Debate has raged as long as wars have been fought as to whether a war can be morally just. Some prominent thinkers have proposed a just-war theory, which argues that wars should be fought for noble and worthwhile reasons. Just-war theorists also try to establish ethical rules for warfare. Of course, whether any war is justified is almost always a matter of debate. But most just-war theorists agree on some basic ideas:
Although all wars are violent, not all wars are the same. In fact, there are many different types of wars, which can be classified according to which people actually fight, the intensity of the conflict, and the extent of combatants’ use of violence, among other factors.
Scholars generally describe five types of war:
A total war is a war in which combatants use every resource available to destroy the social fabric of the enemy. Total wars are highly destructive and are characterized by mass civilian casualties because winning a total war often requires combatants to break the people’s will to continue fighting. World Wars I and II were total wars, marked by the complete destruction of the civilian economy and society in many countries, including France, Germany, the Soviet Union, Italy, Great Britain, and Japan.