War is a state of widespread conflict between states, organisations, or relatively large groups of people, which is characterised by the use of lethal violence between combatants or upon civilians. Other terms for war, which often serve as euphemisms, include armed conflict, hostilities, and police action (note). War is contrasted with peace, which is usually defined as the absence of war.
A common perception of war is a series of military campaigns between at least two opposing sides involving a dispute over sovereignty, territory, resources, religion or a host of other issues. A war to liberate an occupied country is sometimes characterised as a "war of liberation", while a war between internal elements of the same state may constitute a civil war.Throughout history, war has been the source of serious moral questions. Although many ancient nations and some more modern ones viewed war as noble, over the sweep of history concerns about the morality of war have gradually increased. Today war is generally seen as undesirable and morally problematic, although this view is contested by some. Pacifists believe that war is inherently immoral and that no war should ever be fought. This position was passionately defended by the Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi (called "Mahatma" or "Great Soul").The negative view of war has not always been held as widely as it is today. Many thinkers, such as Heinrich von Treitschke saw war as humanity's highest activity where courage, honor, and ability were more necessary than in any other endeavour. At the outbreak of World War I the writer Thomas Mann wrote, "Is not peace an element of civil corruption and war a purification, a liberation, an enormous hope?" This attitude was embraced by many societies from Sparta in Ancient Greece and the Ancient Romans to the fascist states of the 1930s. The defeat and repudiation of the fascist states and their militarism in the Second World War, the huge psychological and physical damage of nuclear war and a growth of the respect for the sanctity of individual life, as enshrined in the concept of human rights and as a cultural consequence of falling natural mortality rates and birth rates, have contributed to the current view of war.Today, some see only just wars as legitimate, and believe that it is the goal of organizations such as the United Nations to unite the world against wars of unjust agression.times throughout history, societies have attempted to limit the cost of war by formalizing it in some way. Limitations on the targeting of civilians, what type of weapons can be used, and when combat is allowed have all fallen under these rules in different conflicts. Total war is the modern term for the targeting of civilians and the mobilization of an entire society; when every member of the society has to contribute to the war effort.While culture, law, and religion have all been factors in causing wars, they have also acted as restraints at times. In some cultures, for example, conflicts have been highly ritualized to limit actual loss of life. In modern times, increasing international attention has been paid to peacefully resolving conflicts which lead to war. The United Nations is the latest and most comprehensive attempt to, as stated in the preamble of the U.N. Charter, "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war."
A number of treaties regulate warfare, collectively referred to as the laws of war. The most pervasive of those are the Geneva Conventions, the earliest of which began to take effect in the mid 1800s.
Treaty signing has since been a part of international diplomacy, and too many treaties to mention in this scant article have been signed. A couple of examples are: Resolutions of the Geneva International Conference, Geneva, 26 October-29 October 1863 and Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, 75 U.N.T.S. 135, entered into force 21 October 1950. It must be noted that in war such treaties are generally thrown to one side if they interfere with the vital interests of either side; some have criticised such conventions as simply providing a fig leaf for the inhuman practice of war. By only illegalising "war against the rules", it is alleged, such treaties and conventions, in effect, sanction certain types of war.
A civil war is a war in which the competing parties within the same country or empire struggle for national control of state power. As in any war, the conflict may be over other matters such as religion, ethnicity, or distribution of wealth. Some civil wars are also categorized as revolutions when major societal restructuring is a possible outcome of the conflict. An insurgency, whether successful or not, is likely to be classified as a civil war by some historians if, and only if, organized armies fight conventional battles. Other historians state the criteria for a civil war is that there must be prolonged violence between organized factions or defined regions of a country (conventionally fought or not).
Ultimately the distinction between a "civil war" and a "revolution" or other name is arbitrary, and determined by usage. The successful insurgency of the 1640s in England which led to the (temporary) overthrow of the monarchy became known as the English Civil War. The successful insurgency of the 1770s in British colonies in America, with organized armies fighting battles, came to be known as the American Revolution. In the United States, the term 'the civil war' almost always means the American Civil War, with other civil wars noted or inferred from context.
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