The Evolution of War Non-Army War

The Evolution of War
Non-Army War
About 11000 years ago, around 9000 BC, people learned to farm and to domesticate animals for meat.
It was the beginning of the agrarian age. They built permanent settlements to tend their farms. As the
population increased, people began to compete for the best land. Control of water supplies became
important. Over hundreds of years, competing groups began to think that other groups were dangerous.
The desire of groups to protect their property or to acquire more by taking the property of others led to
violent clashes. People had created reasons for war.
Early wars were very ritualistic. If two groups decided that war was the only way to settle a dispute,
their leaders would meet to establish a suitable time and place. Spectators would surround the
battlefield. On the field, unorganized fighters charged toward one another. The war usually ended when
someone was killed. The losing side then had to give up what the groups had been fighting over.
Some North American Native peoples fought non-army wars as late as the sixteenth century. So
intentional was the desire to avoid large-scale bloodshed that the heads on Iroquois war arrows were
rounded rather than barbed to make them less lethal. Fighters also removed the feathers on the ends
of war arrows to make them less accurate.
Effects on People
Non-army wars did not significantly affect those who were not fighters. Usually, life continued during a
war with little change. Winners in wars, however, began to see war as a good way to resolve conflicts
and increase their power. Wars became more frequent, larger, longer, and more organized.
The increased number of wars introduced long-term social changes. Perhaps the most important was
how war changed the role of women. Women and men in most nomadic groups were politically and
socially equal. As a result of their physical strength, however, men were better soldiers. Societies that
depended on soldiers for protection began to rely increasingly on men in all aspects of society. Over
time, men became the dominant sex in most societies.
Phalanx Army War
Around 1500 BC, Egypt began experimenting with new ways to fight wars. Leaders found that infantry
was more effective when organized rather than told only when and where to run. Infantry is a group of
soldiers on foot. The army was organized into rectangular formations called phalanxes. Each phalanx
could contain hundreds of soldiers. When soldiers were taught to march properly and to hold long
spears in front of them, generals discovered that phalanxes could defeat any non-army. As others saw
the success of the Egyptian phalanxes, they developed their own. Soon, all military confrontations were
contests between phalanx armies.
The tactics of war changed. Opposing commanders positioned their phalanxes to face each other. The
two phalanxes marched forward. When they met, the soldiers in the front row stabbed their opponents
with their spears, and then with swords and knives. Infantry at the back continued to march forward. At
some point, the front line soldiers of one side would panic and try to run. The side that remained in
formation continued to move forward and defeat what would quickly become a terrified, unorganized
mob. These deadly pushing matches remained the dominant style of war for thousands of years.
The great powers developed navies at the same time as phalanx armies. The purpose of navies was to
protect trade routes and to move armies. Naval military tactics were very simple. Ships tried to sink
their opponents by ramming them. Failing that, they tried to shear off the enemy ship’s oars. If this
tactic failed, the sailors boarded the enemy ship and fought hand to hand. Naval battles were seldom
decisive factors in who won wars.
Cavalry also became a factor in the age of phalanx armies. Cavalry is a military force on horseback.
The purpose of cavalry was to harass the sides of an enemy phalanx to disrupt the rigid discipline
essential to a phalanx attack. Cavalry became the dominant force in war. Great empires were won and
lost on horseback.
As cavalry became more important in battle, riders wore increasingly heavy protective armour. By 1300,
the armour had become so heavy that the strategy of cavalry in battle was to charge each other and try
to push enemy knights off their horses. Dismounted knights would try desperately to form themselves
into a phalanx but they were not efficient. It became apparent that well-trained infantry were more
useful than horseless knights. The age of the knights and the supremacy of the cavalry slowly ended.
Phalanxes again became dominant in war.
Mercenary armies began to develop in Europe around 1000 AD. A mercenary is a soldier for anyone
who will pay a salary. Monarchs and members of the upper classes believed that wars were necessary,
but that it was more important that peasants worked and paid taxes than serve as soldiers.
Furthermore, some monarchs and aristocrats were afraid that they would be attacked if they trained
and armed the peasants. From the early 1400s to the late 1700s, mercenaries made up most forces in
European wars.
Mercenary armies changed how wars were fought. Although phalanxes remained dominant, battles
became shorter and fewer soldiers were killed. Governments that hired mercenaries could not afford to
waste expensive soldiers in long, drawn-out wars. Moreover, the mercenaries themselves were
unwilling to take risks. They had no emotional commitment to the war. The mercenaries knew that
today’s enemy could be tomorrow s ally. In one case, the French and Spanish kings both hired Swiss
mercenaries. When they met on the battlefield, they refused to fight.
Effects on People
Militarism grew during the era of phalanx armies. Militarism is the belief that war can solve political
problems. In some societies, such as Sparta around 500 BC, war was central to the political culture.
The number of wars and their importance in shaping history grew with militarism.
Wars fought by phalanx armies killed many civilians and destroyed many societies. However, in most
cases, people not directly involved in a war were unaffected by it. Trade between warring nations often
continued. In most cases, everyday life remained the same during wars. It was generally believed that
war was something that involved monarchs and that happened far away.
Mass Army War
In 1799, a military leader named Napoleon Bonaparte became the leader of France. Napoleon claimed
that he wanted to protect France and its revolution but his ambition soon led him to try to create a
French empire. He was opposed by every other government in Europe.
To fight such a huge war, Napoleon needed a great number of soldiers. He could not afford
to hire enough mercenaries and not nearly enough peasants volunteered for military service. Napoleon
decided to order conscription. Conscription forces civilians to join the armed forces. Napoleon stated
that conscripted soldiers could leave the army only through victory or death. To fight the mass army
that French conscription created, all other governments were forced to order conscription. They were
finally forced to arm their peasants.
The new mass armies continued to use the battle tactics that phalanxes had used for hundreds of
years. Shoving matches still won or lost the day. But by the late eighteenth century, all mass armies
had guns. Gunpowder was invented in China in 1232 and introduced to Europe around 1400. Later,
technological innovations of the industrial revolution allowed the manufacture of large numbers of guns.
The guns, however, were heavy and inaccurate and jammed constantly. Mass army soldiers usually
fired one or two rounds and then threw the guns aside. Then, as they had been doing for centuries,
they marched into the enemy with swords raised.
Gunpowder also led to the creation of artillery. Artillery such as heavy cannons can fire projectiles long
distances. Armies used artillery against advancing phalanxes to create panic and destroy morale. It
was also used to destroy fortifications and to disrupt activities behind enemy lines.
Although the tactics were the same, the scale of battle with mass armies was quite different. Military
commanders no longer worried about the cost of mercenary troops. They realized that if a large number
of soldiers were killed, more could be conscripted. Battles became longer, more frequent, and involved
far more soldiers and much more bloodshed. At one point, Napoleon boasted, “You cannot stop me. I
spend 30 000 troops a month.”
War also became more mobile. Phalanx armies had never traveled more than 150 km from sources of
food and supplies. Napoleon reintroduced the Mongol idea that armies should live off the land. Soldiers
were allowed to forage for food in nearby fields and to steal whatever they needed from conquered
towns, including food, clothes, and money. Inventions such as canned food allowed even more freedom
of movement.
Because mass armies were not dependent on supply depots and supply lines, war could be fought all
year. Previously, most wars were fought in the late spring, summer, and early fall. Armies regrouped
during the winter. Napoleon’s mass army did not stop during the winter. It fought throughout the year.
Napoleon was able to undertake campaigns such as a 7000 km march to Russia. War was no longer
small, local, or seasonal.
Effects on People
Soldiers in phalanx armies fought for various reasons: money, their political leader, or because they
were slaves and forced to fight. Soldiers in mass armies fought for their country as citizens.
Governments stirred their emotions by encouraging nationalism.
Governments altered all aspects of societies to supply the mass armies. They restructured their
economies by retooling existing factories and building new ones. War goods became more important
than consumer goods. Napoleon nationalized all factories and many small businesses to coordinate
war production. The state imposed a system of rationing to avoid shortages and ensure that the
soldiers’ needs came before civilian needs. Great Britain imposed the world’s first income tax to help
pay for the war against Napoleon.
No longer could civilians far from the battle carry on their lives normally. The mobile war meant that
battlefields were constantly moving and driving over farms and into towns. Furthermore, mass armies,
encouraged by the emotions of nationalism, demanded the full participation of every member of nations
at war.
Technological Army War
New inventions always affect the evolution of war. By the mid-1800s, it was clear that technology had
become the most important factor in war. The American civil war (1861-1865) was the first
technological war. The North lost most major battles. Its generals were inferior to Southern generals.
Virtually all Southerners supported the war while Northerners were seriously divided. However, the
North had more factories, railroads, telegraph lines, ships, and more and better guns. The North’s
technological advantage made its victory inevitable.
Many of the tactics of mass army war continued to be used in this new stage. Naval power disrupted
the flow of supplies to land-based troops. Cavalry remained important for communications and to
harass infantry. Recognizing the importance of industrial and technological capabilities, however, led to
new military tactics. Instead of simply attacking an opponent’s armies, generals tried to destroy the
source of the enemy’s supplies. They believed that an opposing army would be less effective if its
supplies were stopped. Previously, cities and civilians had generally been targets only when they were
in the way of an advancing army. Now, cities, factories, and civilians became prime military targets.
American civil war generals tried to attack cities but, for the most part, they lacked the technology to do
the job quickly and efficiently. Technology was sufficiently advanced by the First World War. In 1915, a
German Zeppelin raid on London killed 72 people and caused (US)$2.5 million in property damage.
The pilots were aiming for factories. The German government also hoped to destroy civilian morale. It
believed that air raids would frighten the population who would then pressure the British government to
end the war. As technology advanced, air attacks grew more frequent and lethal.
Making cities and civilians the prime targets in war led to total war. In a total war, every civilian
becomes an enemy target. Total war results in very high civilian casualty figures. German bombing
raids in the Second World War, for example, killed 40000 Londoners. The American atomic bomb killed
130 000 civilians in Hiroshima in just a few seconds. In a technological army war, it is often more
dangerous to be a civilian than a soldier.
Technology significantly increased the mobility of war. Armoured motor vehicles became commonplace
in the twentieth century. Tanks became the new cavalry. Human endurance and the speed at which
soldiers marched no longer limited armies. In technological armies, soldiers were expected to keep up
with their machines.
Mobility and speed led to the creation of a continuous, moving front. Battles were no longer followed by
long periods of rest, regrouping, and marching. Armies fought and pursued their enemies in one long,
continuous battle.
As radio communications became more sophisticated, generals were able to stay hundreds of
kilometres from the front. They could coordinate massive operations involving sea, land, and air.
Napoleon would have found the separation of the generals from the battles unthinkable but advancing
technology made it possible and necessary.
Effects on People
Technology depersonalized killing in war. Soldiers fighting in mass armies had to take aim at their
opponents and shoot or stab them. In a technological army, however, soldiers concentrated on a
machine. Machine guns in the First World War, for example, shot 600 bullets a minute. Operators
simply fed bullets into the machine and moved it slowly from side to side. They did not aim deliberately
at anyone. Soldiers no longer saw the people they were killing or those who were trying to kill them.
War still saw many acts of personal bravery. However, depersonalized killing made courage in war less
important. Soldiers in the First World War were killed by the enemy’s machines whether or not they
were brave.
Civilian and Military Deaths in a
Technological Army War
World War I
Soldiers Dead
Civilians Dead
World War 11
Soldiers Dead
Civilians Dead
While the technology of total war put all civilians on the
front line, technology also brought news home to civilians.
Until the nineteenth century, civilians could only learn about
war from returning soldiers. In the American civil war, for
the first time, newspaper reporters became part of the
group watching the battles. It was the first war to be
photographed. By the First World War, reporters were
sending radio signals live from the front. Battles were filmed as they happened and shown at theatres
before the beginning of feature movies. The bombing of cities and the horror of the photographs and
films helped destroy some of the myths about the glory of war.
Limited Army War
The Second World War ended when the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. The
bombs demonstrated the power of technology and its domination of war. Nuclear weapons scared
many people. They believed that technology had driven us further than we wanted to go. This fear led
to the next stage in war. In a limited army war, the combatants do not necessarily use all the weapons
available to them.
The United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France, China, and probably Israel have nuclear weapons.
Since acquiring nuclear weapons, all have been involved in wars but none have used them. Over thirty
other countries including Canada have the ability to make nuclear bombs but have not. Many of them
have also been involved in wars in which a nuclear bomb would have ensured victory.
The refusal to use all available technology has led to the creation of proxy wars. Proxy wars are fought
by two countries but are directed and funded by others. The Korean War was the first large proxy war.
North Korea fought South Korea. The Soviet Union and China supported North Korea, and a United
Nations force dominated by the United States supported South Korea. Neither side supplied its clients
with the nuclear weapons that could have ended the war quickly. They limited the war to conventional
Before the development of nuclear weapons, the United States and the Soviet Union might have gone
to war directly. Their nuclear weapons made direct confrontation extremely dangerous. Instead, they
used countries such as North and South Korea as pawns to fight their ideological cold war. For the
Koreans, of course, the war was a total war and both sides suffered greatly.
In nearly every war since 1945, the Soviet Union, the United States, or their allies have rushed to
support the opposing sides. Each superpower has given its allies more and better equipment than they
would otherwise have had. Warring groups have been able to fight longer and kill more opponents than
would otherwise have been possible.
One way that superpowers have sponsored proxy wars is by supporting both guerrilla and terrorist
armies and groups. For example, from 1979 to 1989, the American government funded Afghan guerrilla
forces who were fighting the Soviet occupation of their country. Superpower support has meant that
guerrilla and terrorist warfare has become increasingly common in the age of limited army war.
In limited war, navies continue to be
important in carrying out their traditional
role. Governments often use their navies
to demonstrate influence in a region rather
than to fight an actual battle. Air power
has become increasingly important.
Airplanes are used for transport, patrol,
and spying missions. They are also used
to drop bombs on specific targets. Despite
advances in naval and air technology,
infantry remains the most important
military force in war.
In trying to limit the size and scope of
wars, many countries have developed
Rapid Deployment Forces. These forces are small, highly trained groups of soldiers used to carry out
specific military tasks. They are often used to fight terrorism. Israel used a Rapid Deployment Force to
rescue Israeli hostages held by Palestinian terrorists at Uganda’s Entebbe airport in 1976. The force
landed, rescued the hostages, and quickly left. Before the age of limited war, a war using all available
technology might have broken out between Israel and Uganda.
While trying to limit wars and while preparing for a conventional war in Europe, the superpowers have
continued to prepare for nuclear war. They now see control of outer space as the key to military
supremacy. While space research has led to better communications systems, increased scientific
knowledge, and other benefits, its primary purpose has been military. In particular, space research has
focused on better satellite surveillance and improving the accuracy of nuclear weapons delivery
systems. In the 1980s, important treaties were negotiated to limit the development and deployment of
nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, the superpowers continued to design and test more powerful and more
sophisticated weapons systems.
The new weapons are expensive and time-consuming to build. For example, one American F-15 fighter
aircraft costs (US)$43 million and takes eighteen months to build. The superpowers estimate that, if a
total conventional war began, they have enough conventional weapons to last only thirty days. After
that time, the war would either have to end or become nuclear. Some military analysts argue that this
fact ensures that limited warfare will continue. Others argue that it increases the likelihood of a nuclear
Many developing countries do not have the money or technology to build nuclear weapons. Instead,
their governments have acquired chemical weapons. They threaten enemies with chemical weapons
much as the superpowers threaten with their nuclear arsenals. Chemical weapons were first used in the
First World War. Some countries with chemical weapons have refused to use them. In 1987, Iraq
showed the power of modern chemical weapons. It used poison gas to destroy one of its own Kurdish
villages that had been captured by the Iranian army. In 1989, American President George Bush
proposed that all chemical weapons be eliminated and the Soviet government agreed. None of the
developing countries responded to the proposal.
Effects on People
Unique demands are made on soldiers in limited army wars. Before 1945, most soldiers served until the
war ended. Since 1945, however, most soldiers serve limited terms. For example, in Vietnam,
American soldiers served one year and then were brought home. Many soldiers in armed forces using
the rotation system care more about surviving long enough to get home than about winning the war.
The system affects a limited army’s morale and efficiency.
The nuclear arms race affects everyone because, in the event of a nuclear confrontation, everyone will
be on the front lines. Although the Soviet Union and the United States have reduced their nuclear
arsenals since 1988, together they still have approximately 50000 nuclear weapons. That many
weapons has led to the creation of a new military term: overkill. Overkill refers to the number of times
one country’s nuclear weapons can kill each inhabitant of another country. The Soviet Union and the
United States now have enough nuclear weapons to "overkill” every person on earth fifty times.
The effects of even a limited nuclear exchange will radically alter life for all survivors. For most people,
the prospect of nuclear extermination has destroyed the idea that war is a glorious and romantic
Furthermore, the nuclear arms race is very expensive. In 1988, governments spent (US)$1.2 trillion on
war materials. That money could have been spent on food, education, environmental protection, and
other projects. In this way, nuclear arms affect us all, even when they are not used.