Cathal Nolan

in International Relations

ISBN: 9780199743292
Published online March 2011 | | DOI:


Modern war is often defined as armed conflict within, between, or among states, although other political communities partake of war: ethnic and religious groups, ideological movements, terrorist organizations, large drug gangs, and other “non-state actors.” The narrowest meaning used by historians is war as the art and science and record of military operations. More general discourse sub-classifies war according to an ascending scale of participation—rebellion, insurrection, insurgency, guerrilla war, civil war, and regional war—culminating in three synonyms for armed conflict at the largest scale: systemic war, global war, and world war. War is also categorized by the types of weapons used to conduct it, as in the terms “conventional war” and “unconventional war.” A controversial distinction is made between limited war and total war, in which wars are typed by scope, the declared or discerned objectives of participants, and the degree to which militaries target civilians, enemy morale, or economic infrastructure. Social science literature defines a minimal threshold of mass political violence as war, as opposed to riot or other communal use of force, if deaths reach one thousand. That is an arbitrary definition, not universally accepted or normally employed by historians.

Article.  8088 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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