Generally speaking, war is organized, armed conflict between nations or distinct political factions. Social scientists deli ne war to include 'both declared wars between nations or parties and undeclared wars: civil and guerrilla wars, covert operations, and some forms of terrorism. War is an institution that involves violence behavior intended to bring pain, physical injury, and/or psychological stress to people or to harm or destroy property (Sullivan, 2(00). As such, war is a form of collective violence by people who are seeking to promote their cause or resist social policies or practices that they consider oppressive (Sullivan, 2000).
As previously discussed, early U.S.military action took place at home or close to home, but the location and the nature of U.S.military action changed dramatically in the twentieth century. Wars were now fought on foreign soil, and larger numbers of U.S. military personnel were involved. In World War I, for example, about 5 million people served in the U.S tanned forces; more than 16 million men and women served in World War fI (Ehrenreich, 1997). It remains to be seen what types of military response will be required in the war against terrorism in the twenty-Iirst century. The direct effects of war are loss of human life and serious physical and psychological effects on some survivors. Although it is impossible to determine how
many human lives have been lost in wars throughout human history, social analyst Ruth Sivard (1991, 1993) estimated that 589 wars have been fought by 142 countries since 1500 and that approximately 142 million lives have been lost. However, according to Sivard, more lives were lost in wars during the twentieth century than in all of previous history. World War I took the lives of approximately 8 million combatants and I million civilians. In World War II, more than 50 million people (17 million combatants and 35 million civilians) lost their lives. During World War II, U.S.casualties alone totaled almost 300,000, and more than 600.000 were wounded. The number of casualties in conventional warfare pales when compared to the potentials of human life if all-out nuclear. biological. or chemical warfare were to occur. The devastation would be beyond description. Media watch groups have asked why the major news networks in the United States have made few efforts to accurately tally the number of deaths in recent wars.' Some cite the fact that they believe the media are more likely to report the spin trol of elected and appointed federal officials in e White House and the Pentagon rather than enga e in investigative reporting on the true nature and extent of damage and deaths in these war-tom regions (see FAIR. 2003. for example)" While the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq continue (asof this writing. in 2(09). U.S. armed forces are .also engaged in limited operations in a number of other nations. No doubt, civilian and military casualties will continue to increase in various regions around the world as we have moved from a brief era of peacetime in the United States into what appears to be a pro- 'tracted era of wartime in various regions of the world.