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"War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men."

~ Georges Clemenceau,
French premier during World War I.

~ War blog ~
War history pages:

War and/or peace

Whatever economic wealth or diplomatic resources a country may have at its disposal, when push comes to shove, it will be powerless to exert foreign influence or resist foreign pressure unless it possesses competent and effective armed forces. According to German military theorist Karl von Clauswitz (1780-1831), "War is nothing but the continuation of politics with the admixture of other means." This stark realist point of view has also been expressed by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, who responded to Churchill's warning at the Potsdam Conference in 1945 that the Catholic Church would resist the imposition of a communist government in Poland by asking, "how many divisions does the Pope have?" Likewise, Chinese leader Mao Zedong declared, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." That being the case, it is essential for any leading contemplating the use of military force to think very clearly about what the political objectives are: to punish, to coerce, to intimidate, to deter, or to conquer territory.

It is important to note that the existence of nuclear weapons has not made war "obsolete" as many once thought; it simply constrains major powers from taking actions that might risk all-out retaliation from the other side. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union developed small "tactical" nuclear warheads that supposedly could be used on the battlefield. This remains a dubious proposition, however, and such weapons are being dismantled in the wake of the Cold War.

War and law

"But since World War II, not once has the President gone before congress to request a "Declaration of War" against any nation." (; H/T Fima Shlimel)

German Declaration of War with the United States: December 11, 1941 (; H/T John Moser)

Nuclear warhead arsenals

Country 1986 2010 2016 2021
United States 24,401 9,400 7,000 5,550
Russia / USSR 45,000 12,300 7,300 6,257
France 355 300 300 290
China 425 240 260 350
Britain 300 185 215 225
Israel ? 70? 80 90
India 0 70? 110? 160
Pakistan 0 80? 120? 165
North Korea 0 4? 6?? 30-40

SOURCE: Washington Post, March 6, 2010; World Almanac and Book of Facts 2017, p. 738 and 2022, p. 739. Question marks indicate estimates. Iran may also gain the ability to build nuclear bombs in the near future.

U.S. deaths in past wars

Anyone who argues that a given war is either worth the sacrifice, or not worth the sacrifice, must view the casualties in proper historical context. For example, the average monthly American combat fatalities in the current war in Iraq -- which should more properly be called a low-level insurgency action because no large-scale enemy formations are involved -- is the lowest of any war since the Revolutionary War. In terms of the effect of war deaths on "home front" morale, what distinguishes this war and other recent wars from those of the distant past is the sense of immediacy conveyed by television. In other words, it is largely a matter of perception.

War Began Ended Months Combat
Deaths /
Revolutionary War June 1775 Oct. 1781 79 4,435 . 4,435 56
War of 1812 June 1812 Jan. 1815 30 2,260 . 2,260 75
Mexican War Jan. 1846 Jan. 1848 24 1,733 11,550 13,283 553
Civil War (both sides) Apr. 1861 Apr. 1865 49 214,939 59,297 274,236 5,597
Spanish-American War Apr. 1898 Aug. 1898 4 385 2,061 2,446 612
World War I Apr. 1917 Nov. 1918 20 53,513 63,195 116,708 5,835
World War II Dec. 1941 Aug. 1945 45 292,131 115,185 407,316 9,051
Korean War June 1950 July 1953 37 33,667 3,249 36,916 998
Vietnam War Aug. 1964 Jan. 1973 101 47,393 10,800 58,193 576
Persian Gulf War Jan. 1991 Feb. 1991 1.5 147 235 382 255
Iraq War Mar. 2003 Dec. 2011 106 3,515 949 4,403 * 72
Afghanistan War Oct. 2001 >> 224 1,319 356 1,675 14

SOURCES: The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2012; Global Security; Washington Post.
* : Includes deaths in the last five months of 2011, both in combat and other deaths.

Remembering local-area fallen soldiers


James F. Dunnigan, How to Make War The author was the co-founder of Simulations Publications, Inc., the original publisher of Strategy & Tactics magazine and many wargames. He is now a military consultant and oversees the Strategy Page web site.

Geoffrey Blainey, The Causes of War (New York: Free Press, 1973).

Winston S. Churchill, Memoirs of the Second World War -- Abridgement of the six volumes (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1959)

Eugence Dyer, War (New York: Crown Publishers, 1985). For those who recoil at the very notion of studying war, this book is a good pacifist-leaning historical and philosophical examination of the subject.

Sir Basil H. Liddell Hart, Strategy (New York: Praeger, 1967). Along with Germany's Heinz Guderian and France's Charles DeGaulle, Liddell Hart was one of the leading exponents of the strategy of "indirect approach," in contrast to the Clauswitzian notion of striking at an enemy's center of power. This was one of the keys to the success of blitzkrieg in the early years of World War II. (Thanks, Dad!)

John Keegan, The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme (New York: Vintage Books, 1977). Prof. Keegan has written prolifically about military history, and this book is distinguished by examining what fighting has been like for front-line infantry troops in various historical eras.

Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 (New York: Random House, 1987). This book inspired me to apply my knowledge of economic matters to the study of the grand strategic questions of national survival and collapse.

Peter Paret (ed.), Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986). This thick textbook has excellent chapters on the military leaders and thinkers whose innovations brought about victory.

Bruce Porter, War and the Rise of the State: The Military Foundations of Modern Politics (New York: The Free Press, 1994). This book deals with "state building," the long process by which fractured regional powers become unified into nation-states as a collateral effect of waging war.

Thomas Schelling, Arms and Influence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964). Prof. Schelling is a leading scholar of strategic studies, having applied game theory to analyze nuclear deterrence policies.

Sun Tzu, The Art of War trans. Samuel B. Griffith (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971).

Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (New York: Basic Books, 1977).

Russell F. Weigley, The American Way of War (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973).

The Military Balance, annual series (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies)