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intentionally or by accident

According to Michael Brzoska, “All major definitions of war . . . have three common core

elements: there needs to be fighting; such fighting is conducted by organized groups; and at

least one of the parties has to be the government.” By such a definition, there were more than

110 million people killed in more than 250 wars during the twentieth century alone. It is almost

a measure of the modernity of war how large a fraction of war-related deaths are made up of

civilians. In World War I, only about five percent of those killed were civilians; in World War II, it

was close to 50 percent. In wars fought in the 1960s, it is estimated that civilians accounted for

more than 60 percent of war dead; in those fought in the 1980s, the estimate is nearly 75

percent.

Militarization and War as Impediments to Development

Destruction and Disruption. Wars interfere directly with economic development by destroying

productive economic resources, both capital and labor, especially within the territory of the

nations where they are fought. Wars can also make it difficult to carry on ordinary economic

activity in areas that are part of the war zone. Part of the reason for famine in conflict-plagued

areas, such as the Horn of Africa, is the disruption of agricultural activities that results when

farmers are literally afraid to go out into the fields because of the possibility that they will be

injured or killed, intentionally or by accident, by one or another of the armed combatants.

Resource Diversion. In the midst of war, production or acquisition of the supplies needed to

sustain the war effort, whether they are specialized to military use (such as weapons and

ammunition) or more generally useful (such as food and fuel), is usually given higher priority

than provision of ordinary goods and services for the civilian population. In less developed

countries, where the quantity and quality of consumer goods and services and the capital

needed to produce them are less than abundant, this pre-emption of provisions is particularly

problematic. Often enough, it is not just the government that takes these provisions through

ordinary means, but also rebel forces and other armed gangs that forcefully expropriate what

 

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