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Painting of Pier Gerlofs Donia and Wijerd Jelckama fighting for the freedom of his people

War is any fighting that includes the organized and intentional use of weapons and harmful force between countries or other groups of people.

War can hurt people on both sides. International law has tried to reduce the harmful effects of war. The signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the development of the United Nations have tried to limit wars. Examples include:

See Articles 2(3), 2(4) and 2(7) of the United Nations Charter.

Many years ago, a German soldier named Karl von Clausewitz wrote in his classic book, On War: "Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln" ("War is just politics by other means") and "War is a way of using force to get our enemies to do what we want them to do."

Wars have been fought to control natural resources, for religious or cultural reasons, over political balances of power, legitimacy (correctness) of particular laws, to settle arguments about land or money, and many other issues. The reasons of any war are very complex; while a war can start for just about any reason, there is usually more than one cause.

Kinds of war

Sometimes, people don't see a difference between fighting between countries or people, and the formal declaration of a state of war. Those who don't see this difference usually only use the word "war" for the fighting where the countries' governments have officially declared war on each other. Smaller armed conflicts are often called riots, rebellions, coups, etc.

When one country sends armed forces to another country, supposedly to help keep order or prevent killings of innocents or other crimes against humanity, or to protect another government friendly to it against an uprising, that country sometimes calls it a police action instead of a war. Some people disagree with the use of this word.

A war between peoples and groups in the same country is known as a civil war.

Some people say peace is the absence of war.

Another way to classify warfare splits it into four "generations" of war.

First generation warfare

First generation warfare reflects tactics of the era of the smoothbore musket, the tactics of line and column. Operational art in the first generation did not exist as an idea although it was practiced.

Second generation warfare

Second generation warfare was developed in response to the rifled musket, breech-loaders, barbed wire, the machine-gun, and indirect fire (artillery). Tactics were based on one group firing and another moving, but they remained linear, with the defence still trying to prevent all penetrations and the attacks along a sideways line advanced by rushes in small groups. Second generation tactics remained the basic tactics of the U.S. until the 1980s, and they are still practised by most American units in the field.

Third generation warfare

Third generation warfare was first developed by the Germans in World War I, to make up for their inability to match their enemies' industrial production. Its tactics were the first truly nonlinear tactics; attacks rely on penetration to get around and collapse the enemy's combat forces (rather than seeking to get close to the enemy and destroy them), and defense was in depth and often provoked (invited or encouraged) penetration to set the enemy up for a counterattack.

Fourth generation warfare

Fourth generation warfare is what most people call a guerrilla war. Fourth generation warfare is far different from the other generations as the objective is not winning a military victory, but rather to destroy the spirit or political means of the enemy from attacking you. Usually it is when a country is brought into another one or when an outside force is trying to destroy the current government. For example, the later part of the Second Iraq war or the U.S. occupation period can be considered fourth generation warfare.

Laws of war

A number of treaties and other agreements control warfare. Put together, these are called the Laws of war. The most common and famous of those are the Geneva conventions, the earliest of which began to take effect in the mid-1800s.

Treaty signing has been a part of international diplomacy, and too many treaties to mention in this article have been signed. A couple of examples are: Resolutions of the Geneva International Conference, Geneva, 26-29 October 1863 and Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, 75 U.N.T.S. 135, entered into force Oct. 21, 1950.

Statistical analysis

The statistical analysis of war was started by Lewis Fry Richardson following World War I. More recent databases of wars have been assembled by the Correlates of War Project and Peter Brecke.

Other pages

Military, Military technology and equipment, Military history, Military strategy, Military tactics, Just war, Frontline, Military-industrial complex, Weapon, Laws of war, Medieval warfare, World war, war profiteer, Attacks on humanitarian workers.

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