War arises because of the changing relations of numerous variables –technological, psychic, social, and intellectual. There is no single cause of war. Peace is an equilibrium among many forces. Change in any particular force, trend, movement, or policy may at one time make for war, but under other conditions a similar change may make for peace. A state may at one time promote peace by armament, at another time by disarmament, at one time by insistence on its rights, at another time by a spirit of conciliation. To estimate the probability of war at any time involves, therefore, an appraisal of the effect of current changes upon the complex of inter-group relationships throughout the world (Wright 1965, 1284).
This paper discussed the threat of war from aspects of the causes, the impacts, the ways to resolve it and the future of war on Earth. An attachment of the references for this analysis is included on the last part of the paper.
Causes of War
What causes war? The answers are specific. First, we need to see it from the international conflict area. International conflict is usually caused by opposing interests and capabilities (specific socio-cultural differences and similarities between the countries or nations), contact and salience (awareness), significant change in the balance of powers, individual perceptions and expectations, a disrupted structure of expectations, a will-to-conflict. In other words, the international conflict isaggravated by: socio-cultural dissimilarity, cognitive imbalance, status difference, coercive state power. Meanwhile, a perception of opportunity, threat, or injustice can trigger international conflict.
In addition to the general causes of Conflict Behavior, violence (including war) is caused by: at least one party having an authoritarian or totalitarian regime, status quo disruption, confidence in success. Violence like war is aggravated by: system polarity (centralization of coercive power), Big Power intervention, weakness of the status quo Power, credibility at stake, honor at stake. When such inhibition likecross-pressures, internal freedom, or strength of the status quo Power happen, this lead to war. In other words, war is a particular type of intense violence and what generally causes, aggravates, and inhibits violence so affects war. In other words, war is uniquely aggravated by: power parity, class conflict.
This list immediately raises a number of questions: How are cause and condition defined? What is the theoretical foundation for the list? What do the particular causes and conditions mean, such as power parity or class conflict? What is the evidence?
What causes war? This question has been answered above, but the range and nature of all the causes and conditions may not be clear, because the discussion moved across phases and sub-phases of conflict and types of causes.
War is generated by a field of socio-cultural forces seated in the meaning, values, and norms of states. Specifically, war is an outcome of an imbalance among these forces in international space-time. And is the process through which a new field equilibrium is established.
The causes and conditions of war, therefore, operate within this social field. They are interrelated; their operation is relative to the space-time. War is therefore not the product of one cause, or x number of causes operating independently. War is a social field phenomenon, and its causes and conditions must be understood as aspects of this field–as contextual, situational.
With this understanding, an answer to “What causes war?” requires first stating the conditions that must be met for war to be possible. These are the necessary causes of war.
For war to occur between two states they must have some contact and salience, some awareness of each other. They must also have some opposing interests, something to fight about, and capabilities to fight. Such is obvious, what is not so clear is the more abstract but operational statement of this: they must have specific socio-cultural distances (vectors).
What opposing interests are necessary for war depend on the actor and situation. But there is one characteristic, however, which can be defined. At least one of the potential combatants must be non-libertarian. Shared domestic restraints, cross-pressures and bonds, ideology, preclude war between libertarian–liberal democratic–states.
If at least one of the parties is non-libertarian, there are still additional requirements for war to occur. There must be a significant change in the balance of powers supporting the status quo. Interests, capabilities, and will singly or in combination must have changed sufficiently that the status quo is now felt to be unjust, threatened, or ripe for readjustment. This change has created a tension, a cold or hostile climate between the parties; it had made it obvious to informed observers that if something is not done to prevent it, violence and possibly war will break out.
Second, there must be a will-to-war. That is, each potential combatant must have a will to fight either in defense of or to change the status quo. Abnegation, surrender, concessions can avoid war, at least for the short run. Such, of course, may be at a cost in honor, benefits, potential gain, or freedom greater than a leadership is eventually willing or able to bear; and thus stimulating a subsequent will-to-war.
And third, each potential combatant must expect success as he defines it. That is, each must believe that if war does occur as a result of the increasingly unstable status quo, then he will be able to achieve his war aims (desirable slice of territory; defeat the other’s border attack; force acceptance of a new sphere of interests; establish control over trade routes, humiliate the other, defend one’s honor, and so on).
These, then, are the rock bottom, generally necessary causes for war: contact and salience, opposing interests and capabilities, non-libertarian enemies, significant change in the balance of powers underlying the status quo, a will-to-war, and a belief in success if war occurs.
Wherever present between states on the globe, these causes demarcate the war potential zones, the possible global fronts of extreme violence. The zone including only libertarian states is a zone of peace. Outside of this zone are those that circumscribe the dis-equilibriums among powers supporting the local, regional, and global status quos. These are the hot spots, the zones of possible war.
Yet, war may not occur. For a final necessary cause also must be present. This is the disruption of the status quo. Some, perhaps surprising, event will communicate injustice, threat, or opportunity in a way to crystallize the conflict situation and provoke the will-to-action for one or both parties. The change in the balance of powers has created tension, a recognition of the possibility of war over a status quo. The trigger event brings this to a head, provoking crises in which war is the outcome.
Disruption of the status quo is both necessary and sufficient for Conflict Behavior, but only necessary for violence and war. Such disruption will not occur unless the requirements for war are present (opposing interests, significant change in balance of powers, and so on). The decision to go to war takes preparation and months may go by in which tension grows or, through the subterfuge of one party or another, seems to abate before the attack.
Such are the necessary and sufficient causes of war, what in the abstract must be present or happen for war to occur.
However, it should be clear that all these requirements for war may be present, and still no war may break out. Moreover, the war that does occur can be a short, intense confrontation on a border, or a full-scale war between the parties involving bombing raids on each other’s capital city and invasion, or a general war in which many states are involved.
There are three groups of aggravating conditions which increase the likelihood of war, given the presence of the necessary conditions, or increase its intensity once it has occurred. One group is of those conditions which worsen Conflict Behavior generally, whether negative communications, sanctions, violence, or war. These include the socio-cultural dissimilarity between the parties, their cognitive imbalance and status difference and the coercive power of the parties. All these acerbate opposing interests and with regard to war, tend to destabilize the status quo, and increase the likelihood of its disruption.
A second group of aggravating conditions uniquely influence violence and war. One of these is the polarity of the system, which defines the generality of the status quo and increases the probability that a state’s violence, wherever it occurs, will involve Big Power interests. A second is Big Power intervention itself, which may inject into local conflicts larger status quo interests and resources and provoke violence or its escalation.
Another aggravating condition is the weakness of the Status quo Power. Given the presence of the necessary causes, if the Status quo Power seems to display an unwillingness or inability to defend an already unstable status quo, then this makes more likely its disruption and the escalation of violence and war, once they occur.
Finally, there is honor and credibility. If these are at stake in a conflict situation, it becomes more explosive, making violence and war more likely, more intense once they occur, and more difficult to resolve.
The third group of aggravators is unique to war. These make disruption and war more likely, given the necessary causes, and make the escalation of war more probable. One is power parity, or a sufficient equality of coercive power and force such that each side believes that it can successfully oppose the power of the other.
The second aggravator is class conflict. Class in international relations defines the authoritative, status quo rights of the parties. As there is increasingly one division separating those who have from those who want; those with wealth, power and prestige from those who are poor, weak, and unrenowned; and those states who command and those who obey; then this division worsens conflict, makes war more likely, and tends to turn a war, once it occurs, into a general war.
In total, the three groups of aggravating conditions push toward war. But, singly or collectively, they will not in general cause war by themselves. The necessary causes must be present; the status quo must be disrupted. However, these aggravating causes can turn potential into disposition and disposition into a war seeking an excuse to happen.
In any conflict, however, there are always two sets of conditions present. Those promoting confrontation; those discouraging it. For war, also, there are a variety of inhibiting conditions that oppose its occurrence and escalation. These also comprise three groups, depending on whether they operate in all Conflict Behavior sub-phases, only violence and war, or only on war.
The first group comprises those aggravators that when reversed act also as inhibitors. Thus, socio-cultural similarity, cognitive balance, status similarity, and state weakness restrains the tendency toward Conflict Behavior, violence and war.
The second group contains a number of inhibitors which act on violence, only one of which is the reverse of an aggravator. This is the strength of the Status quo Power. If in spite of a change in the balance of powers, the supporter of the status quo appears willing and able to defend it, this tends to work against its disruption. Even then disruption and consequent violence or war may occur. The Anti-Status quo Power may believe it can successfully change the status quo over the other’s resistance. But, the threshold for this is raised.
Another inhibitor in this group is cross-pressures. These involve diverse interests that may segment the particular opposing interests of the parties. Violence or war may be desirable for these interests, but other interests may therefore be compromised or lost. Some interests push toward war; some pun away from it.
Related to this is internal freedom–a libertarian political system–as an inhibitor of violence and war. Libertarian states do commit violence and go to war; but reluctantly, usually against totalitarian or authoritarian threats or aggression, and often with considerable domestic opposition.
A final inhibitor in this group is world opinion, the pressure that allies and neutrals can bring to bear to prevent or check violence and war.
The final group is of those conditions uniquely inhibiting war. It has one member: power disparity. Power parity worsens a war-potential situation; power disparity restrains it. War still may occur, in spite of a gross inequality in military forces and resources. Other factors, such as honor, credibility, survival, or determination may make the difference, as they have in the Israeli-Arab Wars. Success may be pegged to the potential for Big Power intervention; or success may be measured not in terms of winning, but in actually having fought the other to a standstill or in unifying a nation. Or a state may calculate that the other side will use only a small part of its power, as small North Vietnam correctly did in fighting a war against a Superpower, the United States.
Impacts of War
There are several impacts of war, among them are:
- Mental health (graverisk of starvation, disease, death, and psychologicaltrauma) (fearful, anxious,and depressed)
How to Resolve the Problem
In light of past events and recent events, we should reconsider the followings, so as there will be great change for peaceful world and no war at all:
- return to religious teaching. All religions condemn war without proper reason.
- promote non-violent conflict resolution and teach tolerance between nations
- provide security, justice, and order
- provide the basic resources for life, health, and education
- empower people: the young, women, and children
- shift economies: from economy based on war to economy that helps end war
- every nations oversee their government’s expenditure, so that they spent money for defense and needed projects, not wasteful ones
- use science and technology to enhance the better life of human, not for war
The Future of War
As stated by McGinn, science and technology are both human actions derived from human faculty: the ability to visualize the future, to foresee what may happen and plan to anticipate it and to represent it to ourselves in images we project and move about inside our head. We look through our time, look back at the experience in the past, see what happens at present, and then we look ahead of us. We can anticipate future by inferring the past and the present and then conclude from them what we should and must do.
That will mean that to understand the present conditions concerning war, we must understand the past, the tragedies and dreadful impacts of war we had in the world. By studying what happened before the outbreak of previous wars, we learn to know the moves that will precede the next war. War can be resolved and prevented; it is all our hands to do it.
In summary, the threat of war can be caused by several factors, such as international conflict on interests and capabilities, violence as a result of power parity, etc. But the threat can be prevented and solved in several ways, such as returning to religious teaching, promoting non-violent conflict resolution, teaching tolerance between nations, providing security, justice, and order, providing the basic resources for life, health, and education, empowering people, shifting economies, and finally using science and technology to enhance the better life of human, not for war. By doing so, there will be no war in the future. Above all, we can put Science and Technology on the right place: to bring peace and benefit for human kind.
McGinn, Robert E. 1991. Science, Technology, and Society. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.
Neufelt, Victoria, ed., and David B. Guralnik, ed. 1989. Webster’s New World Dictionary of American English. 3rd college ed. New York: Prentice Hall.
Nyquist, J.R. 2008. A genuine threat of war? New York: WorldNetDaily. Availablehttp://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=19829. (Acessed June 30, 2008)