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violent conflict between armed enemies. In modern times warfare has usually been conducted by the armed forces (e.g., army, navy, and air force) of a nation or other politically organized group. The way in which warwar,
armed conflict between states or nations (international war) or between factions within a state (civil war), prosecuted by force and having the purpose of compelling the defeated side to do the will of the victor.
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 is carried out is governed by the principles of strategy and tacticsstrategy and tactics,
in warfare, related terms referring, respectively, to large-scale and small-scale planning to achieve military success. Strategy may be defined as the general scheme of the conduct of a war, tactics as the planning of means to achieve strategic objectives.
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, by the type of weapons employed (see articles on individual weapons), and by the type of communication and transportation facilities available. Thus, throughout history the methods of warfare have changed. See air forcesair forces,
those portions of a nation's military organization employing heavier-than-air aircraft for reconnaissance, support of ground troops, aerial combat, and bombing of enemy lines of communication and targets of industrial and military importance.
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; amphibious warfareamphibious warfare
, employment of a combination of land and sea forces to take or defend a military objective. The general strategy is very ancient and was extensively employed by the Greeks, e.g., in the Athenian attack on Sicily in 415 B.C.
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; chemical warfarechemical warfare,
employment in war of incendiaries, poison gases, and other chemical substances. Ancient armies attacking or defending fortified cities threw burning oil and fireballs. A primitive type of flamethrower was employed as early as the 5th cent. B.C.
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; biological warfarebiological warfare,
employment in war of microorganisms to injure or destroy people, animals, or crops; also called germ or bacteriological warfare. Limited attempts have been made in the past to spread disease among the enemy; e.g.
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; fortificationfortification,
system of defense structures for protection from enemy attacks. Fortification developed along two general lines: permanent sites built in peacetime, and emplacements and obstacles hastily constructed in the field in time of war.
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; mechanized warfaremechanized warfare,
employment of modern mobile attack and defense tactics that depend upon machines, more particularly upon vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel engines.
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; trench warfaretrench warfare.
Although trenches were used in ancient and medieval warfare, in the American Civil War, and in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5), they did not become important until World War I.
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; guerrilla warfareguerrilla warfare
[Span.,=little war], fighting by groups of irregular troops (guerrillas) within areas occupied by the enemy. When guerrillas obey the laws of conventional warfare they are entitled, if captured, to be treated as ordinary prisoners of war; however, they are
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; siegesiege,
assault against a city or fortress with the purpose of capturing it. The history of siegecraft parallels the development of fortification and, later, artillery. In early times battering rams and bores were employed to break down the walls and gates of a fortified place
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  1. violent, usually armed, conflict between STATES or peoples.
  2. comparable but not necessarily violent conflicts between classes, etc., but which stop short of war in sense l . The first of these uses is by far the most important and is dealt with here.
Warfare and preparation for warfare is often regarded as a near universal feature of human societies. This is sometimes explained by presence of innate human aggression as well as by the operation of a TERRITORIAL IMPERATIVE in human societies. Against this, however, it is also clear that the incidence of warfare is highly variable, and that in some societies there exists little recourse to warfare and no tradition of MILITARISM. Plainly warfare is a culturally influenced phenomenon rather than simply biologically determined. Nor would there appear to be, in simple or in more developed societies, any straightforward pattern of ecological or territorial pressures which can provide an explanation of variations in the incidence of warfare. In modern societies in particular, warfare requires understanding in politicoeconomic terms.

As the historian TILLY remarks, ‘the state made war, and war made the state’. In particular, as numerous commentators have insisted, the modern European NATION STATE can be seen as having been ‘built for the battlefield’ (ANDERSON, 1974b) – See ABSOLUTISM. Not only this, the entire modern NATION-STATE SYSTEM remains centred on sovereign nation states in which the threat of war is an everpresent possibility. and in which, at least until recently, the very survival of the world was threatened by the antagonism of 'superpowers’ (see also STRATEGIC THEORY, ARMS RACE, COLD WAR). Under these circumstances, and given that the economic and the political side-effects of war have also been extensive (e.g. as a stimulus to reform or REVOLUTION or to political reaction), it is surprising that the study of warfare has not been more central in sociology. Now this is being remedied with a much greater attention being given to the subject by sociologists (e.g. the work of MANN and GIDDENS). A key general issue is how political and military changes and economic and social changes interact. Whereas classical Marxism and many other areas of social science have in the past tended to explain the former in terms of the latter (e.g. see IMPERIALISM), now the tendency is to give much greater credence to the reverse relationship. See also MILITARY-CIVILIAN RATIO, MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, STRATEGIC THEORY, CIVIL WAR.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000