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A battle during the American Civil War. The American flag can be seen tattered in the background

War is a state of violent conflict which exists between two or more independent groups, each seeking to impose its will on the other. This is facilitated by the use of military force, or the organized application of violence toward the destruction of the enemy's manpower and materiel, so as to disrupt their means of fighting and ultimately break their will to fight, thus leading to the cessation of hostilities. These conditions are generally defined as victory.

Victory, however, is an increasingly elusive concept. [1]

Until the mid-twentieth century, the prevailing definition of war was that of Carl von Clausewitz, usually translated as the "extension of national politics by military means." Especially among industrial states, it became obvious that military means alone were not sufficient to extend politics, and the idea of grand strategy evolved, including all the components of national power such as diplomacy (foreign policy), economic warfare and psychological warfare. The assumption still was that war was among nation-states.

Certainly going back to the American Revolution, war could be by a people or group against a nation-state. In the basic revolutionary model, the idea was that the people would form their own nation-state. The concept of guerrilla warfare arose, where the weak could challenge the strong. Still, in the early doctrines, well articulated by Mao Zedong,[2] the weak would eventually form a conventional military and seek victory on the battlefield, such as the Battle of Yorktown in the American Revolution. The Chinese revolution of 1949, however, did not end with a single decisive battle, although the Communists under Mao certainly had formed conventional armies.

Causes of War

History of War

Ancient Warfare

For more information, see Ancient Warfare.



Bronze Age

Iron Age

Western Warfare

For more information, see Western Warfare.

Roman Warfare

Medieval Warfare

Renaissance Warfare

Modern Warfare

  • Rise of the Nation State
  • Colonial and Imperial War
  • The Nation in Arms
  • Total War
  • "Low-Intensity" Conflicts ? War in the Nuclear Age
  • War in the Post-Cold War Era

Eastern Warfare


  • Clausewitz, Carl Von, edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. On War, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1976 (rev.1984). ISBN 0691056579.
  • Freedman, Lawrence (ed.), War, London:Oxford University Press, 1994. ISBN 0192892541.
  • Holsti, Kalevi, War, the State, and the State of War, Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1996. ISBN 052157790X.
  • Keegan, John, A History of Warfare, New York:Vintage, 1994. ISBN 0679730826.
  • U. S. Marine Corps Staff, Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1: Warfighting, United States Department of Defense, 1989. ISBN 1557423091.
  • Van Creveld, Martin, The Transformation of War, New York:The Free Press, 1991. ISBN 0029331552.
  • Waltz, Kenneth, Man, The State, and War. A Theoretical Analysis, New York:Columbia University Press, 1959. ISBN 0231085648.
  • Wright, Quincy A Study of War(abridged ed.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983. ISBN 0226910016.


  1. Fred Ikle (2005). Every War Must End. Columbia University Press. 
  2. Mao, Tse-tung (1967), Problems of Strategy in China's Revolutionary War, Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, vol. I, Foreign Languages Press, at 179-254