The Fluidity of War. Gender Norms & Racial Bias in the Study of the Modern “War”

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War is a prolonged form of conflict that involves states or non-state actors. It entails intense violence, societal disruption, and economic devastation. War is a deliberate and widespread armed confrontation between political communities, often seen as a form of political intervention or violence. The tactics employed during war are known as warfare. On the other hand, the absence of war is generally referred to as peace. These definitions were given by Nobel Laureate Richard E. in 2003.

According to Smalley, war is predicted to be one of the six major issues humanity will face in the next fifty years. In his 1832 treatise On War, Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian military general and theoretician, defines war as the utilization of force to coerce our adversary into conforming with our wishes. There are differing opinions among scholars regarding the inevitability and necessity of warfare in human nature. Some believe it is unavoidable only under certain socio-cultural or ecological circumstances. Additionally, there are scholars who argue that the practice of war is not contingent upon any specific political organization or society.

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War, as described in John Keegan’s History of Warfare, is a universal occurrence that is influenced by the society engaged in it. However, an alternative perspective proposes that warfare may not be inherent to humans and only emerges under certain conditions, as observed in human societies without it. The Second World War holds the unfortunate record of being the deadliest conflict ever recorded, resulting in a staggering 60–85 million deaths since its beginning.

The War of the Triple Alliance, which some consider to be the most devastating war in recent history, led to the death of over 60% of Paraguay’s population. The term “war” originated from various ancient languages such as late Old English words wyrre and werre, Old North French werre, Frankish werra, and Proto-Germanic werso. The meaning of war can be traced back to Old Saxon werran, Old High German werran, and German verwirren – all implying notions of confusion, perplexity, and causing chaos.

Another proposed source is from the Ancient Greek barbaros, the Old Persian varhara, and the Sanskrit varvar and barbara. In German, war is referred to as Krieg; in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, it is guerra, derived from the Germanic werra. According to etymological myth, Romance-speaking nations adopted a foreign Germanic term for war to avoid utilizing the Latin word bellum. This was because when spoken aloud, bellum tended to merge with the sound of bello.

The study of war, known as polemology, originates from the Greek words polemos (meaning “war”) and -logy (meaning “the study of”). For a conflict to be classified as a war, it must involve armed forces using weapons and military technology. These armed forces employ military tactics and operational art within a broader military strategy that encompasses military logistics. Throughout history, scholars have sought to understand the philosophy of war and transform it into a scientific discipline.

Modern military science considers multiple factors in developing a national defense strategy for initiating war, such as the conditions on the battlefield, the initial strategic position of national forces, and the type of warfare expected. Conventional warfare seeks to weaken an enemy’s military strength through direct confrontations. This kind of war is formally declared by recognized nations and does not utilize nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons extensively, if at all; these weapons may only be employed in a limited manner to support conventional military objectives and maneuvers.

Unconventional warfare, nuclear warfare, and civil war are three distinct strategies used to achieve military objectives.

Asymmetric warfare is when two populations with different military capabilities or sizes engage in battle. Guerrilla tactics are often used in these conflicts to overcome technology and force disparities. Chemical warfare, which involves intentional air pollution, is a strategy employed in such situations. In World War I, chemical weapons like poison gas caused many casualties – around 91,198 deaths and 1,205,655 injuries. International treaties have limited the use of chemical weapons. Non-lethal options like tear gas and pepper spray are also part of this arsenal.

The use of spray in warfare is widespread and can have deadly effects. The behavior and conduct of troops in war can vary greatly, both on an individual basis and as units or armies. In certain situations, troops may commit acts of genocide, war rape, and ethnic cleansing. However, it is more common for troops to engage in posturing and sham attacks, resulting in highly regulated and often symbolic combat where casualties are lower than expected if soldiers were truly violent towards the enemy. Some accounts suggest deliberate efforts to reduce hostilities occurred during World War I.

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The Fluidity of War. Gender Norms & Racial Bias in the Study of the Modern “War”. (2016, Jul 20). Retrieved from

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