviet power in proper “annihilation” fashion; others on its “containment” in more limited fashion.

Thus when Gen. Douglas MacArthur was dismissed in 1951 by President Harry S. Truman, and MacArthur's strategy of “no substitute for victory” gave way to the “attrition” and limited warfare policies of his successor, Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, it took some time for Congress and the general public to accept the verdict. The problem would resurface in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, and the humanitarian and peacekeeping missions in Somalia and Bosnia. Has the greater American culture adopted itself to the new peace‐keeping strategy as thoroughly as the leadership of the U.S. military has?

In the centuries before the advent of “total” war, it was possible for those who served as well as those who remained on what came to be known as “the home front” to find uplifting social and moral lessons in tales from the battlefield of self‐sacrifice and valor. The dying were sometimes reported to have composed themselves in dignity, drawing their hands across their chests; official reports of action were expected to note at least one example of selfless or courageous behavior. Those too old to serve celebrated these feats and victories in poems (such as Herman Melville's On the Photograph of a Corps Commander, 1866) paintings and prints (such as those produced by Currier & Ives during the Civil War), and sculpture (still found today in squares or beside courthouses throughout the land). During the Civil War, as George Fredrickson tells us in The Inner Civil War (1965), a number of New England Brahmins who had been of a Trancendentalist persuasion abandoned that antistatist perspective for the more nationalist patriotism of the Union League clubs once the war began. War and culture were interrelated and sometimes war helped to shape culture.

As the battlefields grew larger and the battles longer in duration and more lethal, in the 1860s, 1918, the 1940s, and thereafter, those Americans who faced death found the experience more daunting than their predecessors, and discovered that their perception of combat as a “testing of mettle,” a rite of passage to full manhood, was hard to maintain, given the impersonal, random nature of the carnage they witnessed all about them. In Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War (1987), Gerald Linderman had described this loss of innocence, as have Stanley Cooperman in World War I and the American Novel (1967), Paul Fussell in Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (1989), and Lloyd Lewis in The Tainted War: Culture and Identity in Vietnam War Narratives (1985). Men who entered Vietnam, for example, often did so with a Hollywood‐induced notion of what the war was about, how American forces would fare, and what they could accomplish (what Lewis, quoting veterans, calls a “John Wayne Wet Dream Syndrome”). But they soon acquired what many observers were to style “the thousand yard stare”—a symptom of combat stress that army psychiatrists encountered in each of the wars Americans engaged in throughout the twentieth century. And many of these young men would later experience Post‐Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The horror of war and incompetent leadership would be the theme of many novels produced by veterans of World Wars I and II and Vietnam. The cynicism and anger bubbling up in John Dos Passos's Three Soldiers (1919), e. e. cummings's The Enormous Room (1922), Thomas Boyd's Through the Wheat (1923), William Faulkner's Soldier's Pay (1926), Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms (1929), Humphrey Cobb's Paths of Glory (1935), Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun (1939), Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead (1948), James Jones's From Here to Eternity (1951), Joseph Heller's Catch‐22 (1962), Tim O’Brien's Going After Cacciato (1975), and James Webb's Fields of Fire (1978) stand in stark contrast to the more “heroic” war novels written by older nonveterans like Arthur Train (Earthquake, 1918), Edith Wharton (The Marne, 1918), and Willa Cather (One of Ours, 1922). Early Hollywood filmmakers and song writers like George M. Cohan or Irving Berlin celebrated American military efforts and the men who “won’t come back till it's over over there.” They now shared the stage with trench‐bred tunes like Home, Boys, Home, I Don’t Want to Join the Army, antiwar numbers like Country Joe & the Fish's “Fixin’ to Die Rag, and films like Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978), Francis Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), and Oliver Stone's Platoon (1986). This new, more critical perspective on warfare and the American military did not sweep the field or emerge as the dominant paradigm, as it did in some European countries; there was still a place in the hearts and minds of many Americans, for example, for John Wayne's role The Green Berets and Barry Sadler's song The Ballad of the Green Berets as the Vietnam War ground to its bitter end. But the cultural terrain was now a contested one, just as the concept of what constituted “the American way of war” had become contested.

In this new cultural battlefield, a further skirmish was underway by the 1950s: a skirmish over the new masterpieces of the “annihilation” strategy, nuclear weapons. These quickly acquired their champion on the Hollywood scene in Jimmy Stewart's portrayal of an SAC pilot in Strategic Air Command. The alternative view was limned by Peter Sellers's three characters in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, and the contest was joined—a contest fortunately confined to celluloid.
[See also Clausewitz, Carl von; Cold War: Changing Interpretations; Conscription; Disciplinary Views of War: Causes‐of‐War Studies; Pacifism; War: American Way of War.]


S. Kaplan , Rank and Status Among Massachusetts Continental Line Officers, American Historical Review, LVI (1950–51), pp. 318–26.
Edmund Wilson , Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War, 1962.
Marcus Cunliffe , Soldiers and Civilians: The Martial Spirit in America, 1775–1865, 1968.
W. D. Gertch , The Strategic Air Offensive and the Mutation of American Values, 1937–1945, Rocky Mountain Social Science Journal, XI (1974), pp. 37–50.
Gerald Linderman , The Mirror of War: American Society and the Spanish‐American War, 1974.
Robert Gross , The Minutemen and Their World, 1976.
Peter Karsten , Consent and the American Soldier: Theory versus Reality, Parameters: Journal of the U.S. Army War College, XII (1982), pp. 42–49.
Peter Karsten, ed., The Military in America from Colonial Times to the Present, 1986.
Michael Sherry , The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon, 1987.

Peter Karsten


views updated Jun 11 2018


War is perhaps the most serious of all public health problems. Public health has been defined by the Institute of Medicine as "what we, as a society, do collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy." Using this definition, war is clearly antithetical to public health. It not only causes death and disability among military personnel and civilians, but it also destroys the social, economic, and political infrastructure necessary for well-being and health. War violates basic human rights. As a violent method of settling conflicts, it promotes other forms of violence in the community and the home. War causes immediate and long-term damage to the environment. And war and preparation for war sap human and economic resources that might be used for social good.


Worldwide, there were over 45 million deaths among military personnel during the twentieth centurya mean annual military death rate of 183 deaths per 1 million population. This rate was more than sixteen times greater than the reported rate for the nineteenth century, despite enormous progress in surgical treatment of war injuries and in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. In addition, since an increasing percentage of wars are civil wars or are indiscriminate in the use of weapons, civilians are increasingly caught in the crossfire. Civilian deaths as a percentage of all war-related deaths rose from 14 percent during World War I to 90 percent during some wars of the 1990s. Moreover, during civil wars civilians may find it difficult to receive medical care and may be unable to obtain adequate and safe food and water, shelter, medicinal care, and public health services. The physical, mental, and social impacts of war on civilians are especially severe for vulnerable populations, including women, children, the elderly, the ill, and the disabled. Further, war is responsible for many million refugees and internally displaced persons.


War also has a severe, indirect impact on humans and the environment through the diversion of human and economic resources. The governments of many developing countries spend five to twenty-five times more on military than on health expenditures. From this culture of violence people learn at an early age that violence is the way to try to resolve conflicts. War and preparation for war use huge amounts of nonrenewable resources, such as fossil fuels, as well as toxic and radioactive substances that cause pollution of the air, water, and land.


Of particular concern to public health is the indiscriminate harm done to noncombatants. This includes not only the use of so-called weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, but also some uses of conventional weapons. Examples of the latter include the carpet bombing of Warsaw, Rotterdam, Coventry, Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, and other cities during World War II; and collateral damage caused by bombs and missiles in recent conflicts in Iraq, Serbia, and Kosovo. Anti-personnel land mines also cause indiscriminate injury and death and, like biological and chemical weapons, have been banned by international convention.

Chemical and biological weapons have been used since antiquity. Chemical weapons, which are used to produce toxic effects rather than explosions or fire, include vesicant agents such as mustard gas; agents producing pulmonary edema such as chlorine and phosgene; agents affecting oxidizing enzymes such as cyanide; and anticholinesterase inhibitors known as nerve agents. Chemical weapons were used extensively in World War I, leading to the negotiation of the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which banned the use of chemical and bacteriologic weapons. During World War II, chemical weapons were stockpiled by several nations, but were little used. The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which was opened for signature in 1993 and entered into force in 1997, bans the development, production, transfer, and use of chemical weapons. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), headquartered in The Hague, has broad enforcement powers under the CWC. The United States and Russia are proceeding with destruction of stockpiles of chemical weapons, but there remains controversy about the health consequences of the methods being used. In 1995, the Aum Shinrikyo sect in Japan released nerve agent gas in the Tokyo subway, resulting in a number of deaths and many injuries. This incident heightened the concern about future use of chemical weapons.

Biological weapons, which are used to cause disease in living organisms, were developed and stockpiled by the United States, Great Britain, and other nations during World War II, but saw only very limited use by Japan in China. In 1969 the United States unilaterally renounced the use of biological weapons and announced the destruction of its stockpiles. The Biologic Weapons Convention (BWC), which was opened for signature in 1972 and entered into force in 1975, is much weaker than the CWC. It permits "defensive" research, which has led to suspicion that offensive research and development is being done. Efforts are currently being made to strengthen the BWC. Concern has recently been raised about the possible use of biological agents by groups or individuals to attack civilian populations.

The Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention (ALC) was opened for signature in 1997 and entered into force in 1999, setting precedents both for the speed of its ratification and for the work of nongovernmental organizations in bringing it about. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines and its leader, Jody Williams, were awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. By February 2000 the ALC had been signed by 137 governments, but not by the United States, Russia and the other states of the former USSR, and most countries of the Middle East. The ALC, in addition to banning any further production or placement of mines, calls for destroying stockpiles, removing mines from the ground, and helping landmine survivors.

Nuclear weapons were used by the United States in 1945 to destroy the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In each city, a bomb of explosive power equivalent to about 15 kilotons of TNT caused approximately 100,000 deaths within the first few days. Nuclear weapons have not been used in war since, but enormous quantities of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons have been stockpiled by the United States and the Soviet Union. Explosive tests of these weapons have been conducted by these two nations and by the United Kingdom, France, China, South Africa, and, in 1998, India and Pakistan. There have been 518 tests documented in the atmosphere, under water, or in space and, after the signing of the 1963 Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, approximately 1,500 tests underground. The U.S. National Cancer Institute estimated in 1997 that the release of Iodine-131 in fallout from U.S. atmospheric nuclear test explosions was responsible for 49,000 excess cases of thyroid cancer among U.S. residents. Another study estimated that radioactive fallout from nuclear test explosions would be responsible for 430,000 cancer deaths by the year 2000. A Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was negotiated in 1997, but a number of nations, including the United States, have refused to ratify it.

There are now approximately 35,000 nuclear weapons stockpiled in the seven nations that have declared possessionthe U.S., Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, and Pakistan. Israel is also widely believed to possess nuclear weapons. The declared nuclear-weapons nations agreed in the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to work toward elimination of these weapons, but progress has been slow. The International Court of Justice in a unanimous advisory opinion in 1996 ruled that the nuclear weapons states were obligated under the NPT "to pursue in good faith negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament." The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War was awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for its work to reduce the risk of nuclear weapons use by the United States and the Soviet Union. With the dissolution of the USSR, there has also been concern about leakage of nuclear weapons to other nations, to groups, and even to individuals.


Physicians, nurses, and other health care personnel clearly have an ethical duty to care for the victims of war. But medical and public health workers, many believe, also have an ethical duty to prevent war and its consequences. Since membership in the armed forces of a nation seems to imply participation in a war effort, the question arises whether medical and public health personnel can ethically play such a military role.

Alternate ways for medical and public health workers to care for the casualties of war are available through organizations such as the International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders (which received the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize), and Doctors of the World, as well as various associations that seek to alleviate the causes of war and to promote nonviolent conflict resolution. Such associations include the American Public Health Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Human Rights, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and Amnesty International.

Public health professionals can help to reduce and eliminate the causes of war, such as discrimination, poverty, and disease. They can educate and raise awareness about the health and social consequences of war and preparation for war; establish surveillance systems to detect wars, or the circumstances that lead to war, at an early stage; advocate for policies and treaties to ban weapons of indiscriminate destruction; encourage and support mediation and other forms of nonviolent conflict resolution; and work with all groups in society to promote a "culture of peace."

Victor W. Sidel

Barry S. Levy

(see also: Ethnocentrism; Famine; Genocide; Gulf War Syndrome; Nuclear Power; Refugee Communities; Terrorism; Violence )


Amnesty International (1991). Health Personnel: Victims of Human Rights Violations. London: Author.

(1996). Prescription for Change: Health Professionals and the Exposure of Human Rights Violations. London: Author.

Arms Project of Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights (1993). Landmines: A Deadly Legacy. New York: Human Rights Watch.

British Medical Association (1992). Medicine Betrayed: The Participation of Doctors in Human Rights Abuses. London: Zed Books.

Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict (1997). Preventing Deadly Conflict: Final Report. Washington, DC: Author.

Forrow, L. F.; Blair, B. G.; Helfand, I.; Lewis, G.; Postol, T.; Sidel, V. W.; Levy, B. S.; Abrams, H.; and Cassel, C. (1998). "Accidental Nuclear War: A Post-Cold War Assessment." New England Journal of Medicine 338:13261331.

Forrow, L. F., and Sidel, V. W. (1998). "Medicine and Nuclear War: From Hiroshima to Mutual Assured Destruction to Abolition 2000." Journal of the American Medical Association 280:456461.

Geiger, H. J., and Cook-Deegan, R. M. (1993). "The Role of Physicians in Conflicts and Humanitarian Crises." Journal of the American Medical Association 270:616620.

Institute of Medicine (1988). The Future of Public Health. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (1997). Landmines: A Global Health Crisis. Cambridge, MA: Author.

Levy, B. S., and Sidel, V. W., eds. (1997). War and Public Health. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sidel, V. W. (1989). "Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Greatest Threat to Public Health." Journal of the American Medical Association 262:680682.

(1995) "The International Arms Trade and Its Impact on Health." British Medical Journal 311:16771680.

(1996). "The Role of Physicians in the Prevention of Nuclear War." In Genocide, War, and Human Survival, eds. B. C. Strozier and M. Flynn. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

Sidel, V. W., and Goldwyn, R. M. (1966). "Chemical and Biological WeaponsA Primer." New England Journal of Medicine 242:2127.

Sidel, V. W., and Shahi, G. (1997). "The Impact of Military Activities on Development, Environment and Health." In International Perspectives in Environment, Development and Health: Toward A Sustainable World, eds. G. Shahi, B. S. Levy, A. Binger, T. Kjellstrom and R. Lawrence. New York: Springer.

Wright S., ed. (1990). Preventing a Biological Arms Race. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


views updated May 08 2018


War, defined as armed conflict between nations or between opposing factions within a nation, can have grave consequences for the environment, public health, and natural resources. The impact of military tactics and weaponry extends beyond military targets to affect civilian populations and their infrastructure, air and water; armed forces directly target forests, jungles, and other ecosystems in order to deprive enemy troops of cover, shelter, and food; mass refugee movements and other disruptions caused by armed conflict can deplete nearby sources of timber and wildlife; and the general atmosphere of lawlessness that often prevails during or after conflict can make it difficult to prevent illegal logging, mining, and poaching. Even peacetime military activities and preparation for war can be extraordinarily harmful to the environment.

Although wartime environmental damage is as old as war itself, it is modern, industrial warfare that has raised the possibility of destruction on an ecosystem or global scale. From the use of poison gases in World War I and atomic bombs in World War II to the use of chemical defoliants in Vietnam and land mines in numerous internal conflicts, war now leaves a legacy that extends far beyond the battlefield and long past the duration of the original conflict. This problem has resulted in international treaties that attempt to constrain the adverse impacts of warfare on civilian populations and the environment. It also has ensured that environmental issues are closely monitored during wartime by the international community, in much the same way as humanitarian or refugee issues.


Wartime environmental impacts were noted as far back as the ancient world, when the Romans salted the earth around Carthage to keep the Carthaginians from replanting their fields. Medieval sieges took a heavy toll on soldiers and civilians alike. During the U.S. Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman's "March to the Sea" laid waste to large areas of the South, including civilian settlements and farms. In World War I, British forces deliberately set Romanian oilfields afire; in World War II, both Germany and the Soviet Union engaged in "scorched earth" tactics; and in the Korean War, the United States intentionally bombed North Korean dams to cause floods.

Such tactics have always been controversial and led to periodic attempts to regulate them. The Old Testament (Deuteronomy 20:1920) prohibits armies from cutting down fruit-bearing trees, and the Qur'an similarly commands against cutting trees or killing animals unless necessary for food. In 1863 the U.S. Army adopted the Lieber Code, which limited the actions of Union troops and was a precursor of modern military manuals. Since the twentieth century, international armed conflict has been governed by a series of treaties, the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions , that have progressively restricted military tactics and weaponry, such as banning the targeting of civilian property or the use of poisonous gases. Occasionally, this body of law was directed toward environmental damage. For example, at the Nuremberg Trials, German General Alfred Jödl was found guilty of war crimes for his scorched earth tactics in occupied territory (although another general who used similar tactics, Lothar Rendulic, was found not guilty on the grounds that his actions were dictated by military necessity). However, the primary purpose of the international law of war remained humanitarian, aimed at eliminating inhumane weapons and reducing civilian casualties.

Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was the first conflict to highlight the devastating effects of modern warfare on entire ecosystems. There, U.S. forces adopted a strategy of defoliating jungle canopy, ultimately spraying "Agent Orange" and other toxic herbicides over 10 percent of South Vietnam. In addition to destroying vegetation, the public health implications of these actionsprimarily birth defects, diseases, and premature deathshave since become apparent, both in the Vietnamese population and U.S. war veterans. In his memoir My Father, My Son, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Sr., the commander of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam, defended his order to defoliate Vietnamese river banks as necessary to save American sailors from ambush, even though he acknowledged that it ultimately may have caused cancer in his own son, who was serving there at the time. U.S. veterans eventually were compensated for illnesses resulting from their exposure to Agent Orange, but proposals to compensate the Vietnamese victims have remained controversial.

The defoliation campaign and other U.S. tactics in Vietnam led to an international movement for treaties that specifically protect the environment during wartime. This resulted in adoption of the Environmental Modification Convention (1976), which prohibits manipulating the environment as a weapon of war, and of Protocol Additional I to the Geneva Conventions (1977), which includes a prohibition against "widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment." However, many critics have called these treaties vague and impractical, and in fact they have yet to be applied to a specific case of wartime environmental damage. The U.S. government signed both treaties, but has never formally ratified Protocol Additional I.

Persian Gulf War

Wartime environmental damage again came to the fore during the 1990 to 1991 Persian Gulf War, in which Iraq invaded and occupied neighboring Kuwait. Driven from Kuwait by a U.S.led military alliance, Iraqi troops deliberately ignited hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells and diverted pipelines directly into the Persian Gulf. The resulting smoke plumes and oil slicks caused enormous harm to the Kuwaiti population and to desert and marine ecosystems and wildlife. Smoke from the oil fires was reported as far away as the Himalayas and was visible from space.

As images of the devastation circulated around the globe, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 687, which held Iraq liable for all damage, including environmental damage, resulting from the occupation and liberation of Kuwait. This unprecedented action resulted in the establishment of a special commission, the United Nations Compensation Commission, to verify damage claims and issue awards. Kuwait and other Gulf countries filed more than sixty billion dollars in environmental, natural resource, and public health claims against Iraq, which a decade later were still being resolved. The extraordinary nature of the Security Council's action led to renewed calls for an international treaty or institution to regulate the environmental impacts of armed conflict. Subsequently, prohibitions against environmental damage were included in the charter for the International Criminal Court, a new tribunal that will have global jurisdiction over war crimes.

Internal Conflicts

Although the best-known examples of wartime environmental damage occurred during international conflicts, the vast majority of recent conflicts have been civil wars or other internal strife, in places such as Angola, Cambodia, Colombia, Congo, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and the former Yugoslavia. These conflicts often take the form of low-level guerrilla warfare that continues for years, with the same territory changing hands several times. In addition to the tragic toll on civilian populations, such conflicts have considerable environmental impacts: Opposing armies engage in deforestation and defoliation, hunt wildlife for food, lay thousands of antipersonnel land mines, and clash over valuable natural resources (such as timber and diamonds) to finance their arms purchases.

Because sovereign nations generally control their own affairs, it has been very difficult for the international community to address internal conflicts and their human and environmental consequences. Most international treaties governing wartime environmental damage do not apply to internal conflict, and even where they do, they are difficult to apply to loosely organized guerilla forces. Armed intervention or peacekeeping missions can solve some humanitarian and environmental problems while creating others. For example, the 1999 NATO bombing of Kosovo ignited a petrochemical plant in the city of Pancevo, exposing thousands of civilians to a cloud of toxic fumes; during the Rwandan civil war, United Nations refugee camps stressed natural resources and wildlife reserves in neighboring Congo. Another attempted solution has been global consumer boycotts of tropical timber, diamonds, and other commodities that originate in war-torn countries and give rise to or finance armed conflict.

The Cold War Legacy

Military activities and preparations for war can have enormous environmental impacts even without a shot being fired. The development of the atomic bomb during the early 1940s, referred to as the Manhattan Project, not only had devastating consequences in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but also produced a long-lasting legacy of deadly radioactive pollution in the United States. In 1939 Nobel Prize physicist Niels Bohr warned that although it was possible for the United States to build an atom bomb, it could not be done without "turning the country into a gigantic factory." Following the end of the Cold War in 1991, it became apparent to what extent that factory had contaminated such diverse sites as Hanford, Washington; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Rocky Flats, Colorado; where the air, groundwater, surface water, soil, vegetation, and wildlife all show signs of radioactivity. The Soviet Union's nuclear program created similar problems, concentrating production in "secret cities" such as Chelyabinsk-7, which many have called the most polluted city on earth. Given the highly toxic nature and extremely long half-life of most radioactive waste, cleanup and containment of these sites will pose problems for generations.

The Cold War legacy brings into focus the "necessity" and "proportionality" calculations that underlie most reasoned decisions about environmentally damaging wartime actions: whether there are alternatives to taking a particular action, and whether the military advantage gained from taking such an action outweighs the environmental and other harm that potentially may result. Most scholars would agree that the development of the atomic bomb was justifiable as a means of defeating fascism and winning World War II; they similarly agree that Iraq's actions in retreating from Kuwait were indefensible, even on military grounds. Other cases, such as the United States' defoliation campaign in Vietnam or bombing of civilian infrastructure in Kosovo, are more controversial. In any case, the historical record, the continued development of international treaties and institutions, and the increasing awareness that environmental issues must be considered even during wartime, all should provide a basis for improved military tactics and more environmentally aware decision making in the future.

see also Terrorism.


austin, jay e., and bruch, carl, eds. (2000). the environmental consequences of war: legal, economic, and scientific perspectives. cambridge, uk: cambridge university press.

bloom, saul; miller, john m.; warner, james; and winkler, philippa, eds. (1994). hidden casualties: the environmental, health and political consequences of the persian gulf war. berkeley, ca: north atlantic books.

browne, malcolm w. (1991). "war and the environment." audubon 93:89.

dycus, stephen. (1996). national defense and the environment. hanover, nh: university press of new england.

earle, sylvia a. (1992). "persian gulf pollution: assessing the damage one year later." national geographic 181:122.

feshbach, murray, and friendly, albert. (1992). ecocide in the u.s.s.r.: the looming disaster in soviet health & environment. new york: basic books.

hawley, t.m. (1992). against the fires of hell: the environmental disaster of the gulf war. new york: harcourt brace jovanovich.

lanier-graham, susan. (1993). the ecology of war: environmental impacts of weaponry and warfare. new york: walker & co.

levy, barry s., and sidel, victor w., eds. (1997). war and public health. new york: oxford university press.

rhodes, richard. (1986). the making of the atomic bomb. new york: simon & schuster.

roberts, guy b. (1991). "military victory, ecological defeat." in worldwatch, july/aug. 1991.

webster, donovan. (1996). aftermath: the landscape of war. new york: pantheon.

weinberg, william j. (1992). war on the land: ecology and politics in central america. london: zed press.

zumwalt, elmo jr.; zumwalt, elmo iii; and pekkanen, john. (1986). my father, my son. new york: macmillan.

internet resources

environmental change and security project. "bibliographic guide to the literature." available from http://wwics.si.edu/programs.

environmental law institute. (1998). "addressing environmental consequences of war: background paper for the first international conference on addressing environmental consequences of war: legal, economic, and scientific perspectives." washington, d.c.: environmental law institute. available from http://www.eli.org/pdf.

environmental law institute. (1998). "annotated bibliography: first international conference on addressing environmental consequences of war: legal, economic, and scientific perspectives." washington, d.c.: environmental law institute. available from http://www.eli.org/pdf.

hoffman, leslie. "saving the ghost ship." albuquerque tribune, july 31, 1998. available from http://www.abqtrib.com/arc1.

united nations environment programme. (1999). "the kosovo conflict: consequences for the environment & human settlements." geneva: united nations environment programme. available from http://www.grid.unep.ch/btf.

Jay Austin

The pollution associated with military preparedness is substantial, ranging from the effects of housing, feeding, supplying, and moving large bodies of people, to the impacts of weapons practice and war games. The closure, under protest, of the U.S. Navy's live-fire bombing and artillery ranges on Vieques Island off the coast of Puerto Rico will require the cleanup of nearly sixty years of accumulation of bomb fragments, unexploded ordinance, waste munitions, and landfills. The Navy is conducting an environmental investigation under a consent order signed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or Superfund, requires the military to clean up hazardous waste on its bases. In particular, this is required at bases being closed. The scope and cost of these cleanups are staggering, even for the Department of Defense. A RAND research study of the closure of six California bases recommended setting interim cleanup goals, concluding that "cleanup too long delayedin the interest of fulfilling a total cleanup programis cleanup never realized."

Ever since the U.S.S. Arizona sank in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, a slow trickle of fuel oil has seeped toward the surface, casting a rainbow sheen on the now-still waters. The Arizona had 1.5 million gallons of oil in its tanks when it was attacked, and it is unknown how much remains. Although the current 2.5-gallon-per-day leak does not present much of an environmental hazard, the caretakers of what is now the Pearl Harbor National Monument have made plans to minimize impacts if the Arizona's hull collapses and releases the remainder into the harbor's fragile marine ecosystem.

News Media, War, and the Military

views updated May 29 2018

News Media, War, and the Military. From the earliest days of the republic, American leaders encountered difficulties trying to balance the need for secrecy in diplomatic and military affairs with America's tradition of a free and independent press. As early as 1792, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson wrote to President George Washington that “No government ought to be without censors and where the press is free, no one ever will.” Yet, only three years earlier, Congress passed a statute requiring each department to establish regulations for the custody, use, and preservation of official documents. That seemingly innocuous statute implicitly included rules for classification and censorship. The imposition of such rules has been especially important during periods of international crisis and war when citizens have been asked by presidents, who controlled the flow of government information, to surrender their lives and treasure to defend national security. Looking over America's military past, many observers would agree with Senator Hiram Johnson (R‐Calif.) who said in 1917 that “The first casualty when war comes is truth.”

Obviously, few citizens in any nation approve the publication in wartime of information about troop movements and military strategies that would help their enemies defeat their fighting men and women. Not all citizens agree about the necessity of government suppression or censorship of journalists or those opposed to war who allegedly give aid and comfort to the enemy by criticizing presidents or generals or organizing antiwar groups.

This was the case with the first major assault against free speech and the free press in the United States, the Federalists' controversial Sedition Act of 1798, which made it a crime to write or speak against the president or Congress in a defamatory way during the Undeclared Naval War with France. However, during that “Quasi‐War” and subsequently the War of 1812, commodores and generals did not have to worry about war correspondents. Military officials controlled the channels of communication in the combat theaters. Whatever appeared in newspapers—sometimes weeks or even months after the events—was little more than the sort of propagandistic official war dispatches that had recently been perfected in France by Napoleon, although Andrew Jackson did institute censorship for a brief period early in 1815 after he occupied New Orleans. It was not until the Mexican War that the wartime relationship between journalists and the government began to assume its contemporary shape.

Because of the development of high‐speed printing presses in the 1840s, the “penny press” could be produced rapidly and cheaply in large numbers. Newspapers like the New York Morning News and the New York Herald competed with one another for jingoistic readers and thus contributed to the spirit of “manifest destiny”—a slogan coined by the Morning News's John L. O'sullivan—that swept over the nation.

The development of the telegraph and other improvements in land and sea transportation soon made it easier to bring news from afar to major urban areas. Nonetheless, because telegraph lines did not reach south of Richmond during the 1840s, it still took as much as three weeks or more for news from Mexico to arrive in Washington and New York, via New Orleans and the sea. All the same, the war in Mexico was the best‐covered war to date as journalists like the dashing George V. Kendall did not have to put up with censorship and often fought in battle alongside the men about whom they were writing.

For the emerging profession of war correspondent, the war was just a warmup for the Crimean War and the Civil War, where modern problems of censorship on the battlefield first appeared. At the start of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln placed the telegraph lines in Washington under federal control, but allowed journalists free rein elsewhere. Because of major divisions in the North, the policy changed in February 1862 when Lincoln took control of all telegraph lines and ordered the U.S. Postmaster General to deny the use of mail service to disloyal newspapers. Operating under that order, Lincoln's agents completely suppressed several Democratic newspapers and imprisoned editors.

Northern newspapers and illustrated magazines sent 500 correspondents and a few illustrators into the field, almost all of whom supported the Union cause. The same could be said for their 100 Southern counterparts, most of whom did double duty in the Confederate army. Due to self‐censorship as well as official censorship, reporters underestimated casualties and reported uncritically about strategic and tactical blunders. This was the first American war in which the media played an important role in intelligence. Despite the censorship, both Robert E. Lee and William Tecumseh Sherman, among other generals, claimed to have discovered valuable information about troop movements and future battle plans from newspapers.

The public's demand for war news proved insatiable. The more colorful and breathless the story, the more newspapers were sold. As in later wars, reporters sometimes made up “eyewitness” accounts of battles hundreds of miles from their positions. In 1864, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton began issuing daily war bulletins, a practice that made it easier for journalists to write their reports and easier for Washington to control the news.

The press played a more important role prior to the next war, the Spanish‐American War, than during it. From the beginning of the Cuban insurrection against Spain in 1895, the new sensationalist “yellow press,” exemplified by William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, increased circulation exponentially as it called for American intervention against the Spanish, who were accused of committing some real and many imagined crimes against humanity. On the other hand, as the United States prepared to enter the war, President William McKinley masterfully manipulated the news so that skeptics would ultimately support his call to arms.

The U.S. government centralized the release of war information from Washington, took control of telegraph facilities at Key West, Florida, and censored dispatches that arrived in New York City. Nonetheless, embarrassing stories did manage to leak out concerning gross mismanagement and scandals in the food and supply lines. Two hundred correspondents, including the novelist Stephen Crane and the flamboyant Richard Harding Davis, covered the Caribbean campaign, while fledgling motion picture companies made reenacted newsreels they sold as authentic to a public thrilled with this “splendid little war.”

Military censorship in Manila posed greater difficulties for journalists covering the less popular follow‐up Philippine War against Filipino insurrectionists. But material did appear in the press that highlighted torture and atrocities committed by American soldiers in a dirty, counterrevolutionary war and encouraged a potent anti‐imperialist movement.

After the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the War Department, following the policies of the European nations, established its first formal accrediting procedure for war correspondents. A journalist had to agree in writing to submit dispatches to military censors and to behave “like a gentleman of the press.” In addition, back in Washington, Woodrow Wilson established the controversial Committee on Public Information, which was not only in charge of censorship but also ran an elaborate propaganda campaign at home and abroad. For example, the committee employed 75,000 speakers who delivered 750,000 four‐minute pep talks, often in movie theaters, in 5,000 cities and towns in support of the war.

The administration also obtained from Congress the Espionage and Sedition Acts of World War I. The former permitted the Postmaster General to refuse to mail magazines or other publications detrimental to the war effort; the latter prohibited speech that did not support that effort. Under such laws, Socialist Party presidential nominee Eugene V. Debs was sent to jail, as was a movie producer for making a film about the Revolutionary War in which the British appeared as villains.

During World War II, military authorities again imposed strict censorship at the source for correspondents who numbered as many as 1,000 in Europe alone. Among other matters deemed threatening to national security were stories and, especially, pictures that portrayed too graphically G.I. injuries and death, or reported incidents of cowardice, as was the case during the Battle of the Bulge, or revealed information embarrassing to the United States and its Allies. And as in previous wars, once they learned the rules, correspondents practiced self‐censorship so that they would not have to rewrite their articles completely after censors got through with them.

Back home, the government issued a voluntary code of wartime practices for the media, to which, in most cases, the mainstream press adhered. The Chicago Tribune was a notable exception when it revealed mobilization plans on the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and later ran a story about the breaking of Japanese codes. Although the Office of Censorship did intercept and read letters and cablegrams and tap phone calls, most Americans accepted the abridgment of their First Amendment rights during the global crisis.

The Office of War Information (OWI), headed by radio commentator Elmer Davis, coordinated propaganda activities. Somewhat more sophisticated than the Creel Committee of World War I, OWI staffers met regularly with the media, including the heads of Hollywood studios, to suggest political themes they wanted to promote.

No such elaborate activities were needed during the limited Korean War. From June through December 1950, journalists at the front adhered to a voluntary code of self‐censorship. But when South Korean leaders began complaining about articles critical of their repressive actions, Washington imposed full military censorship. Few Americans ever learned the truth about the nature of their ally or of the devastating American bombing of civilians in North Korea that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Such was not the case in the Vietnam War—the most controversial war in American history in many ways, including the relationship between the media and the military. According to critics of press performance, journalists in the combat theater, not subject to censorship, wrote stories and shot television footage that distorted and hurt the war effort—most controversially, media coverage of the Tet Offensive of early 1968. That charge dramatically influenced the way the government subsequently limited journalists' access during the 1983 U.S. intervention in Grenada, the 1989 Panama intervention, and, above all, the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

But the charge that the media “lost the war” in Vietnam was a myth. Except for a brief period during the Kennedy administration when several young journalists who supported the war criticized military tactics and the venality of the Saigon regime, most of the coverage favored administration policies, at least until 1968. Even during that earlier period, the government in Saigon expelled American journalists, and Washington influenced publishers to alter their coverage. To be sure, in several celebrated cases—notably Morley Safer's 1965 account on CBS of Marines burning hooches, and his later coverage of the Tet Offensive—the media apparently contributed to the growth of antiwar sentiments, but no more so than the American rates of casualties. But the fact that reporters shared the national Cold War consensus and that the tenets of so‐called objective journalism demanded that they report official briefings (the “Five O’clock Follies”), often uncritically, guaranteed a relatively favorable press until almost the end. The Johnson administration did not institute full censorship because it wanted to play down the importance of this undeclared war.

Another view suggests that the Vietnam War was the first televised live or “living‐room war.” But it was not projected live into viewers' homes. In this era before the development of satellite hookup, the news film for stories emanating either from Saigon or Japan was flown by air to New York, then edited and broadcast. As in World War II, those in charge of deciding what to air generally eliminated pictures of bloodied soldiers and the other worst horrors of war.

The situation was different during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, with strict censorship and “pool” reporting for the more than 1,000 journalists who covered the fighting in real time—primarily from hotels in Saudi Arabia. Military authorities banned several magazines from the combat theater and arrested at least eight American correspondents for violating aspects of the censorship rules. Aside from reports from the Cable News Network's (CNN) Peter Arnett in Baghdad, which were themselves censored by the Iraqis, most of what Americans saw on television was exactly what the military wanted Americans—and anyone else tuning in—to see.

Beginning in the 1980s, worldwide television news services, led by CNN, began to play an increasingly important role in crises and wars. Before the Gulf War broke out, Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, was encouraged by strong congressional opposition to President George Bush's policies, broadcast by satellite to Iraq. Later, coalition commander Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf tailored his televised briefings for those in Baghdad who were watching. In 1991, Haitian dictator Gen. Raoul Cédras's viewing of congressional and other opposition to American policies, brought to him by the ubiquitous CNN, may have contributed to his recalcitrance.

As nations become even more completely electronically connected to one another in years to come, the problems inherent in maintaining a free press during times of international crisis may become even more severe.
[See also Intelligence, Military and Political; Panama, U.S. Military Involvement in; Peace and Antiwar Movements; Propaganda and Public Relations, Government.]


Joseph J. Mathews , Reporting the Wars, 1957.
John Hohenberg , Foreign Correspondence: The Great Reporters and Their Times, 1964.
Doris A. Graber , Public Opinion, the President, and Foreign Policy: Four Case Studies from the Formative Years, 1968.
Philip Knightly , The First Casualty: From the Crimea to Vietnam: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist, and Myth Maker, 1975.
Allan M. Winkler , The Politics of Propaganda: The Office of War Information, 1942–1945, 1975.
Stephen Vaughn , Holding Fast the Inner Lines: Democracy, Nationalism, and the Committee on Public Information, 1980.
Daniel C. Hallin , The “Uncensored War”: The Media and Vietnam, 1986.
Robert E. Denton Jr., ed., The Media and the Persian Gulf War, 1993.
Clarence R. Wyatt , Paper Soldiers: The American Press and the Vietnam War, 1993.

Melvin Small


views updated Jun 11 2018


The ubiquity and importance of war have made analyses of its causes a central concern of scholars for over two millennia. Many of the fundamental questions about the causes of war were raised by Thucydides in the fifth century b.c., but the vast amount of work on the topic since that time has produced ongoing debates instead of generally accepted answers. Studies of war can be divided into three broad categories (reviews of the literature using similar frameworks are provided by Waltz 1959; Bueno de Mesquita 1980; and Levy 1989). The first type takes the system as whole as the unit of analysis and focuses on how characteristics of the interstate system affect the frequency of war. States are the unit of analysis in the second type, which explores the relationships among the political, economic, and cultural features of particular states and the propensity of states to initiate wars. The third type analyzes war as an outcome of choices resulting from small group decision making.

Some debates focus on characteristics of the interstate system that are thought to increase or decrease the chance of war. Are wars more likely during a period of economic prosperity or one of economic contraction? Which is more likely to maintain peace, a balance of power in the international system or a situation in which one state is hegemonic? Has the increasing power of transnational organizations such as the United Nations changed the likelihood of war in the contemporary world?

Social scientists also disagree about the effects of political and economic factors within a state on the possibility of war. Does a capitalist economy make a state more or less likely to initiate wars? Do democratic states start wars less often than autocracies do? Is increasing nationalism likely to cause more wars? Is the ethnic composition within and between states an important determinant of war?

There is also no consensus on which model of individual decision making is most appropriate for the study of war. Is the decision to go to war based on a rational calculation of economic costs and benefits, or is it an irrational outcome of distortion in decision making in small groups and bureaucracies? Are wars based on nationalist, ethnic, or religious conflicts generated more by emotions or values than by rational choices?


Most studies of war that use the interstate system as the unit of analysis begin with assumptions from the "realist" paradigm. States are seen as unitary actors in realist theories, and their actions are explained in terms of the structural characteristics of the system. The most important feature of the interstate system is that it is anarchic. Unlike politics within states, relations between states take place in a Hobbesian state of nature. Since an anarchic system is one in which all states constantly face actual or potential threats, their main goal is security. Security can be achieved in such a system only by maintaining power. In realist theories, the distribution of power in the interstate system is the main determinant of the frequency of war.

Although all realist theories agree on the importance of power distribution in determining war, they disagree about which types of power distributions make war more likely. Balance-of-power theories (Morgenthau 1967) suggest that an equal distribution of power in the system facilitates peace and that an unequal distribution leads to war. They argue that parity deters all states from aggression and that an unequal power distribution generally will result in the strong using force against the weak. When one state begins to gain a preponderance of power, a coalition of weaker states will from to maintain their security by blocking the further expansion of the powerful state. The coalitions that formed against Louis XIV, Napoleon, and Hitler seem to fit this pattern.

Hegemonic stability theory (Gilpin 1981) suggests exactly the opposite: that unequal power in the system produces peace while parity results in war. When one state has hegemony in the world system, it has both the incentive and the means to maintain order. It is not necessary for the most powerful state to fight wars, since its objectives can be achieved in less costly ways, and it is not rational for other states to challenge a state with overwhelming power. Gilpin notes that the periods of British and U.S. hegemony were relatively peaceful and that World Wars I and II occurred during intervening periods in which power was distributed more equally. Since balance-of-power and hegemonic stability theories seem to explain some but not all of the cases, what is needed is a theory specifying the conditions under which either parity or hegemony leads to war.

Balance-of-power and hegemonic stability arguments are not applicable to all wars, only those between great powers. A third attempt to explain great-power war is power transition theory (Organski 1968). This theory suggests that differential rates of economic growth create situations in which rising states rapidly catch up with the hegemonic state in the system and that this change in relative power leads to war. Organiski argues that the rising state will initiate a war to displace the hegemonic state. This final part of the argument is questionable, since it seems at least as plausible that the hegemonic state will initiate the war against the rising challenger to keep the small advantage it still has (Levy 1989, p. 253).

Debates about power transitions and hegemonic stability are of much more than theoretical interest in the contemporary world. Although the demise of the Soviet Union has left the United States as an unchallenged military hegemon, American economic superiority is being challenged by the European Union (EU) and emerging Asian states ( Japan in the short run, perhaps China in the long run). If power transition and hegemonic stability theories are correct, this shift of economic power could lead to great-power wars in the near future. If the main challenge is from the EU (the most likely scenario), it will be interesting to see if the cultural heritage of cooperation between the United States and most of Europe will be sufficient to prevent the great-power war that some theories predict.

Another ongoing debate about systemic causes of war concerns the effects of long cycles of economic expansion and contraction. Some scholars argue that economic contraction increases the chance of war, since the increased scarcity of resources leads to more conflict. Others have suggested the opposite: Major wars are more common in periods of economic expansion because only then do states have the resources necessary to fight. Goldstein's (1988) research suggests that economic expansion tends to increase the severity of great-power wars but that economic cycles have no effect on the frequency of war.

Two important changes in the last fifty years may make many systemic theories of war obsolete (or at least require major revisions). The first is technology. Throughout history, technological changes have determined the general nature of warfare. By far the most significant recent development has been the availability of nuclear weapons. Since the use of these weapons would result in "mutually assured destruction," they may have made war much less likely by making it irrational for both parties. Of course, the broadening proliferation of nuclear weapons raises serious problems, as does their existence in currently unstable states such as the Russian federation. A second technological change that may alter the nature of war is increasing dependence on computers. Although computers have increased the accuracy and precision of many types of military technology, they also leave the countries using them vulnerable to new kinds of attacks by "hackers" who could not only disarm military operations but bring whole economies to a halt by disrupting the computer systems necessary for their operation.

The second significant change in the last half of the twentieth century has been the development and increasing power of transnational organizations such as the United Nations. Most theories of war begin with the assumption that the interstate system is anarchic, but this is no longer valid. If the military power of the United Nations continues to grow, that organization could become more and more effective at preventing wars and suppressing them quickly when they start. Of course, it remains to be seen whether powerful existing states will cede more power to such institutions.

Theoretical debates about the systemic causes of war have not been resolved, in part because the results of empirical research have been inconclusive. To take one example, equality of power in the interstate system decreased the number of wars in the nineteenth century and increased the number in the twentieth century. Proponents of each theory can point to specific cases that seem to fit its predictions, but they must admit that there are many cases it cannot explain. At least part of the problem is that systemic theories have not incorporated causal factors at lower levels of analysis, such as the internal economic and political characteristics of states. Since the effects of system-level factors on war are not direct but always are mediated by the internal political economy of states and the decisions made by individual leaders, complete theories of the causes of war must include these factors as well.


One of the longest and most heated debates about the causes of war concerns the effects of capitalism. Beginning with Adam Smith, liberal economists have argued that capitalism promotes peace. Marxists, by contrast, suggest that capitalism leads to frequent imperialist wars.

Liberal economic theories point to the wealth generated by laissez-faire capitalist economies, the interdependence produced by trade, and the death and destruction of assets caused by war. Since capitalism has increased both the benefits of peace (by increasing productivity and trade) and the costs of war (by producing new and better instruments of destruction), it is no longer rational for states to wage war. The long period of relative peace that followed the triumph of capitalism in the nineteenth century and the two world wars that came after the rise of protectionist barriers to free trade often are cited in support of liberal economic theories, but those facts can be explained by hegemonic stability theorists as a consequence of the rise and decline of British hegemony.

In contrast to the sanguine views of capitalism presented by liberal economic theories, Marxists argue that economic problems inherent in advanced capitalist economies create incentives for war. First, the high productivity of industrial capitalism and a limited home market resulting from the poverty of the working class result in chronic "underconsumption" (Hobson [1902] 1954). Capitalists thus seek imperial expansion to control new markets for their goods. Second, Lenin ([1917] 1939) argued that capitalists fight imperialist wars to gain access to more raw materials and find more profitable outlets for their capital. These pressures lead first to wars between powerful capitalist states and weaker peripheral states and then to wars between great powers over which of them will get to exploit the periphery.

In contrast to the stress on the political causes (power and security) of war in most theories, the Marxist theory of imperialism has the virtue of drawing attention to economic causes. However, there are several problems with the economic causes posited in theories of imperialism. Like most Marxist arguments about politics, theories of imperialism assume that states are controlled directly or indirectly by dominant economic classes and thus that state policies reflect dominant class interests. Since states are often free of dominant class control and since many groups other than capitalists often influence state policies, it is simplistic to view war as a reflection of the interests of capitalists. Moreover, in light of the arguments made by liberal economists, it is far from clear that capitalists prefer war to other means of expanding markets and increasing profits.

With the increasing globalization of economies and the transition of more states to capitalist economies, the debates about the effects of capitalism, trade, and imperialism on war have become increasingly significant. If Adam Smith is right, the future is likely to be more peaceful than the past, but if Marxist theorists are right, there will be an unprecedented increase in economically based warfare.

The form of government in a country also may determine how often that country initiates wars. Kant ([1795] 1949) argued that democratic states (with constitutions and separation of powers) initiate wars less often than do autocratic states. This conclusion follows from an analysis of who pays the costs of war and who gets the benefits. Since citizens are required to pay for war with high taxes and their lives, they will rarely support war initiation. Rulers of states, by contrast, have much to gain from war and can pass on most of the costs to their subjects. Therefore, when decisions about war are made only by rulers (in autocracies), war will be frequent, and when citizens have more control of the decision (in democracies), peace generally will be the result.

Empirical research indicates that democratic states are less likely than are nondemocratic states to initiate wars, but the relationship is not strong (Levy 1989, p. 270). Perhaps one reason for the weakness of the relationship is that the assumption that citizens will oppose war initiation is not always correct. Many historical examples indicate that in at least some conditions citizens will support war even though it is not in their economic interest to do so. Nationalism, religion, ethnicity, and other cultural factors often are cited as important causes of particular wars in journalistic and historical accounts, but there still is no general theory of the conditions in which these factors modify or even override economic interests. Many classical sociological arguments suggested that these "premodern" and "irrational" sources of war would decline over time, but the late twentieth century has demonstrated the opposite. Nationalist and ethnic wars have become more common and intense. This raises the general issue of the factors affecting the choices individuals make about war initiation: Can these factors be modeled as rational maximization of interests, or is the process more complex?


Although the assumptions may be only implicit or undeveloped, all theories of war must contain some assumptions about individual decision making. However, few theories of war focus on the individual level of analysis. One notable exception is the rational-choice theory of war developed and tested by Bueno do Mesquita (1981).

Bueno de Mesquita begins by assuming that the decision to initiate war is made by a single dominant ruler who is a rational expected-utility maximizer. Utilities are defined in terms of state policies. Rulers fight wars to affect the policies of other states, essentially to make other states' policies more similar to their interests. Rulers calculate the costs and benefits of initiating war and the probability of victory. War is initiated only when rulers expect a net gain from it.

This parsimonious set of assumptions has been used to generate several counterintuitive propositions. For example, common sense might suggest that states would fight their enemies and not their allies, but Bueno de Mesquita argues that war will be more common between allies than between enemies. Wars between allies are caused by actual or anticipated policy changes that threaten the existing relationship. The interventions of the United States in Latin America and of the Soviet Union in eastern Europe after World War II illustrate the process. Other counterintuitive propositions suggest that under some conditions a state may rationally choose to attack the stronger of two allied states instead of the weaker, and under some conditions it is rational for a state with no allies to initiate a war against a stronger state with allies (if the distance between the two is great, the weaker state will be unable to aid the stronger). Although these propositions and others derived from the theory have received strong empirical support, many have argued that the basic rational-choice assumptions of the theory are unrealistic and have rejected Bueno de Mesquita's work on those grounds.

Other analyses of the decision to initiate war focus on how the social features of the decisionmaking process lead to deviations from rational choice. Allison (1971) notes that all political decisions are made within organizations and that this setting often influences the content of decisions. He argues that standard operating procedures and repertoires tend to limit the flexibility of decision makers and make it difficult to respond adequately to novel situations. Janis (1972) focuses on the small groups within political organizations (such as executives and their cabinet advisers) that actually make decisions about war. He suggests that the cohesiveness of these small groups often leads to a striving for unanimity that prevents a full debate about options and produces a premature consensus. Other scholars have discussed common misperceptions that distort decisions about war, such as the tendency to underestimate the capabilities of one's enemies and overestimate one's own. In spite of these promising studies, work on deviations from rational choice is just beginning, and there still is no general theoretical model of the decision to initiate war.


The failure to develop a convincing general theory of the causes of war has convinced some scholars that no such theory is possible, that all one can do is describe the causes of particular wars. This pessimistic conclusion is premature. The existing literature on the causes of war provides several fragments of a general theory, many of which have some empirical support. The goal of theory and research on war in the future will be to combine aspects of arguments at all three levels of analysis to create a general theory of the causes of war.

(see also: Global Systems Analysis: Peace; Revolutions; Terrorism)


Allison, Graham 1971 Essence of Decision. Boston: Little, Brown.

Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce 1980 "Theories of International Conflict: An Analysis and Appraisal." In Ted Robert Gurr, ed., Handbook of Political Conflict. New York: Free Press.

—— 1981 The War Trap. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.

Gilpin, Robert 1981 War and Change in World Politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Golstein, Joshua 1988 Long Cycles. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.

Hobson, J. A. (1902) 1954 Imperialism. London: Allen and Unwin.

Janis, Irving 1972 Victims of Groupthink. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Kant, Immanuel (1795) 1949 "Eternal Peace." In C. J. Friedrich, ed., The Philosophy of Kant. New York: Modern Library.

Lenin, V. I. (1917) 1939 Imperialism. New York: International.

Levy, Jack S. 1989 "The Causes of War: A Review of Theories and Evidence." In Philip E. Tetlock, Robert Jarvis, Paul Stern, and Charles Tilly, eds., Behavior, Society and Nuclear War. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Morgenthau, Hans 1967 Politics among Nations. New York: Knopf.

Organski, J. F. K. 1968 World Politics. New York: Knopf.

Waltz, Kenneth 1959 Man, the State, and War. New York: Columbia University Press.

Edgar Kiser


views updated May 21 2018


The differences between biological sex identity and learned gender identity are probably nowhere so clear as in wartime cultures, which direct males and females toward their respective roles as fighting men and nurturing women. At the same time, war opens space within this categorical framework. For instance, Rosie the Riveter of American World War II propaganda as a muscular factory worker is an unconventional mother, but still a mother. The link between sex and gender is simultaneously destabilized and reinforced during wartime.


Since ancient times and across the globe, males have performed combat. However, many scholars agree that no compelling evidence actually proves males to be biologically predisposed to soldiering. Hormones, even size and strength, have been said to play a minimal role in successful combat. Instead, soldiering, like gender, is a learned performance. The well-documented existence of both successful female warriors and unsuccessful male combatants testifies to this understanding of soldiering and gender performance. Regardless of how the occupation itself and the definitions of masculinity and femininity have varied among cultures, soldiering is seen as a masculine performance. Entrance into the military, as a basic form of civic duty or citizenship, has provided a masculine rite of passage in many cultures. Becoming a warrior, the young man leaves the private, maternal space of the home and enters the realm of public service to the paternal state. Courage, physical strength, skilled handling of weapons, endurance of hardship and pain, and the "no guts, no glory" attitude associated with warriors have typically been celebrated as masculine traits in military and civilian life. Such a model of militant masculinity at its extreme appears in the warrior hero in Homeric epics and American Rambo films. Such masculine soldiering belongs to a gendered dichotomy between protector and protected, strong and weak, war and peace, public and private.

Warfare is often positioned as a masculine defense of the feminine, as men defend their homes, homelands, and the women in them. In fact, popular ways of speaking about war often conflate the bodies of individual women with the nation. Invading soldiers' raping of individual women becomes symbolic of the invasion itself. In turn, the rapes of individual women often represent the humiliation of entire nations and serve as a call to arms for men to defend their women and country. Not only is the homeland needing protection feminized, but often the enemy is too: They are depicted as feminine or as effeminately homosexual, as waiting and willing to be conquered.

The essentialist formulation claiming to be rooted in nature assigning masculine and feminine work during wartime is simply that women are to give birth and men to fight and kill. However, both are recognized as duties to the state, and together they constitute necessary components of any war system. In ancient Sparta (950–192 bce), only men who fell in battle and women who died during childbirth received marked gravestones. During wartime, womanhood is delegated to a sphere of peace, a refuge from war, where women undo war's damage. Men kill and get killed, whereas women replenish the population. Men wound and women bandage, men get dirty and women launder. Conceptions of war have depended on such a dichotomy between men and women, battlefield and home front. Yet scholars have noted that nurses appearing to act as peaceful and life-preserving mothers are nonetheless integral components of a war system that could not continue without them. During war, medical workers' fundamental purpose is to render men able to return to battle, where they will kill or be killed. In this sense, life-preserving women's war labor actually perpetuates a life-destroying cause, and at closer inspection, the dichotomy between the two collapses.

During wartime, the home front (if one can be distinguished from the battle zone) becomes militarized along with those who work and live there. Although motherhood is commonly thought of as antithetical to war, particularly by pacifist feminists, motherhood has been constructed as a feminine version of military service during wartime from ancient Sparta to twentieth-century Europe. This mother figure brings honor to herself as a national symbol of sacrifice by pressuring males to "be men" and fight. She functions as a cheerleader and witness of masculine performance. As early as the Second Crusade, the French Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122–1204) and other women handed out phallic-shaped weaving spindles to men they suspected of neglecting their duty as soldiers. British women did the same with white feathers during World War I.

Some have questioned the masculine nature of soldiering by noting many of the ideals in a soldier are actually stereotypically feminine. Equal-opportunity feminists in favor of female combatants in the military argue militaries are not built upon essentialized masculinity. Rather, females and males with feminine traits belong there too. If military science is concerned with training numbers of individuals to act as one body, or corps, then a successful military unit depends on its soldiers' strict discipline and submission to authority, their willingness to work with others and cohere into a group, and their senses of duty, loyalty, and self-sacrifice. These are all stereotypical feminine characteristics. In contrast to the popular Rambo image, combatants must be as willing to die as to kill. Not courage or blood-thirst, but devotion to the group and an unwillingness to abandon it may compel soldiers to fight rather than flee from combat. The question remains, however, whether such feminine traits are protected and framed within a culture of masculinity and articulated within the context of a tightly bound brotherhood. Some hold that women introduced into this brotherhood threaten its cohesion and masculine character, and make such carefully framed feminine traits difficult to sustain. Scientific studies of group cohesion among mixed sex military units in the United States have been inconclusive, and are complicated by women's official designation as noncombatants, which might interfere with group cohesion more than gender or sex.

Since the 1990s, women comprise up to 15 percent of modern industrial militaries. Despite formal distinctions banning women from combat, male and female soldiers are difficult to classify simply as combatants or noncombatants during wartime. In the U.S. military, noncombatants are still trained for combat and carry guns. Females in support positions in the military often come under fire, they are taken as prisoners of war, and they are wounded or killed just as male combat soldiers might be.

Certainly, females' performance as combat soldiers has been constant throughout human history, though historical records of female warriors have emphasized the cultural anomaly of their performance, and they constitute a minority of all warriors historically. Accounts of women who have fought as soldiers disguised as men are innumerable, particularly because many never revealed their disguise. But female leaders from ancient times also fought in battle openly as women. Cleopatra of Egypt (69 bce–30 bce), Zenobia of Palmyra (r. 268–272 ce), and Matilda, Countess of Tuscany (1046–1115) were all political leaders who led their armies into battle and fought side-by-side with men. The Assyrian queen Sammuramat (r. 811–808 bce), who conquered Babylon, emphasized the gendered performance of her combat on the memorial she erected in honor of herself: "Nature made me a woman, yet I have raised myself to rival the greatest man" (De Pauw 1998, p. 41).

Examples of all-female military units also exist. Though reports of ancient communities of female warriors or Amazons in ancient Libya, Scythia, and Sarmatia are widely contested, it is well-documented that the Amazons of the Kingdom of Dahomey in West Africa (eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) served in their own units in a mixed military. Like Sammuramat, they reportedly saw their occupations as masculine: "We are men, not women" (De Pauw 1998, p. 181). Women around the world have always participated in combat with men in guerilla operations, terrorist attacks, and civil wars. Women have also been reserved as last lines of defense in particularly critical or bleak situations. For example, Czarist Russia and the Soviet Union formed all-female units during World War I and World War II. Women always defended town walls by throwing rocks or boiling liquid at invaders when their men were absent or short-numbered. Particularly celebrated are accounts of women, like Molly Pitcher (the historical figure based on Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley) of the American Revolutionary War, who, supporting and supplying soldiers with water and supplies, took over their husbands' posts when they were wounded or killed. These last examples point to the proximity between "combatant" and "noncombatant" roles. Except in the case of wars fought far away from home or at sea, women are rarely as isolated from combat as is typically represented.

In practice, an exclusively masculine or male space where war is waged has been only an imagined ideal. Throughout history, wherever men were soldiers, women were camp-followers or victims of invasion. Camp followers provided food to soldiers, laundered, and sold supplies. They provided medical care, dug ditches, and loaded weapons. Though some were married to soldiers, as a group they were negatively characterized as prostitutes with low morals and poor hygiene, who slowed the mobility of military units. During the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), German camp followers were subject to military law and were regulated by their own male military administrator. But beginning in the eighteenth century, European and North American militaries began to limit and eventually abolish camp followers. Instead they sought to provide such services within the military organization itself. This arrangement was quickly supplemented by the formation of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations during the Crimean War (1853–1856) and American Civil War (1861–1865). These groups strictly regulated the types of females they employed and their behavior to avoid "camp follower" or "prostitute" status. Women had to be celibate and unmarried, and were often framed as "sisters" or "daughters" to the soldiers. In contrast to the traditional camp follower, whose relationship with the military was chiefly economic, Red Cross women were generally unpaid volunteers who could afford to give their time and labor.

At the same time, by World War I most militaries also began providing their soldiers with regulated brothels. Feminists have offered the criticism that militaries not only encourage the sexual and economic exploitation of women, but also promote the belief that sexual exploitation of women is manly and that sexual virility is related to successful combat performance. Though feminists do not form a uniform position on prostitution, some feminists have identified a link between military policy sanctioning prostitution and violence against women. They argue that rape does not have an inherent place in war as a facet of natural male aggression but it is institutionalized through direct policy or lack thereof. For instance, the Japanese government enslaved foreign women to provide sexual services to their troops during World War II, which amounted to institutionalized rape. The wars in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s also demonstrated that rape can belong to systematic military policy; rape became an official war crime according to the United Nations in 1998.


Particularly in the twentieth century, mass mobilization of men into the military has necessitated women's entrance into the public sphere. In turn, new career opportunities for women made possible by war have been praised as a step forward for women's rights. But feminist scholars have pointed out that leaving the home for the factory or office did not automatically translate into gender equality. Women's status remained subordinate to the status of male workers and male soldiers especially. Women's work in factories and other sectors was repeatedly highlighted by policymakers as a temporary arrangement and framed within a context of traditional gender roles. Once men returned home, so did women, a movement enforced by public policy and postwar propaganda. In other words, while men's and women's roles changed, their positions in relation to one another did not.

It has been argued that women proved themselves worthy of full citizenship through their patriotic wartime service to the state. Whether voting rights were a direct consequence of wartime activity has, however, been disputed. It is difficult to imagine voting rights would have been granted without the suffrage movement. Regardless, after World War I, women gained the vote in Canada, Estonia, Great Britain, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, the Soviet Union, the United States, and the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. After World War II, French and Italian women also won suffrage rights. Still, voting equality, though an important step, should not be mistaken for social, political, and economic equality.

Wars in which men fight away from home and women stay at home have also often alienated male combatants and female civilians from one another. The traumatic experience of battle has left combatants emotionally and physically damaged. Though war has been represented as a test of manhood, in which men have the opportunity to be "real men," it has also always threatened to unman soldiers. Men under fire often behave in "unmanly" or "cowardly" ways (such as crying, hiding, or failing to fire back), and physical and psychological wounds are often symbolically recognized as castrations. The castrated soldier stands in symbolic opposition to the woman who seems to have gained economic and political power during the war. Integration back into civilian and family life is often difficult if not impossible. The American experience of the Vietnam War and the German experience of World War I have involved a soldier class that felt betrayed by the home front, widely perceived as women who did not adequately support their men and the war effort. In other words, when a nation suffers a humiliating defeat and the soldiers as a group fail the "test of manhood" posed by the war, women may be blamed.


Feminists have been unable to form a uniform position on war. The World War I division of the women's movement into supporters of their respective governments and opponents, who formed international alliances of women against war, remains emblematic of the two camps. Many suffragists believed that if they rallied behind their governments and subordinated their own needs to that of their governments, they might eventually win the vote. Women have also been mobilized into supporting war in the name of defending other women. British and American women responded to reports of German atrocities against Belgian women, just as American and European women supported the 2002 invasion of Afghanistan as a means of liberating women from the repressive Taliban government. Northern feminists supported the American Civil War because they believed the fight to abolish slavery was a just cause. Feminists in support of a war often appeal to just-war theory. In the twenty-first century, it is clear that women have not only supported war, but have directed its policy. Condoleezza Rice of the George W. Bush administration and Pat Schroeder of the Senate Arms Committee have been powerful government and military policymakers. Just as they have proposed elsewhere, many equal-opportunity feminists also advocate the full integration of women into all sectors of the military, including combat positions, so that they might also eventually constitute a higher percentage of military and political policymakers.

Pacifist feminists have sometimes designated women as fundamentally different from men. As mothers, they hold women have a particular and natural duty to oppose war and to protect life. They hold that only women can end war, since men are either naturally predisposed or socially encouraged towards it. For this reason pacifist feminists question whether military careers are a step forward or a step backward for women, insofar as their careers support and advance a patriarchal institution that may perpetuate sexism and dichotomous and sometimes destructive gender roles. Pacifist feminists often form international coalitions and recognize women across the world as victims of war.

see also Rosie the Riveter.


Braudy, Leo. 2003. From Chivalry to Terrorism: War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Burke, Carol. 2004. Camp All-American, Hanoi Jane, and the High-and-Tight: Gender, Folklore, and Changing Military Culture. Boston: Beacon Press.

De Pauw, Linda Grant. 1998. Battle Cries and Lullabies: Women in War from Prehistory to the Present. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Elshtain, Jean Bethke. 1987. Women and War. New York: Basic Books.

Enloe, Cynthia. 2000. Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Enloe, Cynthia. 1983. Does Khaki Become You? The Militarization of Women's Lives. Boston: South End Press.

Goldstein, Joshua S. 2001. War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Higonnet, Margaret R., et al, eds. 1987. Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars. New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press.

Reardon, Betty A. 1993. Women and Peace. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Waller, Marguerite R., and Jennifer Rycenga, eds. 2000. Frontline Feminisms: Women, War, and Resistance. New York: Garland.

Titunik, Regina F. 2000. "The First Wave: Gender Integration and Military Culture." Armed Forces and Society 26(2): 229-257.

                                        Susan L. Solomon

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