When will a resource war take place?

Media war

The causes that play a role in the outbreak of wars are very diverse. The forms of war are just as different.

"Live" pictures of the Iraq war - Tagesschau from 03/20/2003 (& copy ARD)


The Iraq war in 2003 is considered an interstate war. The daily news report from March 20, 2003 takes over "live" images from American television and shows the events of the official start of the war, during which the Americans carried out targeted bombing in Baghdad. The excerpt from the news can be found on the DVD "The War in the Media" in E1 - Live there? / Knowledge in detail / The war / Forms of war. In our understanding of war today, the state plays the decisive role. This is because the classic wars between states in Europe were the norm in the 18th and 19th centuries.

War served them as a means of asserting their interests or, as General von Clausewitz (1780–1831) put it: "The political intention is the end, war the means." Wars that take place between the armed forces of two (or more) states are known as interstate wars. Certain rules apply in them, which are intended to protect the civilian population and captured soldiers, for example, which has hardly been observed since the Second World War at the latest. Nonetheless, interstate wars have long dominated our image of war, but they are now rather the exception.

In civil wars, the war is fought within a state, but sometimes also across state borders. Civil wars can be waged between different organized groups in a country, but also against the army of the own state government. Many of these conflicts remain regionally limited within a country. Civil wars have increased sharply in the last few decades and have replaced "interstate wars" as the dominant form of war.

The number of civil wars has risen sharply since 1945. The graphic shows ongoing domestic (yellow in the graphic) and interstate (orange-red in the graphic) conflicts of high intensity from 1945 to 2010.


Forms of civil war

There are many reasons or causes that lead to people using military force. These can be, for example: territorial claims and competition for resources, struggle for supremacy in an area, nationalism, social injustice, etc. Depending on the causes of the war and the type of warfare, a distinction is made between the following forms of civil war: wars of autonomy, civil war, and anti-regime wars , Guerrilla wars as well as colonization and decolonization wars.

Wars of autonomy and civil secession

Wars of autonomy and civil secession are about asserting the interests of individual groups within a state. These fight for more independence and self-determination (autonomy) or for the separation of a separate area from the state association (secession). Most of the conflicts arise between different ethnic groups who often live with very different rights within a state and whose interests clash, for example in former Yugoslavia from 1991 or in Sri Lanka since the mid-1980s. Ethnic wars occurred in the last few decades in particular when the state was no longer able to create an economic balance between the parts of the population.

Anti-regime wars

Anti-regime wars are about the struggle for government power and ultimately about changing the social or political system. An example of an anti-regime war is the struggle of the group "Sendero Luminoso" ("Shining Path") against the government in Peru. The movement initially campaigned peacefully for the impoverished population in the rural regions of the poorest Peruvian province. In the 1980s, however, the decision was made to take the violent route to overthrow the government. This triggered a civil war-like situation in the country for ten years, killing more than 30,000 people.

Guerrilla wars

Black and white photography of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Argentine doctor and right-hand man of the Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro. (& copy AP)


In Cuba in the 1950s the guerrilla leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara fought against the troops of the dictator Fulgencio Batista. After three years of struggle, the guerrillas won the victory over Batista's terror regime and replaced it with a new government.

Guerrilla warfare is a form of war in which a country's irregular combat units fight against the troops of its own government, against conquerors and occupiers or against other irregular troops. In many cases, a political overthrow or state independence is to be brought about by force. The special thing about guerrilla wars is that the troops and weapons strength of the warring parties are usually very unevenly distributed. The lightly armed guerrilla troops are often faced with technically well-equipped armies with tanks, fighter planes and other heavy military equipment. Since they would be hopelessly inferior in open combat, they operate out of difficult to access terrain or with the protection of the civilian population. Smaller military units attack or commit attacks that do not spare the civilian population either.

Wars of colonization and decolonization

The European colonial powers (including England, France, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and the German Empire) carried out long and brutal wars in many parts of the world (Africa, Asia, the Arab world) in the 19th and 20th centuries led by their rule. Wars of decolonization have been waged since the Second World War with the aim of independence from colonial power. For example, France continued to reject Algeria's independence as a colonial power after World War II. In 1954, the Algerian Liberation Front (FLN) began armed struggle, which lasted seven and a half years and cost at least 300,000 lives.

The so-called "new wars"

In the 20th and 21st centuries there were and still are interstate and civil wars as well as wars that are difficult to classify into the classic categories. What they have in common is a great inequality (asymmetry) with regard to the distribution of forces, methods and means of struggle and the motivations of the parties involved. Some of the forms that some scientists call "new wars" (as opposed to the classic "old wars") include:

Resource wars

Child soldiers (& copy AP)


In resource wars, warlords (local warlords), militias and rebels fight for power over resource-rich areas and specifically involve the civilian population. Examples of this are the ongoing clashes in Zaire, Sudan, Somalia and the Congo. Child soldiers are part of many so-called "new wars" for resources. They are inexpensive and can be easily recruited or forcibly recruited. It is estimated that around 250,000 child soldiers are used in wars around the world.

Pacification wars

In wars of peace like in Kosovo in 1999, militarily high-tech international troops or states intervene to end a military conflict in a region.

Modern terrorism

Modern terrorism against western states, as it emerged, for example, in the attacks on 9/11/2001 in New York or on 7/7/2005 in London, and combating it by means of military force are among the forms of "new wars".

Since the end of 2001 the Bundeswehr has been "on duty" in Afghanistan - or "at war"? Some politicians and experts called the fighting a war so that they would not be played down. Others avoid the term war because in Germany it is too closely linked to the two world wars in the 20th century and the acts of war in Afghanistan have a different dimension.

The political scientist Herfried Münkler, who propagates the term "new wars", answers the question whether what is happening in Afghanistan is a war: "You can call it a guerrilla war - in different areas and with different intensity. In mine It would make sense to start a new war, but not a classic war as we understand it in Germany. But if we agree that war is a form of clash between armed actors, which can range from ambush to great battle, then you can speak of war here too. " [1]