What are the Various Types of War

The study of war has always attracted a lot of attention. There are various types of Wars proposed in international relations. In CSS International Relations (IR) War is a vital question. Therefore, I am going to discuss here the various types of International Wars. Before going to study deeply about the various types of Wars we must analyze the cause of war.

Causation of War

Over time, many theories have been proposed and refined to understand the causes of international war. Some of these theories rely on the cultural and psychological nature of individual leaders or men in general.

Other theories focus on the decision-making process of the regime or domestic politics to describe the causes of war.

However, the two most prominent theories or perspectives on the causes of International War and International relations are Realism and Liberalism.

These theories consider the state as a single rational actor. In other words, both are system-level theories that consider the state as the main actor in the international system.

The first part of a two-part series will initially describe the Realist and Liberal perspectives on war and international relations and what causes war according to each theory.

It will then discuss these perspectives with examples of wars involving major and minor power and how the Realist perspective is better placed to explain these.

Next, it will discuss how nuclear weapons may have fundamentally changed the dynamics of great power war in the modern era.

Finally, we will conclude by briefly discussing how states still continue to play the balance of power game and are increasingly more likely to balance threat and not just power.

Perspectives on International Relations and War

Realism has been historically the dominant paradigm to explain state behavior and causes of war. It basically holds a pessimistic view of international politics.

Therefore, the state tries to survive by maximizing its power and trying to change the balance of power in its, favor.

The power of a state can be defined in many ways but usually consists of the military force a state possesses as well as latent power in terms of population and wealth or its economic power.

Hence the rational response for states is to increase their power and capability to ensure their survival. These actions will lead to what is known as “balancing” behavior by states.

In this theory, war is one of the strategies adopted by great powers to maximize their power and ensure their survival. Other states may encourage war between rival states to reduce the power of both states to eventually increase their own relative power in a case of “bloodletting”.

The other competing view on international relations and war is Liberalism. This is essentially based on an optimistic view of international politics.

The main idea is that the security dilemma that most states suffer from in an anarchic system can be alleviated under some guiding principles.

War as a Means to Express National Policy

War is a horrible encounter that ruins and destroys lives beyond limits and makes normal life impossible.

It imposes an unbearable burden on national economies and jeopardizes the freedom of everyone. It endangers man’s existence on the planet.

The problem of war is the greatest unresolved riddle in politics. War is the use of armed forces in a conflict, especially between two or more countries. The conventional view is that for a conflict to be termed as a war, it should end with at least 1000 battle deaths.

Although every war is unique, it is useful to distinguish between the three categories of war as an organized set of hostilities conducted by states.

Types of Wars

There are different kinds of wars in addition to the three categories stated above. They must be distinguished to understand their nature and objectives.

The first of these three categories comprises wars that may be called “rational”. These wars are deliberately initiated by one or more governments in the expectation that this war will be instrumental in achieving some national purpose.

The second type of war is that of drift or collision. In these instances, governments become involved in Wars because of gross misjudgments or a failure to perceive some particular course of events.

There is a third category of war that cuts across the first two categories. These are wars that are initiated because the government concerned is afraid of peace, it feels that if it does not go to war now, the result of several more years of peace would be more intolerable: For example, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that such fear lay behind Japanese decision to bomb Pearl Harbor in 1941.

In addition to these categories of wars there are some other types of war which are as follows:

Hegemonic Wars

This is a war for control over the entire world order i.e. the rules of the international system whole including the role of world hegemony. This class of wars is also known as world war, general war, or systematic war. The last hegemonic war was World War II. This kind of war cannot occur again without destroying civilization because of the devastating power of modern weaponry.

Total Wars

Total war is warfare by one state, waged to conquer and occupy another. In total wars, the entire society gets involved and the entire society of the enemy is considered a genuine target. In World War II, Germany attacked British people with V-2 rockets, while British and US strategic bombing killed 600,000 German civilians and Japanese.

Limited Wars

Limited wars are fought on a smaller scale and their objectives are to give an answer to the enemy’s provocation and replace the existing order. Limited wars are not fought to occupy for enemy’s territory or seek its surrender.

The US-led war against Iraq in 1991 took the territory of Kuwait but did not march on to Baghdad to topple Saddam Hussain’s government.

Raids are limited wars that include a bombing run or a swift attack by land.

Guerrilla Wars

Guerrilla war is a warfare that has no front lines. It is a kind of civil war in which irregular forces operate in the midst of population areas so that the Guerrillas may accomplish their objectives by using human shields.

The purpose of guerrilla warfare is to harass the enemy and punish it with hit-and-run tactics. It does not confront the enemy in the open battlefield but rather guerrillas launch their attack taking the enemy by surprise and not allowing them enough space to take their positions to repulse the guerrilla onslaught.

In guerrilla warfare without a fixed front line, no side has control over much of the territory and both sides fight on the same territory which causes immense pain to the civilian population.

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