(Injustice is the cause of war, and there will be no peace in the world until we start to think and act with justice for all human beings.)




        The history and development of humanity and its societies are intrinsically inseparable from the history and development of warfare.

        There are many definitions of warfare including: “An armed contest or struggle carried on by enemies; Hostilities; A contest; Conflict of any kind.’’ (Definitions found on Webster’s new universal Unabridged Dictionary). Definitions such as these could mean anything from a conflict between two individuals over a fried chicken or the fight of hyenas over a carcass of a dead zebra, to the world wars. But, to understand this subject, it is necessary to use the term “warfare” in a specialized way. Warfare goes beyond the individual conflicts of momentary and sporadic motives, it involves the participation of a given group, society, or nation in a rational, planned conflict between two or more people with specific purposes and goals, “War, Lipsius argued, was not an act of uncontrolled violence, but rather the orderly application of force, directed by a competent and legitimate authority, in the interest of the state.” (Gunther E. Rothenberg. Peter Paret, L Strategy Makers of Modern Strategy). As far as we know, it is an activity characteristic only of humans, among all the living species of our planet.

        Because it is a rational activity, warfare has its own laws and rules, which define the rights and obligations of the parties participating in the war. While each side defends its own interests, obviously the different contenders do not always agree with the interpretation of the rules and laws set for the conflict. Thus the laws and rules of warfare are constantly being changed, as Machiavelli noticed; he “… promised fame to a new ruler who would introduce new laws of warfare.” (Felix Gilbert. Peter Paret, Makers of Modern Strategy).

        The laws of warfare emerge from the cultural and spiritual values of the people, which impose the moral and religious consciousness that molds people’s social behavior. To be able to satisfy and be acceptable to the standard of morality and spirituality of a society or nation, war must be rationalized as a legal and justifiable method of settling differences among people; therefore, the horrendous aspects of killing and destruction caused by wars are seen differently from other forms of violence committed in society: “…warfare is a condition which is distinguishable from many other forms of violence by the fact that it is an accepted form of behavior…” ( R. Preston & S. Wise, Men in Arms.). Therefore, a person can harmonize his conscience, in the conflicting double standard of this situation, when one side tells him that killing another human being is morally, spiritually, and socially wrong, but the other side says that is not wrong to killing in an act of legal war.

        However, many times there have been examples in the battle field of acts of violence that go against one’s conception of rightness; for example, the unmerciful and brutal killing of prisoners. (See examples given by John Keegan, The Face of Battle, on the chapter: “Killing No Murder?”). Thus we create laws to classify the killing on the battlefield, John Keegan in The Face of Battle points out that “What constituted unlawful killing in time of war was well defined, and carried penalties under civil, military and religious law.”.

        The legality of war sometimes is not a strong enough argument in and of itself for a ruler to use it to persuade his/her people to support an action of war against other people. Thus, it becomes imperative to convince the people that the motive for the war is also just. John Keegan, in The Face of Battle said that: “Lawful killing, on the other hand, was an act which religious precept specifically enforced, within the circumscription of the just war;” Appeals to the ethics of religion, honor, claims of dynasty, revenge, self defense, defense of ideology and territory, are among the most common motives used to excuse a war as being just.

        Some historians find a lot of problems in characterizing wars as being just of legal and unjust of illegal as we see in the following quotes: “It is still impossible to find any significant difference between wars which are legal or just and those which are illegal or unjust.”(R. Preston & S. Wise, Men in Arms). Plus, “just barely licit by a pretty rough-and-ready code of justice…” (John Keegan, The Face of Battle). The problem with this type of statement is that it is using legality and illegality as if they were synonyms of just and unjust, respectively. For a person to be able to classify a war as being just or unjust, legal or illegal, it is extremely important to make a distinction between what constitute legal and just and between what is illegal and unjust.

         What makes an action legal or illegal is the fact that this action has being recognized as such by the lawmakers of a nation. What makes an action just is the fact that this action was taken in a non-biased manner, respecting and considering all of the rights and obligations of all involved in the action, not just the legal rights given by the government of one’s citizenship. Additionally, the universal rights based on the premise that all men in essence are created equally and all living creatures are equal participants of the life of the universe must also be considered. (The word “created” used here do not intend to reflect the theological conception that man were created by God, it simply implies that man exists in the universe regardless his origin.) Injustice is any action that disturbs this balance. Because of the biases and self interests of one’s representative government, the legality of the laws are not always just. Therefore, what is legal is not necessarily just, and what is illegal in not necessary unjust. For example: the United Nations gave the legal right to the Jewish people to form the state of Israel in 1948 in Palestinian territory. Their settlement is legal to the eyes of the U.N., but their occupation in not necessarily just. On the other hand, the resistance of the Jews against the persecution of the Nazis was not legal in the eyes of the Third Reich, but this is not to say that it was an unjust cause.


        In the beginning of human civilization men gathered together to form societies. Although all societies are similar in essence, they are different in their forms. These differences come to exist as a result of the various ways of adaptation to the conditions of the environment. Art, music, technology, religion, forms of government, social and family structure, etc., are the various elements that compose the essences of society. The differences in the forms of these elements play an essential part in the causes of war, However, to understand the causes of war, it is necessary to make a distinction between those who make the wars, and those who fight the wars, John Keegan, in The Face of Battle said that “... incidents are inevitable in the heat of battle, any blame for them lies with those who make wars, not those who fight them,”. It is also imperative to make a distinction between the real motives for the war and those motives given as excuses to cover up the real issues. (The term “Makers of war” here is used in a very restricted way, it is used only in reference to those who have the power of decision for a nation go to war against other nation. We are not getting into the complexity of the economical structure and its role in influencing the decision for war by the industries of military weapons.)

        As mentioned in the beginning, the history of humanity and civilization is directly related and inseparable from the history of warfare; the structure of power, the religious beliefs, the economy, the various lifestyles, etc., of a society influences the ways of fighting war. The reverse is also true, the methods and development of fighting and strategies, the development of weapons and the changes that they bring to the battlefield, also determine how societies function. A good example of this is the creation of the long bow, how it changed the importance of the knights in the Middle Ages, and its consequences to the nobility of that era.

        In primitive societies (The word ‘primitive’ here do not intend to have any Judgment of value, it just means prime or original.), with little development of technology, simple social structure and where there is no ruling classes, there is not much difference among those who make wars and those who fight the wars. The warriors are the regular citizens of the community as well as the hunters; there is not a specific class designated for the military. In societies such as these, the responsibility of declaring war may still fall to one individual, such as the war chief, but like any other individual of that community, he is also equally responsible to participate in the actual fighting. Similarly, there are fewer distinctions between the motives given for wars and the real motives, which are based on the lifestyles of these societies. These motives usually range from supremacy over territory, revenge, etc., to some sort of superstition and spiritual ideology. For these societies, these are all genuine beliefs and are shared for the most part by all the members of the community.

        However, to Western societies, where the development of technology and bureaucracy has followed a path of continuous change and development, (Technology and bureaucracy in modern Western societies have achieved such great development that seems to be an end on itself rather them a way of improve the quality of the conditions of life for all humans on the earth.) and where the social structure and hierarchical power are extremely sophisticated and complex, specialization takes place in all aspects of life within society: religious, military, production of consumer goods, etc. Thus, the distinctions between those who make wars and those who fight them, between the real motives for war and the claimed ones are far more complex and distinct. First of all, in the division of social structure there are many classes: the rulers, the military, the working classes, the clerical, and the poor; within the division of these classes there are also many sub—divisions. In this form of social structure, the interests of the ruling and powerful classes are imposed upon the lower classes, which are formed by the masses of the people. Also, it becomes clear that, due to the specialization and divisions of classes, the responsibility of fighting the wars falls to the military classes (even though the civilian population is often the target of the military actions), and obviously the rulers carry the power of decision as to whether or not to engage in war against other nations. Many times the main rulers of a given society are also the commander and chief of the military. Even then, the highest commanders do not engage in the actual fight; rather, they stay away in a safe and well—protected place conducting the battle.

        Thus, there exist clear disparities between the real motives for war and the excuses given as the motive. The real motives consist of greed and interests of the ruling classes, to dominate and to control the enemy’s territories for the exploitation of their natural resources, petroleum is an example, but also it could be to dominate the people for taxation or cheap labor, or simply to pillage and plunder. To justify their wars, the dominant classes use any excuse possible that appeals to the peoples’ senses of morality, values, faith, honor and even fear so they will be persuade to go and to support the war. ‘‘The strongest incitement to courage and enthusiasm, however, is aroused by a feeling of personal involvement and moral obligation. War service must be considered fulfillment of a religious duty.” (Felix Gilbert., Peter Paret. Makers of Modern Strategy). However, war is a lucrative business; thus there are always those who engage in this type of activity without the necessity of any other encouragement rather than a chance to make a profit, those are the mercenaries. John Keegan pointed out in The Face of Battle: “there being almost no way for a man of the times to make a quick fortune except on the battlefield”. Even though most of war strategist, philosophers and writers alike agree that mercenary armies are not dependable. Their usefulness questionable and also dangerous to those who hire them, they have existed up to the present.


        War is very much a part of humanity. It has contributed to the development of technology, medicine, architecture, ways of transportation, etc. Through wars we shape the world as we know it today, and we are still shaping it. Through wars, one can argue, we achieve democracy or socialism; we liberate peoples and nations. Through wars we preserve and impose our religions and moral values upon other people. We must also remember that through wars we oppress, exploit and destroy people, nations, countries and entire continents. One may also argue that the development of war and its technology is the highest achievement that humankind has to show for itself.

     In western civilization, with the division of military and civilian populations, one may think that he or she is safe from the direct consequences of being killed or wounded on the battlefield. This may have been true in the past in some wars, but today with the advance of technology and the creation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, no one is safe; the battlefield is the planet. What are the causes of war? Injustice is the cause of war, and there will be no peace in the world until we start to think and act with justice for all human beings. If one examines all the causes that started wars in the past and in the present, he will see that today we have all of these causes together on a larger scale than ever before. If we do not stop war and its motives, it will stop us from existing. So what will it be?