War – Concept, main causes and types of wars

We explain what war is and the causes that start these conflicts. Also, the types of war and world wars.

A war is the most serious social and political conflict between two or more communities.

What is war?

When we speak of war we generally refer to an armed conflict between two relatively massive human groups, using all kinds of strategies and technologies, in order to impose themselves violently on the other, either causing death or simply defeat. It is the most serious form of social and political conflict that can exist between two or more human communities.

Much has been said about war, which seems to be part of human (especially international) relations since the beginning of civilization. In fact, many economic systems, social miscegenations and technological advances have sadly been the consequence of prolonged and bloody wars. Lots of genocides, city devastations, and irreparable cultural losses, too.

However, the rules that regulate and determine a war (and the simple fact that those rules exist) have changed throughout human history, which involves defining who the combatants are and who are not, what margins of neutrality there will be or what type of weaponry will be allowed.

Nevertheless, there are those who consider any attempt to regulate war as naive, since it obeys the most selfish of human desires. According to Carl von Clausewitz, thinker of the matter, “war is the continuation of politics by other means.”

Main causes of the war

In ancient times, wars used to be started for reasons of territorial expansion.

The causes of war can vary enormously, depending on the social, political, economic and cultural context in which they occur, as well as those involved and their particular history. Usually there is no single motivation for war, but rather a set of them and contextual variables, since war is a complex matter.

In ancient times, wars they used to be started for reasons of territorial expansion (that is, by taking over arable land or economic resources), such as the wars of conquest that the Roman Empire unleashed around it in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Many of them were often involved in religious considerations or deep cultural confrontations, such as the numerous crusades that the Catholic Church in charge of the Holy Roman Empire would later unleash against the Arab kingdoms, against the pagans, or for the reconquest of Jerusalem, a city taken as sacred in that religion.

Other wars were triggered by internal disputes within a nation, from which some set of territories wished to become independent and form a separate nation, such as the American Wars of Independence, which cut the political and economic link with Europe.

The latter also occurs when two or more political factions dispute the leadership of a nation, which leads to a civil war, as is the case in the Nicaraguan conflict during Sandinismo.

Types of war

Taking into account the purposes of its participants and the context of their opposing sides, we can talk about:

  • Holy wars. Those that a church or a religious representative summons, taking refuge in ancestral traditions of struggle for the survival of one religion over others, or of one culture over others, which leads to considering itself as the only legitimate and true one, and all the others as infidels and sinners.
  • Civil wars. Those that are disputed by two or more political and / or social or racial groups within the same country, to control the direction of the institutions or impose a socio-political model over another. In this case, the combatants are not usually strictly military, but almost the entire population is involved in the confrontation.
  • Guerrilla warfare. Conflicts in which one container (usually an occupying force) is disproportionately superior to the other, and the latter resorts to tactics of brief engagement and rapid retreat, since it cannot face its enemy head-on.
  • Total war. This name is used for conflicts in which the nations involved mobilize every last of their available resources to confront and defeat the enemy. It should not be confused with von Clausewitz’s concept of “absolute warfare”.
  • Nuclear war. Emerging only from the twentieth century and the development of atomic weapons of mass destruction, they represent a danger even for the life of the planet, since atomic bombs could destroy entire cities and regions. There has never been one, thankfully, because it could spell the end of humanity.

World wars

World War
World War II lasted from 1939 to 1945.

The world wars have been warlike events of enormous magnitude, which involved dozens of countries (especially the powers of the moment) and in which, therefore, few countries were able to retain their neutrality. The effects of these large-scale wars have always been devastating, tragic, involving millions of wounded and dead, as well as incalculable losses in material goods.

There have been two world wars so far, both in the 20th century.: World War I (or Great War) from 1914 to 1918 and World War II from 1939 to 1945. The Cold War between the USA and the now-defunct USSR, which lasted almost sixty years, is often considered a third world war , with the exception that the contenders never faced each other directly, but through their influence in third countries.