If the phrase “civilized warfare” sounds like an oxymoron, it’s because it is. With their toll in lives lost, societies ravaged and resources destroyed, wars are the very anti-theses of civilized behavior. They can kill millions, as the first and second world wars did. They separate families and uproot entire communities. They set back development, and can throw entire societies back to an earlier stage of development—as in Vietnam, which the US sought to bomb “back to the Stone Age.” And yet wars are likely to remain part of the human condition as long as men and women are divided by competing economic interests and by the inequality in societies where the gulf between classes results in the most egregious injustice and the most widespread misery.
The elimination of war, whether between nations or within nations, is premised on the elimination of greed and inequality, to which all the other “causes” that trigger wars, such as racial hatred, religion, ethnic conflict, etc., are ultimately reducible. The rhetoric of the US “war on terror” concealed the real causes of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington and the US’ retaliation, terrorism being a method of warfare rather than its cause.