What Makes War a War?


The term war has been used throughout history to describe a wide range of conflicts. These conflicts can be traditional ones, such as battles between kings or armies, or more non-traditional conflicts, such as conflict over religion, violence against women or the use of nuclear weapons.

The question of what makes war a war is a philosophical one. There is no simple answer, but a number of different approaches have been put forward to address the question.

Some argue that war is a natural consequence of human nature, a result of inherited biology (Richard Dawkins), whereas others believe it’s an irrational response to a perceived threat (Konrad Lorenz). The problem with this approach is that if the natural process of evolution sustains peaceful modes of behaviour over aggressive ones, why would war ever occur?

Other theories believe that the concept of war is a social construct, a product of a society’s values and attitudes. This view has gained new currency in peace research, although some have gone further to deny that war is rational or even a logical response to a social crisis (Nietzsche).

These perspectives are often based on normative assumptions about the nature of society and its relationships. For example, some argue that war is a result of a social elite’s desire for power and control over their subjects. This is a common view among some liberalisms, and it can also be found in conservative and fascist thinking.

Many other people think that war is a result of political and economic interests, and that the causes of war can be traced back to the development of technology in the Industrial Revolution. This can be a way to account for the escalation of military expenditure, but it’s not necessarily true.

Another theory is that there are natural laws that govern the occurrence of war, and these laws can be applied to any situation involving conflict. For example, it can be shown that the first time that a party to a conflict uses arms against the other parties in the dispute, the war begins. This is usually done by killing or wounding the other party, though it can also be carried out symbolically.

Other arguments include that a nation-state can be expected to wage war against others if it needs to preserve its territorial integrity or its right to dominate certain territory in the future. The problem with this is that if the nation-state decides to wage war against other nations, it must be able to prove that it has the legal authority to do so under international law.

Despite this, nation-states continue to wage wars against each other and against a variety of non-state actors. This is why it is necessary to rethink the traditional definition of war.

Under existing international law, it is possible for national governments to outlaw the preparations for war and the waging of war in their constitutions like Japan or Costa Rica have done. But it is unlikely that most nations, and certainly not permanent members of the United Nations “Security Council,” will do this.