Conflicts related to the expansion or defence of colonial empires ended with decolonisation. Conflicts between states have almost ceased to exist. The increase in the number of wars shown before is predominantly an increase of smaller and smaller conflicts. This follows from the previously shown facts that the number of war victims declined while the number of conflicts increased. The decreasing deadliness of conflicts is shown in the following graph. After the documented decline of war, large parts of the world have now been peaceful for an unprecedented long period.
Although wars are still fought, the world is now more peaceful than ever. To answer the question of how many people die in conflicts today, and how this has changed over time, we can turn to a number of different datasets. There are certainly similarities across the different sources. Overall they show a decline in conflict deaths into the s, followed by an increase this decade. But there are also large differences. Most noticeably, there is a large jump in — marking the Rwandan genocide — which is present in some series, but absent from others.
If you hover over the datapoints, you can see the exact figures: the highest figure for a given year is typically well more than double the lowest. But they also reflect conceptual differences in terms of which deaths are and aren't included in the source's definition.
In addition to those deaths caused directly by violence — for instance those from gunshot or explosions — a significant proportion of lives lost in conflict are indirect , due to disease, starvation or exposure. This is particularly true where conflicts lead to famine or outbreaks of disease among the civilian population. But historically, such indirect deaths were also a major cause of military fatalities.
The Correlates of War series includes military personnel that died from diseases 'contracted in the war theatre'. The Conflict Catalogue series running to only tries to include indirect deaths of both the military and civilian populations. Peter Brecke, the author of the dataset, however acknowledges that the degree to which this is in fact achieved varies considerably across conflicts. There is a conceptual difficulty in drawing a consistent boundary between indirect deaths attributable to the conflict and those due to other factors.
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Evolution of theories of war
Hobbes is adamant that without an external power to impose laws, the state of nature would be one of immanent warfare. That is, "during the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called Warre; and such a warre, as is of every man, against every man. Locke rejects Hobbes's complete anarchic and total warlike state but accepts that there will always be people who will take advantage of the lack of legislation and enforcement.
Rousseau inverts Hobbes's image to argue that in the state of nature man is naturally peaceful and not belligerent, however when Rousseau elaborates on international politics he is of a similar mind, arguing that states must be active aggressive otherwise they decline and founder; war is inevitable and any attempts at peaceful federations are futile.
Kant's position is that the innate conflict between men and later between states prompts humanity to seek peace and federation. It is not that man's reason alone teaches him the benefits of a pacifistic concord, but that war, which is inevitable when overarching structures are absent, induces men to consider and realize more peaceful arrangements of their affairs, yet even Kant retained a pessimistic conception of mankind: "War Hobbes presents an atomistic conception of humanity, which many disagree with. Communitarians of various hues reject the notion of an isolated individual pitted against others and prompted to seek a contract between themselves for peace.
Some critics prefer an organic conception of the community in which the individual's ability to negotiate for peace through a social contract or to wage war is embedded in the social structures that form him. Reverting to John Donne's "no man is an island" and to Aristotle's "man is a political animal", proponents seek to emphasize the social connections that are endemic to human affairs, and hence any theoretical construction of human nature, and thus of war, requires an examination of the relevant society man lives in. Since the governing elements of man's nature are thereby relative to time and place, so too is war's nature and ethic, although proponents of this viewpoint can accept the persistence of cultural forms over time.
For instance, the communitarian view of war implies that Homeric war is different from war in the Sixteenth Century, but historians might draw upon evidence that the study of Greek warfare in the Iliad may influence later generations in how they conceive themselves and warfare. Others reject any theorizing on human nature.
Kenneth Waltz, for example argues: "While human nature no doubt plays a role in bringing about war, it cannot by itself explain both war and peace, except by the simple statement that sometimes he fights and sometimes he does not. This danger here is that this absolves any need to search for commonalties in warriors of different periods and areas, which could be of great benefit both to military historians and peace activists.
The first port of call for investigating war's morality is the just war theory , which is well discussed and explained in many text books and dictionaries and can also be viewed on the IEP. However, once the student has considered, or is at least aware of the broader philosophical theories that may relate to war, an analysis of its ethics begins with the question: is war morally justifiable? Again, due notice must be given to conceptions of justice and morality that involve both individuals and groups. War as a collective endeavor engages a co-ordinated activity in which not only the ethical questions of agent responsibility, obedience and delegation are ever present but so too are questions concerning the nature of agency.
Can nations be morally responsible for the war's they are involved in, or should only those with the power to declare war be held responsible? Similarly, should individual Field Marshalls be considered the appropriate moral agent or the army as a corporate body? What guilt, if any, should the Private bear for his army's aggression, and likewise what guilt, if any, should a citizen, or even a descendant, bear for his country's war crimes? And is there such a thing as a 'war crime'? Just war theory begins with an assessment of the moral and political criteria for justifying the initiation of war defensive or aggressive , but critics note that the justice of warfare is already presumed in just war theory: all that is being outlined are the legal, political, and moral criteria for its justice.
Thus the initial justice of war requires reflection. Pacifists deny that war, or even any kind of violence, can be morally permissible, but, as with the other positions noted above, a variety of opinions exists here, some admitting the use of war only in defense and as a last resort defencists whereas others absolutely do not admit violence or war of any sort absolutist pacifists.
Moving from the pacifist position, other moralists admit the use of war as a means to support, defend, or secure peace, but such positions may permit wars of defense, deterrence, aggression, and intervention for that goal. Beyond what has been called the pacificistic morality in which peace is the end goal as distinct from pacifism and its rejection of war as a means , are those theories that establish an ethical value in war. Few consider war should be fought for war's sake, but many writers have supported war as a means to various ends other than peace.
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For example, as a vehicle to forge national identity, to pursue territorial aggrandizement, or to uphold and strive for a variety of virtues such as glory and honor. In this vein of thought, those who are now characterized as social darwinists and their intellectual kin may be heard extolling the evolutionary benefits of warfare, either for invigorating individuals or groups to pursue the best of their abilities, or to remove weaker members or groups from political ascendancy.
The morality of war traipses into the related area of political philosophy in which conceptions of political responsibility and sovereignty, as well as notions of collective identity and individuality, should be acknowledged and investigated. Connections back to war's causation can also be noted.
For example, if the moral code of war concerns the corporate entity of the state, then it is to the existence or behavior of the state that we turn to explain how war's originate. This raises problems concerning the examination of the moral and political responsibility for war's initiation and procedure: if states are war's harbingers, then does it follow that only the state's leaders are morally and politically responsible, or if we accept some element of Humean democracy namely that governments are always subject to the sanction of the people they rule or represent then moral and political responsibility extends to the citizenry.
Once war commences, whatever its merits, philosophers disagree on the role, if any, of morality within war. Many have claimed morality is necessarily discarded by the very nature of war including Christian thinkers such as Augustine, whereas others have sought to remind warriors both of the existence of moral relations in war and of various strictures to remain sensitive to moral ends.
Sociologically, those going to and coming back from war often go through rites and rituals that symbolize their stepping out of, or back into, civil society, as if their transition is to a different level of morality and agency. War typically involves killing and the threat of being killed, which existentialist writers have drawn on in their examination of war's phenomenology.
For the ethicist, questions begin with identifying morally permissible or justifiable targets, strategies, and weapons-that is, of the principles of discrimination and proportionality. Writers disagree on whether all is fair in war, or whether certain modes of conflict ought to be avoided. The reasons for maintaining some moral dimensions include: the preponderance or expectation of peaceful intercourse on other levels; the mutual benefits of refraining from certain acts and the fear of retaliation in kind; and the existence of treatises and covenants that nations may seek to abide by to maintain international status.
A useful distinction here is between absolute war and total war. Absolute war describes the deployment of all of a society's resources and citizens into working for the war machine.
War, The Philosophy of | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Total war, on the other hand, describes the absence of any restraint in warfare. Moral and political responsibility becomes problematic for proponents of both absolute and total war, for they have to justify the incorporation of civilians who do not work for the war effort as well as the infirm, children, and the handicapped and wounded who cannot fight.
Supporters of absolute warfare may argue that membership of a society involves responsibilities for its protection, and if some members are literally unable to assist then all other able-bodied civilians have an absolute duty to do their part. The literature of war propaganda relates well here, as does the penal morality for those who refuse and the definitional politics of the wide range of people who may not wish to fight from conscientious objectors to traitors. Similar issues dog those who support total warfare in which the military target traditionally sacrosanct people and entities: from non-combatants, women and children, to works of art and heritage buildings.
Supporters may evoke the sliding scale that Michael Walzer describes in Just and Unjust Wars , in which graver threats to the body politic may permit the gradual weakening of moral constraints. Curiously, considering his strong emphasis on social virtues, David Hume accepts the abandonment of all notions of justice in war or when the agent's plight is so dire that recourse to any action becomes permissible cf.
Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals , sect. Others merely state that war and morality do not mix.