War as a Prerequisite for Peace

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War as a Prerequisite for Peace 

Human beings began going to war long before recorded history began. Millions have perished in bloody wars across the globe and statistics indicate that in the 20th century alone at least 108 million people were killed in wars (Cederman, Nils & Kristian, 2011). An estimated 1 billion have been killed over the course of recorded history in wars throughout the globe (Cederman, Nils & Kristian, 2011). Given the mortality rates, destruction of property, and brutality associated with it, war has been a challenging ethical and moral issue widely debated globally and arousing controversy with every mention of the word. One question that arises from the debate is whether war is necessary. While not all wars are necessary, there are times when war is the only recourse available to restore social order. War is not an essential for humanity. However, there are times when war is justified and aids in the establishment of order in society and larger societies. Larger societies make it possible to have peace due to strong government systems. War is, therefore, essential in the pursuit of peace as it aids in the development of larger societies, helps in maintaining law and order, and serves as a catalyst for civilization in certain societies.

Historically, wars have claimed lives as nations fought to defend themselves or attack others in battles for supremacy. The Roman Empire was at one time the largest in the world having conquered many nations through war (Jarstad & Sisk, 2008). Ancient Romans clashed in many battles and wars in order to expand and protect their empire. There were also civil wars where Romans fought Romans in order to gain power. 

The Punic Wars

The Punic Wars were fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 BC to 146 BC (Jarstad & Sisk, 2008). Carthage was a large City located on the coast of North Africa. This sounds like a long way away at first, but Carthage was just a short sea voyage from Rome across the Mediterranean Sea (Jarstad & Sisk, 2008). Both cities were major powers at the time and both were expanding their empires. As the empires grew, they began to clash and soon war had begun.

On a wider front, the Romans used tactics of denying their opponents the means of sustained warfare. For this, they employed the tactic of vastatio (Jarstad & Sisk, 2008). It was in effect the systematic ravaging of an enemy’s territory. Crops were destroyed or carried off for Roman use, animals were taken away or simply slaughtered, and people were massacred or enslaved. The enemy’s lands were decimated, denying his army any form of support. Sometimes these tactics were also used to conduct punitive raids on barbarian tribes which had performed raids across the border.

The reasons for these tactics were simple. In the case of punitive raids, they spread terror among the neighboring tribes and acted as a deterrent to them. In the case of all-out war or the quashing rebels in occupied territories these harsh tactics denied any enemy force the support they needed to sustain a lengthy struggle. In each case, the warring forces tried to protect themselves and make the war zone unbearable for their enemies. On the war zone, it was a case of self-preservation and power. Soldiers knew that failure to participate in the war meant that their government systems risked collapsing.

Modern-Day Wars

In the present day, wars have been fought between countries and internally for many reasons. Ranging from political, religious, and ethnic conflict, wars have been caused by differences. Scholars and other thinkers have debated the links between peace, war, and power. In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes indicated his support for a strong and powerful government. Hobbes wrote this in the context of the English Civil War that raged on in the 1640s (Wallensteen, 2011). In The Civilizing Process, the German sociologist Norbert Elias argues in his two-volume treatise published on the eve of World War II that the European continent was much more peaceful in the five preceding centuries before his day. During their times, Leviathan and The Civilizing Process were considered to have no proof for their arguments (Wallensteen, 2011). They both argued that war was inevitable if a government was to establish its strength and reign peace. It is, therefore, necessary to wage war so that a specific government system can gain the strength necessary for peace to prevail.

To put their arguments in context, it is important to understand the past in terms of war. For instance during the Stone Age, it was rough living. Settling arguments was limited by few constraints. Killing was carried out on a small scale to avenge other murders as well as offences, homicides, and raids. However, due to small population sizes, the continuous killing had a major impact. Scholars estimate that 10-20% of all Stone Age people were killed by other people (Wallensteen, 2011). Compared to the present day, this number is relatively high. In the past century, the world has been a site of genocides in Africa, Europe, and Asia. Two world wars have been fought in the past decade. Governments have sponsored famines, ethnic cleansing and countries have witnessed civil strife, riots and murders. An overwhelming 100 million to 200 million people have been killed in conflicts in the past century not accounting for robberies and homicides outside of war. However, 10 billion people have lived in the same duration. This implies that only 1 to 2 percent of the world’s population died through acts of war. Subsequently, those lucky enough to have lived in the 20th century were twenty times less likely to be killed in war than those in the Stone Age. Data from the United Nations indicates that the risk of violent death has dropped further to around 0.7 percent as of the year 2000 (Lacina & Gleditsch, 2005).

As the process of war and decrease in violent deaths has unfolded, the human race has thrived. Ten thousand years ago, the planet’s population was an estimated six million. The average life expectancy was thirty years on the higher side and people survived on a daily income that is about the equivalent of $2 a day (Yared, 2010). Presently, there are at least 7 billion people on the planet and life expectancy on average is at least twice what it were (67) and daily income has, on average, grown over tenfold ($25) (Yared, 2010).

This phenomenon can be attributed to ten thousand years in the past when the victors of brutal wars and campaigns started to integrate losers into their societies to build bigger societies. The victors had realized that the best way to benefit from larger societies was to create stronger governments. Governments had authority and when the authority was questioned, revolts had to be stamped out among the subjects. It is no secret, therefore, that governments were not run by saints. Revolts were violently stamped out not because the governments were murderous animals but because it was easier to rule submissive or well-behaved subjects as opposed to unruly and murderous ones. One unexpected result is that they initiated the process that led to high rates of mortality from violent death. However, the death rate from violence dropped over time heading up to the 20th century (Yared, 2010). The process was undeniably brutal. Regardless of the nation that carried it out, pacification had the same bloody element as the brutality it was supposed to eliminate. An example is the British in India, Romans in Britain, and Europeans in America. The wars were brutal and claimed lives in stockpiles. In spite of the reigns of individuals like Hitler, Stalin and Mao, over the course of history (Yared, 2010). Wars created states and states made peace. Indirectly, it may be argued that war has been a vital ingredient of the present day peace situation.

Due to its brutality, war is imaginably an undesirable key to opening up larger societies and Peaceful existence but scholars indicate that it is the only way. It is difficult to imagine the Roman Empire could have been created without the death of millions of Gaul’s or the United States could have existed without death of millions of Native Americans where these conflicts of power and resources were discussed peacefully. However, peace was not the means to the end; rather, war was the means to the end that was peace. People do not simply give up their freedoms including, at times, the right to murder and impoverish one another. 


In conclusion, in the history of humankind, few societies have given up their freedoms without resistance. Resistance is usually guaranteed and the result is that lives are lost in conflict. The result is that the freedoms are only given up after defeat in war. The strongest group able to overcome their fore’s onslaught take up the power to give or deny the losers the rights or freedoms that they previously enjoyed without regulation. War is not essential for humanity, however, there are times when war is justified and aids in the establishment of order in society and larger societies. Larger societies make it possible to have peace due to strong government. War is therefore essential in the pursuit of peace.


Cederman, L. E., Weidmann, N. B., & Gleditsch, K. S. (2011). Horizontal inequalities and 

ethnonationalist civil war: A global comparison. American Political Science Review105(03), 478-495.

Dodge, T. A. (2012). Caesar: a history of the art of war among the Romans down to the end of 

the Roman empire, with a detailed account of the campaigns of Caius Julius Caesar. Tales End Press.

Jarstad, A. K., & Sisk, T. D. (Eds.). (2008). From war to democracy: dilemmas of peacebuilding

Cambridge University Press.

Lacina, B., & Gleditsch, N. P. (2005). Monitoring trends in global combat: A new dataset of 

battle deaths. European Journal of Population/Revue Européenne de Démographie21(2-3), 145-166.

Wallensteen, P. (2011). Understanding conflict resolution: War, peace and the global system


Yared, P. (2010). A dynamic theory of war and peace. Journal of Economic Theory145(5), 


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