From Ethical Politics

Jump to: navigation, search

Typical definitions of war include:

"a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
"any situation in which there is fierce competition between opposing sides or a great fight against something harmful" (Cambridge Dictionary).
"an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities" (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).
"a reciprocated, armed conflict, between two or more non-congruous entities, aimed at achieving a subjectively designed, geo-politically desired result." (Wikipedia)

Defining war is a challenge. One would think, for a term so widely used, an agreed-upon, consistent and comprehensive definition would exist. At a minimum, one might expect that departments of defense, war colleges, and institutions studying war and peace would provide an adequate definition. Yet, many organizations dealing with war offer none, even the US Department of Defense, whose stated mission is to provide the military forces needed to deter war.

The United Nations circumvents the issue by defining, instead, aggression:

"the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, as set out in this Definition" (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3314 (XXIX)).

Inclusive definition of war

An adequate definition, of war might include a) past and current militaristic operations that have been labeled as wars, b) that can be applied to species, not just humans, c) which includes conflicts with many participating countries with, perhaps, some entering and some leaving during the conflict, d) where fighting was anticipated but did not occur and/or e) which was conducted against hostile groups that are not countries or states.

Futurist Hazel Henderson defines war as follows:

"a military conflict between nation states which raise armies from among their citizens (by volunteers and conscription) and conduct these hostilities as instruments of domestic and foreign policy and to increase their power, leverage, access to natural resources, oil, etc., or with genocidal intentions against populations."

Additional resources


Author: Rosalinda Sanquiche