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The Five Reasons Wars Happen

Christopher Blattman | 10.14.22

The Five Reasons Wars Happen

Whether it is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats of nuclear strikes or Chinese belligerence in the Taiwan Strait , the United States seems closer to a great power war than at any time in recent decades. But while the risks are real and the United States must prepare for each of these conflicts, by focusing on the times states fight—and ignoring the times they resolve their conflicts peacefully and prevent escalation—analysts and policymakers risk misjudging our rivals and pursuing the wrong paths to peace.

The fact is that fighting—at all levels from irregular warfare to large-scale combat operations—is ruinous and so nations do their best to avoid open conflict. The costs of war also mean that when they do fight countries have powerful incentives not to escalate and expand those wars—to keep the fighting contained, especially when it could go nuclear. This is one of the most powerful insights from both history and game theory: war is a last resort, and the costlier that war, the harder both sides will work to avoid it.

When analysts forget this fact, not only do they exaggerate the chances of war, they do something much worse: they get the causes all wrong and take the wrong steps to avert the violence.

Imagine intensive care doctors who, deluged with critically ill patients, forgot that humanity’s natural state is good health. That would be demoralizing. But it would also make them terrible at diagnosis and treatment. How could you know what was awry without comparing the healthy to the sick?

And yet, when it comes to war, most of us fall victim to this selection bias, giving most of our attention to the times peace failed. Few write books or news articles about the wars that didn’t happen. Instead, we spend countless hours tracing the threads of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, America’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the two world wars. When we do, it distorts our diagnosis and our treatments. For if we follow these calamitous events back to their root causes and preceding events, we often find a familiar list: bumbling leaders, ancient hatreds, intransigent ideologies, dire poverty, historic injustices, and a huge supply of weapons and impressionable young men. War seems to be their inevitable result.

Unfortunately, this ignores all the instances conflict was avoided. When social scientists look at these peaceful cases, they see a lot of the same preceding conditions—bumblers, hatreds, injustices, poverty, and armaments. All these so-called causes of war are commonplace. Prolonged violence is not. So these are probably not the chief causes of war.

Take World War I. Historians like to explain how Europe’s shortsighted, warmongering, nationalist leaders naively walked their societies into war. It was all a grand miscalculation, this story goes. The foibles of European leaders surely played a role, but to stop the explanation here is to forget all the world wars avoided up to that point. For decades, the exact same leaders had managed great crises without fighting. In the fifteen years before 1914 alone, innumerable continental wars almost—but never—happened: a British-French standoff in a ruined Egyptian outpost in Sudan in 1898; Russia’s capture of Britain’s far eastern ports in 1900; Austria’s seizure of Bosnia in 1908; two wars between the Balkan states in 1912 and 1913. A continent-consuming war could have been ignited in any one of these corners of the world. But it was not.

Likewise, it’s common to blame the war in Ukraine overwhelmingly on Putin’s obsessions and delusions. These surely played a role, but to stop here is to stop too soon. We must also pay attention to the conflicts that didn’t happen. For years, Russia cowed other neighbors with varying degrees of persuasion and force, from the subjugation of Belarus to “ peacekeeping ” missions in Kazakhstan. Few of these power contests came to blows. To find the real roots of fighting, analysts need to pay attention to these struggles that stay peaceful.

Enemies Prefer to Loathe One Another in Peace

Fighting is simply bargaining through violence. This is what Chinese Communist leader Mao Tse-tung meant in 1938 when he said , “Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed.” Mao was echoing the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz who, a century before, reminded us that war is the continuation of politics by other means.

Of course, one of these means is far, far costlier than the other. Two adversaries have a simple choice: split the contested territory or stake in proportion to their relative strength, or go to war and gamble for the shrunken and damaged remains. It’s almost always better to look for compromise. For every war that ever was, a thousand others have been averted through discussion and concession.

Compromise is the rule because, for the most part, groups behave strategically: like players of poker or chess, they’re trying hard to think ahead, discern their opponents’ strength and plans, and choose their actions based on what they expect their opponents to do. They are not perfect. They make mistakes or lack information. But they have huge incentives to do their best.

This is the essential way to think about warfare: not as some base impulse or inevitability, but as the unusual and errant breakdown of incredibly powerful incentives for peace. Something had to interrupt the normal incentives for compromise, pushing opponents from normal politics, polarized and contentious, to bargaining through bloodshed.

This gives us a fresh perspective on war. If fighting is rare because it is ruinous, then every answer to why we fight is simple: a society or its leaders ignored the costs (or were willing to pay them). And while there is a reason for every war and a war for every reason, there are only so many logical ways societies overlook the costs of war—five, to be exact. From gang wars to ethnic violence, and from civil conflicts to world wars, the same five reasons underlie conflict at every level: war happens when a society or its leader is unaccountable, ideological, uncertain, biased, or unreliable.

Five Reasons for War

Consider Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. What do these five tell us about why peace broke down?

1. Unaccountable. A personalized autocrat , Putin doesn’t have to weigh the interests of his soldiers and citizens. He can pursue whatever course helps him preserve his regime’s control. When leaders go unchecked and are unaccountable to their people, they can ignore the costs of fighting that ordinary people bear. Instead, rulers can pursue their own agendas. That is why dictators are more prone to war .

2. Ideological. Consider Putin again. Most accounts of the current war dwell on his nationalist obsessions and desires for a glorious legacy. What costs and risks he does bear, Putin is willing to pay in pursuit of glory and ideology. This is just one example of intangible and ideological incentives for war that so many leaders possess—God’s glory, freedom, or some nationalist vision.

Societies have ideological incentives too. Unlike the people of Belarus or Kazakhstan, the Ukrainians refused to accept serious restrictions on their sovereignty despite what (at first) seemed to be relative military weakness. Like liberation movements throughout history—including the American revolutionaries—they have been willing to undertake the ruin and risks of fighting partly in pursuit of an ideal.

3. Biased. Most accounts of Russia’s invasion stress Putin’s isolation and insulation from the truth. He and his advisors grossly underestimated the difficulty of war. This is a story of institutional bias—a system that is unwilling to tell its leader bad news. Autocrats are especially prone to this problem, but intelligence failures plague democracies too . Leaders can be psychologically biased as well. Humans have an amazing ability to cling to mistaken beliefs. We can be overconfident, underestimating the ruin of war and overestimating our chances of victory. And we demonize and misjudge our opponents. These misperceptions can carry us to war.

4. Uncertain. Too much focus on bias and misperception obscures the subtler role of uncertainty. In the murky run-up to war, policymakers don’t know their enemy’s strength or resolve. How unified would the West be? How capably would Ukrainians resist? How competent was the Russian military? All these things were fundamentally uncertain, and many experts were genuinely surprised that Russia got a bad draw on all three—most of all, presumably, Putin himself.

But uncertainty doesn’t just mean the costs of war are uncertain, and invasion a gamble. There are genuine strategic impediments to getting good information . You can’t trust your enemy’s demonstrations of resolve, because they have reasons to bluff, hoping to extract a better deal without fighting. Any poker player knows that, amid the uncertainty, the optimal strategy is never to fold all the time. It’s never to call all the time, either. The best strategy is to approach it probabilistically—to occasionally gamble and invade.

5. Unreliable. When a declining power faces a rising one, how can it trust the rising power to commit to peace ? Better to pay the brutal costs of war now, to lock in one’s current advantage. Some scholars argue that such shifts in power, and the commitment problems they create, are at the root of every long war in history —from World War I to the US invasion of Iraq. This is not why Russia invaded Ukraine, of course. Still, it may help to understand the timing. In 2022, Russia had arguably reached peak leverage versus Ukraine. Ukraine was acquiring drones and defensive missiles. And the country was growing more democratic and closer to Europe—to Putin, a dangerous example of freedom nearby. How could Ukraine commit to stop either move? We don’t know what Putin and his commanders debated behind closed doors, but these trends may have presented a now-or-never argument for invasion.

Putting the five together, as with World War I and so many other wars, fallible, biased leaders with nationalist ambitions ignored the costs of war and drove their societies to violent ruin. But the explanation doesn’t end there. There are strategic roots as well. In the case of Russia, as elsewhere, unchecked power, uncertainty, and commitment problems arising from shifting power narrowed the range of viable compromises to the point where Putin’s psychological and institutional failures—his misperceptions and ideology—could lead him to pursue politics by violent means.

The Paths to Peace

If war happens when societies or their leaders overlook its costs, peace is preserved when our institutions make those costs difficult to ignore. Successful, peaceful societies have built themselves some insulation from all five kinds of failure. They have checked the power of autocrats. They have built institutions that reduce uncertainty, promote dialogue, and minimize misperceptions. They have written constitutions and bodies of law that make shifts in power less deadly. They have developed interventions—from sanctions to peacekeeping forces to mediators—that minimize our strategic and human incentives to fight rather than compromise.

It is difficult, however, to expect peace in a world where power in so many countries remains unchecked . Highly centralized power is one of the most dangerous things in the world, because it accentuates all five reasons for war. With unchecked leaders , states are more prone to their idiosyncratic ideologies and biases. In the pursuit of power, autocrats also tend to insulate themselves from critical information. The placing of so much influence in one person’s hands adds to the uncertainty and unpredictability of the situation. Almost by definition, unchecked rulers have trouble making credible commitments.

That is why the real root cause of this current war is surely Putin’s twenty-year concentration of power in himself. And it is why the world’s most worrisome trend may be in China, where a once checked and institutionalized leader has gathered more and more power in his person. There is, admittedly, little a nation can do to alter the concentration of power within its rivals’ political systems. But no solution can be found without a proper diagnosis of the problem.

Christopher Blattman is a professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. This article draws from his new book, Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace , published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.

Image credit: Oles_Navrotskyi , via


Lucius Severus Pertinax

War, in the end, is about Armed Robbery writ large; whether Committing it, Preventing it, or Redressing it. It is all about somebody trying to take somebody else's stuff.


Peace is the time of waiting for war. A time of preparation, or a time of willful ignorance, blind, blinkered and prattling behind secure walls. – Steven Erikson

Niylah Washignton

That is the right reason, I do not know about the others, but I will give you a+ on this one


its beeches thy want Resorces


Wars often come when a group of nations (for example the USSR in the Old Cold War of yesterday and the U.S./the West in New/Reverse Cold War of today) move out smartly to "transform"/to "modernize" both their own states and societies (often leads to civil wars) and other states and societies throughout the world also (often leads to wars between countries).

The enemy of those groups of nations — thus pursuing such "transformative"/such "modernizing" efforts — are, quite understandably, those individuals and groups, and those states and societies who (a) would lose current power, influence, control, safety, privilege, security, etc.; this, (b) if these such "transformative"/these such "modernizing" efforts were to be realized.

From this such perspective, and now discussing only the U.S./the West post-Cold War efforts — to "transform"/to "modernize" the states and societies of the world (to include our own states and societies here in the U.S./the West) — this, so that same might be made to better interact with, better provide for and better benefit from such things as capitalism, globalization and the global economy;

Considering this such U.S./Western post-Cold War "transformative"/"modernizing" effort, note the common factor of "resistance to change" coming from:

a. (Conservative?) Individual and groups — here in the U.S./the West — who want to retain currently threatened (and/or regain recently lost) power, influence, control, etc. And:

b. (Conservative?) states and societies — elsewhere throughout the world — who have this/these exact same ambition(s).

From this such perspective, to note the nexus/the connection/the "common cause" noted here:

"Liberal democratic societies have, in the past few decades, undergone a series of revolutionary changes in their social and political life, which are not to the taste of all their citizens. For many of those, who might be called social conservatives, Russia has become a more agreeable society, at least in principle, than those they live in. Communist Westerners used to speak of the Soviet Union as the pioneer society of a brighter future for all. Now, the rightwing nationalists of Europe and North America admire Russia and its leader for cleaving to the past."

(See "The American Interest" article "The Reality of Russian Soft Power" by John Lloyd and Daria Litinova.)

“Compounding it all, Russia’s dictator has achieved all of this while creating sympathy in elements of the Right that mirrors the sympathy the Soviet Union achieved in elements of the Left. In other words, Putin is expanding Russian power and influence while mounting a cultural critique that resonates with some American audiences, casting himself as a defender of Christian civilization against Islam and the godless, decadent West.”

(See the “National Review” item entitled: “How Russia Wins” by David French.)

Bottom Line Thought — Based on the Above:

In the final paragraph of our article above, the author states: "That is why the real root cause of this current war is surely Putin’s twenty-year concentration of power in himself."

Based on the information that I provide above — which addresses the "resistance" efforts of entities both here at home and there abroad — might we beg to differ?

From the perspective of wars between nations relating to attempts as "transformation" by one party (and thus not as relates to civil wars which occur with "transformative" attempts in this case) here is my argument above possibly stated another way:

1. In the Old Cold War of yesterday, when the Soviets/the communists sought to "transform the world" — in their case, so that same might be made to better interact with, better provide for and better benefit from such this as socialism and communism:

a. The "root cause" of the conflicts that the U.S. was engaged in back then — for example in places such as Central America —

b. This such "root cause" was OUR determination to stand hard against these such "transformative" efforts and activities — which were taking place, back then, in OUR backyard/in OUR sphere of influence/in OUR neck of the woods.

2. In the New/Reverse Cold War of today, however, when now it is the U.S./the West that seeks to "transform the world" — in our case, so that same might be made to better interact with, better provide for and better benefit from such things as market-democracy:

“The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement, enlargement of the world’s free community of market democracies,’ Mr. Lake said in a speech at the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University.”

(See the September 22, 1993 New York Times article “U.S. Vision of Foreign Policy Reversed” by Thomas L. Friedman.)

a. Now the "root cause" of the conflicts that Russia is engaged in today — for example in places such as Ukraine —

b. This such "root cause" is now RUSSIA'S determination to stand hard against these such "transformative" efforts and activities — which are taking place now in RUSSIA'S backyard/in RUSSIA'S sphere of influence/in RUSSIA's neck of the woods.

(From this such perspective, of course, [a] the current war in Ukraine, this would seem to [b] have little — or indeed nothing — to do with "Putin's twenty-year concentration of power in himself?")


It’s easy to put the whole blame on Putin himself with his unchecked power . But this is a gross simplification of the reality in case of the Ukraine war. NATO expansion everywhere and especially into the very birthplace of Russia was a huge irritator , perceived as unacceptable, threatening, arrogant with no regard to Russia’s interests. Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 was a clear warning, that was completely ignored. Without NATO’s ambitions there would be no war in Ukraine. Or Georgia .

When the Soviet Union installed missles in Cuba , the democratic and presumably the country with all checks and balances in place almost started a nuclear war with the Soviets. It was a reckless gamble that could end the world Why expect anything less from the modern Russia that feels threatened by NATO encroachment?

word wipe

In the end, whether it's about committing, preventing, or rectifying, war is all about armed robbery. The main plot is around a thief trying to steal from another person.

Brent sixie6e elisens

One of the main causes of war is nationalist garbage. This nationalist site conveniently omits this as they push their preferred chosen nationalist enemy(cold war leftovers in this case) on the reader. What do you expect from OVRA/NKVD reruns?


In addition to the reasons explored to further explain the cause of war, there are also self-defeating schema in thought structures that deteriorate over time. They become compromised by the wear-and-tear grind of life of individuals seeking natural causes and solutions collectively and apart. This is particularly relevant to the matter of war dynamics. When energies used to pursue peace are perceived as exhausted, unspent warfare resources appear more attractive. Particularly in the instances of deteriorating leaders who are compromised by psychopathy, war can quickly become nearly inevitable. Add a number of subordinated population that are unable to resist, and the world can quickly find itself following in the footsteps of leaders marching to their own demise. On the broader sociopolitical battlefield, with democracy trending down and the deterioration in global leadership increasing, the probability of both war and peaceful rewards increase. The questions that arise in my mind point to developing leaps forward to the structures of global leadership, particularly for self-governing populations, leveraging resources that mitigate the frailties of societal and individual human exhaustion, and capping warfare resources at weakened choke points to avoid spillovers of minor conflicts into broader destruction. Technology certainly can be used to mitigate much more than has been realized.


Wow, I could say all those things about the U.S. and its rulers.

Douglas e frank

War happens because humans are predatory animals and preditors kill other preditors every chance they get. The 3 big cats of africa are a prime example. We forget that we are animals that have animal insticts. There will always be war.

Tom Raquer

The cause of war is fear, Russia feared a anti Russian Army in Ukraine would come to fruitinion in the Ukraine threatening to invade Moscow!


it takes one powerful man in power to start war and millions of innocence people to die, to stop the war . / answer!,to in prison any powerful person who starts the war , and save your family life and millions of lives, / out law war.

Frank Warner

The biggest cause of war is the demonstration of weakness among democratic nations facing a well-armed dictator with irrational ambitions. In the case of Russia, the democratic world turned weak on Vladimir Putin at a time when both democratic institutions and peace might have been preserved. Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first-ever freely elected president, had given the newly democratic Russia a real chance to enter the community of free nations in 1991. But when Putin was elected in 2000, we saw the warning signs of trouble. Putin already was undermining democracy. In Russia’s transition from socialism, he used his old KGP connections to buy up all the political parties (except ironically the Communist Party, which now was tiny and unpopular). He also declared he yearned for the old greater Russia, with those Soviet Union borders. The U.S. and NATO didn’t take Putin’s greater-Russia statements too seriously. After all, once their economy stabilized after the transition from socialism, the Russian people were pleased with their new and free Russia, the removal of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, and the new openness to the West. There was no popular call for retaking old territory. But Putin had his own plans, and as Christopher Blattman’s article observes, when you’re dictator (and even with ‘elections’ you are dictator if you own all the political parties) you can go your bloody way. Then came America’s ‘Russian re-set.’ As Putin consolidated his power, and forced the parliament, the Duma, to give him permission to run for several unopposed ‘re-elections,’ the U.S. decided to go gentle on Putin, in hopes he’d abandon his authoritarian course. This was the fatal mistake. When the U.S. should have been publicly encouraging Putin to commit himself to international borders and to democracy in Russia, the U.S. leadership instead was asking what it could do to make Putin happy. Putin saw this as weakness, an opening for his insane territorial desires, which focused mainly on Ukraine. He let a few more years go by, prepared secretly, and then in 2014, he ordered the invasion of Ukraine, killing about 14,000 people and claiming Ukraine’s Crimea for Russia. The U.S. imposed economic sanctions on Russia, but the terrible damage had been done. Because the Free World’s leaders had let down their guard, an awful precedent had been set. A new Russian dictator had murdered to steal territory. To him, the price was low. That told him he could do it again someday. And in 2022, again sensing weakness from the West, Putin invaded Ukraine once more. Not only have tens of thousands of Ukrainians been killed in this new war, but the Russian people themselves are now locked in an even tighter, more brutal dictatorship. Peace through Strength is not just a slogan. It’s as real as War through Weakness. My father, who fought in Europe in World War II, said an American soldier’s first duty was to preserve America’s rights and freedoms, as described in the Constitution. He said an American soldier also has two jobs. A soldier’s first job, he said, is to block the tyrants. Just stand in their way, he said, and most tyrants won’t even try to pass. That’s Peace through Strength. A soldier’s second job, he said, is to fight and win wars. He said that second job won’t have to be done often if we do enough of the first job.

moto x3m

I hope there will be no more wars in the world

Boghos L. Artinian

This, pandemic of wars will soon make us realize and accept the fact that the global society’s compassion towards its individuals is numbed and will eventually be completely absent as it is transformed into a human super-organism, just as one’s body is not concerned about the millions of cells dying daily in it, unless it affects the body as a whole like the cancer cells where we consider them to be terrorists and actively kill them.

Boghos L. Artinian MD


I hope there is no more war in this world

sod gold

war it not good for all humans


Ultimately, be it engaging in, averting, or resolving, war can be likened to organized theft. The central theme revolves around a thief attempting to pilfer from someone else.

Quick energy

In the end, whether involving, preventing, or resolving, war can be compared to organized theft. The core idea centers on a thief attempting to steal from someone else.

No nation would wage a war for the independence of another. Boghos L. Artinian

Larry Bradley

And I will give you one word that sums up and supersedes your Five Reasons: Covetousness James 4:2, ESV, The Holy Bible.

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Karina Moxon

October 9th, 2018, essay competition 2018 second place: is war and conflict an inevitable feature of global politics.

1 comment | 1 shares

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

“Is war and conflict an inevitable feature of global politics?”

This article was written by Dheevesh Mungroo, year 13 student at John Kennedy College, Mauritius.

War and conflict takes several forms; military or non-military and interstate or state versus organisation. I shall use the steps to war  (Vasquez and Henehan, 1999)   and motivated biases (Mercer, 2005) theories to support my argument that war and conflict may be an inevitable feature of global politics. These theories have been chosen due to their seemingly increasing relevance to modern global politics. As explained by steps to war, many present day states have been fighting because of irresolvable matters of territory. As per motivated biases theory, human psychology at a large scale, some argue, leads to in-group cooperation and out-group discrimination, which often leads to war. On the other hand, I shall use the democratic peace theory – suggesting that democracies do not fight each other – to support my argument that in fact, war and conflict may be avoidable in global politics. At the core, these theories attempt to explain the causes of war. Yet, it is fair to assume that if cause is avoidable, then at some point, effect can be avoided too and conversely, if cause is inevitable, then at some point, effect is inevitable too.

Consensus exists that matters such as territory are irresolvable in global politics. It is impossible to increase the amount of land in the world and to change the fact that our wants are unlimited. This scarcity often leads to disputes. While often, the disputes are limited to legal and economic conflict, in other instances, concerned parties resort to using force, particularly when those parties are geographically close. The steps to war theory in fact suggests that war and conflict can arise owing to such reasons.

An example of the steps to war theory applying to present day global politics is the case of Israel and Palestine  disputing  territory  which  has  often  escalated  to  military  conflicts (The New York Times, 2009).  Another relevant example of violent conflict due to irresolvable matters is the case of Iraq and Syria fighting the Islamic State (IS) terror group to reclaim their territory (The New York Times, 2017; US Department of Defense, 2018; Reuters, 2017). This is evidenced in the following map which shows the significant changes in control of territory, from IS to Iraq and Syria following military conflict (BBC, 2018).

politics and war essay

It is true that irresolvable problems, of territory at least, are an integral part of global politics. It can also be argued that when the perceived cost to parties of starting military war and conflict over irresolvable matters is lower than perceived gains, which is often the case, then this could lead to war and conflict.So, it follows from these premises that war and conflict is possibly an inevitable feature of global politics.

Motivated biases and political psychology provides further insights on the topic. According to Mercer (2005), humans get a sense of identity in groups which provide a sense of belonging (part of the emotion in identity). While this emotion in identity builds trust and allows cooperative problem solving, Mercer argues that this emotion also creates self- esteem and pride which as a result could lead to a feeling of superiority and discrimination of other groups. Accordingly, it follows that discrimination could become violent. Quoting Mercer,  “Emotion  drives  in-group  cooperation  and  out-group  discrimination” (2005, p. 97). At global scale, this could inevitably lead to war.

Examples of motivated biases leading to discrimination, war and conflict could include:

  • several European nations’ invasion and colonisation of countries around the world prior to the 20th century – which implied war, conflict and slavery – possibly on grounds of moral superiority
  • Germany under Nazi control, which fought wars, invaded foreign states and which perpetrated the holocaust, allegedly to “reclaim” the superiority of the Nazi “Aryan race”
  • wars declared by terror groups against states – arguably on grounds of religious, moral and spiritual superiority as in the case of Al-Qaeda versus the USA and more recently
  • several Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, possibly caused by race.

Indeed then, psychology can offer great insight on the inevitability of war and conflict in global politics. Human psychology, generally, may not change much as opposed to the state of politico-economic affairs, tending to be relatively volatile and unpredictable – even for the near future. Hence, predicting human psychology, a relatively easier task, could help answer whether war and conflict is inevitable. While the past may not always be a good indicator of the future in general, because of its seemingly unchanging nature, it seems to be for human psychology. If, then, human psychology remains like it currently is, war and conflict seems inevitable.

However the theory of democratic peace – the belief that democratic nations do not fight each other using force, although they may fight non-democracies – could help argue that war and conflict is avoidable. It may not be democracy, intrinsically, which is the cause of peace between democracies. Rather, the causes of democratic peace are arguably some features of democracy. Such features, according to Russet et al (1993) may include:

  • the sharing of global institutions and economic interdependence (e.g. the operations of large multinationals and trading links greatly increases the cost of war),
  • the fact that democracies tend to form alliances (e.g. NATO) – making lethal conflict between members irrational in a global politics and power standpoint,
  • the commitment of democracies to preserve their political stability and,
  • the mutual feeling of liberal values.

The following table (Russett et al, 1993, p.21) exemplifies democratic peace. Dyads, in this context, is a term referring to pair of states close to each other — geographically, politically and/or economically. As it can be seen, during this time period, in no case did a democratic dyad go to war and the number of disputes (conflicts) was far lesser when the dyads were democratic. This could indicate a causal relationship between the features of democracy and democratic peace.

politics and war essay

Nonetheless, it would be a fallacy to assume that democracies are absolutely peaceful. While democracies do not use military means to start wars and conflicts among themselves, passive means and intimidation are frequently used. For instance and arguably, economic integration like the creation of the European Union (EU) can be regarded as a form of disguised protectionism against the rest of the world, implying conflict in a more subtle sense. A less subtle example involves the recent tariffs on steel between the USA and the EU (Reuters, 2018a), and the USA’s threatened tariffs on EU car imports (Reuters, 2018b). Moreover, “they  (democracies)  often  initiate  international  disputes  during  economic slowdowns or recessions, or if in economic difficulty respond more aggressively when others initiate disputes” (Russett et al, 1993, p.29). Indeed, there seems to be a correlation between the American economic slowdown during the early 2000s and the Iraq invasion of 2003. It is alleged that this correlation is synonymous with causation, rather than mere coincidence.

Limited resources are available to satisfy unlimited wants. Additionally, while ethics change, human psychology seems unchanging. Therefore, humans will never stop fighting over limited resources. Moreover, believing that all nations will become democratic and that democratic peace will end all wars is believing that Earth will be named Utopia. Much sense lies in saying that while it may become less lethal, war and conflict – at present and in the foreseeable future at least – is an inevitable feature of global politics.


BBC. 2018. ‘Islamic State and the crisis in Iraq and Syria in maps ‘ . BBC. [online] <>

Mercer, J. 2005. ‘Rationality and psychology in international relations’. International Organisation. 59:1. pp. 77–106.

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War: Essays in Political Philosophy

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Larry May (ed.), War: Essays in Political Philosophy , Cambridge University Press, 2008, 325pp., $28.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780521700047.

Reviewed by Helen Frowe, University of Sheffield

1. General Overview

This is a splendid, cohesive collection of extremely engaging essays, bringing together some of the most influential contemporary experts on just war theory. The essays are well-written, mostly well-argued, and address pressing questions across a broad spectrum of issues in the ethics of war, including the ethics of humanitarian intervention, the relationship between jus ad bellum and jus in bello , proportionality, and the moral status of war crimes. The book is divided into four sections: Historical Background (Gregory Reichberg, Nicholas Rengger), Initiating War (Larry May, Jeff McMahan, Cindy Holder, James Bohman), Waging War (Thomas Hurka, David Leftkowitz, Steven P. Lee, Michael Davis, Marilyn Friedman) and Ending War (Trudy Govier, Christopher Heath Wellman, David Luban, Nancy Sherman). I will begin with an overview of the book, before offering a more detailed evaluation of two chapters.

Chapters one and two both offer really very good, focused accounts of the historical roots of key aspects of the just war tradition, sticking firmly to the issues at hand and avoiding digression into matters of general historical interest. In the first chapter, Gregory Reichberg explores the moral equivalence of nations, outlining how theorists have approached the issue of whether a war can be just on both sides, and paying particular attention to the justice of pre-emptive and preventative war. In the second chapter, Nicholas Rengger examines changing perceptions of the relationship between jus ad bellum and jus in bello . Rengger traces the emergence of jus in bello as a matter of international business, rather than a private, internal matter of the discipline of a nation's soldiers, giving a lucid explanation of the current dominance of in bello legislation over the historically much weightier issue of ad bellum justice.

The second section contains excellent essays by Larry May and Jeff McMahan on the topic of just cause, both of which are considered in more detail below. Cindy Holder's essay on humanitarian intervention argues that it is a mistake to think that respect for sovereignty is the bar to solving humanitarian crises. Holder suggests that, "the central problem confronting the international community in humanitarian crises is not the problem of sovereignty but the problem of state" (pp. 98-9). Holder argues that humanitarian crises are typically caused by the injustice that is inherent in all actual states. This injustice emerges partly as a result of the belief that an effective state must assimilate all the rival or alternative systems within its territory. According to Holder, an integral part of tackling crises abroad is tackling injustice at home, since "[j]ustice at home is a prior condition of our being able to trust our diagnoses of what changes are required, both in the international system and in other states, to remedy propensities to abuse and neglect" (p. 103). This claims strikes me as suspect, since even an inherently unjust state can be considerably more just than another state, and one need not be (perfectly) just in order to know what is just. That we are busy rooting out injustice at home is small consolation to those suffering systematic violence abroad.

James Bohman explores the recent fascination with spreading democracy by the distinctly undemocratic means of military force. Bohman suggests that, irrespective of the justness of using war to spread democracy, such wars fail to achieve their goal. Wars preclude the desirable feature of democracy, namely the ability of citizens to organise their social and political systems, since such rights are suspended in favour of security and control. Bohman argues persuasively that by imposing a hierarchal system in which power lies not with ordinary citizens, but rather with those officials representing the invading state, wars of democracy are more likely to undermine democracy than promote it. The spreading of democracy should be focused primarily on encouraging democracy across nations, using transnational institutions like the EU as a paradigm of how multi-state democracies can facilitate democratic goals beyond the reach of individual democratic states.

The third section of the book contains essays on proportionality, collateral damage, weapons of mass destruction, torture and terrorism. Michael Davis supplies the now-obligatory essay on the permissibility of torture, nicely summarising the main arguments in favour of torture in emergency cases before arguing that even in such cases, torture is not morally justified. It is hard to resist the sense, however, that we have reached quite a stalemate in this debate, and whilst Davis's essay works well in the collection, speaking to what has become a central question in just war theory, it retreads what is already pretty familiar ground without really pushing the debate forward.

Marilyn Friedman's wonderfully readable, if somewhat disjointed, essay on the moral status of female terrorists begins with a summary of the debate surrounding the definition of terrorism, and why this matters for our condemnation of terrorism. Friedman then argues that just as soldiers can be excused for performing wrongful actions if they perform them under orders, women might be excused for terrorist actions if they perform them as a result of habitual obedience to male leaders. Indeed, Friedman suggests that the fact that the subordination of women is often much more systematic and extensive than the subordination of soldiers to their leaders, such women might be deemed generally exempt from moral responsibility. Of course, the extent of responsibility will vary with the extent of subordination. But Friedman presents a thought-provoking, if controversial, case for why we may well be justified in treating male and female terrorists differently. This essay is insightful and well-argued, although I'm not sure how much the earlier, more general sections on terrorism add to the discussion of the specific issue of female terrorists.

The final section of the book deals with the growing area of jus post bellum : justice in the aftermath of war. Trudy Govier's essay addresses the issue of reconciliation, urging that aims of retribution must play a subsidiary role to aims of restoration. Interestingly, she stresses the need for reconciliation between those who fought together as well as between those who fought each other. The stigmatising of those deemed to have broken the in bello rules can be significant, even amongst members of the perpetrators' own group. If allowed to persist, this exclusion can lead to yet more violence, and enable other group members to illegitimately deflect blame away from themselves onto the excluded minority.

Christopher Heath Wellman's essay discusses the difficult topic of granting of amnesties for those suspected of war crimes, and requiring that the international community respect such amnesties. Wellman argues that there should be a presumption against amnesties. But, they should nonetheless be respected when they are granted by a legitimate state in the pursuit of suitably significant goods, like long-term national stability or the removal of an oppressive regime. Despite acknowledging that other states or victims might have a legitimate interest in prosecuting all war criminals, Wellman argues that this interest does not establish a right that such prosecutions take place. A state is at liberty to decide against prosecuting an individual for crimes committed within its territory. However, Wellman stresses that, on his account, only legitimate states can grant amnesties. The international community is not obliged to respect amnesties granted by illegitimate leaders that are intended to protect those leaders' own interests, rather than the interests of the state.

David Luban's essay on war crimes argues against the idea that the very nature of war precludes any legal constraints on what may be done. Luban suggests that practical humanitarianism -- a pragmatic project of minimising the transgressions of war that will not always correlate with morality -- underlies the rules of war. We do not hold wars to the standards of ordinary morality, but nor do we cast morality out as soon as wars begin. Luban considers the question of who bears responsibility for war crimes -- the soldier following an illegal order, or his commander for issuing the order -- and concludes that there might not be a universal standard applicable to all armed forces, given the radically different natures and histories of such groups.

The final, and very interesting, essay by Nancy Sherman investigates the role that a desire for revenge plays in war. Sherman argues that despite the generally negative perception of revenge, it is closely connected to emotions like anger and indignation that are often thought to be both warranted and useful when dealing with loss. Revenge is about reasserting oneself after loss, and, Sherman says, can help victims overcome the sense of helplessness that might otherwise persist after the offence. Rather than aim to eliminate the thirst for revenge, we ought to try to mitigate its destructiveness, for example by recognising the role that expressing grief can play in reducing the desire to get one's own back. Sherman's essay offers a novel perspective on this issue, drawing on both Stoic and Aristotelian models of the good warrior to illuminate her view.

2. Some thoughts on May and McMahan

Larry May's own essay tackles the issue of just cause for war, arguing against the conventional separation of jus ad bellum and jus in bello . Questions about the tactics that will be employed to fight a war, for example, are generally conceived of as an in bello issue, irrelevant to whether or not the war itself is just. May presents a convincing case to the contrary, arguing that the justice of the war will depend in part on the tactics that are likely to be employed in the pursuit of that war's goals. If the ends of a war can be achieved only through the use of disproportionate means, we do not have a just cause for war. May claims that we should narrow the category of what counts as a just cause to exclude mere territorial invasion, specifying instead that territorial invasion is a just cause only if it threatens lives or human rights on a scale comparable to the losses of war.

However, despite this narrowing of the number of causes that a state can legitimately cite as cause for war, May thinks we should lessen the standard of proof required from individuals who are being tried for the crime of aggression. May proposes that "just cause be easier to prove, and aggression correspondingly harder to prove, in international criminal proceedings than in discussions of possible sanctions against states for aggression" (p. 64). May's rationale is based partly on the purpose of international criminal trials, namely to discourage state leaders from acting aggressively. But, he says, "the consequence of such trials is that individuals are put in prison not merely that states are encouraged to act more peacefully" (p. 64). May argues that courts must not presume that leaders had knowledge of the illegality of their state's war, since this unjustly finds them guilty by position or association. Even leaders can be ignorant, although May concedes that they must show that their ignorance did not amount to negligence, claiming that, "It is not enough for these leaders to say that they did not know, but rather that it was very difficult for them to find out" (p. 63).

I agree that fairness rules against a presumption of guilt when it comes to the prosecution of individuals. However, there is still the question of what counts as guilt for a person in a high-ranking position. There ought to be a default position of waging war only when one knows that one's war is just. It is not enough that one has not discovered that the war is un just. May argues that leaders need not independently investigate whether or not their state has just cause because such action could be very dangerous. But he also argues that leaders who doubts a war's legality ought not to, "blind themselves to facts that would confirm their suspicions" (p. 63). Surely this too could be very dangerous, not least because May would presumably require some resistance on the part of a leader who discovers that his war is, in fact, unjust. That resistance would have been dangerous, however, would not warrant an acquittal of the crime of aggression in the absence of such resistance. It is thus not obvious why the danger of independent investigation should warrant an acquittal of the same crime.

It is also hard to endorse May's apparent separation of the deterrence of state aggression and the punishment of state leaders. One cannot encourage a state to act more peacefully: it is only state leaders who can be so encouraged. To hold leaders responsible for a failure to investigate the justness of a war is not to fail to respect their rights by presuming their guilt in virtue of their office. Rather, it is to adjust what counts as guilt in virtue of the responsibilities that come attached to that office. To suggest that a state can be found guilty of aggression while the state leaders are found innocent seems not to apply justifiably different standards to different things, but rather different standards to the same thing. To make it easier for leaders to claim or 'prove' just cause will not deter state aggression, since the aggression of a state just is the aggression of its leaders.

Jeff McMahan's essay argues that, properly understood, both aggressive and punitive wars can be justified. McMahan suggests that aggression consists in striking the first blow: in the use of force that is not a response to a prior act of force by the target state. On this account, pre-emptive and preventative wars are acts of aggression, but they are, crucially, defensive aggression. The aim of the force is to defend the state against imminent or future attack. Wars of humanitarian intervention are also examples of defensive aggression, with defence of others as the aim of the aggressive force. If we accept that such wars are acts of defence, and that such wars are at least sometimes justified, then we have wars of aggression -- of striking the first blow -- that are justified.

McMahan also suggests that by distinguishing between the various aims of punishment, and recognising that such aims can overlap with the aims of defence, we can make a case for punishment as a just cause for war. Punishment can be intended as pure retribution. But it can also be intended to deter future wrongdoing, to prevent future wrongdoing, and to enable restitution to the victims of wrongdoing. Imprisonment, for example, acts as both retribution and prevention, where the retributive element rests upon the idea that the prisoner deserves to be imprisoned. War "is too blunt an instrument" to dish out punishment to those (and only those) who deserve it (p. 84). But given the multi-faceted nature of punishment, McMahan argues that acts of war can still be punitive in character even if they lack the element of retribution. We could, says McMahan, have a "practice of punishment that would have as its sole aim the defense of innocent people against those who, by violating the laws, had shown themselves to be presumptively dangerous and simultaneously made themselves liable to defensive action" (p. 81). Thus, "even if we rejected the idea that violators [of laws] could deserve to be punished, we could still insist that only those who had violated the law could be legitimately punished because only they would be morally liable to punishment" (p. 81).

McMahan is surely right that there is a distinction between liability and desert and that there are acts of punishment that are simultaneously defensive. But I'm not sure that these distinctions add up to the claim that there can be a practice of punishment with solely defensive aims. One can be liable to defensive harm that one does not deserve, for example if one innocently threatens someone else's life. But I don't see how one can be liable to punishment that one does not deserve. When we lock up the dangerously insane, the fact that they do not deserve it (despite being liable to it) removes the punitive aspect of detention whilst retaining the preventative aspect. This seems to me a purely defensive act precisely because the diminished responsibility removes the element of desert, and therefore of punishment. Similarly, I don't see why the defence of people against those liable to be preventatively harmed should be labelled a practice of punishment, if the aim is purely defensive and justified on grounds of liability rather than desert. So, even if McMahan has shown that wars of aggression can in fact be justified, I don't think he has (yet) shown that punishment can be a just cause for war.

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The Ethics of War: Essays

The Ethics of War: Essays

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Some of the most basic assumptions of Just War theory have been dismantled in a barrage of criticism and analysis in the first dozen years of the twenty-first century. The Ethics of War continues and pushes past this trend. This anthology is an authoritative treatment of the ethics and law of war by eminent scholars who first challenged the orthodoxy of Just War theory, as well as by “second-wave” revisionists. The twelve original essays span both foundational and topical issues in the ethics of war, including an investigation of whether there is a “greater-good” obligation that parallels the canonical lesser evil justification in war, the conditions under which citizens can wage war against their own government, whether there is a limit to the number of combatants on the unjust side who can be permissibly killed, whether the justice of the cause for which combatants fight affects the moral permissibility of fighting, whether duress ever justifies killing in war, the role that collective liability plays in the ethics of war, whether targeted killing is morally and legally permissible, the morality of legal prohibitions on the use of indiscriminate weapons, the justification for the legal distinction between directly and indirectly harming civilians, whether human rights of unjust combatants are more prohibitive than have been thought, the moral categories and criteria needed to understand the proper justification for ending war, and the role of hope in the moral repair of combatants suffering from PTSD.

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Period 7: 1890-1945 (AP US History)

Period 7: 1890-1945.

An increasingly pluralistic United States faced profound domestic and global challenges, debated the proper degree of government activism, and sought to define its international role. Topics may include

Debates over Imperialism

The progressive movement, world war i, innovations in communications and technology in the 1920s, the great depression and the new deal, world war ii, postwar diplomacy.

Image Source : Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California , a photograph by Dorothea Lange taken in 1936 when she was working for the Resettlement Administration. (Library of Congress)

Famous black and white depression-era photo showing destitute mother with children

10-17% Exam Weighting

Resources by Period:

  • Period 1: 1491–1607
  • Period 2: 1607–1754
  • Period 3: 1754–1800
  • Period 4: 1800–1848
  • Period 5: 1844–1877
  • Period 6: 1865–1898
  • Period 7: 1890–1945
  • Period 8: 1945–1980
  • Period 9: 1980–Present

Key Concepts

7.1 : Growth expanded opportunity, while economic instability led to new efforts to reform U.S. society and its economic system.

7.2 : Innovations in communications and technology contributed to the growth of mass culture, while significant changes occurred in internal and international migration patterns.

7.3 : Participation in a series of global conflicts propelled the United States into a position of international power while renewing domestic debates over the nation’s proper role in the world.

Illustration about American imperialism.

Empire Builders

By robert w. cherny.

Learn about the reactions to the growth of an American overseas empire.

Illustration of US navy in Cuba.

Our Victorious Fleet in Cuban Waters

Print depicting American naval forces off Cuba during the Spanish-American War

  • Primary Source

Illustration about US involvement in the Philippines.

The War against Spain in the Philippines in 1898

By richard meixel.

Learn about US naval actions in Southeast Asia during the Spanish-American War.

1901 photo of Ha-ta-men Gate.

The US in China

By warren cohen.

Learn about the US support of the Open Door Policy and reaction to the Boxer Rebellion.

Political cartoon showing America being drawn into war.

The Open Door Policy and the Boxer War

Learn about how the Open Door Policy served US economic, cultural, and strategic interests in China.

Political cartoon showing problem of child labor in America.

The Politics of Reform

By julie des jardins.

Learn about the politics of reform during the Progressive era.

Lithograph of women marching in suffrage parade in Washington DC.

Women in American Politics in the Twentieth Century

By sara evans.

Learn about women who advocated full participation in American public and political life during the suffrage movement.

Photo of Teddy Roosevelt giving a speech.

The Square Deal

By kirsten swinth.

Learn about themes of Progressive reform and Teddy Roosevelt's Square Deal.

Photo of Women's Suffrage picket of the White House.

The Progressive Era to the New Era, 1900-1929

By daniel rodgers.

The Progressive Era to the New Era (1900-1929) Timeline and essay explaining the domestic and global challenges facing the US.

Negro Business League response to legal bars to voting in Virginia.

Disfranchisement of African American voters

Negro Business League response to legal bars to voting in Virginia

Yiddish music about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire

Sheet music in Yiddish lamenting the deaths in Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire

A purple silk banner with gold fringe and the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs' motto, "Lifting As We Climb" painted in large gold letters.

Women and the Progressive Movement

By miriam cohen.

Learn about the women who sought to address a variety of social problems associated with industrialization

Lithograph depicting women's role promoting prohibition.

The Supreme Court upholds national prohibition

The Supreme Court upholds Prohibition and the Volstead Act

Pamphlet showing how to vote for women's suffrage.

Modern Women Persuading Modern Men

By jonathan soffer .

Learn about the women's struggle for suffrage.

Pamphlet decrying lynching crisis.

Lynching in America

NAACP broadside presenting the shocking statistics regarding lynching in America

World War 1 poster.

World War I poems: “In Flanders Fields” & “The Answer"

Nurse's diary containing McCrae’s poem reflecting upon the horrors of WWI

Photo of troops in World War 1.

by Jennifer D. Keene

Learn about America's role in WWI.

Recruitment poster targeting black enlistment.

Recruiting posters for African American soldiers

Military recruitment of Black troops during World War I

Teddy Roosavelt letter expressing thoughts about the Lusitania.

Theodore Roosevelt on the sinking of the Lusitania

Former president urges US involvement in WWI

Political cartoon showing Roman soldier walking towards horizon with piece of paper on the ground saying "15 Nations Sign Anti-War Treaty"

America's role in the world

By michael neiberg.

Read about American foreign policy between the world wars.

Cabinet secretary statement defending Wilson.

Treaty of Versailles and President Wilson

1919 and 1921.

Former Cabinet secretary's statement that "Woodrow Wilson did not fail"

Pamphlet criticizing use of Espionage and Sedition Acts.

Deportation: Its Meaning and Menace

Pamphlet criticizing the US government for its use of the Espionage and Sedition Acts

Cartoon showing wall labeled "Literacy Test" with family on one side and Uncle Sam on the other

The Dillingham Commission

By robert zeidel.

Learn about the background to the 1917 Literacy Test Act and the 1921 Quota Act.

Photo of Ford Model T car.

The Rise of Consumerism in the 1920s

By michael flamm.

Listen to a discussion about purchasing power, occupation, and identity

Ford advertisement in 1908 newspaper.

Motor City: The Story of Detroit

By thomas sugrue.

Read about the origins of Henry Ford's factory system in Detroit and its legacy.

"Big Business Banishes the Flapper" article from Morning Tulsa Daily World.

The Roaring Twenties

By joshua zeitz.

Examine why the 1920s heralded a dramatic break in American social, economic, and political policies.

"Advice Sheet" for theaters restricting access to Birth of a Nation for African Americans

Birth of a Nation

"Advice Sheet" for theaters restricting access to Birth of a Nation for African Americans

Herbert Hoover signature

The Great Depression

By david kennedy.

Learn about some of the causes and consequences of the Great Depression.

Photo of FDR.

The New Deal

By thomas kessner.

Learn about FDR's New Deal.

Photo of the Silent Protest in 1917.

Jim Crow and the Great Migration

By jonathan scott holloway.

Learn about the reasons behind the Great Migration.

Roosevelt memo to House Speaker.

The Hundred Days and Beyond

By anthony j. badger.

Understand how the New Deal functioned as  a "laboratory for economic learning."

Recruitment poster for Arizona Civilian Conservation Corps

Civilian Conservation Corps poster

Enlistment poster for the CCC, which put young men to work improving parks and creating infrastructure

Photo showing WPA worker receiving a paycheck with sign in background "USA Work Program WPA"

Why the New Deal Matters

By eric rauchway .

Watch a discussion of FDR's New Deal.

Photo of farmers during the Dust Bowl.

Photograph of an abandoned farm in the Dust Bowl

Dorothea Lange photograph depicting the devastation caused by the Dust Bowl

1870s engraving depicing the interior of the New York Clearing House featuring lines of people come to enact financial transactions

The US Banking System

By richard sylla.

Read about the emergence of the banking industry in the United States.

WWII poster showing four soldiers planting the US flag with text saying "Now All Together"

by Kenneth T. Jackson

Learn about US involvement in WWII.

US Citizens Defense Corps logos.

Civilian defense on the home front

Excerpt from The US Citizens Defense Corp handbook explaining the duties and responsibilities of home-front volunteers

Army photo celebrating women's contribution to war effort.

The World War II Home Front

By allan m. winkler.

Learn how activities on the home front supported US efforts during WWII.

Japan's declaration of war.

Japan declares war

Japan's Declaration of War coinciding with the attach on Pearl Harbor

Photo of Japanese storefront for rent.

From Citizen to Enemy

Learn about the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.

Notice to Japanese to assemble for transport to detention camps.

Japanese internment

Broadside instructing the Japanese "to assemble for transport to detention camps"

Scientists' statement on atomic bomb.

Physicists predict a nuclear arms race

"Preliminary Statement of the Association of Manhattan District Scientists" emphasizing the need to control atomic weaponry

Photo of Potsdam meeting.

Truman and His Doctrine

By elizabeth edwards spalding.

Read about how and why Truman devised a strategy of containment

Harry Truman letter to Dean Acheson.

Harry S. Truman responds to McCarthy

Truman response to McCarthy, characterizing him as "the best asset that the Kremlin can have"

Photograph showing Clement Atlee, Harry Truman, and Joseph Stalin stead outdoors at the Potsdam Conference

The Origins of the Cold War

By john lewis gaddis.

Learn about U.S.-Soviet relations from the nineteenth century through the end of World War II.

American History Timeline: 1890-1945

Image citations.

Listed in order of appearance in the sections above

  • Keppler, Udo J. "His 128th birthday. 'Gee, But This Is an Awful Stretch!'" Puck, June 29, 1904. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Currier & Ives. Our Victorious Fleets in Cuban Waters. New York, 1898. Chromolithograph. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC03534.
  • Ehrhart, Samuel D. "If They'll Only Be Good." Puck, January 31, 1900. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Ricalton, James. West from Ha-ta-men Gate along Huge Ancient Wall between Tartar and Chinese Peking, Scene of a Desperate Charge during Siege - China. New York: Underwood & Underwood, 1901. Photograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Keppler, Udo J. "The Tug of War in the Far East." Puck, September 14, 1898. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Riis, Jacob A. Street Arabs in "sleeping quarters." New York, ca. 1888. Photograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Woman Suffrage Procession, Washington, DC. Official Program. March 3, 1913. Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division.
  • Underwood & Underwood. "Good Government Is Practically Applying the Principles Which Make a Man a Good Citizen" - President [Theodore] Roosevelt, Waterville, Maine. 1902. Stereoview. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC06449.22.
  • Harris & Ewing. Woman Suffrage Pickets at White House. Washington, DC, 1917. Photograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Jackson, Giles B. Letter to R. C. Burrow, June 22, 1901. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC08907.
  • Rumshisky, Joseph, and Anshel Schorr. "'Mamenu' or The Triangle Victims" (in Yiddish). New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1911. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC06225.
  • National Association of Colored Women’s Club. "Lifting As We Climb." Banner, ca. 1924. silk (fiber), wood, paint.
  • Currier & Ives. Woman's Holy War :Grand Charge on the Enemy's Works. New York, 1874. Lithograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. 
  • N. Y. State Woman Suffrage Party. How to Vote for Woman Suffrage Amendment, Election Day, November 6th, 1917. Albany, NY, 1917. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC08961.
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. For the Good of America. New York, ca. 1926. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC06197.
  • Chandler, Howard John. The Spirit of America -- Join. American Red Cross, 1919. Color lithograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Come Out! [Volume 1, No. 2 (January 10, 1970)] Newspaper, GLC09872.02
  • Renesch, Edward George. Colored Man Is No Slacker. Chicago, 1918. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC06134.
  • Roosevelt, Theodore. Letter to Oscar King Davis, June 23, 1915. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC08003.
  • Berryman, Clifford Kennedy. 15 Nations Sign Anti-war Treaty. August 27, 1928. Berryman Political Cartoon Collection, 1896-1949; Records of the U.S. Senate, Record Group 46. National Archives.
  • McAdoo, William G. Statement given out by Ex-Secreatry of the Treasury on Woodrow Wilson, March 4, 1921. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC03967.
  • Berkman, Alexander, and Emma Goldman. Deportation, Its Meaning and Menace. New York, 1918. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC06222.
  • Evans, Raymond Oscar. “The Americanese Wall, as Congressman Burnett Would Build It .” Puck, March 25, 1916. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Unknown photographer. The First Model T Ford. New York, 1908. Photograph. New York Public Library Digital Collections. 
  • Ford Touring Car advertisement. Alma (Mich.) Record, October 1, 1908, p. 4. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.
  • "Big Business Banishes the Flapper." Morning Tulsa Daily World, July 16, 1922. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.
  • Edwards, Jack. "Advice Sheet. D. W. Griffith's 'The Birth of a Nation.'" ca. 1915. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC05091.
  • Hoover, Herbert. Letter to Louis L. Emmerson, July 10, 1931. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC03146.
  • Harris & Ewing. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Washington DC, ca. 1941. Photograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Underwood & Underwood. Silent Protest Parade in New York City against the East St. Louis Riots. New York, 1917. Photograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Roosevelt, Franklin D. Letter to Henry T. Rainey, June 10, 1933. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC07468.
  • Arizona Civilian Conservation Corps. "Great Oaks from Little Acorns." 1938. Recruitment poster. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC06196.262.
  • Unknown photographer. Photograph of Works Progress Administration Worker Receiving Paycheck. January 1939. Photograph. Record Group 594956. WPA Information Division Photographic Index. National Archives.
  • Lange, Dorothea. Dust Bowl Farmers of West Texas in Town. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, June 1937. Photograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Pennsylvania. Two shilling and Six-pence note, No. 4665. April 3, 1772. Printed by Hall and Sellers. Signed by Cadwalader Morris, Joseph Swift, and Samuel Hudson. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC01450.226.01.
  • United States. War Division. 7th war loan/now all together. Poster. 1945. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC09520.34.
  • US Office of Civilian Defense. Special Civilian Defense Insignia. 1942. Poster. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC09520.36.
  • Treidler, Adolph, and US Army. Soldiers Without Guns. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1944. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Hirohito, Emperor of Japan. Declaration of War against the United States and Britain [in Japanese]. December 8, 1941. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC01415.
  • Albers, Clem. Los Angeles, Calif. Apr. 1942. A store for rent in “Little Tokyo” after residents of Japanese ancestry were assigned to War Relocation Authority centers for the duration. Washington DC: War Relocation Authority, April 11, 1942. Photograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • DeWitt, J. L. US Army. Instructions to All Persons of Japanese Ancestry.  May 3, 1942. Broadside. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC06360.
  • Kaplan, Irving. "Preliminary Statement of the Association of Manhattan District Scientists." ca. August 1945. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC03152.02.
  • United States. Army. Signal Corps. Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, and Joseph Stalin at Potsdam. ca. July-August 1945. Photograph. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC04457.
  • Truman, Harry S. Letter to Dean Acheson, March 31, 1950. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC00782.22.
  • Clement Attlee, Harry Truman, and Joseph Stalin, seated outdoors at Berlin conference. Germany Potsdam, 1945. Aug. 1. Photograph. .

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Home — Essay Samples — War — American Civil War — What Caused the Civil War: Political, Economic and Social Factors


What Caused The Civil War: Political, Economic and Social Factors

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Published: Sep 7, 2023

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The role of slavery, states' rights and sectional differences, the role of the federal government, economic and social factors.

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politics and war essay

Political Violence on Government Essay

Introduction, a case for political violence, a case against political violence, works cited.

Our great human civilization is built on the foundation of rule of law whereby violence is abhorred and peace exalted. This is because violence normally results in losses of both life and economic resources. Despite these realities, there have been numerous cases of political violence throughout history. In some instances, political violence has had popular support and led to positive change therefore begging the question as to whether acts of violence against one’s own government are justified.

Considering the enormous impact that political violence has on a nation and its people, it would be a worthwhile endeavor to review the justifiability of political violence. To this end, this paper shall set out to argue that political violence directed against one’s own government is at times justifiable and indeed preferable to the alternative peaceful acceptance of the status quo.

Political violence mostly involves internal armed conflict between various forces or parties with conflicting political ideologies in a nation. While the term violence has a negative connotation, historians and philosophers have argued that political violence may be justified depending on the circumstances in question. A particularly interesting case of political violence is the American Civil War. As a result of political violence, the American revolutionalists overthrew the British colonial ruler therefore leading to the formation of a strong United States of America. The chief author of the American constitution, Thomas Jefferson exalted periodic rebellion as “medicine necessary for the sound health of government” (911).

One of the chief responsibilities of any government is to ensure the provision of security for all its citizens. This is one of the mandates that the state through the use of its police force and military forces achieves. Kirwin and Wonbin theorize that the state should have a monopoly on the use of force and should use the same to “enforce laws for the mitigation of conflict” (6).

In some cases, the state may fail to provide this security to its citizens or even worse still, be responsible for the high level of violence experienced within its borders. In such instances, political violence may be permissible as the citizens seek alternative strategies to ensure their security which the government fails to provide. This is a position that is supported by Cohan who claims that political violence are generally legitimate and justifiable means through which hostile governments can be made to meet their demise (910).

The relationship between poverty, inequality, unemployment and armed conflict is very evident since citizens of poor nations feel resentful towards their government. Solimano reinforces this hypothesis by asserting that the risk of conflict and political violence diminishes as a country increases its level of economic development (19).

A case in point is the Latin Americas region where political violence has mostly been instigated by social movements and left-wing political parties which are motivated by strong active social agendas (Solimano 23). As a result of political violence, governments in Latin American have been forced to deal with issues such as underdevelopment, poverty and inequality. This being the case, political violence can be used as the tool through which positive change is brought about to the country.

While violence is inherently wrong, there arises a situation whereby it is morally justifiable. Ruby demonstrates that in the example of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the political violence was seen as morally justifiable (12). This is because the insurgent forces were aiming to eliminate British dominance in Northern Ireland, a task that they viewed to be morally justifiable. Therefore, inasmuch as the violence resulted in the wanton destruction of property and the loss of lives of innocent civilians, the propagators of the political violence were still able to maintain a moral sanctity since their cause was morally just.

Sabecedo, Blanco and Corte assert that in the most extreme form, political violence involves physically eliminating one’s adversaries (550). While such a violent act in itself would simply be wrong, the consequences of the same might render the act morally right (O’Boyle 27). The typical example given is a situation whereby the killing of one person would result in the saving of many other lives. For example, if there had been political violence in Nazi Germany which resulted in the assassination of the Nazi leader Hitler, then it can be assumed that millions of lives would have been saved. Political violence would therefore have been morally justifiable since it would have resulted in the saving of millions of innocent citizens.

Political violence results in instability and jeopardizes democratic reforms as well as any prospects of economic development especially in developing nations. Kirwin and Wonbin authoritatively state that “political violence is typically the penultimate event that precedes full-scale civil war” (2). The authors go on to demonstrate that these civil wars which result from political violence may run for decades resulting in the death and suffering of hundreds of thousands. With such realities in mind, it can be argued that political violence justified or not, should be avoided by all means.

Without doubt, it would be preferable if violence was never used to settle any scores since violence results in the destruction of lives and physical assets therefore negating development. In the ideal situation, negotiations and consensus will result in peaceful resolution of conflicts and avoidance of political violence.

However, this ideal may not always be realizable and at times, it may be inevitable to resort to violence so as to safeguard the freedom, prosperity and eventually the peace of the citizens of a nation. Cohan notes that even the United Nations Charter concedes that the international community should ideally not be involved in matters of internal strive which pertain to domestic sovereignty (911). As such, it can be deduced that there are instances whereby political violence may be permissible even by international standards.

Political violence while undesirable may at times be the only means through desirable results are achieved. This paper has given a succinct but informative discussion to reinforce this assertion by highlighting instances whereby it is justifiable for one to adopt violence means against their government.

From the discussions presented herein, it is clear that there are circumstances whereby it is not only justifiable but also obligatory for citizens of a nation to resort to political violence for the good of the nations. In such instances, political violence may lead to institutional reforms, improved democracies or even the overthrow of oppressive regimes. However, the paper has also shown that violence invariably results in destruction and suffering for people. Therefore, despite being justifiable, political violence should only be employed in extremely rare situations and only as a last resort.

Cohan, Alan. Necessity, Political Violence and Terrorism . Stetson Law Review Vol. 35, 2006.

Kirwin, Matthew and Wonbin, Cho. Weak States and Political Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Afrobarometer publications, 2009.

Sabucedo, J Blanco, Amalio and Corte, Luis. Beliefs which Legitimize Political Violence against the Innocent. Psicothema 2003. Vol. 15, no 4, pp. 550-555

Solimano, A. Political Violence and Economic Development in Latin America: Issues and Evidence. United Nations Publication, 2004. Print.

O’Boyle, Garrett. Theories of Justification and Political Violence: Examples from Four Groups. Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 14, No 2, 2002, pp. 23-46.

Ruby, Charles. The Definition of Terrorism. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 2002, pp. 9–14.

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IvyPanda. (2020, June 25). Political Violence on Government.

"Political Violence on Government." IvyPanda , 25 June 2020,

IvyPanda . (2020) 'Political Violence on Government'. 25 June.

IvyPanda . 2020. "Political Violence on Government." June 25, 2020.

1. IvyPanda . "Political Violence on Government." June 25, 2020.


IvyPanda . "Political Violence on Government." June 25, 2020.

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Essay on War and Its Effects

Students are often asked to write an essay on War and Its Effects in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on War and Its Effects


War is a state of armed conflict between different countries or groups within a country. It’s a destructive event that causes loss of life and property.

The Devastation of War

Wars cause immense destruction. Buildings, homes, and infrastructure are often destroyed, leaving people homeless. The loss of resources makes it hard to rebuild.

The human cost of war is huge. Many people lose their lives or get injured. Families are torn apart, and children often lose their parents.

Psychological Impact

War can cause severe psychological trauma. Soldiers and civilians may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

War has devastating effects on people and societies. It’s important to promote peace and understanding to prevent wars.

250 Words Essay on War and Its Effects

War, a term that evokes immediate images of destruction and death, has been a persistent feature of human history. The consequences are multifaceted, influencing not only the immediate physical realm but also the socio-economic and psychological aspects of society.

Physical Impact

The most direct and visible impact of war is the physical destruction. Infrastructure, homes, and natural resources are often destroyed, leading to a significant decline in the quality of life. Moreover, the loss of human lives is immeasurable, creating a vacuum in societies that is hard to fill.

Socio-Economic Consequences

War also has profound socio-economic effects. Economies are crippled as resources are diverted towards war efforts, leading to inflation, unemployment, and poverty. Social structures are disrupted, with families torn apart and communities displaced.

Psychological Effects

Perhaps the most enduring impact of war is psychological. The trauma of violence and loss can have long-term effects on mental health, leading to conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. Society at large also suffers, with the collective psyche marked by fear and mistrust.

In conclusion, war leaves an indelible mark on individuals and societies. Its effects are far-reaching and long-lasting, extending beyond the immediate physical destruction to touch every aspect of life. As we continue to study and understand these impacts, it underscores the importance of pursuing peace and conflict resolution.

500 Words Essay on War and Its Effects

War, an organized conflict between two or more groups, has been a part of human history for millennia. Its effects are profound and far-reaching, influencing political, social, and economic aspects of societies. Understanding the impact of war is crucial to comprehend the intricacies of global politics and human behavior.

The Political Impact of War

War significantly alters the political landscape of nations. It often leads to changes in leadership, shifts in power dynamics, and amendments in legal systems. For instance, World War II resulted in the downfall of fascist regimes in Germany and Italy, giving rise to democratic governments. However, war can also destabilize nations, creating power vacuums that may lead to further conflicts, as seen in the aftermath of the Iraq War.

Social Consequences of War

Societies bear the brunt of war’s destructive nature. The loss of life, displacement of people, and the psychological trauma inflicted upon populations are some of the direct social effects. Indirectly, war also affects societal structures and relationships. It can lead to changes in gender roles, as seen during World War I and II where women took on roles traditionally held by men, leading to significant shifts in gender dynamics.

Economic Ramifications of War

Economically, war can have both destructive and stimulating effects. On one hand, it leads to the destruction of infrastructure, depletion of resources, and interruption of trade. On the other, it can stimulate economic growth through increased production and technological advancements. The economic boom in the United States during and after World War II is an example of war-induced economic stimulation.

The Psychological Impact of War

War leaves a deep psychological imprint on those directly and indirectly involved. Soldiers and civilians alike suffer from conditions like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Moreover, societies as a whole can experience collective trauma, impacting future generations. The psychological scars of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings continue to affect Japanese society today.

In conclusion, war is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon with profound effects that can shape nations and societies in significant ways. Its impacts are not confined to the battlefield but reach deep into the political, social, economic, and psychological fabric of societies. Therefore, understanding its effects is not only essential for historians and political scientists but also for anyone interested in the complexities of human societies and their evolution.

That’s it! I hope the essay helped you.

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Aaron Bushnell’s Act of Political Despair

By Masha Gessen

A triptych of still images from the video of Aaron Bushnells selfimmolation. In the first image Bushnell is seen walking...

On Sunday afternoon, Aaron Bushnell, wearing a mustard-colored sweater under his combat fatigues, walked up to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. As he approached the building, he filmed himself saying, “I am an active-duty member of the United States Air Force, and I will no longer be complicit in genocide. I’m about to engage in an extreme act of protest, but, compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it’s not extreme at all. This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal.” He set his phone down, propping it up to continue filming, poured a flammable liquid from a water bottle over his head, then put on his camouflage hat and used a lighter to set himself on fire. He died in the hospital from his injuries later that day. He was twenty-five years old.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 or chat at .

Self-immolation is not a new form of political protest, but it is by no means a common one. Dozens of Buddhist monks have committed self-immolation, to protest the suppression of Buddhist leaders in Vietnam in the middle of the last century and, more recently, to draw attention to Chinese rule over Tibet, and the exile of the Dalai Lama . In the nineteen-sixties, dozens of people in the United States and Asia died after setting themselves on fire to protest the war in Vietnam. Then the practice spread to the Soviet bloc. It began when hope died. In 1968, students in Warsaw and Prague protested, much like students elsewhere in the West that year. In Czechoslovakia, the leadership of the Communist Party instituted liberal reforms, relaxing censorship and promising to build a “socialism with a human face.” It was known as the Prague Spring. But, in August, Warsaw Pact troops, commanded by Moscow, entered Czechoslovakia. The country’s leadership was placed under arrest and airlifted to Moscow. The Prague Spring was crushed . In September, Ryszard Siwiec, a fifty-nine-year-old Polish war veteran, set himself on fire during a harvest festival, insuring that his protest against his country’s complicity in the invasion was witnessed by thousands of people. A more widely remembered act of self-immolation was committed several months later by a twenty-year-old Czech student named Jan Palach, who ran down a street in Prague after setting himself on fire.

Under conditions of democracy, people act politically because they think that their actions can lead to change. They cannot effect change alone, and change is never immediate, but their experience tells them that change is possible and that it is brought about by the actions of citizens. When people do not believe that change is possible, most do not act. Authoritarian regimes rely on a passive citizenry. Totalitarian regimes mobilize their subjects to imitate political action, but in a way that never brings about change. The vast majority comply. But a small minority can’t stand it. Dissidents are people who would rather pay the psychic cost of becoming outcasts because what Václav Havel called “living within the lie” is even worse. Within this minority, there seems to be an even smaller group of people who find their individual helplessness so unbearable that they are willing to do something as desperate as self-immolate. Jan Palach’s protest suicide was followed by several more in Czechoslovakia, then in Lithuania and Ukraine. In the past few years, self-immolation has reëmerged as a form of protest in Putin’s Russia.

Blackandwhite photograph of demonstrators at the funeral of Jan Palach in Prague 1969.

What does it mean for an American to self-immolate? Since the Vietnam War, Americans have died by this form of suicide to draw attention to climate change, as the lawyer and conservationist David Buckel did, in Brooklyn in 2018, and the climate activist Wynn Bruce did, on Earth Day, 2022, on the steps of the Supreme Court . Like all of us, these men lived in a world that knows about the catastrophic threat of climate change, pays lip service to the need to protect the human population of the planet, yet fails to act. “Many who drive their own lives to help others often realize that they do not change what causes the need for their help,” Buckel wrote in an e-mail that he sent to several media outlets before setting himself on fire in Prospect Park. Buckel had been a lifelong activist, a lawyer who had helped to advance L.G.B.T. rights. But, on the issue of climate, despite being surrounded with like-minded people and being able to act with them, he felt helpless.

We know very little about Aaron Bushnell. His Facebook page shows that he had been following the war in Gaza and admired Rashida Tlaib, a Democratic congresswoman from Michigan, who is Palestinian American. We know that Bushnell belonged to a generation of Americans—adults under the age of thirty—who express more sympathy with Palestinians than with Israelis in the current conflict. Perhaps, like Buckel, he was surrounded by people who thought as he did yet was constantly reminded of his helplessness. He probably watched as, in November, twenty-two Democrats joined House Republicans in censuring Tlaib for alleged antisemitic remarks, though Tlaib herself, who has family in the occupied West Bank, had taken pains to stress that her issues are with Israel’s government, not its people. He had been watching a Presidential race between two elderly men who seem to differ little on what for Bushnell was the most pressing issue in the world today: the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. What did it matter that Bushnell had the right to vote if he had no real choice? That he was a member of the military surely made matters worse. His final message on Facebook read, “Many of us like to ask ourselves, ‘What would I do if I was alive during slavery? Or the Jim Crow South? Or apartheid? What would I do if my country was committing genocide?’ The answer is, you’re doing it. Right now.” (The message, which contained a link to the page on Twitch where Bushnell was planning to live-stream his final act of protest, is no longer visible.)

Bushnell wrote a will in which he left his savings to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Perhaps he had watched the hearing of a case in federal court in California, brought by Defense for Children International-Palestine in an attempt to stop the Biden Administration from continuing to aid the Israeli attacks on Gaza . Perhaps he saw the U.S. government argue that there is no legal pathway for citizens to stop the government from providing military aid, even if it can be shown that the aid is used to genocidal ends. A few days later, the judge in the case, Jeffrey White, said that the legal system could indeed do nothing. “This Court implores Defendants to examine the results of their unflagging support of the military siege against the Palestinians in Gaza,” he wrote in his decision. Even the federal judge felt helpless.

Maybe Bushnell watched or read about the proceedings of South Africa’s case against Israel in the International Court of Justice. Perhaps he listened to the litany of atrocities that grew familiar as fast as it became outdated: the exact thousands of women and children killed, the precise majority of Gazans who are experiencing extreme hunger. That court ordered Israel to take immediate measures to protect Palestinian civilians. Israel has ignored the ruling, and the United States has vetoed resolutions calling for a ceasefire and argued, in another I.C.J. case, that the court should not order Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This was a government that Bushnell had sworn to protect with his life, subverting mechanisms created to enforce international law, including law—such as the Genocide Convention—that the United States had played a key role in drafting.

We know that Bushnell planned his self-immolation carefully. He made final arrangements. He contacted the media. On the day of the action, he carried himself with purpose. His movements appeared rehearsed. Perhaps he dreamed that his protest would awaken a country that had descended into a moral stupor. Like Jan Palach, who ran down a street, and Ryszard Siwiec, who set himself aflame at a dance, Bushnell wanted us to see him burn.

In 2013, the Dalai Lama, long under pressure to call for an end to the practice of self-immolation, called it a form of nonviolence. Nonviolence should not be confused with passivity: as a form of protest, nonviolence is a practice that exposes violence. The philosopher Judith Butler has argued that nonviolence cannot be undertaken by a person acting alone. That would be true for nonviolence as a political act—an act aimed at effecting change, an act founded in hope. Self-immolation is a nonviolent act of despair. ♦

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The Limits of Accusing Israel of Genocide

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Politics latest: Chancellor accused of 'deception' over budget tax cut - as senior Tory says 'we'll be ready' if PM calls May election

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will announce a further cut in national insurance in his budget tomorrow, Sky News understands. Meanwhile, a Labour frontbencher has said the election is "definitely coming" in May. Listen to a budget-centric edition of the Sky News Daily podcast as you scroll.

Tuesday 5 March 2024 14:32, UK

  • Budget to cut national insurance  |  Fuel duty cut to be extended
  • Chancellor accused of trying to 'deceive' public with tax cuts
  • Budget 2024 : What to expect  | How to watch  | Why Hunt's willing to sacrifice public spending |  Podcast: Will tax cuts win votes?
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Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will cut national insurance by two percentage points in the spring budget, Sky News understands.

This move will impact 27 million people, worth £450 per year for the average person.

It comes after the rate of national insurance fell from 12% to 10% after the autumn statement.

We also understand that the 5p fuel duty cut will continue, after it was due to expire at the end of March.

There will also be a continuation of the fuel duty freeze.

It is possible this could be the last budget before the general election, and tax cuts had been widely hinted at by Mr Hunt and Mr Sunak.

A Conservative minister appeared to rule out a May general election this morning - while a Labour frontbencher bet £10 with Sky News presenter Kay Burley that a vote would take place that month.

Speculation about the date of the general election is continuing to swirl, with the latest possible date of a vote being January next year.

The decision on when to hold a vote rests with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Asked on Times Radio if a vote would be taking place in May, trade minister Greg Hands simply said "no".

You can read more from Sky News below:

Following the Rochdale by-election, Sky’s political editor Beth Rigby, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, Jess Phillips, and former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, discuss what George Galloway’s win means for parliament. 

They examine the fallout from the by-election and ask why politics is not working for many people. 

They also look ahead to this week's budget – predicting what Chancellor Jeremy Hunt might pull out of the bag. 

A thought-provoking conversation with a healthy dose of fun. 

Email Beth, Ruth, and Jess at [email protected], Tweet Beth @BethRigby, or send a WhatsApp voice note on 07934 200 444. 

Warning: some explicit language. 

👉 Listen above then tap here to follow Electoral Dysfunction wherever you get your podcasts 👈

The Sky News live poll tracker - collated and updated by our Data and Forensics team - aggregates various surveys to indicate how voters feel about different political parties.

Labour is still sitting comfortably on a roughly 20-point lead, averaging at 43.8% in the polls, with the Tories on 24.0%.

In third is Reform UK on 10.5%, followed by the Lib Dems on 9.5%.

The Green Party stands at 6.1%, and the SNP on 3.2%.

See the latest update below - and you can read more about the methodology behind the tracker  here .

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has said any tax cuts announced by the Conservatives in the spring budget tomorrow will be a "swindle" on the British people.

Discussing reports another national insurance cut is on the way ( see 12.18 post ), Sir Ed pointed to the Conservative record on tax rises.

He said: "We need to help people struggling with the cost of living, the truth is that the Conservatives increased taxes. 

"Any tax cuts will already be a deception and swindle on the British people because the vast majority of people are paying much higher taxes thanks to the Conservatives."

What do the Liberal Democrats want to see in the spring budget?

"An end to the cuts in the NHS," Sir Ed explained. 

"We're about to see the worst cuts in the NHS since the 1970s and the choice at the next election is going to be between a Conservative government who want to cut our NHS, or Liberal Democrats who want to make sure we protect our NHS.

"That's our top priority."

Latest figures show yesterday was the busiest day of 2024 so far for illegal crossings over the Channel.

Some 401 people had the journey in small boats, taking the total since Rishi Sunak became prime minister to more than 40,000.

He had made "stop the boats" one of his key pledges.

We've now heard from his official spokesperson about the new data.

"The PM is committed to making further progress to stop boat crossings, there has been a 36% reduction in 2023 compared to 2022," they said.

More needs to be done, which is why we are focused on the Rwanda bill, and reaching agreements like the Calais Group agreement to work with counterparts to further prevent and intercept crossings."

The Calais Group agreement refers to a deal with France to ensure "closer cooperation" to tackle illegal migration, while the Rwanda plan would see migrants who arrive illegally flown to the African country.

Mr Sunak's spokesperson said they "hope" the needed legislation gets through parliament despite it taking a kicking in the House of Lords last night ( read more here ) over concerns it breaches international law.

Number 10 hopes to get flights off the ground by Easter, and has said it won't let courts stand in its way.

Labour have made a bold claim today - that this year's election is "definitely coming" in May, rather than in the latter half of 2024.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow paymaster general, told Sky News that the Conservatives are "planning for May" for a general election.

Could it be May?

The short answer is yes.

The prime minister is required to hold a general election by 28 January 2025, but it could take place any time in the run up to this date.

For it to take place in May, Rishi Sunak would need to call the election at the end of March or start of April. This allows for the six-week election period.

What is the most likely date?

If the general election is to take place in May, the most realistic date is 2 May - which would mean it coincides with local elections.

With the above in mind, Mr Sunak would need to call the election by 26 March. At this time, a pre-election period of "purdah" would begin.

It is interesting to note that 26 March is the last sitting day of the Commons before the three-week Easter recess.

When else could the election take place?

Of course, we won't know the exact date of the election until it is called.

But there are three main schools of thought on when it could be - those who believe it could be May, those who favour October, and some who think Mr Sunak will wait until January.

What has Rishi Sunak said?

The prime minister said in January that it is his "working assumption" that the general election will take place in the second half of 2024.

"In the meantime, I’ve got lots that I want to get on with," he said.

However, it is notable that Mr Sunak carefully didn't rule other dates out.

We had a bold assertion this morning from a Labour frontbencher that the general election is coming in May.

Jonathan Ashworth insisted the Tories are "planning" for it that month, rather than in October or November as is widely anticipated.

Former Tory minister Priti Patel wouldn't be drawn on when she thinks the election will be, but didn't rule out the chances of it being in May.

"We'll be ready whatever," she told our political editor Beth Rigby . 

"You know, May or autumn…. and don't forget there are local elections this year in May, and police and crime commissioner elections.

"We have to be ready for whenever the balloon goes up."

If a general election was in May, it would likely coincide with the local elections on the 2 May.

That would mean the prime minister needs to call it by 26 March - the same day MPs head off for Easter recess.

Our new political podcast, Electoral Dysfunction , has hit the top of the Apple Podcasts chart after its first episode landed on Friday.

In the debut show, political editor Beth Rigby and co-hosts Jess Phillips and Ruth Davidson discuss the fallout from the Rochdale by-election and look ahead to this week's spring budget.

You can find out what all the fuss is about by following the chart-topping show via the link below:

We're widely expecting the chancellor to deliver tax cuts in tomorrow's budget given it's likely his last chance to win over voters ahead of the general election.

Another cut to National Insurance has been mooted ( see 12.18 post ), as has an extension to a 5p cut in fuel duty ( see 7.57 post ).

Such moves are exactly what a Tory chancellor should be doing, says former minister Priti Patel.

She told our political editor Beth Rigby that the government "should do more to show we back working households" and ensure people "keep more of the money they earn".

With inflation and the cost of living crisis "really cutting into people's incomes", voters are looking for "a breather", Ms Patel said.

"Right now this has to be about giving hard-pressed families a breather and actually giving more of their own money back," she added. 

The former home secretary wants an income tax cut, as she expressed concerns about "more and more people" being "dragged into paying higher rates" due to the amount of public spending over recent years.

The size of the state has dwarfed due to crises like the COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Ms Patel added: "Look at where we are post-COVID.

"The financial crisis feels like a lifetime ago for many of us, but I came into government during that period where we re-established our credit rating, we had a proper long-term economic plan that led to economic growth. 

"These aspects of governance matter a great deal."

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