This chapter is an introduction to the study of war. It surveys the main lines of explanation that have been given to account for past wars. No more than a minimum intellectual context can be given. The literature on war is vast. The subject of war has fascinated and perplexed man for centuries. Many heroic attempts have been made to give the explanation of why warfare is so prevalent in human history. None has proved to be entirely satisfactory. No single explanation of war has been accepted by a concensus of either scholars or statesmen. What exists is a bewildering variety of partial explanations, the better of of which shed light on some aspects of the causative processes that eventuate in war See Luther L. Bernard, War and Its Causes (Holt, New York, 1944); Morris Ginsburg. "The Causes of War," Sociological Review, vol. 31 ( 1939) p. 121.
We begin with a chapter from Quincy Wright's impressive work entitled A Study of War (unabridged ed., University of Chicago Press, 1965). This is probably the most authoritative, and certainly the most comprehensive, recent account of war. It is a great synthesis of all the thinking and experience on the subject. The short selection included here enumerates causal explanations for six great periods of warfare in human history. Wright also adds a helpful discussion of what it means to talk of the "cause" of war. Nothing is resolved by Wright's chapter, but the range of explanations that have been put forward to account for some of the great wars of the past are reviewed. Do these explanations "fit" the conditions of conflict today, so that if war breaks out it will be possible to choose from the stockpile of explanation assembled by Wright? Note that contemporary writing on the risk of nuclear war emphasizes accident, miscalculation, escalation, and catalytic agency. See Kahn, Chapter I. Does this suggest a shift in the causal basis of war in the nuclear age reflecting the awareness that major war is no longer likely to be a product of rational choice? Does this emphasis suggest a loss of human freedom and an acceptance of what night be called "technological determinism"?